With another winter crisis looming, is it time to overhaul the structure of the NHS?
Kate Andrews, news editor at the Institute of Economic Affairs, says YES.
You can keep the three letters if you wish, but it’s time for the NHS to be overhauled and replaced with a better, patient-centric system.
The NHS is not unique in providing universal access to healthcare; indeed, the majority of the developed world offers it. But while the NHS tends to rank in the bottom third internationally for health system performance, the social health insurance systems of Switzerland, Germany, and Belgium provide significantly better healthcare services through the use of market mechanisms.
The outlier study from the Commonwealth Fund, which grades the UK best overall for healthcare, still ranks it tenth (out of 11) in the “healthcare outcomes” category.
When the Guardian wrote up the study in 2014, it noted that “the only serious black mark against the NHS was its poor record on keeping people alive”.
This sacred cow isn’t worth protecting. It’s time for a system fit for 2018, which delivers more for British patients.
Roz Davies, principal director for communities and localities at the New Economics Foundation, says NO.
People from all backgrounds trust and value the 70-year treasure that is the NHS. Compared with the US privatised model, the NHS is cheaper, more efficient, more accessible and more equitable. It makes no economic or political sense to break up one of the best healthcare systems in the world.
But seven years of austerity, coupled with growing demands, have taken their toll. Simon Stevens, chief executive of NHS England, says the NHS can no longer do everything asked of it, and in financial terms, the current situation is “well short of what is currently needed”. It would be foolish to ignore his warning.
The NHS doesn’t just provide healthcare free at the point of contact. It is also a critical part of the local economy, employing people, purchasing supplies, supporting community groups, training students, and working in partnership with local authorities to improve lives in countless ways.
Investing in the NHS means investing in people and places all over the country. What can be more important than that?