David Cameron sent me an email today. Click the link above to read it in full. He wrote;
One of the wonderful things about living in this country is that the moment you're injured or fall ill - no matter who you are, where you are from, or how much money you've got - you know that the NHS will look after you.
Why does the leader of the Conservative Party praise the world's largest socialist institution? Why did he denounce Conservative MEP Dan Hannan for the interview he gave on Fox News recently? If Conservatives really believe the NHS is an efficient way to organise the provision of healthcare, why do they not advocate the same system for the provision of food, transport or housing?
Look for the #welovethenhs "hashtag" on Twitter, and you will enter an alternate universe of sentimentality and denial. If a single state provider of healthcare from general taxation were the only alternative to the American system, the NHS would not be the second largest employer in the world. Not only is it not the best alternative to the American system, it is not even a better one. If it were, cancer survival rates in Britain would be better than in America, not worse.
Why won't the British open their eyes? Why won't they compare their system with those of healthier countries? Why is support for the NHS so widespread? Why are politicians of the right so in favour of it?
In truth, they are probably not. The employees of the second largest organisation on Earth are too big a bloc vote to take on. Labour has engineered a political deadlock, which only it can break. At one point it looked like Tony Blair might have the nerve to do it, but Gordon Brown prevented him. So we continue with the worst of all possible models for universal healthcare.
As Dr. Eamonn Butler, Director of the Adam Smith Institute, said;
If a privatised health service had made many of its patients wait for 18 months for their operations, put them on trolleys in corridors when they arrived, given more than a quarter of them an illness which they did not have when they arrived, and confiscated the organs of their dead babies without bothering to seek their permission, or even to tell them, people would have blamed privatisation. For that matter if one of its practitioners had murdered 150 of his patients, or one of its surgeons had removed healthy kidneys instead of diseased ones, or one of its teams had conducted smear tests so incompetently that operable disease was not treated, while healthy women were unnecessarily subjected to distressing operations, all this would somehow have been put down to the reckless pursuit of profit, or to putting shareholders ahead of patients
Dan Hannan is right. Americans would be mad to base their system on anything that resembled the NHS. They don't need to create a producer collective to ensure healthcare for all. A better system would involve no state hospitals or public-employee doctors or nurses. Provision of healthcare would be private from the hospitals to the local general practitioners. There would be a compulsory system of private insurance from qualified, competing companies. Policies would be provided under a regulated system which prohibited, for example, exclusions for pre-existing illnesses or differential premiums based on age. They would simply have to price their premiums accordingly. The government's only role would be to provide, from taxation, the means to pay the premiums of those too poor to pay. This is essentially the system in France and many other countries in the civilized world which enjoy better health than Britain or America.
If we changed there would be problems, but not the ones we fear. Our medical professionals have been entirely trained in the NHS for 60 years. They are generally not of the calibre needed to run a private system. Businesslike people in Britain currently don't choose to go into medicine. The few who train in the NHS without realising its nature from the outset, tend to leave the country when their training is done. It would take time for the culture to change. New generations of doctors would be more like other professionals; not just technically competent, but capable (as their distant predecessors were) of running a business. Those who didn't make that grade would be employed, as is right and proper, by those who did. Just like the less worldly or energetic lawyers, surveyors or engineers.
There would be transition problems. Socialists would point the finger and say it proved the NHS was right. But steadily things would improve. Fewer people would die prematurely. Patients would be treated with respect. Standards of health would rise. Cancer survival rates would pass those in the United States.
No, I certainly don't love the NHS. Neither should you.