Denigration of the NHS

In order to justify the programme of “Reform” the Government has had to make out a case that the NHS is broken. This started with the often repeated claims that survival from cancer and heart disease was much better in other countries—which neglected to mention that over the last 10 years the UK’s performance in these areas had improved more than any other countries, and was due to overtake them in 2012.

Myths About US Healthcare

Now we have the “scandal” of people readmitted to hospital. In 2009/10, there were 16.8 million hospital admissions in the UK . 3% were readmitted within 28 days. This is a 78% increase over 10 years— but over that period there was a 38% increase in admissions and the average age of patients went up considerably. Old people are more likely to suffer complications.

On public satisfaction, the message from the British Social Attitudes Survey is clear: 70% of respondents in 2010 reported that they were overall satisfied with the NHS. This is the highest figure ever recorded by the long-running survey – and for reference, the lowest was 34% in 1997, at the end of the Conservatives’ 18-year tenure.

The Dr Foster Hospital Guide 2001-2011 states: Improvements in patient safety, reductions in infection rates and better waiting times have all contributed to an improved NHS. There has been a remarkable fall in mortality rates. The death rate among the population is over 20 per cent lower than it was a decade ago, helped by better hospital care.

Fewer adults went without recommended care, did not see a doctor when sick, or failed to fill prescriptions because of costs in the UK than in any of the other 11 countries surveyed by the Commonwealth Fund last year.

We have the lowest inequity in the world for access to a GP or a specialist according to the OECD. Money is less of a barrier to access a specialist in the UK than in any of the seventeen OECD countries surveyed.

UK healthcare costs per capita are amongst the lowest in Europe.According to the OECD they are less than countries our politicians commonly compare us with, including France, Netherlands, Germany, Sweden, Belgium, Austria etc.

Desire for change is the lowest in the world:  Members of the public were surveyed from 11 countries; UK, Australia, Canada, France, Germany, the Netherlands, New Zealand, Norway, Sweden, Switzerland and the US. They were asked that if they looked at the health system as a whole, do they think it needs minor changes in the system; fundamental changes; or do you think it should be rebuilt completely.

3% in the UK think the system needs to be rebuilt completely (the lowest in the world). 34% think there needs to be fundamental changes, and 62% think that only minor changes are needed. The UK public think their health care system needs changing less than any of the other countries surveyed.

According to the Commonwealth Fund 2010 report the UK comes out first for efficiency. The US, last. If Mr Dorrell or anyone else says the NHS needs to be more efficient, they need to firstly explain their basis for claiming the NHS is inefficient. They need to compare NHS efficiency with other systems of universal healthcare. They also they need to define efficiency.

The NHS excels in access to healthcare on the basis of need. It has controlled costs more than almost any comparable country and is probably therefore the most efficient system of universal healthcare in the world.

The denigration of the NHS by proponents of reform is not only inexcusable, but the motives are ‘suspect in the extreme’. The aims of the reforms are to destroy a successful public service and replace it with a series of healthcare markets, risking the very core principles of equitable, needs based, cost-effective care for all.

While there is much that could be better, we have a lot to boast about in Labour’s record on the NHS.