The UK’s National Health Service (NHS) is a matter of British pride, despite some minor shortcomings. Strong on preventative and routine medical care, the NHS has on the other hand been criticized for its long waiting lists required for more involved procedures. The BBC reports today, though, that the NHS is making progress in this area, as waiting lists are now at an all-time low:
Between October and November 2006, NHS inpatient waiting lists dropped by 8,000 to 769,000.
This meant the number of patients waiting for treatment was the lowest since the records began in 1987….
Mr Burnham said: “These figures show that the NHS has slashed waiting times and given patients the kind of certainty about their treatment that even up to a few years ago was not thought possible.”…
However, Mr Burnham said there was still work needed to cut the NHS’ hidden waiting lists.
He said: “Although there is still work ahead to achieve a maximum wait of 18 weeks from GP to treatment, bringing to an end the NHS’ hidden waiting lists, I am confident that we will meet this challenging target and the NHS can continue to deliver the fastest access to care.”
I can personally vouch for the fact that routine medical care in Britain operates head and shoulders above care in the US Not only is the UK not plagued by the large numbers of uninsured in America (13% in the US, 0% in the UK), but health care in the UK is much simpler, easier, more efficient, and more accessible since it avoids the convoluted web of private insurers that slows down the American system.
In fact, the only thing holding back the NHS at this point is systematic underfunding. The UK spends roughly only two-thirds what the US spends per person per year on health care, yet it still manages to provide coverage to all of its citizens. In the US, much of this money is wasted on profits and overhead (the pitfalls of a commercial system) as well as the cost of relying heavily on acute medical care rather than on less expensive preventative care.
If as much was spent on health care in the UK as in the US, all waiting lists would surely be eliminated and the compensation for medical professionals could be improved as well. Or, on the other hand, if the US adopted a universal health care system and still spent as much on health care as it does today, the US would undoubtedly boast the most outstanding health care system in the world. Achieving either situation, though, will take a degree of political will and pure ingenuity that neither country’s politicians seem willing to embrace at this point.