Your NHS, a special event day examining the nation's healthcare system, took place on Wednesday, 24 March, 2004.
Throughout the day, programmes across BBC radio and television explored issues ranging from smoking to sexual health.
Healthworkers and patients who took part in the original special two years ago were given the chance to review whether conditions have improved since that time.
Has the NHS got better? How can we help the system work more smoothly? Read some of your comments below.
The following comments reflect the balance of opinion we have received.
I am currently working in NHS Mental Health Services. I feel that the current statistical means of measuring improvement are as flawed as the service itself. The statistics forms we are required to fill out are exceptionally simplistic, and try to measure improvement in numbers, not quality. It is my feeling that they are designed in this way to make the politicians look good, and do not shed any light at all on real improvement.
I spent over three hours at an outpatients clinic, the doctor was running over 2 hours late with his appointments. A nurse said he was also on call for A&E and the orthopaedic ward. Why are we so short of doctors? I do not know when my next appointment is, because by the time I got out all the reception staff had left for the day!
Karen Hammond, Wivenhoe Essex UK
The are plenty of faults with the NHS but overall it has improved. Those saying it's a third world health service should try going to a real third world hospital. What a nation of wingers we have become.
Chris Knell, Oxford
We have a government that has very odd priorities. It spends billions improving cardiac care that will benefit just a few thousand people a year, yet does nothing about the millions who cannot get registered with an NHS dentist.
Neil, Ipswich, England
My partner and I have just had a great experience of the NHS at its best, courtesy of High Wycombe's Maternity department. It's a pity the local trust has decided it would be best to close down this facility and move it 20 miles away! I cannot believe that they will also move the Special Baby Care Unit from the hospital. This unit was setup after numerous donations by local people. Will the local trust be willing to give back all the donations that were made as part of the public's generosity? I'm appalled by the decisions being made by the trust to shut down these units. It shows how out of touch with people some levels of the NHS and the associated trust can be.
C R, High Wycombe
I've worked in the NHS (as a secretary) for the past five years, but I'm still profoundly shocked and depressed at the obscene sums of money wasted on ever-growing numbers of third-rate administrators and managers, pointless away days in nice hotels, glossily-produced brochures on subjects of minimal relevance to the important issues facing patients and the NHS. There is plenty of money around, but it needs those in power to have the guts and integrity to do something about this stupefying waste.
Jane Fox, UK
I think some people fail to understand that there is not an infinite amount of money available for the NHS. And that when they sue the NHS for compensation, their payout comes from the same pot, thus leaving less money to spend on the NHS. Taxes will have to be raised to cover all of the payouts and to ensure the NHS gets the same amount of money. Unless there is a genuine need for long term care to be paid for, we have to stop suing the NHS. We will either bankrupt it or end up with sky high taxes if we continue to relieve our grief of having a lost a loved one through suing the NHS.
Thomas, Leeds, UK
As a junior doctor over the past 10 years I have seen marked improvements in some aspects of working in the NHS. The dangerous and ludicrous situation of doctors working over 120 hours a week and not getting sleep at weekends has improved dramatically. This benefits patients too. Also more emphasis is belatedly being put on risk reduction and best practice. The service however remains under pressure due to the spiralling costs of healthcare and shortages of staff. Most patients I would suggest get pretty good care considering the pressures on the system.
The Doctors and Nurses do a great job, but the NHS has far too much red tape and bureaucracy. The money needs to be better targeted to areas like improving cleanliness and reducing hospital bugs.
Nick Fletcher, Malton, North Yorkshire
As a British citizen i am particularly proud of the NHS and only happy to contribute towards its preservation. No organization is without its faults
Lee Williamson, Cardiff Wales
My husband, after 2 years finally got an appointment for an ENT consultation - only problem is that we moved to another area 5 months ago and the surgery failed (whom we informed) to inform the specialist. So...back on the waiting list.
The coercion funded NHS is an abomination who's financing subsidises and thus encourages bad lifestyle choices. As I feel the way the NHS funded is immoral I'd like to opt-out of the NHS and get my tax back, so i can invest in free market solutions. Why can't I do this?
Rob Read, London U.K.
I consider that I have been let down by the NHS. I have paid contributions since I started work but now at age 56 I was put on a year's waiting list to get on the waiting list for an ENT doctor. I had to pay to see a private consultant as I was in extreme pain and worried that without treatment or advice damage could be caused to my ears and hearing. I consider the NHS to be inadequate. Too much is spent on treating infertility and disease caused by smoking, drugs and overeating.
S M Mercer, St Andrews, Scotland
My own experience suggests it is improving. I had to go to the Royal Free A&E in Hampstead recently and the service was superb. I was seen by a nurse within 20 minutes and by the consultant within half an hour. I was out within 45 minutes and had the pills I needed brought to me so that I did not even have to visit the hospital pharmacy. There is no doubt that the NHS has improved and will continue to improve whilst we have a government in power which is committed to investing in the service and its hard working staff.
Simon, London, UK
As former employee under both governments, I see that there is no change at all. Only that I can see the increase is the size of management of hospitals, and the staff are leaving the NHS every week because of the workload pressures or change of shift patterns.
David Dutton, Birmingham, UK
The NHS is third rate. The only way to ensure adequate health care provision is to abolish the NHS and introduce private health care. Competition will drive up standards and increase patient choice. The NHS has been a huge drain on the nation ever since it was set up in 1948. Abolish it and give the people the power to spend their own money.
