Monday, June 30, 2008

The NHS at 60

Many people will be writing histories of the NHS at 60. I thought I'd just post a graph from the FT, which looks at waiting lists. To view an enlarged graph, simply click the image. The NHS waiting list reached 1 million for the first time in 1993 and it's all-time high of 1,263,000 in 1998 as New Labour took over and struggled to turn the ship round.

The waiting list is now down to just over 500,000, the lowest it's been since the early 70's - and this despite a growth in the population to 62 million from 56 million in the early 70's, an ageing population profile, plus a myriad of medical breakthroughs and new drugs.

This was why Labour was elected in 1997 - to save the NHS. Without the election of the Labour government, the problems would have worsened and siren voices would have said that it was "impossible" to have socialised medicine and that a move to the American private insurance system was "inevitable". Indeed as late as 2004, "Orange Book" LibDems had joined the Conservatives in proposing a dismantling of the existing NHS.

All that has gone. Labour has resoundingly won the argument. David Cameron goes around the country telling people that he loves the NHS, all talk from the Tories of "starving" the NHS of funds so that private medicine becomes inevitable has died. The French have adopted the NHS's "GP gatekeeper" system as the most cost-effective way to run a tax-payer funded system, abandoning their previous free-for-all system. And the Americans are at last acknowledging that socialised healthcare is the only way to contain ballooning costs - especially as the medical industry in America has a vested interest in over-medicating people and keeping them as "patients". Our healthcare system remains the most cost-effective tax-payer funded system in the world bar the Japanese system.

The Labour party manifesto of 1997 stated simply "We will save the NHS". We've delivered on that and should be very proud.


Anonymous said...

If the NHS is such a great success,why is it that no other country in the world has adopted it as their model?

snowflake5 said...

Anonymous - other countries are already starting to adopt NHS structures. For instance France used to have a service where you simply went to see any doctor you wanted to, any consultant you wanted to, as many consultants you wanted to.

They've changed that to the NHS pioneered GP-gatekeeper service, where in order to see a consultant you have to be referred by your GP. If you go direct to the consultant, you pay yourself. It's suddenly dawned on them that people self-diagnose, and waste money seeing umpteen consultants and that often complaints can be dealt with at primary care level, that a GP gatekeeper system is more efficient and cost effective. I wouldn't be surprised if they moved to copy other aspects of our system too.

Our health service system gives similar health outcomes to other systems, but is the cheapest in the world except for the Japanese system. That's pretty damn good.

I also think Tories need to admit defeat on the NHS. You tried to kill it. You failed. The system is staying. For good. Try to abolish the NHS and the electorate will zap you. That's why Call-me-Dave going round the country saying how wonderful the NHS is.

Anonymous said...

Daming indictment on Newsnight this evening of the additional £43 billion spent on the NHS by Labour since 2002(half of the money spent on enormous non requested pay increases for GP's and surgeoans also on Nurses who were underpaid).Productivity dowm,huge amounts of wasted money and outcomes down.Verdict a below average performance.
When will Labour wake up and realise you can't fix evrything by simply throwing money at it?

snowflake5 said...

Since 2002 the waiting lists have been plummeting even while the population gets older (and old people consume more healthcare). The idea that you could have achieved that without money is nonsense. The Tories tried when they were in office and the waiting lists soared and people were dying waiting for an op.

Some Conservatives are hoping that a Conservative government will magically "cut" the amount needed on the NHS (or even abolish it). Sorry, you won't be able to cut due to the aging of the UK - indeed Andrew Lansley admitted that NHS spending would have to rise to 11.5% of GDP from the current 9.5%. And if you try to abolish the NHS the electorate will spank you. I expect you are posting anonymously because you know that CCHQ will tell you off if they knew you were slagging off the NHS in their name!

Anonymous said...

Let’s hope that the Tory commitment to the NHS is genuine, their “promise” to cut GP surgery hours might make us think otherwise. When I was growing up in the 50s & 60s both main parties (and the vast majority of the population) agreed that the NHS was a national treasure and something to be proud of.

It was really Mrs Thatcher (and to a lesser extent Ted Heath) who poisoned the well with the simplistic mantra "private good, public bad". Mrs T had another interest in running the health service down; her "economic miracle" was founded on failing to invest for the long-term in infrastructure and on using one-off capital receipts, such as those from privatisation and oil, to cover ongoing revenue expenditure. I think it was Harold Macmillan, the former Tory MP, who compared this to selling the family silver to pay for the family's parties. It was a double whammy, our public services got too little investment and people came to believe that taxes could be kept artificially low...

Johnny Norfolk said...

Ah yes the NHS. You did not mention in your manifesto that we in England would not be having free prescriptions as per Scotland or Wales, or the drugs you could have would depend on where you live, and that you were more likly than ever to catch an infection whilst you are in hospital. and you would pay even more to park your car when visiting a sick relative. You are now all believing your own spin. Have a look at John Redwoods blog about the reality about drugs on the NHS.
Oh yes and the civil servants that now get BUPA as part of their package.

I now ask everyone I meet who would you prefere as PM the current one or John Major. Try it and find out.