Bashing the NHS is one of the right-leaning press’ favourite pastimes. It is an equally popular topic with all those small state libertarians shilling eagerly for the rich and greedy, the kind of people who already pay to go private and don’t like the idea of their taxes contributing to a service which also admits the lower orders. The result is that many believe the NHS does poorly, compared to other countries.
Readers are told that the “free at point of use” model, with no charges for seeing the doctor or attending hospital to see a consultant, is unsustainable, and should be replaced with something like they use in a range of other countries, which often includes France, Switzerland, and the USA. Recent press coverage has been used to reinforce this negative view of the NHS.
For instance, today has brought another wave of stories about Josie Cunningham, who underwent breast enlargement surgery on the NHS. The impression is given that the money was wasted: the NHS is therefore bad. We are told that mistakes by NHS staff cause 12,500 deaths a year: the NHS is therefore bad. Out-of-hours services failed a three year old: the NHS is therefore bad.
Overall rankings from the Commonwealth Fund analysis
It gets worse. Toxic hip replacements caused the deaths of 40 patients: the NHS is therefore bad. The NHS has an “alarming” culture: it is therefore bad. As Sir Sean nearly said, I think we got the point. So just how bad is the NHS, relative to other countries’ health provision? For all of you right-wing Kool-Aid drinkers, the answer is going to come as something of a shock.
“NHS is the world's best healthcare system, report says”. Wait, what? That can’t be right – it’s in the deeply subversive Guardian. Some rotten lefty outfit must be behind it, right? Wrong: “The report has been produced by the Commonwealth Fund, a Washington-based foundation which is respected around the world for its analysis of the performance of different countries' health systems”.
Life expectancy vs health spending - from OECD via Daily Kos
The NHS “spends the second-lowest amount on healthcare among the 11 – just £2,008 per head, less than half the £5,017 in the US”. Of the eleven countries, the USA came last. That one fact led the Daily Kos to conclude “We have a crappy healthcare system”. It’s a message that will either go unheeded or generate hostile feedback: the USA doesn’t like to be told it does anything less well than others.
But the results are there for all to see, including the OECD analysis of healthcare costs plotted against life expectancy. So when you read yet another NHS bashing article in the right-leaning press, ordered up by an editor and senior staff who all go private, or yet another proposal for a public sector that does not include the NHS, remember what those in the USA say about our system versus theirs.
The NHS – actually very good indeed. What you will not read in most papers.