This is the story of our NHS and me. I’m telling it because it’s also the story of our NHS and you, unless you are very, very rich… in which case I hope you will read this, too…
I’m surviving. Like most people, I can’t see the result of any of my life’s work in my bank account, though I can see it in my experience, and the friends I have, for which I’m very grateful. We’ve even hung onto our home, so far, by the skin of our….
I got my teeth sorted out last year, and it didn’t cost me a penny – well, it cost me the monthly dues to my trade union, for the insurance scheme. No thanks to the governments of the last 100 years, who never got around to going the final mile, and getting all our health needs covered by the NHS, but thanks to our trade unions. Insurance is not what unions are supposed to be for, but they cover us in many ways that governments have never bothered to. Soon though, I won’t be able to afford to pay the insurance…
I got my glasses back in the summer, on a cheap deal at Specsavers. They also did a free NHS eye-test for me, a week or so after an over-springy bush in my garden attacked me. I tried to get help from my GP but they didn’t have any appointments available and advised going to an optician. Specsavers said “oh, if you come back in a couple of weeks, you’ll be due for a free eye-check so we can assess the damage for you then.” They did so, and then referred me to a hospital in a neighbouring town for the checks I needed. It’s not what opticians are meant to be for but as the governments of the last 100 years never managed to include either GPs or opticians in our health service, I’m grateful that they did. I don’t think a high street optician will do all that for me, when I can’t afford to buy glasses.
My NHS hearing aids are fantastic. They’ve helped me keep going, now our government thinks we all have to work way past 65. When I first got them, I was told that if you lost a hearing aid, you’d have to contribute £50 to get a replacement. A few years ago, on a stormy day on the high street, struggling with COVID mask and glasses and hearing aids, I lost one and could not find it. Some shop-workers and security staff and a delivery driver helped me look, but it was gone — in the gutter? Down the drain? A couple of years before that, our NHS audiology department had been handed over to contractors. My replacement hearing aid cost me £86. Over half as much again, in the hands of profiteers. Someone no better off than me helped me pay it (not a politician or a celebrity or a business-billionaire — it never is. They just think we should work harder).
You need to get your ears cleared out from time to time, to prevent infections and ear-ache, and to keep the hearing aids working properly. In the past, it was a case of phoning the GP when you started feeling ‘bunged up’ or achy, and they’d make an appointment for you within a day or two, to see a nurse. I did so last week. They made an appointment for over a month’s time.
Over the last year, it’s been difficult to keep any kind of work going – because of my ears but also because of recession, because Brexit, because I’m well past the age I always thought I’d retire and, although councils and other organizations will generally give me an interview so they can tick their ‘ageism’ equalities boxes, they don’t have to give older people jobs. Just interviews — and I’m still years away from receiving what this government dares to call our state pension.
It’s been difficult because we’re broke, and Someone has been very ill, dangerously ill. We nearly lost him twice, and so we’ve made lots of use of our NHS. It’s hard work and time-consuming, trying to use our NHS, to keep up with all the phone numbers and the websites and the protocols that are there because our politicians are messing it about, trying to build in opportunities for contractors and speculators. I think if we get much older and dappier, we won’t manage it.
In this last, terrifying year, Someone and I have done numerous out-patient visits, a couple of in-patient ones, and two 12-hour stints in A&E, in which we’ve seen just how tired hospital staff are, and how long they work, and how desperately they, and the ambulance staff, and other related workers are struggling to keep up, to save the lives of those who run into difficulty.
One time, our GP was supposed to help. They were supposed to do a post-op examination. The letter they sent, informing Someone of the appointment, arrived on the day, and after the time, of the appointment. It had a second-class stamp on it. What services are GPs obliged to give? Anyone know? They aren’t really a part of our NHS, never have been, because our politicians never bothered to sort that out, either.
Another time, we were saved by a pharmacist. Our GP and partners had all gone off for a long weekend to watch the Queen’s funeral and Someone was in difficulty. That pharmacist listened, and saw the problem, and went the extra mile and made a difference for us. I wonder what he gets paid? What fraction, do you think, of the money our MPs get, do you suppose he earns? Or the taxi-driver who was so kind, or the worker who spotted Someone when he collapsed on leaving a hospital department, or any of the essential workers who’ve helped us out along the way?
Our NHS, our key workers
It’s not MPs and it’s not business people who save us when we’re in trouble. It’s not celebrities shouting about charity, nor is it ‘clever’, ‘innovative’ billionaires. It’s train crews and emergency response workers, NHS workers and shop workers and teaching assistants and cleaners and caretakers — all the workers, out and about everywhere, trying to look after each other, keeping our world going – they are the people we need, in order to survive — but they are all in difficulty, because our government of millionaires, working for the benefit of billionaires, is not looking after our workers.
That’s why I go to rallies when the local TUC call us, that’s why I support our trade unions and our workers’ groups and organizations. Please do the same – please go along and support and encourage all the workers who, whether they are at work or on the picket lines, are fighting to keep our country going. The more people join in, the more people will join in — and when enough of us join in, we will win.
Here are some of the people of Hastings who came out to support our emergency response workers and all our trade unions this morning, and talk about the troubles we’re all having, and why we need to fight back…
Think how difficult, how expensive, how terrifying life will be, if we let them drain away the last of our NHS
So I went along to that rally today, to support our emergency response workers, and I took hold of a mic, and I said…
Please go see your MP, and email those politicians
When the politicians, of whatever parties, tell you “oh, the NHS is so expensive” and “oh, we’re putting billions into the NHS” and “oh, pay rises cause inflation”, please tell them, we see them handing out favours to the rich, to the billionaire-owned businesses, whilst our essential workers are not being resourced properly, not being looked after properly, and not being paid properly. Tell those politicians, we want all our essential workers paid what they are worth. Until that happens, we don’t think politicians are doing their job, and we aren’t going to let them get away with it.
Support each other — support our essential workers. We are the people we need.
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