A personal plea to the undecideds

A guest post by Sinclair of Indie Authors for Scotland

This is an unashamedly emotional post. On Tuesday 9th October 2007 our son, Calum, went to bed, tired but happy. He awoke at around three o’clock on the Wednesday morning with a severe headache, and by half past six he was on a ventilator in Yorkhill Hospital diagnosed with bacterial meningitis. Over the next day and a half the doctors and nurses worked tirelessly to save his life but on the Thursday afternoon we were told there was nothing they could do for him.

My wife and I were then asked to think about his organs being used to help save others and after thinking long and hard, we decided that was what Calum would have wanted, and gave our permission. He was kept alive for one more day while the arrangements for the transplants were made. His organs saved the lives of people across the UK and gave us a little comfort in the darkest of days. (Gordon Brown’s lies about the transplant services are for me has been the low point of an abysmal No campaign.)

The loss of our bright, happy intelligent boy was truly the worst thing that has ever happened to us but it could have been even worse. After the trauma of Calum’s death and the pain of organising his funeral we could have had a bill dropping through our door. In the United States we would have had a bill that included the GP in the out of hours clinic, the services of the nurses and doctors in A&E; the tests which included three MRI scans; the services of the ICU staff who were constantly by his side, the neurologists and paediatricians whose expertise was called upon; the cost of the numerous drugs that were administered; the cost of his room in ICU and probably the room where family and friends gathered to support us. If we had the same cruel healthcare system as the US, that bill would have amounted to tens of thousands of pounds. Not only would we have lost our son, we would be either thousands of pounds in debt or maybe even have lost our home.

The NHS is the single greatest achievement of any government this country has ever had. In a recent survey of healthcare systems the NHS ranked the best in the world. It was rated the most efficient, the best value for money and the best for results. All that has been achieved within the NHS is now at risk as the coalition has begun to privatise the service to allow American healthcare companies to profit from the sick people of England.

This is obviously an important issue in the referendum debate and the No side have protested that the NHS in Scotland is safe but are they telling the truth? If we vote no, cuts to Scottish Government funding will have an impact on the service but the threat is far greater than purely funding. Andy Burnham, the Shadow Health Secretary is telling the English electorate that the pace of the coalition’s changes is too fast (there is no pledge to reverse the changes) while indicating that he thinks separate health services might not be the best way to organise a service that has been separate since its inception.

The Tories hate the health service with a passion and they will do all that they can to destroy the principle of free at point of need. A Tory victory in May’s election will be the final nail in the coffin of the NHS and as Mr Burnham has already planted the seed, the Tories will have no problem removing the Scottish Government’s control over the service. Add to that the very real threat of the disgusting TTIP trade deal and you have the perfect storm of ‘greed before people’ about to crash down on the NHS in Scotland.

If you think this is scaremongering, just consider how many in the House of Commons and the House of Lords have shares in private healthcare firms and then ask yourself whose interests are they going to put first their own or ours?

The vast majority of the people of Scotland understand the great job the NHS does, as do the majority of people in England and Wales; the difference is we can do something to protect ours. With a Yes vote we can write the NHS into the constitution, we can guarantee that the people of Scotland will have care, free at the point of need as long as they will it.

I don’t want to live in a country where families are devastated by sickness or death only to have further pain inflicted as they lose their home. I don’t want to live in a country where a mother puts off taking her child to see a GP because she can’t afford it. Meningitis is just one disease where quick diagnosis can save a life and the thought that someone may lose a child because some corporation wants greater profits is abhorrent to me and I’m sure to the majority of you.

I am reaching out to those who remain undecided. Sickness is not something people should be punished for. If you are looking for one reason to sway your decision between Yes and No, think of Calum. I know which choice he would have made.


29 comments on “A personal plea to the undecideds

  1. Steve Bowers 74% win says:

    What a wonderful post and what a very sad post, no one should outlive their children and it’s good that your Calum lives on in someone else, I hope that brings you some comfort as the years pass. Both my Step daughters work in NHS Scotland and both love it, neither of them would like to see it privatised. We must all step up to the ballot box on Thursday and do what we know is right, not just for us but for everyone in Scotland.

    • H McAuley says:

      A heartfelt and wonderful post about our wonderful NHS. I have recent personal experience of this recently too when my Dad received wonderful care at Gartnavel\Western when in for a cancer operation. Complications set in and he ended up on a ventilator in ITU where the care and devotion of the nurses was both inspiring and humbling to see despite my Dad’s very critical condition and, sadly, his susequent death.
      Meanwhile I was suffering from serious neurological problems and could hardly walk and I needed 2 sticks as I was have crippled. After a quick MRI scan a wonderful Neurosurgeon called Mr Chris Lim from Ninewells in Dundee operated on my spine and a few weeks later I was walking freely again thanks to the brilliance of this wonderful man and his team.
      All of this happened over a traumatic 6 week period in May\June this year and demonstrates that I need the NHS, my family needs the NHS, my friends and fellow citizens need the NHS, and my country needs the NHS, FREE AT THE POINT OF NEED.
      The contemptible lies of failed politicians like Brown are beneath contempt and that is why as a country I firlmly believe that we MUST vote YES in the referendum to protect our NHS and keep it out of the clutches of private health firms.

