We discuss many things in our language lessons, and all of our teachers are amazed at the concept of the NHS. We explain that free health care is availabe for all, and it just seems incredible. Someone asked if it included really poor people, and another person wanted to know if that included treatment for cancer. The concept of the NHS is so alien to many people here in Peru. Once a week, Neil and I visit the local public hospital. In Enfield, our local hospital didn't have the best reputation, but a visit to the hospital here puts things into perspective.
For people without much money, health care is a real problem and costs too much, even in the public hospital. Here, families wait outside the operating theatre in case they need to go and buy blood during an operation. The families need to pay for the medicines as well. It was very sad to see the sign over a baby's bed, showing that the family owed 300 soles, or 2 units of blood. The amount would be hard to pay and there is a lot of fear surrounding the giving of blood. For some children with medical conditions, it seems easier to abandon the child than pay for the various costs. It is hard not to compare their situations with what would probably happen in the UK.
I know the NHS isn't perfect - I know there are long waiting lists and people have had bad experiences. But every time I visit the hospital, I just think about how wonderful the system is in comparison and how great it is to know that in the UK so many people can access health care without crippling themsleves financially.