In Britain there is widespread support for social medicine in the form of the much lauded National Health Service (NHS). Until recently dismantling this behemoth would have been anathema to most Britons despite the fact that with six million employees (out of a population of just over 60 million), this wealth-consuming monster supposedly has more people working for it than any other body in the world with the exception of the railway in India and the Chinese army.
But recent scandals and cover-ups – lack of compassion by staff, unusually high mortality rates in some hospitals and the gagging of whistle-blowers – have to some extent at least begun to shake the faith of the great British public in their previously almost infallible NHS. So after sixty-five years of having a grand choice of one healthcare provider and having to pay for it out of every monthly pay cheque whether they use it or not, could Britons now be open to an alternative system and ways of paying for it?
Personally I like the Saudi system which I have experienced at first hand. In the Kingdom most people have health insurance provided for them and their families through their employment, and so , as in the UK, it is free for them at the point of use. Crucially, however, GPs and hospitals there are private businesses which compete for patients’custom. There you are not a troublesome patient, not an inconvenience to be managed, but a valued and valuable customer.
But with a public health system like the NHS there is no competition and therefore no incentive for those providing the service. Patients in Britain can just lump it as they have nowhere else to go. In Saudi Arabia, on the other hand, if you don’t like the bedside manner of any given doctor or other healthcare professional, you simply take your business elsewhere to one of the many other GPs and hospitals covered by your health insurance. This certainly keeps them on their toes!
Imagine in Britain if we only had one supermarket chain or one home and motor insurance provider. So why do we have only one healthcare provider? Why do we put up with that?
Following a recent operation I myself had on the NHS, things were so chaotic that I was released without any formal paperwork as they had only one junior doctor covering two whole wards. I was also given a prescription for wound dressings that turned out to have been discontinued by the manufacturer. Next time I require treatment I would like to give another healthcare provider an opportunity to prove to me that they can do better, but alas, that is not an option under the British nationalised system at present.
There will always be those on the left who argue that the market does not necessarily produce improved economies or better treatment. My personal experience in Saudi Arabia is that the market can do. Why not give it a chance in the UK too? Or at the very least British taxpayers who do use and pay for private healthcare should be allowed to deduct both private health insurance and actual private treatment expenses from their tax bill.
It’s time for a change, I’d say. Here’s hoping that more and more taxpayers in the UK will also come to be persuaded of that too, so that social medicine is no longer a sacred cow and that competition between rival private providers is seen as an option worthy of dispassionate consideration.