Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Lessons from the National Health Service

Americans would do well to ponder a recent admission by a former British minister in the Blair government. On March 2, the Guardian reported that the ex-minister, now Lord Warner, said that while spending on Britain’s National Health Service had increased by 60 percent under the Labour government, its output had decreased by 4 percent. No doubt the spending of a Soviet-style organization like the NHS is more easily measurable than its output, but the former minister’s remark certainly accords with the experiences of many citizens, who see no dramatic improvement in the service as a result of such vastly increased outlays. On the contrary, while the service has taken on 400,000 new staff members—that is to say, one-fifth of all new jobs created in Britain during the period—continuity of medical care has been all but extinguished. Nobody now expects to see the same doctor on successive occasions, in the hospital or anywhere else.

Read the rest of Theodore Dalrymple's article here.


Dan Richwine said...

Watch the 80s britcom "Yes, Minister" for the best inside account of the civil service staff you can find. I always wished they would come out with an American version.

Or, if you can, get a copy of the books based on the series. They are even better.

twistedByKnaves said...

Here you go, Michael:


Sometimes, friends have to point out when friends are being fed terminological inexactitudes.

It is true that the NHS has absorbed a huge amount of cash over the past decade, that it was desperately short of funds before that and the funds have not been used perfectly.

It is simply not true that we don't each see a different doctor when we go to the surgery. We are registered with a single general practitioner and, we will almost always see them.

It is also untrue that the service has not improved. On a number of critical measures, including waiting lists (and therefore outcomes), the improvements have been dramatic.

And without significant investment in the buildings, many hospitals would have been collapsing around now. Same for schools.

The question of funding being directed at marginal constituencies may have an element of truth. But this is rather the nature of representative democracy, isn't it?

Also, there are limits as to what they could get away with. A pattern of failure to provide reasonable levels would very quickly get picked up by a hostile press.

So, more in sorry than anger, I'm afraid you've been fed a grossly distorted line here. I hope you don't mind me pointing this out?



Michael Wade said...


I welcome your comments at all times.

A quick point: I post a lot of items that I disagree with in part or entirely.

I figured that Dalrymple's column would get some reaction - especially the assertion about people not seeing the same doctor - and I appreciate the link.



twistedByKnaves said...

Rats: too many negatives. I should have written,

"It is simply not true that we each see a different doctor when we go to the surgery. We are registered with a single general practitioner and, we will almost always see them."