Chris Lancelot: The delusional consider the NHS sacrosanct

I have always believed passionately that equality under the law is one of the pillars of a just and democratic society. If you are a UK citizen - and therefore subject to its taxes - you should have an inalienable, equal right to all the benefits the state provides.

The GP Record, by Fran Orford www.francartoons.com
The GP Record, by Fran Orford www.francartoons.com

So why are private patients banned from accessing the NHS care they would otherwise have received free, had they stayed within the NHS? They must pay for all privately-prescribed drugs, even when the prescription is identical to what they would have received on the NHS.

But this ruling doesn't apply just to drugs - it relates to everything. Private patients can't have free ambulance transport to and from the hospital. Why not? They're taxpayers, aren't they? Such restrictions are unfair and offensive - particularly as, by consulting privately, these patients have relieved the NHS of the considerable cost of the consultations and/or the operation. Why should those who choose to go privately be dismissed by the state? Aren't they proper citizens any more? The whole situation smacks more of ideology and envy than of care and compassion. Indeed, I am surprised that no one has thought to challenge this discriminatory activity in the European Court of Human Rights.

But then the NHS - the supposed 'National' 'Health' 'Service' - doesn't live up to its name, even before any proposed cuts or rationing kick in. For all its much-vaunted status, this 'envy of the world' is far from being a ubiquitous, cradle to grave health service. You want travel immunisations? You have to pay. Through no fault of your own you are impotent, but not in an exempted group? Then pay for your Viagra. (Mind you, if you drink your liver into submission you can have a transplant, free.) But if - again through no fault of your own - you have hideous (but non-ulcerating) varicose veins the NHS probably won't be interested.

The truth is that, very conveniently and totally inequitably, the so-called national health service chooses whom and what it will support. To its shame it both rations treatment and withholds it from fully paid-up citizens. Those who currently champion the NHS as the only solution for all the nation's ills would appear to be suffering either from memory loss or delusions.

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