U.K.’s health system may offer “free care for all,” but it still comes at a price.
Hospitals in Britain are so overcrowded and so under staffed that patients have to wait for hours at emergency rooms before they are seen.
Last month, 24% of patients at emergency rooms waited more than four hours before being treated.
The National Health Service (NHS) sees one million patients every 24 hours, but there aren’t enough rooms for patients either. Many are forced to recover from procedures in hospital corridors.
NHS’ problems are a result of how Theresa May’s government has poorly allocated the health care funding.
The amount that the U.K.’s spends on health care is out of control. Last yer, the U.K. spent over £140bn on health care alone.
“Public-health spending in the U.K. is already at its highest level in history, at 7.4% of gross domestic product last year compared with 4.7% two decades ago. Focusing on the system’s short-term financial survival, a parliamentary committee determined last month, raises the risk that the government will ignore deep-seated structural issues that pose a graver threat,” writes The Wall Street Journal.
The parliamentary committee’s report said that the NHS needs to dedicate more funding to recruiting and retaining general practitioners, especially since the older population, which needs the most medical care, is growing rapidly.
“The percentage of Britons aged 65 and over is expected to increase by 6 percentage points over the next two decades to 24% of the population. Older people require more health services than younger ones, and advances in medicine and medical procedures are also becoming more costly,” writes the WSJ.
By the age of 65, most people have at least one illness that requires on-going care and then by 75, they often have two. The average cost of health care for a 65-year-old is 2.5 times more than for the average 30-year-old and a 85-year-old’s care is about five times as much.
Not to mention, this population isn’t getting the social care they need.
“But perhaps the biggest problem is council-run social care. This encompasses day centres, help in the home for tasks such as washing and dressing, and good quality care in care homes during the final years of life. It is seen as essential to keep people well and living independently – and out of hospital,” writes BBC. “In an era when the population is aging you would expect more people to be getting help from the state. However, the opposite is true. In England over the past four years for which we have data, the number of older people getting help has fallen by a quarter. The result is large numbers going without care or having to pay for it themselves”
Although the NHS has ranked first on past surveys, like on last year’s Commonwealth Fund, the system has ” lower ratings on cancer survival rates, stroke deaths and infant mortality” and “in the past year, the Office for National Statistics reduced its estimate for life expectancy in the U.K. by almost a year” writes the WSJ.
“Even until very recently, very few people opted out of the N.H.S. It was considered completely for everybody, really good quality, service and something that people could actually trust; you knew if you went through the N.H.S. system, you would get safe, good health care,” said Francesca Silman, a general practitioner in East London to The New York Times. “I think that’s starting to change, and people are starting to worry about whether that’s still the case.”
Another problem is the rising cost of drugs. Because of this, the NHS is considering capping the funding for these drugs to £20m each a year.
Several argue that the system fails to operate effectively because it is too political.
“There’s been no let up—every day, there are never enough beds open,” said Nick Scriven, president of the Society for Acute Medicine to the WSJ. “The NHS has always been a highly sensitive political thing. The politicians’ answer has been to pump in money, but it perhaps hasn’t been spent in the right way.”
Author’s note: Whenever you have a socialist system like this, eventually the resources allocated are not enough and the system starts to falter. Then when the system falters, there is another problem. The black market surges because this where the affluent can get quality services at a premium. As the health system fails to treat people in the U.K. appropriately, more people will be forced to start leaving the country to protect their health.