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August 14, 2009
Britain defends its health care against U.S. criticisms

The angry debate over health care reform in the U.S. is triggering another round of outrage overseas. Officials in Great Britain are now fighting back to defend their system from the criticisms of America’s right.

Comments about Britain’s National Health Service (NHS) — some calling the system “evil” or “Orwellian” —  have drawn the attention of many U.K. residents, including Prime Minister Gordon Brown, who this week joined a Twitter campaign to defend health care in his country.

Andrew Clark, the New York correspondent for The Guardian, joins Martin Savidge to discuss how Britons view the U.S. health care debate.

Below, read comments from British bloggers who defend their health care system.

For more on alternative health care systems around the world, see the Worldfocus signature series “Health of Nations.”

British Twitter users have launched a campaign to defend the NHS, using the hashtag #welovethenhs.

Gordon Brown was among the many who participated in the campaign, tweeting:

PM:NHS often makes the difference between pain and comfort, despair and hope, life and death. Thanks for always being there

Another Twitter user, Andrew Learmouth in Aberdeen, writes:

I’d be dead, my mum’d be dead and my dad wouldn’t be getting a new knee if it wasn’t for the NHS. Worth every penny

Geraldine in the U.K. chimes in:

went private when I was rich, used NHS when I’ve been poor. No diff in level of care whatever. Happy to pay taxes for it.

Steve Ince in East Yorkshire adds:

Many of my family would have no quality of life without the wonderful work of the NHS and the hardworking staff. Thanks!!!

Bloggers, too, shared their experiences with Britain’s health care. Gareth Wyn in Stockwell, London, explains his own reasons for supporting the NHS:

The American Right seem to be getting their knickers in a twist, all over the fact that the Obama Administration wants to provide them with a basic level of health care and that the NHS is so bad that people are being left to die in hospitals. […]

I suspect that no one would claim that the NHS is perfect but it saved my life and that of my mother when I was born, it was fabulous when my grandparent were alive and even when they were near death. My mother, father, uncles have all had fabulous treatment for cancer related illness, I’ve had wisdom teeth extracted, a number of surgical procedures, all for free. I am able to call the doctor at 8.30 to make an appointment, and will have seen him and be in work by 10.30. Cost nothing except my tax payments. In fact I would be happy to pay a bit more tax if it meant an even better service.

Blogger Sarah in Cambridge shares her own experience:

Word of this is getting around – apparently in order to discredit the, as I understand it, somewhat limited reforms that President Obama is proposing for the US’s very expensive, and not all that effective health care system, right wing pundits in the US have been using the NHS as a scare story about all the bad things that can happen under “socialised medicine”.

I want to make a personal point. When I was eight years old I was walking home from school one day. An illegally parked truck was blocking my view along the road. I edged out to look round, and at that moment I’m told someone stepped out from one of the garden gates on the opposite side. A car which was travelling along the road swerved to avoid them, and narrowly missed the truck I was peering out from round.

I experienced this as a screeching of brakes, at which point I guess I must have had a ton of adrenaline dumped into my system. I came to rest on my back […] I felt a pain more intense than anything I’ve ever experienced in my stomach – far more pain than an eight year old should have to deal with. I looked up to see a circle of faces looking down at me.

In due course an ambulance arrived. It took my to the Chesterfield Royal Hospital where I spent a week on the Nightingale Children’s ward in a lot of pain, being fed through an IV line in my arm, feeling deeply sorry for myself.

Through all of this there were no insurance companies involved, nobody ever asked how the x-rays, the doctors, the medicine, the bed, etc. were to be paid for, no questions were ever asked about whether we had “coverage”, they just sent an ambulance, took me into hospital, looked after me for a week, and got me back in a fit state to be sent home. When I was eight years old the system the US right wing wants to portray as some kind of socialist dystopian disaster simply did its job and saved my life.

So yeah, thanks for that NHS, and don’t believe everything you see on the television, especially if there are political lobbyists involved.

An American blogger living in London compares the U.S. and U.K. health care systems:

I figured I could add some of my own experience with NHS since I moved to London.  Like most Americans exposed to anti-socialist rants on the poor quality of socialized healthcare, I was a bit wary and skeptical.   Would I be waiting in line for hours?  Could I trust the quality of care? Would the system be unnavigable and complicated?  Fortunately, my experience was quite the contrary.