John Cooper, Slough
Looking through the comments made, just a few observations: 1. The NHS will never be perfect and never has been, what organisation is. 2. Will all those who say they prefer the private sector please use it and promise never to return to the NHS which they seem to despise, (even for emergency treatment which most private healthcare excludes) 3. The NHS is one of the most cost effective health services in the world perhaps some people should remember this, those who claim private enterprise does better should cast their eyes at the other public services that have been privatised and are now in crisis. 4. More people should take responsibility for their own wellbeing and stop abusing their bodies and the NHS. Overall it is a wonderful service.
Janet Payn, Basildon England
The country does not deserve the people who work in the NHS. This moaning and whinging disgusts me. We have the best health service in the world which we all get for free! I read an article recently where a woman was suing a doctor because he sweated too much when delivering her baby. With selfish people like this expecting immediate help for cosmetic or non-life threatening illnesses, blaming the doctors and nurses. I hope it does become privatised, just so that all these middle class whingers here can cry into their tea when they have to pay £20k+ for a heart bypass!
The problem is lack of capacity. My experience with British doctors and nurses is that they're excellent. But there aren't enough of them. Belgium, for instance, has the kind of healthcare provision a developed nation should have - to the extent that most Belgians simply aren't aware of the concept of waiting for treatment. And a quick comparison of the number of beds/doctors/nurses/equipment per capita in the UK and in Belgium shows why.
JK, Edinburgh, UK
Anyone who deals with drunken people who fall over and bang their heads with the same professionalism and care as someone with terminal cancer deserve medals, let alone proper pay. Of course things can always improve but I don't put this down to doctors and nurses. The better it gets the more we expect and I think management of people's expectations is what's required for the NHS.
Peter, Manchester, England
It's all very well to criticise the NHS but you usually find that the people who shout the loudest have least to complain about. Look around the world and I don't think you'll find a health system anywhere that provides equal treatment to people of all social groups and then ask yourself, do we really have anything to complain about? I'd urge people to start appreciating the truly 'world-class' system we have in this country, a real achievement.
Jon Lewis, Cardiff, UK
Whilst the individuals within the NHS may be OK, the system itself is rotten to the core. They can cancel and delay your treatment at the drop of a hat, but then moan bucketloads at missed appointments. One of the basic problems is accountability. Simple solutions to expensive problems are often ignored.
Tony Bastin, Leeds UK
You can try and blame red tape and inefficiencies all you want, but streamlining the NHS and being more economical will never be the magical answer to all the problems. There will always be a point at which we have to admit that if we want a world-class, universal health service we'll simply have to pay more tax. If we look around the world we can see different ends of the spectrum: France, they pay far more tax towards healthcare than we do and have the best health service in the world. America, they pay hardly any tax at all and don't have a public health service. We need to decide which way we're going to go, or put up with the status quo, it's as simple as that.
James Pittman, England
I think a lot of 'patients' need to take a long hard look at themselves. The last time I was at hospital, I'd say about 50% of the patient's didn't need to be there, such as those with colds and coughs, minor cuts and slight stomach bugs. Pharmacies are more than able to help with these problems, leaving doctors and nurses free to treat real patients. Also why do people sue when things go wrong - doctors and nurses are only human and do the best they can. Without them we would be a lot worse of, so we should be thanking them for simply trying, even when things don't go our way.
JJ, London, UK
The NHS is still the National Ill Service-only treating patients when their conditions show clinical symptoms. In many serious illnesses this is far too late. Much more needs to go into screening so that life threatening conditions are diagnosed and treated before they become untreatable. In the long run this would be much cheaper but requires investment. Invitrio fertilisation should not be given o the NHS until other priorities have been properly funded.
Roger Jackson, Stockport, England
It is amusing to speculate what the attitude of the moaners might be if their words went with them next time they needed NHS treatment. Even better, what if the greedy parasites suing the NHS had their activities exposed in the same way? The NHS is great; few of us would do such a good job in the face of continuous moaning from those we are trying to help.
Tom, Burnley, UK
Both my son and I have major operations over the last few years, and there is a world of difference between going into hospital in London and going locally. Outside London there are whole tiers of NHS staff that are missing. Often Consultants are filling all the roles between the Junior Doctors and the Consultants themselves. Nurses are often badly demoralised or just uninterested. Specialist units in London can still compare themselves in clinical terms with the very best, but the excellence stops there.
As a fellow worker in the public sector I have extreme sympathy for those working in the NHS. They are doing a fantastic job under extreme stress on a daily basis and are used by the politicians as a way of gaining votes and credibility when things are going well, and a service to kick when things aren't. Working for members of the public is a thankless job at times and the attitude of those who think they have a "right" to preferential treatment astounds me. At the end of the day we have a "free" service which is there for everyone, and sometimes that's the problem. There is a section of society who misuse the service, and don't even get me started on the litigious brigade
My mother was diagnosed with breast cancer last November. She was admitted within a week and is about to finish her chemotherapy. Less than 6 months to diagnose, treat and cure cancer! I couldn't praise the NHS more.
