The National Health Service: Pride of Britain

by Sophie Taylor

In recent years, the National Health Service (the NHS) has come under fire for supposed “failing systems” and a decline in standards across the service.

The NHS was founded in England under legislation passed in 1946. Previously, patients were required to pay for their health care, the way the American system works now. However, the post-war climate of socialism, worldwide depression and deep poverty led to an increased demand for a state that was more about the masses and less about the ruling elite. Almost everyone had suffered because of the Second World War, whether through fighting themselves or because of the Blitz, and it meant the people wanted a society where everyone felt included, where everyone got the care they needed.

The idea was a system that would cater to all regardless of age, race or gender.

It’s part of national pride, for most anyway, that Britain has a system that will provide for all. The NHS is, and hopefully always will be, one of the best health services in the world.

Yet there are people in the UK who want to move away from the amazing, life-saving service we have towards a scheme more like the private care available in America because of their belief in a free market, pure capitalist based system. Although we currently have an NHS, if people have the money and the wish to, they can purchase private health care.

Let’s be clear: most British people have had little experience of a private health care system. We’ve heard stories (more like nightmares) about what the private system means and have seen the bills and costs that people have to pay just to get basic care. It’s somewhat terrifying.

The Conservative government, however, seem to think otherwise.

Admittedly, there have been increasing problems, arguments, fiascos regarding the NHS over the recent years that do need to be dealt with. The most noticeable debate has been between junior doctors (doctors who are in the process of completing training) and Jeremy Hunt (the current Health Secretary). The government, under the guidance of Jeremy Hunt, wants junior doctors to work longer hours for less money in order to improve the service provided. The argument goes that the longer the doctors are working for, the less productive they become which is only exaggerated by the reduced wage incentive. And that’s just the beginning of the story.


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There’s problems of 4 hour queues in emergency departments, years of waiting for patients who are deemed to be a ‘low priority’ (think elderly people who need hip/knee replacements, they can continue to live, albeit painfully, without the operation, so they aren’t given the operation, instead placed on a list that could be a very long wait), a lack of blood and organ donors, problems with understaffing and over-worked doctors, nurses, etc. However, surely this is the same worldwide? No matter how much is paid for the service?

And no matter how long the list of problem appears to be, there seems to be no reason to total these up to mean the system is ‘failing’. Our NHS is still saving lives, is still providing everyone in this country with access to healthcare and it’s helping this country to thrive.

Privatisation, though? Unconvincing.

According to economic theory, health services are considered to be quasi-public. They are rivalry, because as one person uses the service a bed is taken up that another person cannot use. But they are, to a large extent, non-excludable. Because it is incredibly hard to withhold the service from someone who does not pay (it would be nice to assume this is base purely on the human conscience rather than because of entirely monetary things). Sure, ideas of ID and insurance can help to identify people who can get treatment and who can’t, but only heartless people surely would turn away a dying person just because they can’t pay? It seems a barbaric thought from someone who has only ever experienced free healthcare.

Put it this way, no matter how much the British government may be trying to underhandedly sell-off the NHS, it will be stopped, the people will fight it. America, when Obama leaves the Whitehouse, please fight to keep and improve Obamacare, because it will be the best thing to ever come to the country. The right to healthcare should be universal, not dictated by class and wealth. The right to healthcare is the same as the right to life.

Sophie Taylor is a student from London, hoping to major in Modern History at the University of St. Andrews.

The views expressed in this article are those of the writer, The Contemporary takes no position on matters of policy or opinion.

The picture is under a CC-BY-2.0 license and can be found here.


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