  2. K1 says:

    I’m so saddened to hear of the pain that you and your family must have endured with the loss of your child.

    The overarching gist of your post is profoundly important in terms of alerting people to the very real threat to our NHS if we vote no,

    The Lancet, 10th September 2014;

    Privatisation of the Scottish NHS: TTIP and independence:


    I have sent both the Lancet article and your post to friends who are on FB and asked them to combine both pieces on thier FB walls and spread as far and wide as possible, can I recommend all who have broader access to do the same.

  3. diabloandco says:

    I have no idea how one comforts a parent who has lost a child , words fail me.

    I believe in our NHS and have no wish to see it privatised by an uncaring government of whatever hue or attacked by a politically motivated media. The drivel we have been fed by those who know they lie but continue so to do must be addressed after the referendum .
    The media and the politicians must be made to answer for their attempts to deceive.

  4. Skip_NC says:

    Greetings from Raleigh, North Carolina. Most hospitals will not charge for rooms where family gather. However, they will send four or five separate bills, often with overlapping charges, with services described in impenetrable medical jargon. The bill will be several times higher than the true cost of service. If the patient is uninsured, they leave it up to the patient, or his family, to initiate contact with the various providers to negotiate a lower rate. All this at a time when the patient and/or family is at its most vulnerable.

    Even with decent insurance, a couple of days in hospital for a routine operation can cost several thousand dollars. Medication in hospital is dispensed because it is medically necessary. That does not guarantee that the insurance company will pay for it. When you go to the Emergency Room, you sign a form to say you accept responsibility for charges not paid by insurance – well a relative or friend signs on your behalf because you are probably in no fit state to sign anything at the time.

    You have shown great fortitude in writing this piece. I hope it will persuade undecided voters to do the right thing on Thursday.

  5. mary vasey says:

    Thank you so much for your honesty, especially over something as heartrending as losing a child. As Steve says I hope knowing that your sons short life was not in vain is a help .
    I wholeheartedly agree with you, suffering from a chronic illness and with many friends in USA I know how much better off we are in Scotland with our NHS. This alone I feel is a reason for voting YES.. as I have done

  6. This post made me cry. I currently work in dialysis/organ donation in nhs Scotland. I had worked overseas for many years mainly in deprived/struggling/third world countries. I have experienced people dying because they did not have money to buy treatment. Believe me, the nhs IS the envy of the world, we are major players. Vote yes to keep these thieving scumbags from plundering our wonderful service. A service that could save many from cruel diseases and help prevent losing a much loved family member. Vote Yes.

  7. Pam McMahon says:

    Thank you for your heartrending post. I used to work in the NHS, and have attended many deaths. You are to be admired in seeing through the current greedy money-grabbing by the Westminster elite. Many sympathies for your sad loss.

  8. JimnArlene says:

    Sorry for your loss, I do hope undecideds read this and are swayed towards a yes vote.

  9. Thank you for your brave words. I have neighbours who came back to Scotland for health care(they are in their late 70′ and 80′ years) from Canada. Sadly they’re voting no.

  10. Robert Graham says:

    many thanks for taking the time to tell us of your tragic loss of your son i can imagine putting this in type would open old wounds and bring thoughts back that you maybe want to forget i share you views on this person who used his own loss to compound a blatant lie i don’t know how to describe such a person thankfully he is a one off a truly damaged personality i feel for him i honestly do but again many thanks for giving us a insight into your sons tragic end

  11. macart763 says:

    No parent should have to outlive their child. Much appreciated for sharing such a painful memory, but the lesson is there for us all to see.

    What Mr Brown and the appalling coalition of greed and self interest that passes for BT should be eternally condemned for is their deliberate and calculated collective narrative over our NHS. My own belief in the principle of independence is well known. I’ve always placed the right to self determination before individual policy considerations, be that currency, Europe, taxation or anything else. But our NHS cuts across all party policy, all barriers. Its about how we see ourselves as a society, how we care one human being for another and says more about where we want to be as a people than any other area.

    An NHS protected by a constitution, a right for all to care at point of need, no ifs buts or maybes will say more about a forward looking Scotland than almost any other single statement. If you believe that we should care for all in our society regardless of station, then simply vote YES on Thursday.

