According to the BBC, the number of NHS patients choosing to take their public funding to a private hospital (on the basis that the private provider matches the NHS price) has risen ten-fold in the last year or so, to more than 3,500 a month.
There is an obvious reason for that. Private providers, who are motivated by profit and whose livelihood depends on attracting more customers, are far more attentive to patient needs than the NHS monopoly. No waiting lists, private rooms, clean wards, more communication between patients and clinicians – in other words, a better experience all round. And at no additional cost too!
You might think that everyone would consider this a good thing, but unfortunately you would be wrong. Just read the BBC article I linked to above, the implicitly negative slant jumps off the page every bit as much as the organization’s left-wing bias. Take the first paragraph as an example: “Thousands of patients a month in England are using a government reform to get what is effectively private treatment paid for by the taxpayer.”
Couldn’t they just have said, “Thousands of English patients are now getting better treatment at no additional cost to the taxpayer”, instead?
And then we get Jacky Davis of the British Medical Association saying, “This is money that is being lost from the NHS. That can compromise services and patients should be told that by going private in this way they are potentially putting care they may need in the future under pressure.”
But that’s just wrong. The NHS is not ‘losing out’ here. Yes, they don’t get paid for not providing the service, but then they don’t have to spend anything providing it either. They come out about even. Meanwhile, patients see substantial benefits. And if does turn out that NHS hospitals end up getting squeezed out of the market, so what? It will only have happened because people are getting better care elsewhere. That’s the whole point of competition.