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Wednesday, May 27, 2015

No Job For A Lady: Who Goes Home? Part 2

In "Who Goes Home?" the first episode of the British sitcom No Job For A Lady," new Labour Member of Parliament (MP) Jean Price races back from her home to meet with Sir Godfrey Eagan. Unlike her, Sir Godfrey is a long-standing MP for the Conservative Party, with extensive links in industry. While she shares a cramped office space across the street with Ken, he rents a spacious office in the Palace of Westminster. On his wall hangs a large portrait of Queen Elizabeth II, and a photo of Conservative Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher resides on his desk. He offers her a selection of refreshments, compliments her on her change of clothes, and seems amenable to pairing with her.

During her short visit home, her husband Geoff gave her several messages from her constituents, two of which concerned needed medical treatments. Back in her office, her assistant Tim reminds her of an appointment with one of them, a man who is waiting to get a hip operation. Earlier in the House of Commons lobby, she told the Whip that she would be pairing with Sir Godfrey Eagan, so she wouldn't be attending tonight's vote. She also asks him about the opportunities available to her for granting priority status to some of her constituents who are still waiting on the British health care industry for needed operations. He's okay with her pairing arrangement, but can't offer her any advice on hastening medical procedures, except to pay to get those done privately. When she reminds him that the Labour Party publicly discourages people getting healthcare from alternative providers, he reminds her that writing to your MP in the hopes of hastening a medical procedure constitutes an attempt to leap ahead of others ahead of you in line, and isn't an action the party would endorse either.

Still, she meets with the man and his wife, who review all the means they have tried to hasten her husband's hip operation. We never learn why he ended up in a wheelchair, but he's been relegated to it for two years, and would dearly like to walk again. While he's disappointed that she can offer him no encouragement, he's far from bitter, reflecting that some people he knows have waited four years before getting a hip operation. 

During my trip to Wales in 2012, a conversation with one family ventured into the British healthcare field. I don't remember the intricacies of the discussion, but the wife had clearly done her research on how Britain's National Healthcare Service (NHS) compared with healthcare systems (public and private) in other countries. She asserted that the British people pay more in taxes, but such things as healthcare are supposedly free. However, as the government holds the purse strings, and there are always calls on the public purse, NHS funding is a part of the country's annual budget that frequently suffers cuts. Like the man in the wheelchair, she and her husband seemed philosophical about it. While they knew every country's healthcare system operated differently, they supposed that the grass always looks greener in another field.

Britain's National Health Service (NHS), founded in the mid-to-late 1940s, when the country was recovering from the ravages of World War II, aims to care for all the medical needs of its citizens. Yet private insurance carriers have been available to English citizens for just as long. After Jean confirms that the man and his wife have exhausted all available options to speed his operation, she asks, under her breath, if they might possibly be members of BUPA, a private medical insurance company founded in 1947, that has grown to serve fourteen million people in two hundred countries. For the first time, the man seems appalled. He insists that he and his wife are good socialists, and that they don't believe in private medicine." Then his wife pushes him out of the House of Commons lobby.

Given our history, people in the United States have long known the importance of having a private insurance provider. But it seems as though, for every story someone tells about how their insurance company took good care of them, you hear a story about how their carrier mistreated them. I wish I knew more of the intricacies of Britain's NHS. It would also be interesting to learn how the NHS may have changed, in response to citizens' needs, since this show aired in 1990. (In his memoir A Journey, Britain's Labour Prime Minister Tony Blair devotes a chapter to discussing how he made adapting and evolving Britain's NHS a priority during his ten years in office). I find it interesting that Alex Shearer, who wrote "Who Goes Home?" and all the episodes of No Job For A Lady, suggested that some people would view waiting years for needed medical assistance as their patriotic duty. But then, our beliefs and ideals often grow more precious to us in times of adversity. To repay them for the comfort they offer us, we gladly endure more pain to uphold them, rather than "give in" to practicality.

Dragon Dave 

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