  12. WRH2 says:

    I can’t imagine living in a country where health care is charged for. Thank you for sharing your story. Many years ago now my aunt died from the same disease and although she was much older the suddenness of the onset and her death within a few days was difficult to take in. How much worse when it was your young son.

  13. Hazel Smith says:

    Thank you for sharing with us your personal story. This must have been so hard for you. The NHS is something we have to keep and not allow these money hungry people privatize it for their own personal gains. The only way to ensure this to vote YES.

  14. Steve Asaneilean says:

    Thanks for sharing your personal experience Sinclair. I too watched a loved one die in terrible circumstances that would have lost me my house and bankrupted me if it had been the USA.
    Gordon Brown knows no shame despite his own tragedies. He call health professionals like me worried about the future of the NHS in Scotland if we vote No liars. He makes no mention of TTIP. He says the Scottish government could raise taxes here already to pay for the NHS but omits to tell us that as a consequence the block grant could be reduced. He promises a retention of Barnett but forgets to tell us the widespread commitment of Westminster to reform it such that Scotland will get less.
    Frankly if we vote No on Thursday and throw away the one chance we might ever have to transform Scotland for everyone’s benefit for generations to come I think I will feel ashamed.

  15. Lass fi Dalkeith says:

    As an expat Scot living in Texas USA, I have been an avid reader/supporter but have so far made no comment.

    Paul… this was one of the first sites I started to read in my personal journey to seek information and opinion. You engaged me from the start and I thank you for your writing, wit, sensitivity and courage. You inspire many and I admire your fortitude during your time of personal loss.

    For those in any doubt of the damage a shift to a US system of for-profit healthcare could cause I suggest you refer to this link.


    The leading cause of bankruptcy in the USA is due to medical bills….. This is sobering in itself. When you further consider that the US healthcare machine spend is 18% of the US GDP, is projected to rise to 20% by 2021, and yet has worse outcomes that the majority of the developed world, it is clear that the system does not work in the best interests of the ‘consumer’.

    The US has outstanding medical options available….. IF you have money….but the inequality in this country means that those lower down the socio-economic ladder just do not have the same access. It would be a dreadful outcome if Scotland’s public system was to be dismantled to line the pockets of the opportunists who are lining up right now to take advantage of TTIP etc. … and yes I include those within the political establishment who are quietly buying up shares too…. hypocrisy of the highest order.

    A cliche perhaps but the NHS is truly a national treasure…. and should be fiercely protected. A shift to the US model is absolutely NOT where you want things to go.

    I sit on this side of the pond, inspired by the palpable energy I sense in Scotland, and excitedly nervous for my country ( you can take the Scot out of Scotland, but you can’t take Scotland out of the Scot… it’s true!). As I read, I cycle through my emotional repertoire… outrage and disgust at the bias of the media, the blatant lies and spin of the party leaders. Then there is sympathy and sadness for those who have so little they are afraid to change… just in case ‘they’ are right. Confusion about and anger for those who have so much they won’t give a little up. Wry grins and belly laughs at the humor, originality and down right irreverence that is uniquely Scottish and that I miss dearly. I feel homesick and guilty that I am engaged in a limited way from the other side of the world and can’t knock on doors and drive people to polling booths. Overwhelmingly though I feel pride and optimism as a result of the various journeys to YES, the first time registers, the cross party, cross class, cross ethnic inclusion, the hopes, ideas and visions for the future. There is bravery, intelligence, thought and caring being demonstrated by the disparate groups that form the YES movement. We truly have an opportunity for reinvention…. Exciting in the extreme! I have been engaged in FB conversations with young folks WAY more informed than I was at the same age…That can only be a good thing… for the immediate vote on Thursday but also as we move on into the future. The genie is out of the bottle!

    So sitting here tapping away in my wee corner I have to believe that this movement MUST prevail. I cannot vote but will be watching each return with bated breath.

    Good Luck Scotland!!

  16. e says:


    We made a promise to ourselves just less than one year ago when we changed from No to YES.
    After about one hour of research, we’d gone from staunch Labour ‘followers’ to people who were finally thinking for themselves.
    We started a Blog trying to simplify stuff for anyone who would care to read it.
    We decided we wouldn’t get emotionally involved, only ever writing facts, linked to the documents and articles related to those facts.
    Up to this very point, I think we’ve managed just that.
    Your post has ignighted the ’emotional’ promise though.
    Like yourselves, my wife and I also lost a child.
    Our family lost a Daughter, Sister, Grandaughter and Cousin.
    We see some young adults around who lost a friend also.
    Unlike yourselves, we were unable to make the choice you had.
    At this very moment, we’re watching Gordon Brown on the telly, which gets us back on topic.
    We have been consumed by this Referendum because of the ‘facts’.
    Like a lot of others,We’ll be going to bed early tomorrow night and getting back up at 1am.
    We’ll watch every second through to Friday morning….

    and on that morning we’ll visit someone whom we wish could be on this journey with us.

