In an extract from an autobiography published in the Telegraph on Saturday, the Ukip leader recalled how he was “fobbed off by one NHS doctor to the next” for two months after they failed to spot his testicular cancer when he was 21.
“Several doctors examined me – registrars, locums, all that lot – and they came to the conclusion that I had a twisted testicle. I would need an immediate operation, they said.”
He was then taken by ambulance to a hospital in Farnborough, where he was re-examined by more doctors. Farage pointedly goes on to refer to the race of the medic whom he appears to blame:
“An Indian doctor told me that the Bromley doctors had got it all wrong: I had an infection. I was to go home and take a heavy dose of antibiotics. I did not need an operation after all. A few weeks went by and the pain was just as bad. All the time, my left testicle was getting markedly larger.”
Six weeks later Farage said he was having difficulty walking and his “left testicle was as large as a lemon and rock hard”. However, a consultant told him to keep taking the antibiotics and sent him away.
After being told he was covered by his employer’s private health insurance he sought a second opinion. A private GP referred him to a Harley Street surgeon, who told Farage he had a tumour and would need to have a testicle removed.
“What testicular cancer taught me is that the NHS will probably let you down if you need screening, fast diagnosis and an operation at a time that suits you,” he wrote, adding: “In the NHS, the system is so battered and poorly run that unless you are really lucky, you will fall through the cracks ... Without private health care I would probably be dead. If you can afford private health care, you should take it.”
However, Farage also states that the NHS is “astonishingly good at critical care” and acknowledges that it also saved his life: “I am certainly not taking any flak from gutless politicians who claim that I am no fan or supporter of the NHS.”
The experience has made him “better qualified to criticise and defend our health care system than most politicians”, he writes in The Purple Revolution.
I know how sacred the NHS is to the people of Britain; everyone is frightened that it will be taken away. But the cost of that fear is that the political classes are terrified of even criticising it.
In November 1985 – a year before his cancer scare – Farage was hit by a car after an afternoon of “steady drinking” in an accident that nearly cost him his left leg. He was also involved in a light plane crash on the day of the 2010 election that has left the 50-year-old with “the body of a 70-year-old”.
He added: “Having nearly died three times has made me a much bigger risk-taker. When you think your life is about to be taken away and you are given it back, you just want to get on and do things.”
This article was written by Chris Johnston, for theguardian.com on Saturday 14th March 2015 11.06 Europe/Londonguardian.co.uk © Guardian News and Media Limited 2010