Paul, Cardiff, UK
When I have had to visit my GP or A&E I have always felt I was being listened to sympathetically and that the doctor or nurse was doing everything within their power and resources to help me. However, in one case the tests "allowed" under NHS funding could not find the problem. When I mentioned that I could go private, I had a scan within a fortnight, and was diagnosed and treated within a month. Months of problems were finished with an inexpensive course of medication. The moral of this story? We must fund the NHS better.
Lucy, Oxford, UK
No - used it lately and it's worse than ever. Just shows you can't run a demand led service to a budget. Join a private scheme if you can afford to pay you get healthcare on demand! Maybe if we stopped wasting so much money on defence spending the people of this country could get the services they require. Why should people wait years to have treatment - it doesn't happen in other western nations! They pay money for health insurance that actually ends up being used for health care our national insurance it would seem is used for other things!
How can we say the NHS has improved, when we pay additional costs to private hospitals to perform waiting list initiative patients to meet government targets, and at the same time allow operations on private patients in NHS hospitals because it is cheaper for the patients who are funding themselves. This isn't codswallop this is happening for real, I know, because I arrange them! This is the management style of the NHS today - God help us!
Has the NHS improved? I worked within the NHS for years, as a charge nurse, nursing officer and in nurse education. I am still involved with the NHS - as a patient. The wards are dirty, the basic nursing is poor and the emphasis on targets is tearing the heart out of the business. My twice yearly cardiac assessment has just been put back (again) from March until the 13th of July. I only hope I am fit enough to keep it.
Ron Dyettr, Biggleswade, England
Margaret Thatcher once pointed out that the NHS was the biggest business in Europe and drained the most money, a huge proportion of which never reached the "Front Line" It still doesn't. Don't blame Doctors or Nurses, totally remove unnecessary managers and get the money to the sharp end. THEN you will see an improvement
Danny, Southampton, UK
I only have 1 complaint. It's impossible to get an appointment!! My clinic closes at 6pm, so by the time I've raced there from work I'm too late. No appointments on weekends, even on Saturday mornings?! Would it really be too much to ask for these Doctors who are paid so much to put in a 2 hour clinic on Saturday morning for those who work full time and can't get the time off? I also am very lucky to ever see my Doctor, because she's always on holiday and I believe we've had some 5 locums in a year. Why exactly are Doctors paid so much if they're never there?
My husband has spent several days over the past seven years in hospitals in Surrey and Ashford. The last visit was in December 2003 to Ashford where he had an operation. I could not believe the low standard of hygiene. At Ashford the bed area was filthy, there was wet blood on the chair next to his bed and the toilets for patients were disgusting - really horrible. I have seen lack of basic levels of cleanliness - and filthy conditions that would certainly not be tolerated by health inspectors in any food business. I am not surprised that there are super bugs and massive infections in hospitals.
Beverley Coghlan, Weybridge Surrey
Smoking should be banned in all public buildings, public houses, clubs and transport.
JC Atherton, Rossendale, Lancs
I think a lot of people are very quick to judge and criticise the NHS. In my experience, those people are usually the same ones who want to avoid funding it; don't turn up for appointments; smoke, over-eat and drink to excess and generally take no responsibility for their own health. However, these individuals all too quickly blame everyone else for their frequently self-inflicted ill-health; litigate at the drop of a hat; and behave rudely (and sometimes violently) towards the hospital staff trying to help them! The NHS isn't perfect but there are two sides to every story.
Marie, York, UK
Superbugs/waiting lists/shortage of care for elderly, the situation is regressing (ageing population will only add to problem) and the Government just refuse to face facts - it needs more money. Improving efficiency can only bring a little, but tax is the only answer. If people want good Health/Education services, they must pay for it. Incidentally, my mother had a hip replacement in 2003 and only waited 11 weeks.....but again, this was in France!
Ivan Miletitch, Ludlow, Shropshire
Perhaps if the greedy, money swindling compensation culture would give the NHS a break, things would improve significantly more. Surgery is always a risk, no matter where you go, and problems do inevitably occur. However, the more people sue the NHS, and try and make their own little small fortunes from it, the more the service will deteriorate. Its all counter-productive at the end of the day.
Yes, I do think the NHS has improved over the last few years. At the cost of the health of its own staff. More and more of its staff are leaving the NHS because of poor pay very bad working conditions, and pressure of work. Very soon the NHS is going to collapse. Every establishment needs a firm foundation, if that foundation starts to crumble, then the whole "building" will collapse. I speak as someone who has worked for the NHS for 40 years, on a salary of just over £12,000. In most of those year's job satisfaction compensated for poor wages, but not any more. Every day I hear staff in all departments saying how unhappy they are at work! Surely this situation can't continue.
Margaret Iddon, Lytham St Annes
Some things seem to have improved. The system seems to work a bit smoother and faster than before. But wards look more run down than ever. There's more dirt (not to mention all the things we cannot see with the naked eye) and there's a general feeling of being rushed through the system when you have to make use of it.
Personally I have had excellent levels of service from the NHS, as has my family. I get private health care cover from my employer, but so far have not had to use it. Every time one of us has needed treatment we have had an NHS appointment within a couple of weeks. Am I just very lucky?
Chris Q, Bradford, England
My mother died because she was not seen as a priority by a very arrogant young doctor. The next day she was dead having spent nine hours in a cold drafty waiting room, her file constantly being put to the bottom of an ever increasing file. The NHS is now an insult to all self respecting people in the country. Tony Blair is deluding himself if he thinks the service has improved under his government.
