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Monday 7 August 2023

Morbid Statistics and the NHS

I don’t know whether the numbers that follow are of any significance whatsoever, but it occurred to me recently that, in terms of years and months, I am now older than the age at which my longest-lived grandparent died. 

Of my parents and grandparents, only my father lived longer. He made it to 85, but as my mother died at 62, their average was 73.5. 

My father’s parents fared less well. They lived to 66 and 58. My mother’s parents lived to 73 and 56. So, my four grandparents’ average is only 63. Taking my parents and grandparents all together, the average is 67. By these statistics I am doing well. 

Adding my great-grandparents into the mix changes the overall average very little, although within each of the four pairs of great-grandparents, one lived to a good age, the eldest to 84, whilst their spouse died considerably younger, the youngest at 43. So, half of my great-grandparents did very well indeed, and half not. Three were still living when I was born.

I don’t know what weight to give to my aunts, uncles, cousins and brother, but some of them died very young. My brother only made it to 36. 

You think about these things far too much when you have a life-shortening illness. To be frank, when sowing my beans and tomatoes earlier this year, I wondered whether I would be around to eat them. It almost bemuses me I still am considering what I was told eighteen months ago and a crisis this January. As for next year’s crop, well, you never know. 

I am still here only because of the National Health Service. By any reckoning, I have had well over £100,000 worth of free treatment. Some of the pills I take cost £115 each, and I take two every day. That’s £80,000 a year for a start. To each according to their need, from each according to their means, is how the NHS is supposed to work. I would much rather have no need at all. I spit in the face of arguments that the NHS would be better run by private capital. There are too many examples of how badly that can turn out. The NHS does the best it can despite underfunding and underpaid staff. It needs more money. We spend less on health here than in most other comparable economies. The problem is that those with the means are not asked to contribute enough. The better off, like me, must be persuaded to put more into the system rather than fuelling climate change and ramping up asset values.

38 comments:

  1. You are a living testament to the value and importance of socialized medicine in any modern society!

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    1. The purpose of governments is to protect us from the horrors of the world, not to add to them.

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  2. The crux of the whole health care crisis in the US is due to privatization. Once health care became 'for profit', the focus switched from health care to dollars.

    Take care, Tasker.

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    1. Thank you. I also see an element of bribing the electorate with short-term promises."I want you to be able to keep more of your own money" said one of our politicians recently. That's very persuasive if you don't think about it.

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  3. I'm glad you're doing well. And I do that math, too. I've already lived decades longer than my parents and some siblings. I'm now the second longest lived of my extended family. I have no idea why I do these comparisons! It won't affect the outcome.

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    1. Good to hear you are beating the odds, even if they are not real odds. Actually, I do believe they have some relevance, but whether great or small I don't know.

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  4. Like you I feel that I've had more than my fair share of the NHS, but unlike you I haven't worked out how much. My journey started over 20 years ago for different conditions and the many consultants, doctors, health professionals I've seen are numerous and I can't/won't fault any of them. I take ten different medications a day and extra medication when another problem arises, which occurs quite often, so I will support the NHS and hope that it does not become a 'for profit' organisation as Debby says above.

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    1. My estimate is a very rough one, but it would probably be double that with private treatment. I felt guilty at first, especially when they sent £100 a-time taxis to take me to Leeds and back every day for a month, but I now realise that the according-to-need principle means that any share is a fair share. Good luck and keep well.

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  5. Private capital always requires its pound of flesh and the idea that private enterprise is more effective that public ownership was probably a story written by The Brothers Grimm. I don't know what happened to you Tasker - of course I am curious - but it is of course your prerogative to be quiet about your private health matters.

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    1. I wrote about what happened in November: https://www.taskerdunham.com/2022/11/cancer-treatment.html
      I think the idea is that private enterprise makes profits on which they pay tax, but they don't and find ways to divert the capital elsewhere.

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  6. No pressure at all from YP to divulge your medical history đŸ˜‰
    While not perfect, your NHS is to be treasured and fought for. How private enterprise would love to get its hands on what it will turn into a cash cow while the poor die on the streets.

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    1. I've answered his question. A private NHS would boost the GDP numbers massively, but I'm among the many who doubt that GDP is everything.

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  7. Like Boud, I too do my math. I have outlived my parents' years, my younger siblings'. Good health care is imperative. We have it only for those who can pay.

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    1. From following your blog for some years now (although not often commenting) I think you are a great example of modern health care and am glad you are able to access it. I really feared for you when you were laid up for several months.

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  8. We have seen enough times what happens when an important service such as public health or public transport is privatised. The question whether or not to go private should not even arise.
    And you are so right in saying that "those with the means are not asked to contribute enough".
    Hopefully, you will be around for next year's sowing and harvesting, Tasker.

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    1. Thank you. I'll try my best. I don't much like the alternative. Privatised services are too much of a temptation for smartypants wheeler dealers to sython off money in various ways. Thames Water.

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  9. I totally agree with you Tasker.
    To my uneducated mind it would appear obvious to ask the better paid of us to contribute more. For example, I elected to pay in a much higher percentage of my salary each month to contribute to my government pension. Surely we could do something similar to pay additional contributions into the NHS fund?
    Good to see that your treatment is working well and hope to be reading your blog posts for many years to come.

