National Health Service
The National Health Service is a government run health care organization that provides health and medical services to citizens and residents of the United Kingdom. It was started in 1948 and intended by its creators to be "free at the point of service". This meant that people who use the NHS would not be required to pay for services each time they used them.
The promise of a health service that would be free at the point of service was broken almost right away with the start of prescription charges. Prescription charges are a set price that people within England must pay for each item on a prescription form. This charge is currently £8.60 for each item and is raised each year.
The NHS is made up of four systems: National Health Service (England), Health and Social Care in Northern Ireland, NHS Scotland, and NHS Wales. Each system is ran by its government. For example, National Health Service (England) is ran by the UK Government. The systems are run in different ways depending on which country within the United Kingdom a person lives in. For instance, there are no charges for prescriptions in Scotland or Wales, but there are in England.
The service also provides basic dental services and prescription eyeglasses, hearing aids, prosthetic limbs and other services. There are normally charges at the point of service for these services unless one lives in a no-charge country or is considered a special needs case; such as children (aged up to 18, or up to 21 if you are a student), pregnant women, or the elderly.
The coalition government has made cuts to the NHS. On 29 September 2013 around 50,000 people protested in Manchester. They set up a stage with banners saying things like 'Save Our NHS' around it. Hospitals can now earn up to 50% of their income from private work.
The NHS has been criticized for working through a 'postcode lottery', meaning that access to quality treatment depends on where you live. The percentage of diabetics getting the NICE recommended levels of care ranges from 6% to 69% depending on where they live.