LA GRANDE — Opponents of the drive to get a single-payer government health care system established in the United States often argue that patients in nations with nationalized health care must wait long periods for doctor appointments.
This is not the case in the United Kingdom, which has a single-payer system, according to Wayne Hill of England. Hill discussed the UK’s National Health Service system with representatives of the Union County chapter of Health Care for All Oregon on Friday, March 19, via a Zoom conference.
Hill, speaking from England, said waiting time is not an issue in the United Kingdom. He said everyone who needs to see a doctor can do so promptly.
“The waiting list is determined by the level of urgency,” said Hill, who grew up in California and has lived in England for 30 years.
Hill also said if people cannot get an appointment as soon as they want to, they often can by checking back to see if openings were created by patient cancellations.
“If you stay in touch you can get an earlier appointment,” he said.
When there are longer waits for appointments, Hill said, they are often for less urgent procedures, including those related to the need for hip and knee replacement operations.
Hill is the brother of Vivian Young of La Grande, who is a member of the Union County chapter of Health Care for All Oregon, which is striving to help Oregon and the United States change to a single-payer health care system.
Hill said he is impressed with the level of care he receives in England.
“It is very satisfactory for me,” the writer and artist said.
Hill said doctors tend to meet with patients six or 12 minutes at a time. He said physicians listen intently to their patients.
“They are very caring,” he said. “There is a real sense of compassion.”
He said everyone in the United Kingdom is eligible for NHS care, even those who are just visiting.
“If you are here you can get care,” Hill said.
The system, though, does have shortcomings. For example, it is harder to get scans for skin conditions, said Hill’s wife, Lynn Relfe, who also grew up in California. She said some doctors in the UK view skin issues as more of a cosmetic issue. Relfe noted she has small growths on her skin as a result of sun exposure while growing up in California. Hill said after she drew this to the attention of dermatologists in the UK she had no trouble getting appointments for skin scans.
Relfe noted doctors in Great Britain see fewer skin conditions related to sun exposure because the United Kingdom receives less sunshine than many other places.
Hill said national health care became apparent during World War II when children were often sent to rural areas where they would be safe from German bombing attacks. It was then that it became evident that many children were growing up in impoverished circumstances.
“It created a domestic awareness of what people need,” he said.
Great Britain’s National Health Service was established in 1948, three years after World War II.
Hill noted NHS doctors and staff are so highly regarded that Great Britain’s government sparked a controversy recently when it provided them with a 1% pay increase. He said many believe they deserved much more, especially because of what they have been put through due to the COVID-19 pandemic over the past 12 months.
“There is national outrage,” he said.
Physicians and other health care workers, Hill said, are revered.
“They are our real heroes,” he said. “They have been stars.”