Lena Walton, Epsom
The service should be run for the convenience of the customers - the patients. Too much is still organised around the convenience of the provider. More primary care should be provided at the workplace, or alongside schools, to improve access.
Pam T, London, UK
My son and nephew both needed grommets. My son has had them put in twice, with private health care, and had his tonsils out, my nephew waited two years for the NHS for one appointment. We say we do not want a 'two tear society', but we have it, people with private healthcare or money get quicker service.
How do you expect the NHS to improve when so many people smoke and drink heavily and are generally overweight? Trying to help these people who refuse to change is like trying to treat someone who keeps shooting themselves. The NHS cannot treat the stupidity of the patients! In medical school one guy had angina but would not stop smoking 20 a day!
The NHS has changed beyond recognition. My Mother-in-law and Mother had the most terrible deaths, at the hands of local workers. The local hospital has ruined my life, over the years. As I see it, Osteo-arthritis is in my genes, both our Mothers were discharged far too early, to get their beds for someone else and I was forced to lift them, out of bed-onto chairs/commodes etc. This has damaged my spine. I have had hip and knee replacements and cortisone in my spine, which has now worn off so I rely on medication for the pain which has returned. No preventative treatment is in place for pressure areas. (I was told proudly by a nurse) That it was old fashioned. When I asked what alternative care was given - I was told none.
Ann Tillbrook, Leigh-on-Sea, Essex..UK
In an emergency, a true emergency, you cannot beat the NHS. However, routine care, and dental care are a thing of the past. I am being made redundant so will lose my BUPA cover for the family. I also will not be able to afford to continue seeing the dentist. I am only grateful that my dentist is still treating children on the NHS, unlike at least one other in the area who will soon be charging £20 a visit for children. It makes me wonder why we pay tax and NI - I thought it was to provide for doctors, nurses, dentists and the like? Or is to pay doctors full salary while they are suspended for daring to take an extra portion of croutons for their soup!
Karen C, Wilts, England
So long as the elderly population increases, the strain on the NHS will continue. The fact is, if everyone expects to live well beyond their three score years and ten, the future for the NHS looks shaky.
Jon, Leeds, UK
My friend from Colombia went to visit my next door neighbour in Bradford Royal Infirmary. She was shocked at how dirty and smelly it was. Not only that she found the staff rude and arrogant, more interested with chocolates, biscuits and gossiping around the nursing stations then with the patients. She said that the poor in Medellin were not treated this poorly. What a sad reflection on our society.
It appears that while the NHS is very good at many aspects of health care, it is weak on others. Staff are continually complaining about being overstretched and working long hours, far too many choose leave the NHS and take their skills elsewhere. I also feel that tax breaks should be offered to people who opt for private health care, after all they are reducing the burden of state health care.
Andy, Derby, England
Can't we ban people suing the NHS? Why should they be able to extract funds which everyone else has paid in NI contributions and tax? What are the statistics of payouts and costs associated with the NHS dealing with claims? I bet that would add up to a lot of nurses, equipment and investment for the future. Can I sue someone who has sued the NHS for infringement of my rights to get medical treatment?
Alan, London, UK
The story yesterday of an £80,000 per year surgeon who was sent home on full pay for stealing five pence worth of croutons illustrates the appalling waste of resources in this totally inefficient organisation. The Tories had the right idea in setting up individual health trusts in an attempt at breaking the monolithic structure into more manageable units, but it should be taken further. Privatise all hospitals and allow all patients to use NHS coupons to buy services.
Eccles, Bristol, UK
Just had a Hernia repair done on NHS, in and out of the hospital, after a general anaesthetic in just hours, no after effects, staff just great, op carried out without delay. Have a friend who had identical procedure, but went private, in hospital for two days, procedure was delayed which caused bad dehydration due to more than 16 hours without drink> He was in great pain after the procedure and had to go back to the private hospital to spend another four hours in hospital. The only difference between us was that I waited three months for the procedure he waited four weeks and paid about £1000!
Clifford, Colchester UK
My father is severely disabled, my mother died a the age of 63 with cancer the way she was treated by the NHS was very poor. Now my father has suffered at home for two years going to bed in his clothes and shoes, as the NHS uses old people's stubbornness as an excuse not to get involved. He had a bad fall and was found by the district nurse. He was seven weeks in hospital because his health was so poor.
Janet Lewandowski, Solihull, England
Our local A&E has a nice new reception area with plants, pictures on the walls. Visiting two weeks ago mid-afternoon on a Friday though, the waiting time was still two hours. Once through the pleasant reception area, it was the same old grubby, overcrowded and dilapidated hospital. The staff were truly superb though and should be given medals for the level of service and care they provide under incredible pressure. The consultant I saw was paged away three times in half an hour for example.
Dan, Yateley, UK
I have been a user of the NHS at primary and acute treatment level for various reasons. I have always found the treatment and care received outstanding. I believe that if you treat the doctors and nurses with respect and understand the highly pressured environment they work in, you will get treated well. Over the years I have also sat on many health and social care planning groups across London. Most patients do not understand the floor targets, monitoring and scrutiny that has to go on behind the scenes to satisfy the government. That's why there has been a need to have so many administrators and managers. Overall, I think we get a great service although from experience there are inconsistencies between hospitals.