I felt it was important to share this after reading and watching some of the anti-healthcare reform initiatives spreading back home.  The system is efficient, provides satisfactory care and it’s FREE.  Totaling up everything I’ve had done since my arrival here, I probably would have had to pay around $2,000 back home




I am an American person over 65 and living in Florida. There are 40-55 million Americans like me. I have the Medicare plan. I have been on Medicare more than 10 years. I want for nothing that is medically indicated. Every provider welcomes Medicare patients because they know they will be paid promptly and fairly, for the services they provide. It seems to me everyone would want to be covered by Medicare if they could. If Medicare for everyone was the reform we finally do get here, we will have this health care issue put behind us. Don White


Hope this post does not turn out to be to long,but it is very irritating to hear people who no nothing about the N.H.S. critisize it.I lived under the system for 25 years and had no problems,my mother passed away 2 years ago at age 101,contrary to what people say she received the finest care to her last days,no care cut off,everything she needed was provided,she lived in a nursing home the last 15 years with doctors and nurses on staff 24 hours a day,and all at no cost.My brother got a brain tumor 25 years ago,was told he could never work again,and his activities were restricted he is now 66 and has a scooter to get around and lives in assisted living,all at no cost,and NEVER in either case any discussion on stoping or restricting care,as the looney toons think is the case.


Really nice to at last find people who understand a NHS! Born in London and lived in GB until I married and moved to USA in 1973, became a US citizen in 1997. I was taken care of very well in GB and so were my parents (deceased) and relatives now in their late 80’s who enjoy vacations without having to worry about paying health care bills, which are unreal in US. My husband and I have been self employed for 25 years and paying health insurance which has been outrageous over the years for our family. We have enjoyed good health for many years, two of our children and their spouses are covered now by employee insurance. One son who has been out of work since December(covered by employee before), does not have coverage so praying that he stays well. Thank goodness my husband is now covered by the VA a government run program which I cannot say enough good things about, our experience with them has been a blessing. I on the other hand have to pay a private insurance $281.06 per month with $5,000.00 deductible and a $3000.00 co-insurance that has to be paid before the insurance kicks in. Last year for the first time tests had to be done which left us with bills amounting to over $6000.00 we are paying these off at $50.00 per month. I was supposed to have surgery on my hand but, couldn’t afford to pay any more so didn’t get it done. Five years ago my husband was hospitalized overnight, at the time we were paying over $500.00 insurance a month, but got stuck with a bill of over $5,000.00 which I have dwindled down to $741.00 at $50.00 a month.
I am tempted to send my bills to the people and politians who don’t want reform and see if they would like to take care of my bills seeing as they are so well off. What comes to mind is the slogan used in the 60’s when I guess Harold Wilson was PM, “I’m alright Jack” seems to fit the noncaring, uneducated and greedy. I hope that President Obama will continue the fight for reform and not back down to pressure. We all need this coverage.


It’s nice to see Europe speaking out against the U.S.

Yes, I am an American, but, I notice how the “right,” always talk about other people as if they are superior….

It is paramount that we have a national health care system.

It’s time to tax the non-profits, tax-exempt organizations such as “churches.” Here’s why, the churches are making a lot of money with tax benefits. We have Catholic hospitals, 7th Day Adventis Hospitals….they are also buying half-way houses, senior assisted living facilities…

In spite of all this, the government gives them money for care of released prisoners, drug addicts, and senior care…..

We cannot continue to let these “corporations” control the daily lives of Americans.

If the insurance companies can continue to dominate the health industry, I wonder how many more Americans can be left holding the bag – remember, GM and other big corporations filed bankruptcy so as not to honor pensions and medical benefits.


The health care system in the United States is the perfect example of how Americans have the best government money (especially insurance company money) can buy. Suckers!


When I hear anti NHS views , especially those that says , I don’t care about those who can’t afford , I wished they get knocked down by a car and those passing by don’t care to help them. You expect every good citizens to help defend your country but we won’t help you when you are poor. Capitalism does not mean we loose our soul.


World Focus – again, you provided good coverage of the health care system in America.

