NHS: £2 Billion A Week And Counting

You may have noticed Twitter exploding with discussion over the financing of the NHS for the past fortnight? No? Where have you been? Living in a cave?!

Let’s catch up. Channel 4 have broadcast a series called NHS: £2 Billion A Week And Counting. Viewers are put in the hot seat and forced to make difficult ethical decisions about the cost of treatment by the NHS.

Shown three different patient stories, viewers are then given the cost of any treatments. They’re shown alternatives of what that the cost of that treatment could provide elsewhere in the NHS before then having to make the difficult decision: who would they treat and who would they leave untreated?

Difficult? Emotional? Heartwrenchingly bloody awful? Yes. Yes, and yes. Let’s not forget, these are difficult decisions that the NHS make on a daily basis. That actual people, people with emotions like you and me, have to decide.

There’s no doubt that the content will leave some feeling saddened and helpless, but it’s also an incredible concept with amazing levels of engagement and interaction with the general public throughout: selected viewers’ tweets are displayed throughout the show, with a variety of opinions proving how tough even these theoretical situations are. It’s definitely along the lines of Charlie Brooker’s Black Mirror, and if you haven’t seen that…

Let’s go over episode 2, because we unfortunately missed the first one. In this episode, viewers had to decide who should receive NHS treatment between three heartbreaking cases. Get the tissues ready.

There was 19-year old Dave who was born with a heart defect and had his leg amputated in order to save his life. He has a standard prosthetic leg, which costs £3,500, but would like a bionic one that would cost £70,000.

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Throughout the program, viewers find out about his disability and how the bionic leg would greatly improve his quality of life. Alternatively, the money could be used to pay for one liver transplant, medical costs for five road traffic accidents, or two full days of an operating theatre.

Next, viewers met Pete. As a 43-year old heroin addict, Pete has previously turned to crime to fund his habit, but reconnecting with his daughter has led Pete to search for rehabilitation. Pete wanted a place on a scheme that treats addicts who aren’t responding to standard methadone treatment. The place costs £15,000, which alternatively could pay for a midwife’s salary for six months, or provide an MMR vaccine for 750 children.

Finally, we were introduced to Amanda, an AHUS patient. Amanda had been on dialysis for 15 years as it’s currently the only known way to combat the life-threatening kidney disease. However, a new wonder drug could save her life, at the cost of £340,000 per patient, per year. The pharmaceutical company that produces the drug defends the price, stating that they need to make back the money that the drug cost: in excess of £1 billion for research and development, although the program does make it clear that this is the same company that made profits of £400 million last year. The £340,000 used to treat Amanda could also be used to provide hospital treatment for 154 diabetes patients, 200 tonsil removal operations, or the complete training of four nurses.

So what would you do? Who would you choose? Still think it’s quite so simple? Have you even got dry eyes? How grateful are you for the NHS right now?

As expected, we were split in the QLS office! We’re interested to hear what you thought of the show, especially who you would treat?

Long live the NHS. Long live our pharmacy staff.