The latest depressing news about Britain’s slide down the healthcare outcome rankings will only lead to more uncritical NHS-worship instead of the frank, rational and dispassionate conversation we need to have about end-of-life care for the ageing, failing National Health Service
The Times’ Tim Shipman reports some awkward facts in Sunday’s “Red Box” briefing:
As many as 46,000 people die each year because NHS treatments for a range of conditions, including cancer, trail behind the best in the world, a new report has found.
The UK ranks near the bottom of a list of developed nations in terms of survival rates for common cancers such as breast, lung, prostate and bowel cancers.
More than 9,000 people who die each year in the UK from lung cancer would survive if they lived in Japan, which has the best survival rate for the disease among the 32 countries studied. The UK ranks 30th.
BUT THE NHS IS THE ENVY OF THE WORLD!
The NHS was perfect until the Evil Tor-ees got their grubby hands on it six years ago!
We just need a new NHS Tax to fund our beloved healthcare system – I for one would be happy to pay five pence more on the pound to show my support for Our NHS!
Cue a million and one leftist responses to these awkward, sobering facts and statistics. Everything other than a measure of introspection, or questioning whether a centralised, statist bureaucracy designed in 1948 – and which perversely ranks as the fifth largest employer on the face of the Earth, bigger than the Indian railways and only just smaller than McDonald’s – is really the best way to deliver healthcare to Britons in 2016.
That healthcare stat about lung cancer survival rates in Japan looks rather good, doesn’t it? And how exactly is it achieved? Well:
The health care [system] in Japan provides healthcare services, including screening examinations, prenatal care and infectious disease control, with the patient accepting responsibility for 30% of these costs while the government pays the remaining 70%. Payment for personal medical services is offered by a universal health care insurance system that provides relative equality of access, with fees set by a government committee.
All residents of Japan are required by the law to have health insurance coverage. People without insurance from employers can participate in a national health insurance programme, administered by local governments. Patients are free to select physicians or facilities of their choice and cannot be denied coverage. Hospitals, by law, must be run as non-profit and be managed by physicians. For-profit corporations are not allowed to own or operate hospitals. Clinics must be owned and operated by physicians.
So in Japan there is some sense that healthcare is an individual’s responsibility – the requirement to cover 30% of costs ensures that this is the case, acting as an incentive to live healthier lifestyles and take personal responsibility for decisions. But universally mandated insurance and a decree that patients cannot be denied coverage ensures that nobody slips through the net.
In other words, this is hardly a libertarian dystopia. Prices are capped by a government committee, while state law dictates that individuals purchase insurance. Hospitals are non-profit, meaning the big, “evil” American corporations don’t get a look-in.
And yet even to suggest that the UK looks to Japan for inspiration in reforming healthcare would be to mark oneself out as a heretic, as a blasphemer against St. Aneurin Bevan of Tredegar and the Perfect System he bequeathed to us. Ordinary citizens would be shunned by their friends while any politician would quickly find themselves labelled an “extremist” and excommunicated from public life.
How much further down the international rankings must we slip before Britain’s army of NHS worshippers (and the NHS Industrial Complex, whose bidding they unwittingly do) finally stop singing hymns of praise to a failing government bureaucracy and demand that we finally do something bold, something different?
On second thoughts, don’t answer that question.
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