Ian Beever, London
Being an employee of the NHS, I have seen what effect the government's 'patient choice' programme has had. It has horribly lengthened patient waiting lists and decreased the efficiency of the system. However, I still consider myself lucky to at least live in a country with 'available' health care.
Alex Mangan, Swindon, England
No the NHS is not better, it stumbles from one crisis to another. Far too many managers, not enough nurses. Bit like the prison service who I work for.
Patrick, Basildon Essex
As a nurse working in general practice, I am intrigued to know where all the money supposedly poured into the NHS has gone. We certainly don't seem to be reaping the benefits, with more targets to be reached all the time and little in the way of new resources. What is really going on?
Margaret Stubbs, Godalming
No it has not improved, in order to improve it we should reduce a tier of management and stop the so-called health tourists from draining our NHS.
Mark J, Romford, England
I have needed treatment at A&E units a few times over the past 15 years - I can only say that the staff and medical response now is far better than it used to be.
Andrew, London, UK
You can blame staff, admin etc till you're blue in the face. The major problem with the NHS is that our expectations are way too high. Thousands of people use these facilities daily, when I had to go into hospital for two weeks I was expecting a terrible time, I was pleasantly surprised. It wasn't excellent, it was more than adequate. Out of the goodness of their hearts these people decided to devote their lives for the sole benefit of others. Good experience or bad experience just remember, they don't have to.
I think the NHS is one of the greatest things this country has ever done. I am training to be a doctor, and when you see what the staff manage to do on a day to day basis you really appreciate how good it is. Yes, it isn't perfect, but the staff are only human, and patients don't always make it easy. How many people actually take medication as prescribed - about 20 to 30%. And don't even get me started on smoking.
My father was admitted to Hospital for fairly minor surgery in November 2003. Following the successful surgery he contracted MRSA and subsequently died from the super bug. I am now currently suing because of negligence related mainly to cleanliness and hygiene
Derek, Newcastle upon Tyne, Tyne & Wear
After several visits over the years to the NHS I chose to take private health care. I do not trust the NHS with my medical wellbeing or my life. I know that there are a lot of good people who work in the NHS but the communication between departments is a joke causing longer stays, repeat tests etc, etc, etc.
I think the NHS is doing a fantastic job. I have Crohns Disease and whenever it flares up I ring the consultant's secretary who sets up an appointment within a few weeks (usually less than 4). Any tests or treatments I need are set up promptly and I have access to a dietician. With the amount of money and stress from opportunistic leeches targeting them for litigation that NHS staff have, they cope admirably. Yes, there are problems with seeing a GP promptly and getting an NHS dentist but then the need for dental care is rarely life threatening and since the money pot isn't bottomless I would rather see the money spent on essentials that will save lives rather than fillings and cavities.
Where hospitals are still exceeding government guidelines for MRI and CAT scans when appointments are over one year for comparatively urgent conditions how can the NHS be improving? It stands to reason that with many patients awaiting scans the Consultants are not able to see them to discuss their condition.
From our family's experience, it is absolutely chaotic. There was no evidence of any management and nobody who was answerable to the family. A business associate also had a terrible experience with his daughter. The NHS has an incompetent bureaucratic organisation, managers who can't manage and doctors who don't want to be managed or answerable to anyone. With the vast amount of money that is being pumped into the system, the NHS should be doing a lot better.
I am a nurse working in an NHS trust and I have to say that the stresses have increased dramatically over the last few years. Hospitals need some protection from opportunistic litigation which would significantly cut my paperwork allowing me to spend more time with the patients. Management also needs significant streamlining, they are often the best paid workers in the health system and are more often the most inefficient in terms of patient benefit for your pound.
Liza says that "I need to know three weeks in advance how I'm going to feel otherwise I don't stand a chance." but I don't believe that's at all true. At my surgery, you only make appointments on the day you want to be seen - only nurses' appointments are made in advance as is now NHS policy. As an American permanent resident in the UK, I say, hurrah for the NHS. It's a remarkable service and we should all be very, very proud that people's health is put above profit.
I think the NHS is getting better. Although like any other frontline service, the cash should go to the frontline: doctors and nurses, and not the administrators.
Steve, Corsham, Wiltshire
I've worked on a cardiac ward for the last seven years. The only thing that has got better is the window dressing and the ability of management to cook the books.
Mark Rotherham, Colchester, UK
I work on the Expert Patients Programme which is a chronic disease self-management course being incorporated into the NHS. Feedback from participants is excellent but we still struggle to make NHS staff aware of it's efficacy. The course is lay-led and a new way forward in patient care but it needs a higher priority within the NHS yet staff seem unaware of it. It is an important way forward and must be initiated mainstream. We talk of patient involvement and this is it. Loosen up on the biomedical model of illness and understand that living successfully with an illness is as important as diagnosis and medication!
Phil Cummings, Nottingham
My involvement with hospitals in my area has always been positive but that has nothing to do with the efforts of our elected dictators. The NHS staff do their best under the unacceptable restrictions imposed by politicians. It is time for the electorate to take control of political interference so that further improvements can be achieved in the NHS.
Brian Langfield, Yorkshire - UK
We must never forget that the entire reason that this debate is taking place is because of the actions of Margaret Thatcher, who systematically starved the NHS of funds in order to run it down so that it could be offered for sale to her friends. Labour has been left to make itself unpopular by having to increase public taxation to sort out the mess.
