By Jon Dougherty
Brand-new data on Britain’s failing National Health Service (NHS), the UK’s version of “Medicare-for-all,” proves again what a horrible healthcare model this would be for America to emulate.
Health policy expert Sally Pipes, writing at Forbes, noted that hundreds of thousands of patients in Britain have been waiting months and months to receive planned care. Specifically, Pipes notes that more than 250,000 patients have been waiting six months; another 36,000 nine months or more.
“Long waits for care are endemic to government-run, single-payer systems like the NHS. Yet some U.S. lawmakers want to import that model from across the pond. That would be a massive blunder,” Pipes noted.
Emergency care is a problem in Britain as well. The NHS set a goal of seeing 95 percent of E.R. patients within four hours, but according to government data, hospitals in England only saw 84.2% of patients within four hours in February. In fact, the NHS hasn’t made the goal of 95 percent since 2015, so instead of changing systems the service is instead scrapping the goal.
Wait times for cancer treatment — where timeliness can be a matter of life and death — are also far too lengthy. According to January NHS England data, almost 25% of cancer patients didn’t start treatment on time despite an urgent referral by their primary care doctor. That’s the worst performance since records began in 2009.
And keep in mind that “on time” for the NHS is already 62 days after referral.
Yeah, okay, but what about outcomes? We’re told all the time by the Left that government healthcare improves outcomes.
But that’s not the case, for cancer at least, as Pipes notes:
Unsurprisingly, British cancer patients fare worse than those in the United States. Only 81% of breast cancer patients in the United Kingdom live at least five years after diagnosis, compared to 89% in the United States. Just 83% of patients in the United Kingdom live five years after a prostate cancer diagnosis, versus 97% here in America.
Another tactic used often by government-run (socialist) systems is rationing of care — which necessarily must be rationed because there are never enough resources (hospitals, personnel, staff, doctors, money) to take care of everyone all the time:
The NHS also routinely denies patients access to treatment. More than half of NHS Clinical Commissioning Groups, which plan and commission health services within their local regions, are rationing cataract surgery. They call it a procedure of “limited clinical value.”
It’s hard to see how a surgery that can prevent blindness is of limited clinical value. Delaying surgery can cause patients’ vision to worsen — and thus put them at risk of falls or being unable to conduct basic daily activities.
And it’s not just vision services. “Many Clinical Commissioning Groups are also rationing hip and knee replacements, glucose monitors for diabetes patients, and hernia surgery by placing the same ‘limited clinical value’ label on them,” Pipes wrote.
Consider the policy implications of allowing someone to go blind; the government will then spend far more on follow-on care and support for someone who can no longer see (or work) than it would have on the surgery. But that assumes, again, that the NHS even had the surgical facility and staff available to do the surgery.
“It’s shocking that access to this life-changing surgery is being unnecessarily restricted,” said Helen Lee, a health policy manager at the Royal National Institute of Blind People.
Speaking of personnel shortages, Pipes — who always documents her research well — notes:
Patients face long wait times and rationing of care in part because the NHS can’t attract nearly enough medical professionals to meet demand. At the end of 2018, more than 39,000 nursing spots were unfilled. That’s a vacancy rate of more than 10%. Among medical staff, nearly 9,000 posts were unoccupied.
These shortages could explode in the years to come. In 2018, the Royal College of General Practitioners found that more than 750 practices could close within the next five years, largely because heavy workloads are pushing older doctors to retire early.
The NHS recently announced that, in a desperate attempt to shore up its doctor workforce, it would pay British general practitioners working abroad more than $24,000 in “relocation support” to come back to the country. The Service is also trying to encourage doctors to come out of retirement.
And yet, this is precisely the kind of system leading 2020 Democratic presidential contenders want to adopt here in the United States. Worse, some of the same Democrats who have complained about shortages, poor service, and delays in care at the VA — an operational example of full-on government-run healthcare — are pushing the “Medicare-for-all” scheme.
Why? There is evidence all over the place proving that complete government-run healthcare is a disaster. There are always too many patients for too few allocated funds and currently available resources. Always.
That should tell you regardless of what they say, the real reason Democrats want government-run healthcare isn’t about care, it’s about control.
- Follow Jon Dougherty on Twitter at @JonDougherty10