Thursday, 21 July 2016

The NHS: the Case for Radical Surgery

The health service is in need of major surgery. I have rarely bothered my doctor during my adult life and I have tended to use the local pharmacist if I need some medical advice. This stated, I have recently been irritated by a cough which seems to have hung around much longer than usual and so I made a few abortive attempts to secure an appointment with a local G.P. I have been told there is a long waiting list - weeks to wait, indeed.

I grew up feeling immense pride that my country had an NHS, a glorious creation of post-war Britain that offered free health care for all. But, of course, it never has and never will be free. Its running has to be paid for by someone and that, of course, is every taxpayer.

With the growth of population and the increased number of those using it who make little or no contribution, coupled with those who use it as a result of their own totally irresponsible behaviour or lifestyles, mean that the NHS no longer functions properly and is unlikely to do so ever again. Its very structure means we will continue to pour billions of pounds into it and it will, nevertheless, always be short of funds. It has become unwieldy and is the one of the world's last communist-style organisations. Do you remember communism? It was based on good intentions but was always doomed to fail.

The NHS is totally and utterly anachronistic but no politician is prepared to address the issue for fear of the inevitable public backlash. A few years ago debt-ridden Hitchingbrooke Hospital in Cambridgeshire was taken over by a private firm. The outrage was immediate: 'this is the end of civilisation as we know it... shock/horror/ bloody Tories'.

Why can't we have some grown up discussions about the future of our failing NHS? Why can't we learn from the way our neighbours France, the Netherlands, Germany run their health services? These countries have combined public and private to create a more efficient, fairer system.

In France, for example, you have to pay 23 euros to visit the local doctor. Good. This would encourage people to stop wasting our GPs' time having to attend to superficial issues that could be dealt with by the local pharmacist. It would also stop people missing scheduled appointments. And why shouldn't a patient make a small contribution to professional help/advice?

In France everyone has to purchase health insurance, which means less income tax at source and might even encourage the sloths among us to eat and drink less. If everyone had to pay something towards their medical treatment it might well mean the greedy, selfish among us would follow a more responsible lifestyle.

NHS staff are overworked. Our waiting lists for operations may have shortened during the past decade but we have spent an absolute fortune achieving this and the lists are still much longer than those of our European counterparts.

Here in the UK we have the most nationalised health service in the developed world and, at the same time, one of the most inefficient. And yet, we carry on regardless.

The NHS was a marvellous - is a marvellous - idea in theory, but in practice it needs major surgery.

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