Andrew M, Walsall, UK
From friends working within the NHS I hear stories about consultants doing one day's work a week for the NHS and the rest of the week they do private work. Don't blame the queues on the NHS managers or New Labour!
Andrew M, Walsall, UK
Let's put it this way, anyone with shares in a private health insurance company would be well advised to sell them quickly! If the NHS carries on improving at this rate, no one is going to want to pay extortionate premiums for limited cover anymore and quite right too!
Barbara Nicholson, Kent. England
Doctors, nurses, and especially consultants are some of the most ignorant, obnoxious, arrogant and rude professionals I have ever had the misfortune of having to deal with. With such a poor standard of employees, is it any wonder the NHS is such a national disgrace?
Sarah Pearson, Oxford, UK
Well Ms. Pearson it's nice to know that you feel qualified to write off an entire sector of this country's workforce with one horrifically (how shall I put it...ah yes I know)"ignorant, obnoxious, arrogant and rude" sweeping statement. Perhaps if you were to speak to the health professional treating you as people rather than servants you may have a more positive experience in the future? Do let us know.
Caroline, Oxford, UK
John Reid travels to the US to learn from the most expensive, inefficient and ineffective health system in the world. The Cuban health care system is undoubtedly the best and most effective, with Cubans having better health indices than their richer neighbours - even under blockade! Why is Dr Reid not going there to learn how they do it?
Charles Moore, Edinburgh, Scotland
The views of the general public on how well the health service works are influenced by the false image given out by the media and politicians that the health service is staffed solely by doctors and nurses. It is the crucial work done by the thousands of people in other staff sections which help to make the health service the success it has always been.
Alistair McCondochie, Edinburgh
The NHS may have problems, but is a wonderful thing! Large-scale private enterprise is just as badly managed and wasteful as state agencies. As for outsourcing of public services, most of the work could be done more cheaply and efficiently by in-house labour, and this applies also to the health service. Better, and leaner management, decentralised wherever possible, is what is needed. Consult, learn and improve!
Francis, London, England
Our neighbour of 83 years received a letter with an appointment to see his consultant. It arrived 10 minutes after the appointment was due. No doubt he will be recorded as not having turned up!
Lawrence Harris, Southampton, UK
My wife is English and I moved here from the USA to be with her years ago. Coming from the US, where, if you have no money, you're out of luck for treatment, we are all lucky to have the NHS. For all its faults and problems, would you rather have the NHS, or an American-style medical "system", run purely for profit where only those who can afford it get help?
Douglas, Manchester, UK (US ex-pat)
My GP's surgery is now completely "walk-in" and operates between 8:30 and 4pm, Monday to Friday. This might be great for the elderly and unemployed, but I'm at work all week. I'm not asking for GPs to work longer hours, just different ones. Why can't they do Wednesday to Sunday instead?
Abigail, London, UK
I think the NHS is not bad at all where we live and has greatly improved. When we lived and worked in France (as an employer) we had to pay over £4,000 a year for medical care! Obviously we received the best care money can buy. However, my doctor in the UK actually picked up on an illness I had been suffering from for several years in France which my French doctor failed to diagnose. I have found that our doctors and nurses etc here, on the whole, are very caring and understanding.
Mrs Hetty Charlet, Newmarket, Suffolk, UK
Let's not forget that without the progress made in medical research half the treatments available today wouldn't be there. The NHS has been expected to stay in the forefront of medical advances. Please don't forget that there IS a limit to what can be done. Medical staff are human and are, therefore, fallible. They do more than should be expected and are still expected to do more. Thank you to the doctors and nurses of the NHS. Please, on behalf of most of us, keep up the good work.
Dave Jowett, UK
With so much cash being thrown at the NHS it would be surprising if some people had not noticed improvements. But as a GP, the new contract's emphasis on tick box targets is deeply worrying and the amount of money being spent on non-clinical "support" staff is a scandal.
Vidhu Mayor, Birmingham, UK
The NHS is doing a good job under trying circumstances. I am soon to qualify as a doctor and will be at the front line of the NHS for the next 12 months. While patients should expect high standards and to be treated well, please don't judge healthcare professionals when you think we are being flippant or unfeeling about a patient's suffering or death. We know the system doesn't always work but 99% of us do the job to help people. If you did the job we do, you would understand. Sometimes humour is the only way to stay sane. It doesn't mean we don't care.
Zoe Norris, Nottingham
My mother, who had terminal cancer, received excellent treatment from the Royal in Liverpool. OK, there were some things I could have taken issue with, but right up until the end the staff were kind, caring, and concerned. I've heard many people in Liverpool make adverse comments about the Royal, but I found nothing but kindness and good nursing there, and a great deal of support.
My family has had plenty of experience with the NHS of late and I must say that all the medical staff that we have seen have been absolutely wonderful. They have done a great job, were extremely helpful and we are all very grateful to them. There is much criticism of NHS, yes mistakes are occasionally made, but our sensationalist press and growing culture of blame and litigation really do not reflect the vast amount of good done. I have experienced healthcare services around the "developed" world and really believe our system, although not the best, is far from the worst.
I hear about all this money that is being poured into the NHS, but money alone will not improve the health service. It has to be distributed and spent in the right places.
Paul Thomson, Bridgend
As the partner of a junior doctor I have seen how much hard work and dedication goes into training to be a doctor. People seem to forget that doctors are as human as you or I and cannot be expected to work miracles.
