Since its launch in 1948, the NHS has grown to become the world’s largest publicly funded health service. It is also one of the most efficient, egalitarian and comprehensive.
The NHS was born out of a long-held ideal that good healthcare should be available to all, regardless of wealth – a principle that remains at its core. With the exception of some charges, such as prescriptions and optical and dental services, the NHS remains free at the point of use for anyone who is a UK resident. That is currently more than 63.2 million people. It covers everything from antenatal screening and routine treatments for long-term conditions, to transplants, emergency treatment and end-of-life care.
As someone who formerly worked in the NHS for 10 years I am very proud of my time in a much maligned institution and have the utmost respect for all the colleagues I worked with……………as I used to say “the NHS functions in spite of itself” by which I mean that despite all the government interference (of all colours) the staff provide a service that is often the envy of the world.
However we also hear about the waste and mismanagement within the service and only this week I experienced an element of that. I received a letter from the NHS inviting me to participate in the “bowel screening programme” as I fall into the age group being targeted.
Very pro-active I thought as I read through the details. I then turned the letter over to find that the letter had been reprinted in 15 different languages, yes I kid you not 15 languages including French, Polish, Urdu, Arabic and Spanish.
It does seem to me that this is “Political Correctness” gone mad and particularly in these austere economic times (George Osborne announced yesterday another round of massive cuts in the public sector and there are now mutterings that the NHS which, up to now has been excluded from such cuts, may now be on the agenda). What must it have cost in terms of time and money to hire translators for 15 languages and more importantly what could this money have been spent on instead e.g. hire a few more nurses!
I remember that at the hospital I worked at we employed four translators (particularly for the midwifery unit) because “local” residents, some of whom were recent immigrants to this country, but many had been here for years, couldn’t or wouldn’t learn the language and the cost to the hospital was not insignificant.
There is an old saying “when in Rome, do as the Romans do”…………so if you come to the UK to live it is incumbent upon you to learn the very basics of the language and not expect everything to be translated for you.
Just to add a little balance to this argument, I recently did some work at Bradford University interviewing students and it has to be said that many of the foreign students (particularly from the old Eastern Bloc countries such as Lithuania, Latvia, Bulgaria and Romania) had a better command of spoken English than some of the British students. Their sentence construction, vocabulary and overall fluency when conversing was often nothing less than excellent!
It is perhaps time that the government (and educationalists) re-introduced language teaching as a core / compulsory subject for all children in UK schools as we are often put to shame by our foreign counterparts.