Lisa's week

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Lisa's week: 70 years of public healthcare

One of the things I find most “confusing” about living in Germany is the healthcare system with its mix of private and state insurance, the freedom of choice about where to get treatment and generally how it all works. As an outsider coming from the UK, I was interested to learn that the German system is the oldest in Europe and dates back to the 1880s which made British healthcare a relative youngster when it celebrated its 70th anniversary last month. However, regardless of the quality of the service provided in Germany – I’ve been nothing but impressed over the years – I still find it a complicated system which just goes to prove that some cultural aspects of your home country will always be a strong influence, no matter how long it is since you lived there!

The British system – the National Health System or NHS for short – is a universal health care system, meaning that it is available to all, regardless of financial situation. The only exception to this is dental, optical and prescriptions which all have charges attached to their provision.

The guiding principle today that it should remain “free at point of use for all UK residents” is still very close to the original core principles for its initial introduction: “That it meets the needs of everyone, that it be free at the point of delivery, and that it be based on clinical need, not ability to pay”. (Some exceptions have been introduced over the years for foreigners living in the UK but EU citizens are all covered.) Health Minister, Aneurin Bevan was given the job of drawing up a concept to introduce the NHS and it was launched on 5th July 1948. I heard reports on the BBC that women giving birth on the night of 4th July 1948 were told to hold on so that their babies would be born after midnight and therefore covered by the new, free system!

Taken as a whole (it is now devolved into NHS England, Scotland Wales and Northern Ireland), it employs more than 1.5 million people taking it into the top five of the world’s largest workforces also including the US Department of Defence, Walmart, McDonalds and the Chinese People’s Liberation Army.

Over the years, I’ve read many reports about the NHS and the struggles it faces as services become more under pressure with an aging population, more expensive treatments and underfunding in real terms. It’s funded directly by taxation and the total budget for 2015/16 was £116.4 billion. Unfortunately, there are reports of understaffing, the need to modernise and to dramatically increase the budget allocated to the system. Patients often suffer long waiting times for non-critical treatments or procedures, and General Practioners (GPs), who provide the main primary care for patients registered with them, are considered considerably overstretched. In the UK, you do not have free selection of which doctor to visit nor can you arrange to see a specialist of your choice – this is all coordinated through the GP and your local NHS system.

However even with all its problems, it often rates as number 1 for what the British are most proud of or what represents Britain best to the rest of the world. It often ranks highly, or even top, in international health care comparisons, and I believe that sometime last year I read that it was number 1 in the world for palliative care, leading the way in caring for end of life. While it maybe in need of increased funding and reform, it really is something to be proud of.

Of course, there is a private health insurance option in the UK for those who can afford it, which means you might get quicker treatment or a more exclusive service, but in an emergency, the NHS will always be the first care you will receive. You are always “in” the NHS!

With an insider view of both the German and the UK systems, I can honestly say that I don’t think either is perfect. I will always be proud of the NHS and its guiding principle of healthcare for all, but prompt effective treatment here in Germany including choice and involvement was a pleasant surprise!

Happy birthday NHS – fingers crossed for at least 70 more years.



What is Lisa's week?

"We’ve (hopefully) been entertaining you so far with the meaning and background of a weekly English idiom and now we’ve decided to expand that a little to give me the chance to share some details that come my way in my daily life as a Business English teacher. I hope to find weekly tidbits of information and experience to tell you about such as British traditions that I (or we) celebrate, or typical mistakes made when speaking English, or even some of the funny things I come across in my daily life. We hope that you’ll enjoy the insight into the life of a Brit in Germany!"


Episode 1: The Queen's 90th birthday

Episode 2: What did you do last Sunday?

Episode 3: What's the best way to answer?

Episode 4: The sound of London

Episode 5: Not just a last resort

Episode 6: Quick tip of the week: advice vs. advise

Episode 7: Title talk

Episode 8: The Union Jack

Episode 9: Why Thursday?

Episode 10: Quick tip of the week - Are you watching or just looking?

Episode 11: Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Happiness

Episode 12: Don't forget to take you handy to the public viewing!

Episode 13: Up in the Highlands

Episode 14: Quick tip of the week - "Popular" false friends

Episode 15: Pie in the sky 

Episode 16: Through the tunnel

Episode 17: Keep left!

