Your editor has been vaccinated against Covid. Early this morning the receptionist at my local surgery called. Could I be at the health centre at noon today to get my Covid jab? Too right, I could. I suspect I got a cancelled appointment, but this didn’t diminish the excitement after all the miseries of 2020. Perhaps a new dawn has broken.
Not knowing quite what to expect, at 11.30 I joined a suspiciously short queue on the ramp leading up to the medical centre. A mobile receptionist worked the line of patients, checking on allergies and handing out authorisation forms.
At 11.55, I was called in and asked to sit down for a minute before being shown to a tiny cubicle. The whole place was crammed with these makeshift partitioned areas—dozens and dozens of ’em. Dead on noon, a nurse came and stuck the needle in my arm. I was then told to sit there for 15 minutes in case of adverse reactions. One couldn’t expect more efficiency. All free, of course.
I have evidence all around me that the UK vaccine programme is roaring ahead. I now know a dozen people—mostly older or those working on the front line—who have already been vaccinated. That’s quite something, well away from newspaper estimates and hearsay.
When you have tangible proof, you know it’s going well. Currently, the Government aims to vaccinate 14 million of the most vulnerable and older people by the first week of February. From what I’ve seen, they are doing well. My own experience does not bear out the many scare stories in the press about over-optimism. After all, I’m in the third phase, not the highest priority.
Over the past year, there has been criticism of the National Health Service for postponing care for serious illnesses other than Covid. On the other hand, the NHS has developed a cult following in certain quarters. If ever a health service could walk on water, then this is it, they boast.
While I am committed to free universal health care (I have never known anything else), I am not a huge fan of the monolithic state operation that is the NHS. An insurance-based universal health care system, such as those in Germany and Australia, can be more efficient and effective. Above all, such systems offer more patient choice, to decide when and where they are treated. This is not always the case with the NHS, although some friends do feel they have had good opportunities to decide where to receive treatment.
On the plus side, the NHS is a shining example of no-questions-asked care. Turn up with an emergency, and you will be treated, even if you have to wait several hours after triage. There are no questions, no forms to complete, no question of insurance claims and certainly no possibility of rejection on financial grounds.
After 75 years of free healthcare in this country, some people take treatment for granted and give no thought to what it costs (it’s a lot, as readers in the USA will confirm).
Patients have livers transplanted and hearts fettled yet have not the foggiest idea of the cost (a thousand, two thousand, perhaps, but certainly not the hundred thousand of the real bill).
Free care is just expected and is given. However, while there is some abuse of the system (such as a huge number of no-shows for doctor appointments and evidence of health tourism), the principle is there: Free at the point of sale…
All that said, the National Health Service has risen to the Covid challenge with professionalism and dedication. I have now seen the coalface with my own eyes. The vaccine programme is in top gear. Roll out of the Pfizer vaccine began a month ago, and the Oxford/Astra Zeneca vaccine came online this week.
The British Government, too, deserves praise for how it procured a couple of hundred million doses of a wide variety of vaccines when other countries were dragging their heels.
As a result, there is no shortage; there will be enough to vaccinate the entire population, although logistics alone means that it could take up to a year. The interim target is to vaccinate three million a week, achieving a total of 14 million people in the next month (I think we have already topped two million since December 8). That will cover up to 20% of the population, and it’s a great start. From what I’ve seen today in one small corner of London, the mountain begins to look scalable.
Today was an eye-opener for me and I am beginning to think that we can beat this awful virus in time. We’re taking the first steps, but the signs are positive.