The NHS is failing us

nhsMost in Britain dislike American healthcare. And rightly so, since the US insurance system is a cartel protected by government legislation. However, that shouldn’t make us want to defend Britain’s Soviet-style healthcare either. Both systems are bad.

You can check out the OECD statistics here. Britain's relatively poor cancer survival rates are of particular concern. The UK ranks 12th (and well below the OECD average) for bowel and breast cancer survival, despite a tripling the NHS budget for these services over 12 years. The ASI produced a good report on this earlier this year.

The problem isn’t finance (per-capita NHS spending is considerably above the OECD average), but the politically charged nature of the NHS, and therefore the inability to remove planners and reform provision. Figures for 2007-2011 show that the NHS spent more on “media professionals” (i.e. spin-doctors) than on cancer specialists. Yet pointing this out – as Daniel Hannan did – puts you beyond the pale of dialogue. The NHS’ failures on cancer included a shortage of oncologists, a lack of MRI scanners and an inability to provide cancer drugs. The basic functions of business (recruitment, procurement and provision) are poorly performed by the state.

This also explains the postcode lottery, where some hospitals (apparently) can provide Kremlin clinic standards, whilst many other hospitals resemble MRSA infested cesspits of pebble-dashed, post-war brutalist architecture. The NHS’s futuristic IT project is a categorical failure, having wasted more than £2.7 billion of taxpayers’ money. Moreover, the NHS’s rebuilding projects (using PFI money) may become obsolete through overcapacity, as recently revealed.

From 1999 to 2004, the government doubled GPs' pay . The Sunday Times reported that after a three-year contract (2004 - 2007) increasing pay by 25%, GPs worked 15% less and 33% worked part-time.

These oft’ repeated arguments don’t include the massive oversupplies of Tamiflu (based on public hysteria rather than medical evidence), or the inability to clean hospitals (as shown by MRSA outbreaks), or declining standards in nursing and elderly care, or even the extent to which unnecessary procedures are funded by the taxpayer...

It’s pretty clear that the NHS is failing. It’s funded by a damaging taxes on work and operated according to centrally determined targets. There’s no reason why the UK can’t have privately run hospitals funded by a truly competitive insurance market. It would almost certainly deliver a more efficient and comprehensive health system, and it needn’t challenge the universal access that so many people value. It's the ends that matter, not the means.