Episode 18: Quick tip of the week - Rise vs. raise vs. arise

Episode 19: How do you say that?

Episode 20: Back to School!

Episode 21: Sweet cravings

Episode 22: Can you change a fiver?

Episode 23: Grabbing some "me time"

Episode 24: Typical Mistakes (part 1)

Episode 25: Fancy a cuppa?

Episode 26: Quip tip of the week - Fell vs. fall etc.

Episode 27: Things that go bump in the night!

Episode 28: Remember, remember the fifth of November, gunpower, treason and plot

Episode 29: What's that badge you're wearing?

Episode 30: Bless you!

Episode 31: What are you thankful for?

Episode 32: Where's the larget Christmas Market outside Germany or Austria?

Episode 33: What's behind the door?

Episode 34: The joy of a Christmas cracker!

Episode 35: Does it all fit on the table?

Episode 36: Seeing in the New Year

Episode 37: How are your resolutions going?

Episode 38: Quick tip of the week - "Popular" false friends - part 2

Episode 39: What will the Year of the Rooster mean for you?

Episode 40: Sweet Valentine

Episode 41: A Reminder

Episode 42: I'll have mine with sugar and lemon juice, please!

Episode 43: The joy of golden daffodils

Episode 44: To correct or not to correct, that is the question

Episode 45: The whole world's going green!

Episode 46: Idiom of the week - Raining cats and dogs

Episode 47: The joke's on you!

Episode 48: Left over from the Middle Ages!

Episode 49: More calendar food-based ponderings

Episode 50: We use German words too

Episode 51: Celebrating St George

Episode 52: The perfect start to the day

Episode 53: The tiny apostrophe is actually something big (part 1)

Episode 54: The tiny apostrophe is actually something big (part 2)

Episode 55: The tiny apostrophe is actually something big (part 3)

Episode 56: Holiday season is coming!

Episode 57; ‘Tis the season (of Bank Holidays) – part 1

Episode 58; ‘Tis the season (of Bank Holidays) – part 2

Episode 59: Summer Solstice

Episode 60: Harry Potter turns 20

Episode 61: Quick Tip of the Week - live, life, live

Episode 62: Oh I do like to be beside the seaside

Episode 63:  I scream, you scream, we all scream for ice cream!

Episode 64: Stick a stamp on it!

Episode 65: Idiom of the week - Water under the bridge

Episode 66: I say QWERTY, you say QWERTZ

Episode 67: Doing your homework and making mistakes! (Part 1)

Episode 68: Doing your homework and making mistakes! (Part 2)

Episode 69: Joking around in Scotland

Episode 70: The first day of school

Episode 71: Let's go down to the Wiesn!

Episode 72: Celebrating language

Episode 73: It's a Harry thing!

Episode 74: My favourite time of the year

Episode 75: TED-Ideas Worth Spreading

Episode 76: Grinning like a Cheshire cat

Episode 77: Enjoying the downtime

Episode 78: Talking Tenners

Episode 79: Do you need anything from the Hight Street?

Episode 80: Just another few minutes!

Episode 81: Counting the cards on my shelf.

Episode 82: What sign are you?

Episode 83: Great if you have a sweet tooth

Episode 84: It's an acquired taste!

Episode 85: New Year's Resolutions

Episode 86: Quick Tip of the week - go/come & take/bring

Episode 87: My Luve is Like a Red Red Rose

Episode 88: Once in a blue moon

Episode 89: Learning by Listening - part 1

Episode 90: Learning by Listening - part 2

Episode 91: This is the travel news!

Episode 92: The "Beast from the East" hits Western Europe!

Episode 93: The flu hits Lisa's Week

Episode 94: Spring forward and fall back

Episode 95: Holy Week

Episode 96: Quick Tip of the Week - prepositons of time

Episode 97: Perfect for dunking!

Episode 98: Part of the family

Episode 99: It's a boy!

Episode 100: Happy Anniversary to me!

Episode 101: To all the mothers out there

Episode 102: Up, up and away

Episode 103: A very British affair!

Episode 104: Getting boarded!

Episode 105: How do you say that?

Episode 106: Ready for departure?

Episode 107: Happy Father's Day

Episode 108: I'm leaving... on a jet plane... (Part 4)

Episode 109: Can football really come home?

Episode 110: A right royal christening

Episode 111: Touch down!