Healthcare in the United Kingdom is both public and private. As of 2019, around 10% of the UK population opted for private cover but every British citizen and UK National Insurance holder has full access to the public healthcare service, called the National Health Service (NHS).
As a public service, the NHS is funded by the government, through our taxes. The amount of money spent annually on the NHS totally varies depending on the political party in charge of the country at that time. However, following the coronavirus pandemic, significant amounts of money are currently being invested in public healthcare; in 2018 this stood at around 10% of GDP.
Although all public healthcare falls under the name “NHS”, it is a devolved matter, which means that funding as well as the running of healthcare in each UK country is a private matter. The NHS consists of NHS England, NHS Scotland, NHS Wales and Health and Social Care in Northern Ireland. The NHS is a huge organisation with around 1.3 million staff, making it one of the largest employers in the world.
Brits are very proud of their free healthcare provision and the service is generally very good. Every Brit is urged to register with their local doctor, with whom all your healthcare details are stored. At a doctor’s practice, each registered person is assigned a specific doctor called a general practitioner (GP), so when you book an appointment you will tend to see the same doctor. If you feel ill and want to see a doctor, you can easily book an appointment through your own practice. Each city and town has many different doctor’s but small villages only have one practice.
If you receive treatment at the doctor’s, this is free. For example, a bandage, a plaster or painkillers. If you need additional medication this is free if you are; under 16 years old, 16-18 years and in full-time education, older than 60 years old, pregnant or are receiving financial support from the government. If you do not fit this criteria, you must pay around ￡9.00 for each prescription, although payment plans and subscriptions do exist if you’re on regular or long-term medication. Some general medications, such as contraceptives, are always free for everybody. Of course, any response to a medical emergency or a hospital visit, including any treatment or medication within, is also free of charge.
Dentist’s are also on the NHS. Dentist’s are free if you receive free medication on the NHS. If not, you pay around ￡20.00 for an appointment with your dentist. If you need medication or special treatments from your dentist, this costs extra.
Despite the NHS playing a proud part of British heritage, it’s starting to face difficulties following the coronavirus pandemic. Waiting lists for non-serious treatment are increasing daily, wait time for ambulances is increasing and workforce numbers are starting to wane whilst the demand for healthcare and cost of social care is increasing.
The NHS played a hugely key role during the coronavirus pandemic and it’s safe to say we wouldn’t be back to normal today without the help of all the key workers within this organisation. Brits up and down the country now use the rainbow as a symbol of thanks for the NHS and you can find this in many people’s windows. In 2020 a single was released by the NHS and key worker choir with a rendition of “You’ll Never Walk Alone”, which was purchased by millions around the UK and profits made were donated towards the organisation. At the peak of the pandemic, Brits would stand on their front doors every Thursday evening and clap for 1 minute to thank those working endlessly in the NHS (Clap for our Carers) and the Queen recently awarded the organisation with the George Cross, which is the highest award available for civilians.