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    1. Thank you. Of course, paying extra into a pension benefits one personally, I did that too. I'm saying really that the better off don't pay enough tax. Some have an aversion to paying for things they might not need or use.

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  10. It's not just a question of money. More and more money is given to the NHS and nothing changes. There are just way too many people for amount of services available on the NHS. As far as Andrew's comment that the poor will die in the streets, as it is, any of us, rich or poor, could end up dying in the streets, because there is just not enough resources to treat everybody. People die on waiting lists. The whole thing probably needs to be reformed, but how would take the wisdom of Solomon. No politician is brave enough or wise enough to come up with something that will work.

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    1. Another 1% of GDP would make an enormous difference. However, I do accept that the NHS was designed for the Britain of 75 years ago, that it is very different now and we cannot afford to treat the world. Perhaps eligibility criteria and clarity about what is possible might be acceptable.

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  11. Food for thought indeed Tasker - especially when we feel like complaining. I dare not add up the cost of my daily medication now.

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    1. As mentioned, my figure is a very rough underestimate. For example, what does a night in hospital cost, or a consultation, or an MRI scan? I've had all those and more, many times.

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  12. The government should be better funding the NHS, no question. How that happens is up to people much smarter than me! My grandmothers and mother lived well into their 80s, and my dad and maternal grandfather into their 70s, even though they were both smokers (and eventually died of lung disease). Several of my great-grandparents also pretty long-lived, but my paternal grandfather died at 59, and I look a lot like him, so I'm nervous! Then again, medical care is better these days, as you've found yourself.

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    1. We generally have a better chance these days, but there is wide variation. Your numbers look good, though.

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  13. I was superstitious about my 64th year. That was my father's age at death. I really scolded myself for being ridiculous. However, my mother died at 73. Guess who is looking ahead a bit nervously?

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    1. But could they do what you do at your age? We are generally healthier now - well I thought I was until 18 months ago :)

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    2. No. They could not. I am lucky.

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  14. Great post great comments.
    NHS the nearest thing we have to a national religion as someone said.
    Tories don't believe in socialised medicine. Damn them.

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    1. * Why is the NHS in crisis and how do we fix it ?
      Interview with NHS doctor Sonia Adesara.*
      YouTube. 2023. (Bright Green)

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    2. *Why doctors are striking in the UK - A Doctor's Perspective.*
      YouTube. July 16 2023. Doctor A.

      *The NHS Dying on its Birthday.*
      Owen Jones. YouTube. 2023.

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    3. I could have said a lot more, but wanted to as concisely as I could. As Dr Sonia says near the start - this is not something that has suddenly happened, it has been gradually worsening for years.

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    4. There are not enough resources to treat everyone as
      Anonymous said.
      NHS is an ever increasing financial escalator which its Labour
      founders never imagined.
      My father, who died in 2000 aged 84, used to say that Labour
      governments had huge expectations to meet some of which
      were bound to be unrealistic.
      My sister in Cheltenham is a member of BUPA and will have
      to wait months for an NHS operation - she has diseased tendons
      which appeared almost overnight and she will be on a walking
      stick for the rest of her life, a small thin woman of 75.
      I hope your own health holds steady, Tasker.

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  15. I'm glad to read that the NHS has served you well as a patient (and glad you're still here, too!).
    I've been lucky, knock wood, that I've not needed extensive healthcare as certain procedures not covered by insurance would be extortionately priced.
    I'll never forget a friend in Toronto sharing with me many years ago that her mother's then cancer treatment would likely have bankrupted their family had they lived just over the border in Buffalo.

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    1. It is horrific to us here to think that in many parts of the world you might have to weigh up costs against treatment and perhaps decide it isn't worth it. I have no doubt that our NHS does make such judgements, for example, someone we know who was in his late 80s with rather a low quality of life could have been kept going for a few more months, but wasn't. I suspect that I got treated urgently because I was of reasonable weight, fit and active, with no other underlying conditions.

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  16. O Tasker I never read this when first published. First of all how brave you are to open up the discussion about your illness. Never mind on what date we are all expected to die, given the statistical sums of our grandparents and relatives. I am so glad you have seen the fruits of your sowing earlier in the year and equally thankful that the NHS does not count the cost of saving your life or any other life. Though I am a bit worried about the "do not resuscitate/resurrect" notice that might be pinned above my head in the hospital. Sorry for being flippant but you probably need it!

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    1. Thank you, Thelma. I do have a DNR notice because I don't want to end up like my dad unconscious in intensive care for two weeks and likely to be extremely disabled both physically and mentally if he came out, which thankfully he didn't. I know how crudely that puts things but it is the reality at the end. However, I hope it won't be needed for a long time yet.

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  17. Dear Tasker, I wish only the best for you, plan and plant profusely for next season, positive thinking is a great aid to good health! I can only sing the praises of out National Health, they are the reason that my daughters are alive. But the recent scandal shows that NHS management has a lot to answer for. They are wasteful of resources and let down both staff and patients.

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    1. Thank you. Having worked in the public sector I can see how these things happen. I would not be surprised if the hospital managers had too many responsibilities too, and were overworked. I don't know, but I am sure there is more to the Letby scandal than is being reported. Also, I fear for her parents.

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I welcome comments and hope to respond within a day or two, but vision issues are making this increasingly difficult. Please note: comments on posts over a month old will not appear until they have been moderated.