The National Health Service, immigration, and the increase in the elderly retired population in the UK have been the main issues in this election.
As someone who migrated to the UK, has worked in the NHS for nearly 40 years, and is now getting closer to join the retirement club, I have watched the debates around these issues with much interest.
Problems such as unemployment and rising welfare bills have been blamed on migrants.
The NHS is constantly rubbished with doctors receiving bad press and at the same time the elderly are also blamed for being a strain on the state with being allowed free bus passes, free prescriptions and topped up generous pensions.
It is heartening to see that there is a consensus amongst various political parties in tackling the problems caused by migration; maintain the NHS as a free world class health service and keep Britain a happy place for the increasing numbers of its retired citizens.
The only debate between parties has crystallised to, “…we shall do it better than you!”
For me the NHS is both the cause and solution to many of Britain’s perceived as well as real problems.
There is no other health care system that can match the British NHS; it is unique in that as a health care worker one is blinded to the financial status of one’s patient; this does not happen anywhere else.
This feature alone is the prime attraction to those who use it and equally for those who work in it. A job opportunity in the NHS was the prime reason for me to migrate to the UK; the career opportunities NHS offered me are much cherished. Professionally as well as personally I have enjoyed a good life. The NHS has helped many of my patients live longer and is indeed responsible for a projected long retirement for me too!
With all these things good and great, I wonder why we as a Nation are still unhappy with the NHS, why we still question people wanting to migrate to the UK; and why elderly still feel that they are neglected.
Perhaps as humans we do not value what we have, and the desire to want more is what keeps us advancing.
We shall have to respect the verdict of the Ballot Box and the new government will have to confront issues of excessive migration to the UK, ever rising demands on the NHS and cater to the needs of an increasing elderly population.
These challenges will be matched with opportunities to engage the population with the economic reality of life. The debates during the election campaign have affirmed that the British people are ready to be enlightened with the costs of their care. They will not shy away from information about the cost of their operations and medicine that they receive free, but do pay for as tax-payers.
No nation can provide a service of this magnitude without having a balanced economy. We must earn before we can spend.
This election came at a time when we have seen the end of a prolonged and costly British involvement with the war in Afghanistan. This gives us a unique chance to revisit our opportunities abroad.
The peace dividends from the Afghanistan war might be better realised if we were to engage in helping countries improve their conditions so that people there do not feel compelled to migrate.
It is an opportunity to extend the ethos of the NHS and to promote this idea to other countries in the world.
People are attracted to Britain because it offers them so much, whilst their own countries remain difficult. There is no reason why immigrants should not learn how Britain cares for its citizens, and they should be urging their home countries to follow Britain’s example in delivering health and welfare to their citizens.
An average citizen can only do the job that is available and it is the role of a government to put money in the right places and create meaningful jobs.
One becomes a soldier if the opportunities are to be found in the army, and the same person is happy to become a teacher or a healthcare worker where such a job exists.
Britain and its incoming government are in for a great opportunity in selling the British expertise in healthcare and education to the developing world; in the process it can create opportunities in places from where the current wave of migrants are originating.
This will help reduce the queue at the UK Border agency, and open up opportunities for the elderly British to consider retiring in sunnier places as well.
Britain must engage in its efforts to make the world a better place through peaceful means. Urging other nations to make healthcare a high priority is certainly one way of achieving this. Mature debates must continue!