Right to Treatment

Ivola Dombay writes:

When I was growing up, we had regular dental check ups and saw GPs as needed. I gave birth to my sons reasonably secure that I would have good care. The MRSA-type bug I caught in hospital when I gave birth to my first son was the only blot on the landscape; the contracting out of hospital cleaning services had led to an increase in infections, and I was unlucky.

Childhood immunisations and check-ups, NHS dental care, treatment for ear infections, and the broken wrist and ankle sustained by my particularly adventurous youngest were all treated in a timely and caring manner by the health professionals we saw.

But the NHS has been decimated by neoliberalism, austerity and the Tories. I have seen young people desperately in need of mental health care, waiting endlessly, paralysed by mental illness. Three weeks to wait for a follow-up GP appointment is not unusual. Millions don’t have access to an NHS dentist.

We should have a right to the ‘highest attainable standard of health‘ and ‘access to timely, acceptable, and affordable health care of appropriate quality’ (WHO). But since services are so stretched, trust is being lost. I am conscious that my GP is looking at the clock, without blaming them, as I can only imagine the pressure they are under. But I am no longer convinced that I am getting the best treatment for my needs; I constantly wonder if my treatment is being decided by financial, not medical considerations. I sit in the GP’s waiting room looking at adverts for private services and feel like a second-class citizen.

Some acquaintances needing surgery go private, and I worry for friends and family needing treatment who can’t afford to do that. And for the first time in my life, I am afraid of becoming ill, afraid of needing care, afraid for my children’s wellbeing.

This fear, this uncertainty, this lack of trust weaken us. We need to feel we matter as human beings, that our society values us, and one of the most basic ways it can do this is enable us to access good quality healthcare. This government tells me every day that I am only a cog in the capitalist machine, I am expendable, I don’t matter. Our NHS was the most efficient health service in the world. It has been stolen from us.

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