National Health Service (NHS)
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Home » NHS system in the UK: A comedy of PROS and CONS

NHS system in the UK: A comedy of PROS and CONS

South African expat Craig Plowden takes to find the funny side of the National Health Service in the United Kingdom.

31-05-24 11:00
National Health Service (NHS)
National Health Service (NHS) United Kingdom. Image:

South African expat Craig Plowden takes to find the funny side of the National Health Service in the United Kingdom.

Ah, the National Health Service (NHS) of the United Kingdom – an institution so quintessentially British that it’s practically served with a side of tea and crumpets.

Since its inception in 1948 (a year which shudders in Saffa history) the NHS has been the crown jewel of UK public services, promising free healthcare at the point of delivery.

But like all great traditions, it has its quirks, its triumphs, and its fair share of “I can’t believe this is happening” moments.

Let’s dive into the pros and cons of the NHS with a healthy dose of humour.

Pro: Free at the Point of Use

Imagine walking into a hospital, receiving treatment, and walking out without paying a penny.

It’s like a magical fairy tale, except it’s real!

The NHS promises that no one has to worry about being billed for essential medical care.

This means that regardless of your financial situation, you can get the care you need without selling a
kidney to pay for it.

And let’s be honest, selling a kidney to pay for healthcare would be quite counterproductive.

Con: The Waiting Lists

But wait! (pun intended).

The flip side of this glorious free care is the infamous NHS waiting lists.

Need a hip replacement?

You might have to wait long enough to develop a genuine fondness for the cane you’ve been using.

Some patients have waited so long for elective surgeries that they’ve named their wait times like one
names pets – “This is my wait for knee surgery, Sir Limpsalot.”

Pro: Comprehensive Care

The NHS covers everything from GP visits to emergency surgeries, mental health services, and even dental care (though some aspects of dental care are subsidised rather than free).

It’s a one-stop-shop for all your medical needs.

Lost a filling?

The NHS has got you.

Feeling down?

There’s mental health support.

It’s like having a Swiss Army knife of healthcare in your back pocket.

Con: The GP Lottery

However, getting an appointment with your GP can feel like winning the lottery – rare, surprising, and sometimes, you wonder if it’s ever going to happen.

Some patients joke that they’ve had better luck getting through to a radio station’s call-in competition than getting a same-day appointment.

But hey, at least you can call at 08:00 sharp every morning for a shot at that elusive 10-minute slot.

Pro: Equal Access

One of the NHS’s most admirable qualities is its commitment to equality.

Rich or poor, everyone has access to the same level of care.

This egalitarian approach means that Sir Moneybags McRichface gets the same treatment as Joe Bloggs from down the road.

It’s a beautiful notion, ensuring that healthcare is a right, not a privilege.

Con: The Strain on Resources

But with great equality comes great responsibility, and the NHS is perpetually strained.

Underfunding and staff shortages mean that sometimes the system is stretched thinner than the plot of a daytime soap opera.

Doctors and nurses work tirelessly, often under immense pressure, leading to burnout and sometimes, a
rather grumpy bedside manner.

Remember, when your nurse looks like they’ve had three hours of sleep and 17 cups of coffee, it’s because they probably have.

Pro: World-Class Care

Despite the challenges, the NHS is home to some of the best medical professionals in the world.

British doctors and nurses are renowned for their expertise and dedication.

The NHS has pioneered numerous medical advancements, from the first test-tube baby to breakthroughs in cancer treatment.

It’s like having a team of superheroes in scrubs.

Con: The Bureaucracy

Of course, no good deed goes unpunished, and the NHS is bogged down by bureaucracy.

The paperwork is so extensive that it could probably circle the globe twice.

Want to refer a patient to a specialist?

Fill out this form.

Need to order a test?

Fill out another form.

Sometimes it feels like the real illness is the paper cuts from all the documentation.

Pro: Community Spirit

The NHS isn’t just a health service; it’s a part of the British identity.

The community spirit that supports the NHS is heartwarming.

Clap for carers, fundraisers, and countless volunteers show that the NHS is loved and cherished.

It’s like the country’s favourite underdog in a perpetual David vs Goliath battle against the odds.

Con: Political Football

Unfortunately, the NHS often becomes a political football, kicked around by every politician looking to score points.

Policies change, funding fluctuates, and the system gets pulled in every direction.

The only constant is the confusion it brings to everyone trying to navigate the ever-changing landscape.


In conclusion, the NHS is a complex, beloved, and occasionally exasperating entity.

It’s a symbol of what’s best about Britain’s commitment to social welfare, tempered by the challenges of modern healthcare demands.

So, next time you’re stuck in a waiting room, just remember: it’s all part of the grand, slightly eccentric, very British tradition.

Cheers to that!


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