There’s a photo of a hospital bill from the U.S. doing the rounds on Twitter this morning. With the comment ‘The cost of my c-section’, it details charges like $10,353 for Room and Bed, $7,275 for nursery, $2,270 for pharmacy, $326 for blood storage and processing. Total bill for giving birth $42,347. 40 thousand dollars. About 23 thousand pounds.
One of the great virtues of the NHS is that patients don’t need to worry about the cost of their treatment. But perhaps our complete lack of knowledge on the subject makes us somewhat ungrateful for the amazing service we have. A junior doctor told me recently he had to wait until the consultant came on the ward before he could write the prescription for a treatment I was having. I naively thought it was to do with the fact it’s a fairly serious drug ..but no. It was of course the cost that he wasn’t allowed to authorise. He left my bed and (having nothing better to do) I began to work out just what this particular bout of illness was costing the NHS.
About 3 weeks in intensive care. At £1500 a day roughly. About £31,000. Then another six weeks on a normal ward at £250-£300 a day. At least another £10,000. That’s before I start having any investigations or treatment. Plasma exchange – about 10 or so of them. No idea what they cost ( and Google isn’t helping me) but the nurse reckons it’s a few thousand each time, so even being conservative, that’s probably another £20,000 on the bill. Several courses of a pretty expensive drug ( Rituximab) – at least another £10,000. I’m up to about £70,000 pounds before I even start on blood tests and transfusions, pills and ambulances. It certainly makes me less inclined to complain about the food.
I wonder though whether the NHS should make more of this. Maybe we should all be given a fake bill when we leave. Here’s what it would have cost you. So instead of us complaining when someone comes to take yet more blood from our arms, we’re grateful a decision has been made to spend a bit more money on our care.
One of the nurses giving me a plasma exchange was from India. Quite rightly she pointed out to me that if I lived there, plasma exchange just wouldn’t be an option, because I simply wouldn’t have the money to pay for it. And the same is true in so many other parts of the world. It doesn’t mean we shouldn’t complain when things go wrong in the NHS. And we are of course paying for it in our taxes. But thinking about the cost of NHS treatment might make us a little more understanding about there not being enough nurses on the ward, why the hospital charges us to park and why the toast is cold by the time it arrives at our bed.