  17. BampotsUtd.wordpress.com says:

    Reblogged this on Bampots Utd.

  18. Genie says:

    I am sorry for your loss.
    I came across your post just as I had written a poem about Scotland, and a subtle way of saying: Vote Yes.
    I wasn’t sure if it was any of my business to say how I think things should go in a country that I don’t live in, however, coming across your post affirmed my decision that it was good to post my poem.

  19. nancyburge says:

    I have just come back from a Yes meeting where I was talking about the NHS, funding, privatisation and the threat of TTIP to healthcare in Scotland. This is about my fifth talk on Skye and this is news to people every where I have talked. So please spread this information. Look up Dr Philippa Whitford and Dr Catriona Pagliari on YouTube. Their talks are up there so please search for them and spread the links. There is a TED Talk by Allison Pollock which is also excellent.
    We need health care to be exempt from TTIP and we need the Scottish NHS protected by being in the constitution.

  20. Andrea says:

    It was timely t0 read this appreciation of the NHS – and the real effects on people faced with tragedy and the stress of a gravely ill loved one.

    I live in Australia, but can never get my head around the pay as you go visits to the doctor. We do pay a Medicare service through the tax system but it nowhere near pays the costs – it is certainly not free. I recently went along to my Doctor for a rare visit – a minor problem with allergy and some health check blood tests. My contribution to this event was $60, plus $75 for prescription medicine.

    At age 60 it frightens me what I will do once age related illness starts to kick in….

    The tories in Britain are a near mirror image in ideology to The Aussie government here at the moment – who now want to have a secondary charge (the call it a ‘co-payment’ of an extra $7 on every medical/pharmaceutical transaction. It isn’t even to fund better services – it is to fund our prime minister’s pet research institute.

    No one should ever be in any doubt that the government WILL erode the NHS. From my reading there is a lot of bitterness that Scots get free services – vote YES and maybe it will galvanise the people there to demand more of their taxes.

  21. Hugh Wallace says:

    Reblogged this on Are We Really Better Together? and commented:
    “The NHS is the single greatest achievement of any government this country has ever had. In a recent survey of healthcare systems the NHS ranked the best in the world. It was rated the most efficient, the best value for money and the best for results. All that has been achieved within the NHS is now at risk as the coalition has begun to privatise the service to allow American healthcare companies to profit from the sick people of England.”

  22. Sally Tardiff says:

    I’m so very sorry for your loss … nothing can be worse than losing a child. I’m also grateful for your article and discussion about NHS .. and so heartened to see the posts of others on the healthcare system here in US.

    I’m Scottish living in the U.S. and wishing with all my heart I could be home to vote YES … the NHS is precious and should be protected at all costs. Others have talked honestly about the healthcare system here in the U.S. … it is profit driven and leaves so many without peace of mind or a way to provide vital healthcare for their families. I have seen friends lose their homes and have to travel to Canada for vital medications for their loved ones. President Obama’s Affordable Care Act has helped many to find affordable healthcare for the first time … and has stopped the hideous practice of excluding those with a pre-existing condition BUT it falls short of providing cover for all Americans. Many many good people here will continue to fight for ‘single payer’ universal healthcare … and some day will prevail in this fight. Healthcare is a basic human right … don’t let the U.S. profit-driven private companies destroy one of the best healthcare systems (the NHS) in the world … vote #YES Scotland.

  23. nancyburge says:

    Sinclair, I meant to say last night how much I appreciated you sharing your personal take on the NHS. Such a powerful story. Thank you. Makes me want go and hug all my own family…

  24. Sue Varley says:

    Sinclair, thank you so much for sharing this with us. So deeply sorry for your loss.

    Let me thank you from the bottom of my heart for agreeing to allow your son’s organs to go for transplant. I was lucky enought to receive an almost perfectly matched kidney transplant just over 30 years ago. Graeme-the graft is alive and well and we are still being cared for by our wonderful NHS. There is no way on earth I could have paid for the care I have received, nor with a transplant at age 23 have been able to afford the loaded health care premiums.

    Cold comfort, I know, but your act of generosity will be gratefully received by all who are fortunate to benefit from it, and even if they never know who Calum was, they will be so deeply grateful to him, as I am so very grateful to my unknown benefactor – gratitude deeper than anyone not in this situation can understand.

    Excuse me now, I’m off for a wee cry, then going leafletting in Culbokie.

  25. arthur thomson says:

    Thank you for writing this post. I hope someone undecided reads it and does the right thing. I have children and grandchildren and I just can’t imagine what you have suffered your wee boy.

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