The North/South Divide

I’m warning in advance that this post is going to be a bit ranty.  And I apologise to my overseas readers that this topic isn’t really relevant to them, though I’m sure those in rural areas will be able to relate.

Health-care in the UK is a post-code lottery.  If you live in London, where there may be 5 superb hospitals in a 3 mile radius you’re going to receive excellent specialist care particularly for supposedly “rare” conditions like Ehlers-Danlos or Mast Cell Disease.  There is a brilliant EDS unit at UCLH which deals with everything from joint pain to gut problems to autonomic issues and which recognises the link between EDS and mast cell disease.  Unfortunately for me it’s 300 miles away (7½ hours in a car on a good day).  It does have an in-patient unit, but you have to be well enough to a) get there and b) take part in their rigorous physiotherapy programme.  I have M.E. and wouldn’t be accepted.  I am not only geographically discriminated against, I’m also discriminated against because I’m “too sick”.  Make of that what you will.

For the most part, the north of England has shockingly poor health care particularly if you live in a rural area.  I live in the second largest county in England, and because of its large surface area it’s sparsely populated.  This makes for a lovely, peaceful existence and the chance of dying from treatable diseases.  My nearest ambulance station is 7 miles away.  The problem is they cover a radius of approximately 20 miles in all directions, including the M6 motorway where there seems to be a crash every other day.  If you have a heart attack you just have to hope the ambulances aren’t already on another visit, because if they are you’re in trouble.  The next nearest ambulance is 30 miles away and by the time it gets to you it’s too late.  Even if the local ambulance is sent to you, if you live 20 miles away up the fells your chance of survival is zero to none, particularly in winter when the roads are snowy as rural roads aren’t gritted.   We do have an air ambulance, which is funded solely by charity donations – if they don’t raise enough cash it can’t even get airborne.

My two nearest hospitals are both in “special measures”, which means they are so dire the Government has had to step in to run them.  They have a habit of killing people unnecessarily.  There are no specialist services for people with EDS and they’ve never heard of Mast Cell Activation Disorder.

My nearest “good” hospital is 90 miles away across the Pennine fells in Newcastle, the main road to which is closed every other week in winter.  When I had my spinal surgery there my parents couldn’t visit me for 3 days due to snow – it was tough being 16 and having major surgery without my Mum’s support.  Even in Newcastle there are no EDS specialists and the Immunologist I’ve seen for my M.E. doesn’t believe in MCAD.

For those living in Scotland or Northern Ireland the situation is even more desperate.  I read on the EDS UK’s Facebook page last week that a woman in Scotland had to travel over 500 miles just to be diagnosed with H-EDS, then of course received zero treatment, advice or support after returning home.  The North/South divide is well recognized as can be seen in this BBC report, yet nothing ever changes.

We pay our taxes and our National Insurance stamp just like everyone else.  It’s unacceptable that people in the north of the UK, and in particular rural dwellers, should receive such an appalling lack of health care.  If the government had their way they’d make us all move to urban areas.  The trouble with that being there would be no-one to run the farms which produce the milk we drink and the roast lamb we eat for Sunday lunch (agriculture is the no.1 employer in Cumbria).  And when all the city dwellers are stressed out there would be no-where to go for a relaxing weekend break, as all the rural B&Bs would be shut (tourism is the no.2 employer).  There would also be no-one to run our nuclear power stations, which are always sited in the countryside because city dwellers would protest too much if they were built there – who cares if there’s a 10 fold increase in leukaemia in northern rural children who live near Sellafield, just so long as Londoners are spared.  And there would be no-where to trial gas fracking or large scale wind farms if it weren’t for beautiful, unspoiled areas of countryside, not to mention absolutely no UK oil production which solely takes place in the North Sea.

If I were well I’d be leading a bloody revolt and I can’t understand why healthy northern people aren’t doing just that.


3 thoughts on “The North/South Divide

  1. kneillbc

    It is not a problem related to the UK alone. Imagine the challenge in Canada? An ambulance 7 miles away? There are communities in the North that have a doctor fly in once a month. There are lots of communities that are only accessible by road in the winter (they need ice on the lakes and rivers-there are no bridges). There are also plenty of communities that are only accessible by air. I’m fortunate to live in Vancouver, but even then, there are great divides between Toronto and ‘the rest of Canada’. I too have an allergist/immunologist that doesn’t ‘believe in all that Mast Cell stuff’. I know that if I were in TO, I’d have had much better care, and much better access to specialized testing (my local hospital refused to draw blood for a tryptase test after my last bout of anaphylaxis, because he’d ‘never heard if that test.’ Great. Thanks for comin’ out.). Vancouver is improving, and our government does attempt to serve the Northern communities (through things like telehealth), but I’m guessing that folks in those communities feel very much like you do. Must make you mental!


    1. bertieandme Post author

      It’s shocking things are so bad in Canada Karen. It’s about 36 times the size of the UK, yet has half the population of the UK, so I can see that obviously it’s a vast area with a very small, sparse population which must be challenging to service, but even so there shouldn’t be health care for urban dwellers and 3rd rate or non-existent health care for rural dwellers. I’m sure the situation is similar in other very large sparsely populated countries such as Australia and I know in the Scottish isles you have to fly to the mainland for health services.

      I think the thing that gets to me is that the UK is a teeny tiny country, which *still* can’t get its bloody act together. We are 15% more likely to die before the age of 75 in the north than the south, even when in the same socio-economic group. Our government deliberately treats the north like it’s some kind of barren wasteland which isn’t worthy of investment, yet many are happy to own a holiday cottage here! Makes my blood boil x

      Liked by 1 person


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