The annual “winter crisis” at Britain’s National Health Service is starting early this year. Data released last week showed English emergency room wait times are the worst in 15 years. More and more patients are forced to wait in hospital corridors on temporary beds called ‘trollies’.
The goal is to treat 95 percent of patients within 4 hours. In the last year the NHS managed to treat only 83.6 percent within that time, 6 percent less than the year before. In Britain, as in most developed nations, the population is aging and the supply of doctors, nurses, hospital beds, etc. is simply not keeping up.
The NHS is also well behind meeting the government’s target for 93 percent of patients with suspected cancer to be seen within 2 weeks of referral by their family doctor. Cancers are being diagnosed earlier, but survival rates lag far behind those in other European countries with more market-oriented health care systems.
The Wall Street Journal points out that when you have government-run health care, as Britain does, this becomes a political issue, much more so than here in the US where candidates are debating going this route.
Call me skeptical when candidate Elizabeth Warren claims that Medicare-for-all would save money. But to the Brits, that’s a bad thing. In the U.S. we spent 17 percent of GDP on health care in 2018. The UK government keeps their spending to 9.8 percent of GDP. According to the Journal’s Joseph Sternberg, “Voters don’t view this as a virtue.” They constantly pressure politicians of all parties to boost spending on the NHS.
Citizens complain the care is never good enough and politicians are constantly being asked to fix it. Mr. Sternberg writes, “to be the leader of a government that manages health care is to be personally responsible for every sick patient in the country. “
Why would any of our current crop of candidates want that?