Why those of us saved by the NHS sing its praises… unlike Telegraph columnists

For reasons that should be clear, unless you are a Daily Telegraph columnist paid by the spittle-flecked yard, people who owe their lives to the NHS tend towards gratitude.

Whereas Daily Telegraph columnists tend towards dyspeptic nit-picking and bile.

Here are recent examples of gratitude from those who are simply glad to still be here. You’ll find me in that crowd.

First up, the poet and writer Michael Rosen, who nearly died from Covid. Following his long, long recovery he wrote a book, Many Different Kinds of Love: A Story of Life, Death and the NHS, that compiled letters written to him by the medical staff who cared for him, alongside poems about his months in hospital.

In a post on Twitter/X on March 7, Rosen wrote: “The NHS saved my life. If people think it’s not good enough, it should be better funded and staff better paid so that the NHS can recruit and retain staff. The NHS is being attacked by those who want to privatise it = taking money away from care into shareholders’ pockets.”

Salient points made by a man who should know. And he is exactly right about the funding and those shareholders’ pockets.

Now, heart attacks. Once you’ve had one, you notice how many of us there are knocking about in the land of Wow Still Here.

John Crace, who writes excoriatingly witty Parliamentary sketches for the Guardian, is missing at present from his seat of scowls in the Westminster stalls. He explained his absence in the following tweet on March 11…

The musician and composer Nitin Sawhney posted a short video in which he appeared relieved, if baggy-eyed, after suffering a heart attack and having two stents fitted…

“Just a small thank you… to all of you and to the amazing @NHSMillion who saved my life… Also a bit of plugging for gigs…”

In a nice turn of tweets, Nitin later replied to Crace, saying: “I just came out of the same hospital with the same issue. Recover well…”

To which Crace replied: “So glad that you are also recovering well. Take care and thanks for reaching out.”

Like John and Nitin, I too am still around thanks to a wire being passed through my wrist and into my heart, where some early morning cardiological fishing removed what appeared to be a clot. After that a stent, a bit of metal mesh scaffolding, was inserted to widen my narrowed artery. I can’t speak for the other two, but once that stent went in, the pain dissolved.

I feel intense gratitude to everyone involved. Alongside intense irritation at the words spluttered out by right-wing rant merchants who hate the NHS. Do these people never suffer heart attacks? You’d think they might, what with all that shouting and elevated blood pressure.

Anyway, such commentators seem mandated to hate the NHS. Some on the right have never liked the NHS, believing it to be a socialist plot or some such nonsense. What they would replace it with remains unclear, although the US system is often giving a glowing reference.

You know the insurance-based system that sees millions of Americans avoiding medical treatment each year due to the costs. Unsurprisingly, some die while worrying about the costs of the treatment that would have saved them.

Here are anti-NHS screeds from the Telegraph, as submitted by usual suspect complainers.

First up in the shouty queue is David Frost, Lord of the Whisky Barrel or whatever his title might be. In yet another aggressive column for the Daily Telegraph (March 7), the former whisky salesman Lord Frost wrote: “The NHS treats us like paupers and expects us to be grateful”, adding in a sub-heading: “Why are so many proud of a Soviet-style system that embodies the ‘we know best’ mentality of the state?”

Hilarious, isn’t it, how the same people who landed us with the penniless pain and endless aggro of Brexit are now telling us that we need to get rid of the NHS.

Without having a cause of bitter dissatisfaction to animate them, it seems as if these people just can’t get up in the morning. The Telegraph columnist Allison Pearson, who delights in being wrong about many things, rose from her bed on July 5 last year to opine: “The NHS is on life support – it’s time to switch it off and start again”.

For rotten measure, she added: “After 75 years, our sentimental attachment to a wonderful idea has meant a reluctance to admit just how bad the reality is.”

There are problems for sure, but the reality for Michael, John, Nitin and me is that without the NHS, we wouldn’t still be here to praise those who saved us. Or indeed to complain about Telegraph columnists.

As Michael Rosen suggests in his tweet, it seems that for the past 14 years the Tories have been running down the NHS to the point where privatisation seems the only solution. You may recall something similar on the railways. You know, the ‘efficiently’ privatised ones that are late or cancelled, and too expensive to travel on.

Nothing about the NHS is ever simple. Private medicine has long worked alongside and within the NHS. Last year, however, private hospitals carried out more procedures for the NHS than ever before.

My hernia operation, the one the day before the heart attack, was done privately on the NHS. Everything went fine on the day, although, tellingly, when I had a heart attack the next day, the NHS doctors and nurses said they couldn’t see my records for the operation, as it had been carried out privately.

My hernia operation was part of a rising trend for short-term fixes where private hospitals step in to help shorten waiting listings.

Is this an unavoidable compromise or a further weakening of the NHS to please those shareholders?

Me and my glad plumbed heart suspect the latter.

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