So this is what it could be like? Healthcare and sales.

I honestly believe we are extremely fortunate in the UK for the wonder that is the NHS. It gets a lot of bad press but on the whole we all know that given an emergency, nurse and doctors and teams of people will be there to help. I have often found it hard to imagine what privatisation might look like in terms of healthcare because I’m sure it wouldn’t be the same as the USA. There are all the scare-stories about how anyone poor would die, and how the rich would keep getting rich but we say this about a number of issues (banks, ecology, etc) so it’s kind of become mythology to me even though I fear it might be true.

It was only when Bear and I took a trip to the Opticians recently that I glimpsed something that made the NHS all the more precious to me and privatisation all the worse: sales.

I have long considered my eyes to be part of my body, they sit in my head and help me get on with life, the fact they need to be helped along a bit isn’t such a big deal, I don’t see it as a real disability because other than for the first few moments in the morning where my hand scrambles for where I left them (and probably knocks them behind the bedside chair) I don’t feel that limited; I’m pretty sure I did at first, but it’s fine, I cope. However, Opticians seem to think of my eyes not as a fundamental piece of my body, but instead like my earlobe, nails or hair.. they think it’s a piece of me to be accessorize.

Bear had been suffering from headaches and his eyes hurting for the past few weeks and we assumed it was probably his eyes, his prescription that needed changing. The banker inside worried a little about this because glasses are expensive so I was already aware this month would be tight on the purse strings. Even so, the sensible part of me knew that Bear was in pain, and when someone is in pain they need something to stop the pain – in this case glasses, test, etc.

The thing that makes going to the Opticians different from going to the Doctors is that although you know that a prescription for the necessary medication will cost a bit, it will not cost you more than £50, and it will not be sold to you in a number of ways. There is the medication, you buy, you take it, you get a bit better, etc.

From the moment we sat down I felt like they were trying to push a number of extras upon us. Whether it be tinting, lightening, UV protection, etc, etc, etc. This wasn’t a conversation about what would be healthiest, it was really about what the customer wants, what they can be talked into buying, what looks good, and I felt like unless Bear haggled we would be leaving with a rather painful bill.

When you go into hospital you are not offered the option that will break faster and is cheap, or the hard wearing and pretty expensive option – your health is their concern not your fashion sense. They don’t care if the light blue effect of your contacts matches your brand new pair of shoes. Ultimately, if something is wrong it needs fixing, and it may be painful, it may leave scars, but the aim is to get you better.

Although I understand that where there’s a market there will be money to be made, I also found it really quite disturbing that when Bear explained that he’d need a pair of glasses in order to work this week, they shrugged and handed him back his £150 pair of glasses we bought less than 9 months ago which had fallen apart and said that was all they could do. this is after having ordered another £70 worth of glasses and that was as cheap as it could be. When he asked for a plaster to pad the nose bridge where the pads had come off, they shrugged and said they couldn’t do anything about it. A plaster for flips sake!

I would have hoped for a little bit more sympathy at the very least for a part of the body that most of us take for granted, and the lucky of us use on a daily basis. Have you ever tried to cook blind-folded? If you haven’t can you imagine it would be easy? I don’t. I think I’d have a knife cutting into my hand for the vast majority of the activity. At least if that happened I could go to an actual doctor and they’d try to help me rather than bleed me dry.

Do try to support the NHS. The alternative isn’t pretty.

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