The British National Health Service
What follows is from an article in “The Church Times” by The Revd Dr Giles Fraser, who is about to become Canon Chancellor of St Paul’s Cathedral, London (Well done Her Majesty or the Bishop of London, or whoever appointed him!). It expresses what I have been feeling lately since President Obama began to try to remedy what must be one of the most shameful gaps in so-called “Christian America”.
He writes: “The NHS (National Health Service) has been coming in for quite a bit of bashing these last few days. Barack Obama’s health-care reform has unleashed a barrage of Republican indignation against our health service.
Apparently, the NHS is a form of fascism and, according to Sarah Palin, it has what she calls “death panels”. Of course, it is widely recognised that Mrs Palin may not be the sharpest knife in the drawer, but this is ignorant and cynical beyond compare.
According to its Republican critics, the great crime of the NHS is that it rations health-care. When a drug is incredibly expensive, the NHS has to decide whether it represents value for money. If not, then such a drug will not be made available.
To me that makes perfect sense. To spend millions of pounds on drugs that make little difference is like flushing taxpayers’ money down the lavatory.
Of course this means that sometimes the NHS will say, no, some treatments are not going to be offered. That’s how it should be. Yet the people who make these tough decisions are the ones that Mrs Palin has branded “evil”.
If the NHS is so terrible, why do so few people go private in the UK? If the NHS is so terrible, why do we have a higher life-expectancy in this country than in the United States, and, on most measures, can expect roughly similar health outcome from our different arrangements?
The biggest difference is that the US spends a heck of a lot more on its sick for a similar result. Sure, it isn’t taxpayers’ money. But someone still has to find it, and that often means the poor employer.
The reason that the US throws all this money away is that they have an insurance system that encourages people to seek medical interventions at the drop of a hat. So they buy all the expensive equipment and are forever being scanned and examining themselves. But they don’t live any longer or get appreciably healthier.
And, worst of all, the poor find they cannot afford to go to a doctor. Now that is sick.”
Well said, Canon Fraser. God bless your new ministry in St Paul’s.
I would add that, from my own pastoral experience, I know how valuable to recovery it is for a sick person to have no worries about how they will be able to pay for their treatment. Families are not beggared by long-term treatment and there is no unseemly rush to minimize the time spent in hospital because of the cost. Not to mention the fact that most UK doctors will still make house-calls. The NHS is by no means perfect, but only a lunatic fringe in the UK would try to abolish it.