Short Takes On News & Events

U.K. National Health Service Gets Gold Medal Mention At Olympics

By Lexie Verdon

July 28th, 2012, 2:04 PM

Performers pay tribute to the National Health Service during the Opening Ceremony in London (Photo by Stu Forster/Getty Images).

The opening ceremony for the London Olympics Friday night was full of surprises: The “queen” parachuting with James Bond into the Olympic stadium, an appearance by the evil Voldemort of Harry Potter fame. But maybe the most surprising for health wonks was the tribute to the National Health Service (NHS).

That last salute came in a whimsical segment that organizers said honored “two of Britain’s greatest achievements: its amazing body of children’s literature and its National Health Service.” It was part of the highly choreographed section of the program that explored British history and achievements.

Academy Award filmmaker Danny Boyle, who was the artistic director for the opening ceremony, cast 600 dancers in the tribute that featured scores of children on hospital beds that were transformed into trampolines.  They were supervised by nurses in bright blue dresses with white aprons and doctors. The adults were largely volunteers who are employed in their regular lives by the NHS. As the children fell asleep, their dreams turned into nightmares with villains from British children’s literature. But Mary Poppins arrived shortly to calm the situation.

In a media guide, the ceremony organizers said, “The NHS is the institution which more than any other unites our nation. It was founded just after World War II on Aneurin Bevan’s famous principle, ‘No society can legitimately call itself civilised if a sick person is denied medical aid because of lack of means.’ ”

The publicly funded program offers health care to millions of British residents and employs 1.7 million people. But even the revered NHS is coming under pressure and some health care experts are calling for overhauling parts of the service.

8 Responses to “U.K. National Health Service Gets Gold Medal Mention At Olympics”

  1. Paula says:

    ‘No society can legitimately call itself civilised if a sick person is denied medical aid because of lack of means.’

    Republicans never promoted America as being a civilized society, did they? Republicans have always said that a strong society is a well armed society. Republicans have always promoted America as a nation where it’s survival of the fittest. In America, money talks and BS walks, right? I think the Supreme Court recently said as much in their Citizens United decision, right? Face it folks, America has the best health care money can buy, right? At 17 percent of GDP, no other nation in the world comes close to the amount Americans pay for their health care.

  2. Craig says:

    Maybe those dastardly Republicans wish to avoid the kind of nightmare patient care story that has become commonplace under the the U.K.’s NHS. A few seconds of cursory Googling will pull up many stories like the following.

    The NHS did not deserve to be so disgracefully glorified in this bonanza of left-wing propaganda

    By Rick Dewsbury

    Sitting in a home somewhere while fireworks lit up the Olympics Opening Ceremony would have been the family of Kane Gorny.

    They watched their cherished teenage son die of thirst at the hands of incompetent doctors and nurses.

    Kane was a promising footballer with a bright future ahead of him until he was admitted to hospital. He died of thirst a couple of days later.

    His life was lost for want of a simple glass of water

    Kane even went to the extreme length of calling 999 from his hospital bed so desperate was he for a drink during his visit to hospital for a hip replacement in 2009. Yet when the police arrived, the nurses ushered them away, assuring them that the young patient was confused.

    Within a day he was dead. Dead because NHS hospital staff refused to give a sick man a glass of water. We are not talking some powerful prescription drug. Just a small glass of tap water.

    Read the whole thing.

  3. Paula says:

    Great story! Fantastic! Without any doubt, the Kane Gorny story is sensational and most news worthy! No wonder this story got such huge press coverage. I’ll bet TV ratings went through the roof and newspapers sold like hotcakes!

    Uh, just one question. Are you suggesting that this is how NHS operates as a rule, or is this the one-in-a-million exception in an otherwise well run health care system?

    If you ask me, I suspect Chicken Little is on the loose again and he’s going around shouting “Death Panels” and “Massive Government Takeover”.

  4. Barbara says:

    This is far from commonplace–and people die unnecessarily in hospitals around the world–including in the US. Having lived and worked in England for five years, I am convinced that the NHS is largely responsible for the differences in health outcomes between the US and the UK.

  5. stephen d. says:

    One needs only to ask why the Kane Gorny case got such huge attention and headlines in the UK. In America, millions of people are denied health care services on a daily bases and nobody cares a twit. In fact, over 50 million Americans are not insured in any way and another estimated 25 million are underinsured. These uninsured and underinsured Americans are, by default, NEGLECTED! These insured Americans are as neglected as Mr. Gorny. In some cases, maybe worse! Uninsured and underinsured Americans are dying regularly because they can’t afford to see a doctor, much less go to the hospital. Unlike the UK, America has an outrageously expensive health care system where millions of people are neglected because of cost and yet, we see no headlines in the newspapers or on TV like we saw with Mr. Gorny. The Gorny case got massive press attention because it is what it is. A one-in-a-million case! The Gorney case is virtually unheard of in the UK. That’s why it was so sensational. Fact is, every citizen of the UK has unlimited access to health care and getting that care has nothing to do with their ability to pay. Mr. Gorny was a 22 year old supermarket employee. Can you tell me how many supermarkets in America provide comprehensive health care coverage like Mr. Gorny had? In America, a Gorny situation happens thousands of times a day in thousands of poor communities all across America. Why? Because, unlike the UK, America is a cruel society! In America, it’s survival of the fittest. Leave it to Republicans to point to the one-in-a-million example and suggest that that’s normal in the UK. Republicans are a desperate bunch of Neanderthals looking for ways to compare a health care system that works extremely well like in the UK to what is clearly the most expensive and most failed health care system the industrialized world has ever seen.

  6. I think it was great that the producer’s of the show ‘thought’ about mentioning HC in the opening ceremonies. All countries are grappling with thier HC systems…it is a simple fact that HC is a cost, it is expensive and no one wants to think about it till they are sick. We have to change the mindset…in the US, the country is aging, we are obese, and don’t take care of ourselves. That adds up to high costs which forces employers to drop HC coverage and increase the uninsured as the average citizen does not have the money to pay for insurance. It is a catch 22 and a no win situation.

  7. lucky7 says:

    Will you find citizens of Canada and the UK and France and Germany complaining about their health care system? Yes you will! Humans are humans and nothing is perfect. However, these countries do not exclude their people from health care like America does. In every other industrialized nation, virtually “all” of their citizens have access to affordable health care. Nobody dies just because they are poor in these other industrialized nations. America is the only nation that is the exception. Only in America, if you are poor, you aren’t included. Only in America, if you are poor, you have a much greater chance of dying. Only in America, if you get sick, you are immediately dropped from you health care coverage. Only in America, health care is reserved for people who can pay. Everyone else, about 50 million Americans who are poor, don’t get covered. It’s simple, with regard to health care, comparing America to the rest of the world is like comparing apples to oranges. In spite of the Republican rhetoric, there is absolutely no comparison. Like someone once said, America has the best health care in the world, but only if you can afford it.

  8. oncdoc says:

    We don’t have a healthcare crisis in the US, we have a political crisis. The reason that national healthcare works in Canada and Europe is because the expectations from the public are much lower. We can provide care to millions more at lower cost , but only with lower expectations on average. As long as the government (politicians) continue to falsely elevate expectations of care, the public will be unhappy with the services provided. Providers have been squeezed enough and additional cuts will result in worsening patient dissatisfaction.

    National Healthcare will never work without some degree of rationing and liability protection for providers (like in Canada and Europe)

    The problem is that the politicians in America just keep telling the public that they can have more for less with higher expectations. It just doesn’t add up!