Michelle, Cardiff, Wales
The UK NHS is getting worse. Recently I was refused an appointment at my GP. I was told that it was for emergencies only. This would never happen in France where I can normally get an appointment the same day that I decide I need one. Most times you do not even need an appointment.
Jim Hutton, UK & France
My husband is a 32 year old cardiology registrar on a very prestigious hospital rotation, currently working in one of the country's leading tertiary centres for heart and lung disease. In the summer, because of the European Working Time Directive, the doctors' hours of work are being cut to 48 hours per week. The trust management are insisting that they work a week of nights from nine pm to nine am, plus several other days of extended or foreshortened hours, resulting in my husband working for 50% of weekends.
The registrars are getting large pay cuts as a result of their hours being cut, and more doctors are needed to cover the work, but are not being taken on. As well as that, he is less available for the daytime lists and clinics so patients will potentially have to wait longer to be seen. This is besides from the impact on our family life! It appears that to management and the government that staff are just numbers on a piece of paper with little consideration given to the fact that they are people with lives.
Sarah, London, UK
I am a nurse working in an NHS trust and I have to say that the stresses have increased dramatically over the last few years. Hospitals need some protection from opportunistic litigation which would significantly cut my paperwork allowing me to spend more time with the patients. Management also needs significant streamlining, they are often the best paid workers in the health system and are more often the most inefficient in terms of patient benefit for your pound.
The NHS does a good job in many areas but is let down by red tape. Also by patients who abuse their body by smoking, drinking and eating a high fat diet. And then put a huge drain on the service. Perhaps these patients should be given an extra bill.
Clive, Dartford, Kent
A few years ago my mum had a cancer scare and her GP and the hospital staff were fantastic! Within a month she was told she was fine. Shame about the hospital building though. Victorian, looks dirty (even if it is not), while there is a very nice modern hospital just up the road. But oh wait; they're winding that one down as it's on a prime bit of land near the station. And it still takes 10 days to get an appointment with my GP, so it's swings and roundabouts - still!
I had toothache ache last month, and as I had recently moved to Leeds had not registered with a dentist. I called 10 dentists in areas that I could get to, and every single one of them told me they couldn't see me unless I was registered and to register I had to go on a waiting list - the shortest being four weeks long. That is just crazy! In defence of the NHS though, I did find a dental drop in centre who were absolutely fantastic! But the dentist I saw said they might be losing staff there because of NHS cutbacks.
Everyone complains - until they need the NHS! Stick the moaners at the back of the queue!
James, Dorset, UK
I think they cope very well under the circumstances. The service they give for both the contributing and non-contributing members of society who both use the system is nothing short of amazing. Do not forget that the people paying into the system have to carry those who don't. To that end, it is a service running on half funding with whole demands. If we had less people on state benefits, the NHS would be capable of running to its full potential and of course be better funded.
The NHS is faultless in their emergency services, they pull out all of the stops, and my Father was an example of this. But their preventative care is sad. Surely their emergencies cost a lot more than preventative care. So sad.
F Williamson, Middlesbrough, England
I find the NHS is a far better organisation now, the biggest inefficiency to it is the patients who do not turn up for appointments with no word of warning.
The problem with the NHS is that nothing is centrally managed. Each Trust is basically left to its own devices, which means that some make better decisions than others. Within each Trust there are staff making yet more decisions, again fairly independently. Things are improving, but these key areas need tackling.
Jon Perrin, UK
I find some of the critical comments on this page deeply saddening. You wouldn't get such a radical and enviously idealistic approach to health policy or any kind of policy in these jaded post-Thatcherite times. The privateers should be ashamed of themselves.
Rob, Acton, London
My daughter has needed treatment in emergencies from the NHS - she received the necessary treatment in a timely and friendly manner. I am proud of the NHS. However, talking to friends and family members that work in it, I cannot help but think that the problems are caused by bad management, rather than by front line staff. If the hospital is badly run and staff are demoralised then of course patients are not going to receive the care that is theirs by right.
As to refugees etc, we should allow them all in, to work, and contribute to the system, the tax revenue would come in handy to fund further NHS improvements.
On behalf of my husband I can say a resounding yes! He finally got an ENT appointment for 15 January, saw the consultant - we already knew it would be a case of definite surgery. We were advised the surgery waiting list was 4 to 6 months - considerably less than the 18 months I waited for an ENT op - and nearly had heart failure when we discovered he was having the op on 18 February! Less than 4 weeks from consultation to surgery, wow brilliant. He's currently recovering, though it seems as though the op may have to be re-done or alternative surgery done as the op doesn't seem to have worked. Something which we were aware of. Other than that, yes it has improved.
Liz, Yorkshire, UK
I think not. More people are moving to private health, and more money is getting put in. So given those two elements you would expect better. But no, still the same old money down the red tape drain.
I have to say all my recent experiences with the NHS, in contrast to my experiences 10-20 years ago, are positive. They have been quick, professional and friendly. Labour are trying to put the heart back into an organisation torn to pieces by the Tories. May they never get their hands on power again.
Paul, Staffs, UK
For heaven's sake let us get the state out of such grand enterprises. The state should facilitate private enterprises to provide a better quality of healthcare. Why are we so surprised by the incessant failure and inefficiency of a monolithic communist system?
