Last Friday night a friend of mine had to visit the A&E department at Whipps Cross hospital in East London. After rushing down from Windsor, what I saw was truly shocking. There were people were left on trolleys in the corridors, others were simply lying on the floor. One elderly man was in tears. Waiting times were over 7 hours. This is a disaster, you hear about this in the media but you cannot be prepared for seeing this in reality.
We need to seriously think about how healthcare is delivered in our country and come up with solutions. All options need to be on the table. If privatisation or elements of privatisation have the potential to lead to a better outcome for patients than this must be considered. For those that can afford it the U.S. system offers the highest quality care, admittedly it does come at the cost of inequality. Quality of care in the U.S is determined by which insurance policy you are on. The more expensive providing the higher quality of care. It seems to me that the U.K. has prioritised equity over efficiency.
I haven’t yet decided where I stand on this issue but I do see some serious moral issues with a socialised healthcare system. Why should those who make healthy lifestyle choices subsidise those that do not? Why should those who do not smoke, subsidise people who have problems related to smoking? Why should those who regularly exercise and eat healthily subsidise those with problems related to obesity? Are these not examples of perversions of individual liberty. Would it not be better, not to tax so heavily and leave people to pay for there own healthcare?
The labour party would tell us that the problems of the NHS can simply be solved by increased spending, aside from the fact that the state is still in deficit and there is no more money left, this cannot be true. Since 1996 NHS spending has more than doubled in real terms. The NHS is the fifth biggest (fourth if you count McDonalds franchises seperately) employer in the world with more 1.7 million employees. Yet still it cannot meet demand.
What I see is a hugely inefficient organisation. Layered with bureaucracy, there are no incentives for the people running the service to improve efficiency. Typical of the problems you would expect from publicly owned services.
Thinking this through at the moment I am drawn to devolving responsibility for healthcare to local councils. This would be a radical step and would mean transferring national insurance over to local councils, giving them the ability to raise new taxes and borrow. The idea is that where local communities want it healthcare can be privatised, where there is increased burden on social care the council can streamline the service etc. Different councils will have different demands and this to me seems much better than an overly centralised bureaucracy.
The NHS has become a quasi religion in the U.K. where mere suggestion of change would have you found guilty of apostasy. We need to challenge conventional thinking on this issue and think up solutions that solve the challenges of delivering healthcare in the 21st century.