Wednesday, 7 September 2011

Efficient, popular and fair: why Cameron is wrong about the NHS

The NHS is efficient, fair and popular
There is one central argument. which forms the basis of the Conservative Party's drastic changes to the NHS, that needs addressing. The NHS, Cameron, Lansley and their right-wing media allies argue, is inefficient, bureaucratic and unsustainable. Consequently it needs reform.

Now, as this blog never tires from pointing out, numerous studies have demonstrated that this situation is quite the opposite - the NHS is in fact demonstrably more efficient than the US-style health system that the Tories are so keen to emulate.

Let's get something out of the way first: the NHS faces challenges.

Our population is getting older. The number of elderly people as a proportion of general population is rising. With these demographic changes comes severe challenges for health care systems - more older people with associated medical conditions, and a relatively smaller proportion of working-age people to pay for their care. At the same time there has been a rapidly growing costs associated with medical technology.

Health costs in the UK are consequently rising, and will continue to do so.

But this is not a uniquely British problem. It is a global one. Take a look at the US: health care costs rose a to a staggering $2.3 trillion dollars by 2008, with rising drug prices and an ageing population cited as factors. But, crucially, high administrative costs cited as a major factor too.
In fact, a number of studies have demonstrated that the central argument deployed against the NHS by the Tories is highly misleading: the US system is highly bureaucratic, with an estimated 31% of health spending in the US consumed by administrative costs. Conversely, the Commonwealth Fund has identified the NHS as more efficient and effective than the US, Germany and Australia.

Full Commonwealth Fund report:

So, what is to be done? Well, a simple repetition of the facts amongst supporters of the NHS would be a start:
It is these arguments that need to be made: for too long those on the right have framed supporters of the NHS system as more concerned with 'moral' arguments than practical economics.

Well, these are just some of the benefits of NHS that go beyond that. For not only does it, almost uniquely, offer universal health coverage to every man, woman and child on these islands, but the National Health Service does so at comparatively excellent value.

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