Alan Dee: The time is right for an NHS loyalty card
Let’s talk about recycling, shall we? It’s a fact of life, we’ve all got to do it, but let’s be honest – most of us wouldn’t lift a finger if we weren’t forced to. We’d just chuck all our rubbish in a bin, or wherever we wanted, and leave it for someone else to sort out.
It’s human nature, and the same mindset is also apparent in the trickier subject area of body recycling. No, not the Burke & Hare type, I’m alluding to organ donation here, do try to keep up.
Here’s how I see it – if I’ve already shuffled off this mortal coil, whether it’s suddenly, slowly, serenely or raging against the dying of the light, I’m not really that bothered about what happens to my bits. If you want to stick my organs into somebody else, knock yourself out.
I’ve got no great ethical or philosophical conviction that I should try to do good even after I’m gone – I feel as strongly about the various complicated components that help me get out of bed in the morning as I do about a spare stool at a pub table. If someone shuffles over and asks if I’m using it, the answer would be the same: Help yourself, take the weight off.
You may have seen that Wales has just become the first part of the UK to vote for a ‘presumed consent’ system of organ donation – that means you have to opt out if you don’t want to be involved, rather than opt in and carry a donor card or whatever.
You may also be aware that we are in the middle of National Transplant Week, which aims to make people more aware of the pressing need for more donors and the fact that fewer than one in three of us has so far volunteered to do our bit if the worst comes to the worst.
Now very well done to Wales but it will still be a couple of years before their new system kicks in, and who knows how long it might take for the rest of the UK to follow suit?
I’ve got a more radical idea, inspired by the loyalty card schemes that are so popular with our major supermarkets and corporate coffee chains.
It’s simple enough – we’ve all got a National Insurance number, and most of us have got a little credit card thing which proves we’re part of the system.
So you should have to produce that number whenever you want to take advantage of health service treatment – for anything from a check-up at your GP to a frantic dash to A&E.
Your card number would link to a database that would quickly confirm whether you were on the donor register, gave blood regularly, worked as a volunteer, whatever criteria were agreed all round.
If you don’t tick those boxes, you’ll get bumped down the queue. Not turned away, but forced to wait your turn while loyal NHS supporters get preference. It sounds too simple, but why not?