Rob, Yorks, UK
I went to the hospital A&E in Cambridge, and I couldn't believe that people put up with working in such an old hospital. It was dingy, depressing with little natural light. If people are treated like animals, no wonder they become frustrated and behave badly.
Terrence Forritt, Cambridge, UK
I overheard two doctors at a taxi rank talking about some trial they were conducting in the hospital. The way they spoke of their patients was disgusting. One patient they were referring to was dying, and they talked about his death and last few months of his life in terms I found sickening. Unfortunately, this is no real surprise to me. As a patient I have been spoken to despicably, I am extremely angry at the arrogance of consultants for whom one waits 8 months to see and who treat one as if one is not quite all there in the head, and rush to get us out. The problem with the NHS is lack of business acumen in administration, and lack of interpersonal skills. Ability and attitude, that's what it comes down to.
Helen Webber, Bath, UK
I worked for a time in the Outpatients department of a hospital and the amount of people who abuse NHS is amazing. Approximately 25% of patients didn't turn up for their appointments and gave no warning so the appointments were wasted and could not be given to others, then they expected to be given another appointment immediately. Other people wanted surgery re-arranged because the day scheduled many months ago was suddenly inconvenient, I could go on and on. The waiting lists are also being made worse by the amount of asylum seekers and immigrants needing medical care because their home country had little or none. Although we pay into the NHS it is under severe strain and we should take this into account when using it.
The NHS does as a good a job as it always has, but it simply is not up to world standards - for far to long it has been run by the politicians and not the professionals - given that our government could not run the dome how on earth are they logically expected to run the biggest single employer in Europe. The NHS needs root and branch change. Vested interests, including the trade unions, should be ignored. What matters most is a quality patient service, what appears to matter most now is employee rights, employee security and employee benefits. When the customer is put first perhaps things might improve.
Mike Hall, Chipping Norton, UK
The NHS is basically good. But some things are a disgrace. When I was a junior doctor (not long ago) I was horrified to discover that while the doctors had leaky, unclean, cramped living quarters with shared bathrooms , no kitchen and a damp dirty sitting area with an archaic television - the admin staff had spanking new quarters with all the mod cons. It came home when I went to complain about the poor living conditions and was offered tea on a silver tray by the admin staff's 'coffee lady'. No doubt my complaint fell on deaf ears. If the admin duties could go back to nurses and doctors then all would be well. In Canada it is marginally better in that the doctors have more power to make change.
Deepa, Canada (ex-Brit)
My GPs surgery is great, they see my young son the same day if necessary and I don't have to wait too long for an appointment either.
It is ok to vilify administrators in the NHS but I think people are confusing hospital administration with management. Sorry, but they are two separate entities. I'm afraid a modern hospital can't run on doctors and nurses alone. Listening to correspondents here, you would think they are the only people who work at a hospital and contribute to healthcare. The NHS could be better but it could a lot worse too. I am just visualising now the amount of nurses I worked with that are now working off-ward in management as so-called career progression.
The NHS walk-in centres are great. The hospitals suffer from staff shortages and overwork. My husband had suspected DVT last week and it took TWO DAYS to get a scan on his leg.
My father-in-law was recently admitted to the North Staffs hospital as he has a terminal illness. The ward he was in was filthy, the staff seemed disinterested (he had several falls while in there because he could not walk properly but whbut when he pressed the buzzer for assistance to go to the bathroom no one came. We tried this for ourselves when he told us, we pressed the buzzer and no one came for 30 minutes!) Also he could not move his right arm which made activities like eating very difficult, he received no help with meals from the staff, they left them on his table which he could not reach. In the end we made sure that a member of the family was always visiting at tea time so that we could feed him. He worked all his life and paid NI contributions, the care (or lack of it) that he received was appalling. I will be investing in private health cover for my family!
Of course the NHS has got better. What they lack in is staff and facilities that can be solved with more money. I have problems with getting appointments with my GP. But all hospital treatment I or any of my family members have had has been top notch. Well done to all NHS staff who continue to provide such good service with the limitations put on their jobs by funding.
I will be working in the NHS in just over a year when I finish my degree, and I think the staff do their best to provide a good service to their patients. The NHS is under-resourced so it's not always easy, and staff are often overstretched.
Emily, Leeds, UK
There are some major problems in the NHS but these can never be overcome when each succeeding government disregards any progress made previously and re-designs the basic management structures in an effort to be seen as 'making a difference'. As a Management level employee of the NHS I know that money is wasted hideously. There are too many business minds in a clinical environment. Patients in the main cannot be grouped up, labelled and cost as though they were produce.
Louise, Sussex, UK
Trying to see a doctor is enough to make you ill. I need to know three weeks in advance how I'm going to feel otherwise I don't stand a chance. On the other side, my father needed a triple heart bypass, which wasn't covered on his private health insurance. From first heart attack to back to work after surgery was exactly six months and he wouldn't have been treated any better if he was royalty. There are good and bad in every system, only the bad makes the news.
Liza, Wickham Market, Suffolk
The last two times I needed to go to A&E, I was seen by a doctor within 20 minutes on both occasions! That would have been totally out of the question ten years ago - the NHS has improved enormously!
Simon, Hove, UK
My wife works for the NHS and when the doctors say "the service is getting worse, morale is at an all time low and there is far too much red tape", you know New Labour are running the country!! What do they do with our money?
Stuart, Romford, UK