I’d like to point out, most of the opponents don’t want to pay taxes. For some reason, these same folks get most of the tax breaks due to foundations, trusts, and most of CHURCHES, everything goes through non-profits and tax-exempt businesses. So, not only do they not pay income taxes, they are allowed to escape sales taxes as well.

Only in America do the medical system like to put everyone on some type of psychotropic drug –

The kids are on Ritalin, young adults and teens are “diagnosed as bi-polar,” the adults are put on different medications like valium… – almost everyone I know is on some type of psychotropic medication.

That is what’s called “profit-based care.” The insurance company that caused me to file bankruptcy would issue medication like candy – I am one to watch other people fall for this scam and refuse to take get caught up in this. These people are addicted to “legal” drugs, and they all have side effects. What’s makes this sad, all these psychotropic medications – you have to gradually get off – you can’t just say,”oh, I’m going to stop taking this.”

I had a friend that the doctor gave her this type of medication, I warned her not to take it – when she decided to get off she started having worse problems, such as hearing voices. I tried helping her by telling her she could call anytime if she got depressed and needed to talk, encouraged her to get out of the house – but the doctors prefer to throw everyone on these medications.

It’s time the government get involved, more involved. Period.


I have watched your program from Day 1 because I have considered your coverage unbiased. Your interview withe the GUARDIAN should be followed up with an interview by an Obamacare opponent. I hope that you have not gone the route of most of the “Free Press”. You should NOT be a TOADY to Kamerad Obama’s thought police!


I wish to praise our NHS and hope I never see people queing in warehouses for medical and dental care as shown in America. They may be a minority in the USA but I found the specticle degrading especially in a country as rich as the USA. Our NHS may not be perfect, but my husband has had two serious cancers in five years and is still having aftercare treatment, he has had wonderful care by nurses and doctors. Yes we may have to wait for our first appointment but after that they work tirelessly to give the patient all the experience they have and the surgeons are marvellous. They work long hours and get lots of emergencies to deal with besides their normal schedule and still manage to deliver on the day. We are very lucky here in Britain and if my husband had to pay for all his treatment it would cost thousands of pounds. May we always be so lucky. A big thank you to all NHS staff wherever you are.



I meant to say, Fox, CNN, MSNBC will NOT show different views.

In fact, I think Fox, CNN, and some (not all) of MSNBC have caused this thing to flare.

The only programs I can watch is Keith Olbermann & Rachel Maddow – the others, I can’t watch anymore because I feel they are not helping with the tensions and division in this country.


Great Show! Finally, a news program to tell both sides – Fox, CNN, nor MSNBC will do it.

I am one American who filed bankruptcy for medical. I have a thyroid disease – the hospital (medical plan) didn’t diagnose this initially – they claimed it was stress and wanted to put me on medication for such. I refused the medication because I knew it wasn’t stress. A co-worker, who is non-medical diagnosed me. She noticed how I was losing weight, my hair was falling out, and I was always hot. The co-worker told me to go back to the doctor and ask for a TSH blood test. The doctor ordered the test and lied – telling me he wanted to make sure, because the test came back negative.

The second test came back positive. With insurance, I was told it would take a month to see a specialist. Meanwhile, I paid out of pocket and saw several other doctors. Never did any of the tests come back negative.

However, the first doctor I went to put me on a beta-blocker, stating if I just went home I could have a stroke or heart attack.

By the time I got to the specialist with my insurance, I was already feeling better – yet, they wanted to operate on me. I refused. Why would I let them operate on me if they couldn’t diagnose me? They explained I would be on medication for the rest of my life either way.

It’s been almost 10 years, I haven’t needed medication, nor surgery. That’s because I spent every dime of internal medicine – thyroid experts, and changed my diet.

I just have one note to make – I’m sure it was a mistake- ***the black lady escorted out by the police at a town hall meeting- appeared on television a day or two ago. Apparently, the news verified the events – a white guy went over to her and took her sign. The news is alleging the guy is now facing charges.

Anyway, great program as usual.


My Family and I lived in England from 1989- 2000
The NHS took care of all of our medical needs with no mention of money. We had superior care for surgical operations, emergency care and audiology services (including hearing aids) , dentistry, orthodontia and prescriptions.

Since returning to the United States, we can barely keep up with our insurance payments, medical bills and paperwork. The care is no better here. The NHS is a wonderful part of living in the U.K. We in the U.S.A should have it too.

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