When I first arrived in the UK 17 years ago, my parents insisted I get myself private health insurance, “just in case,” given various medical issues arising from my cleft as well as my faulty oesophagus. Armed with a BUPA membership, I thus embarked on my new life as a Londoner.
Then, in my third year as a PhD student, I had a stroke, and my health insurance came to good use. I was very lucky that the stroke didn’t cause any permanent damage and within a few months, I’d made a full recovery and resumed life as normal.
I’ve since used my insurance to cover various non-emergency related procedures, and I’m exceedingly grateful to have been able to afford private health insurance.
However, for any medical emergency, NHS is my first choice.
In 2011, I was rushed to the A&E after showing symptoms of a stroke (my third one as it were), and from there I was transferred to the stroke unit at UCLH, an NHS hospital with first-class expertise in all matters concerning strokes.
The chief neurologist there did an exemplary job, supported by a team of committed junior doctors and nurses. He was the first neurologist I’d met who’d bothered going over all my past records of blood tests, MRI scans and heart echoes, in an effort to finally get to the bottom of my body’s unfortunate tendency to form blood clots in the brain.
When my second daughter was just eight months old, she contracted a nasty respiratory virus (RSV), aka bronchiolitis, and had to be hospitalised for urgent treatment. Subsequently, she was treated in the A&E countless times as she’d developed asthma-like wheezing as a consequence of the virus.
I’ll never forget my 40th birthday, albeit for the wrong reasons. My then 2-year old daughter got so sick she briefly stopped breathing, and my husband and I feared for her life. Again, our local NHS hospital, the Royal Free, proved invaluable in treating our daughter.
And as recently as a year ago, I woke one morning with intense breathlessness and relentless coughing.
Thinking it might be a bronchial infection, I visited my local GP who, bless her, suspected something else was afoot and sent me off to the A&E where they soon diagnosed me with acute pulmonary embolism.
I was put on Warfarin for six months and had to make regular visits to the local anticoagulation clinic to check my blood. Despite being clearly overworked and stretched to the limit, every nurse and doctor I saw treated me with great care and professionalism.
My own all-too-extensive experience of both the private health sector and the NHS has thus convinced me that when it comes to serious, potentially life-threatening emergencies, I’ll choose the latter, easily.
Health care, after all, is not a commodity to be traded, but an essential human right, which the state has a duty to provide, in exchange for the taxes it collects.
And in case you were wondering, I do pay my taxes.