What price your health?


In my voluntary role as chairman of the National Association for Bikers with a Disability (NABD), and in my paid job as an expert witness for the High Court, I spend quite a lot of my time dealing with bikers who’ve had serious life-changing injuries.

by Rick Hulse

Whether their injuries are as a result of road traffic accidents, industrial accidents or other causes, one thing common to each and every one of them is that they’ve had life-saving treatment and, in most cases, long spells of aftercare and physical/psychological therapy, courtesy of our National Health Service.

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Our NHS is something that most of us simply take for granted. No matter how rich or poor we are, if we get seriously injured in any way, we have access to an extremely high level of medical care completely free of charge at the point of service. Even if we’re injured elsewhere in Europe, the British NHS guarantees the cost of our treatment, no matter how long it takes or how complex that treatment may be.

When you consider the fact that Britain was almost bankrupt at the end of the Second World War, but this didn’t stop the National Health Service Act from becoming law in 1946, it’s something of a miracle that our universal access to healthcare ever came into existence at all.
Prior to the inception of the NHS, if you needed to see a doctor, or you needed surgery, dental treatment or medication, and you couldn’t afford to pay, you simply didn’t get what you needed.

There was a smattering of charitable hospitals and clinics for the poor, but these were often poorly staffed and strapped for cash to the extent where they had to let people die, simply because they had neither the staff nor the money to treat everybody who needed it.

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With the inception of the NHS though, the priorities in our hospitals changed from profit-levels to patient care, and the standards of healthcare available to all increased exponentially. From cradle to grave we were guaranteed access to healthcare whenever we needed it.

Our NHS has been, without doubt, the single greatest social achievement Britain has ever accomplished.

Many other countries’ve been inspired by the NHS to the point where more than 60 countries around the world now have universal healthcare systems of one sort or another, so that even the very poorest people in those countries have access to free-at-point-of-service healthcare. It’s not just the countries you might expect either, like European countries, Scandinavian countries, Australia, New Zealand and Canada, but also countries like Algeria, Cuba, Morocco and Bhutan.

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Sadly, there are still many countries where the level of healthcare available to its citizens is very much dependent on what they can afford to pay. Incredibly the USA, the richest country in the world, still doesn’t have it – under President Obama, in 2010, they set up what was hoped to become a universal healthcare system, but this, at its best, only covered about 80% of the country, and it’s now steadily being dismantled by the Trump administration.

The thing I find really terrifying is that Britain’s current Government are determined to destroy our NHS and replace it with an American-style insurance-based system where the prime motivator of healthcare providers will be profit, and where our individual access to healthcare will depend upon how much we can afford to spend on private health insurance.

Earlier this week I had to go into hospital for scheduled surgery to have my gallbladder removed after suffering several bouts of pancreatitis and, thanks to our National Health system, I didn’t have to pay thousands of pounds for this procedure.

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When I arrived at the hospital there was no question of ‘do you have enough health insurance?’, nor was I asked to provide my credit card at any point. Throughout my 24 hours in hospital, my all-pervading thoughts were ones of overwhelming pride in the magnificent people working there, and extreme anger at those who’d take it all away from us!

In the system that our despicable Government would have us all pushed into, I would’ve had to provide proof of adequate health insurance, or sign up to a swingeing loan agreement that would have no doubt put me in debt for years to come. Just imagine being smashed off your bike, only to find yourself in a hospital corridor being asked for proof of medical insurance or your credit card details before somebody’s allowed to save your life?

In the USA they actually use a term “health poverty”. This doesn’t just relate to those who cannot afford medical treatments; it also refers to those who’ve lost their homes due to having to pay vast amounts for medical procedures not covered by their insurers. This situation does not currently exist in the UK or Europe, but, if we allow these greed-driven villains to complete their programme of destroying the NHS and replacing it with a profit-driven private healthcare system, it will become an all-too-stark reality before you know it.

We already pay for our healthcare in our taxes and National Insurance payments! Does anybody really believe we’ll be given that money back if we’re forced to pay for private health insurance?

Ask yourself, ‘Do you trust insurance companies to put your welfare first?’ If you do, then I suggest you seek psychiatric help now, while you can still afford it. No insurance company is going to give affordable insurance to people who have existing health problems – they’re in it for profits, and those of us who’re considered a higher risk of needing ongoing healthcare would be simply seen as ‘unprofitable’.

As bikers, we all run the risk of serious injuries. Can we really afford to not fight tooth and nail against those who would see our wonderful National Health Service replaced by greed-driven corporations? Think hard about this before the next General Election!

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