Thursday, November 18, 2010

The NHS

Partly due to the very poor health care that I and other members of my family received in the years before I emigrated to Canada in '06, I do not share the British NHS fetish. I am a NHS sceptic who wonders if it would be better to re-organise it following the example of some of our European neighbours who as David Laws says in his Orange Book chapter.

"succeed in delivering health services with greater choice and competition than our own, but also with better health outcomes and fairer access for lower income groups."

After we came to Canada it did not take long to decide that we would not stay here in old age, (partly because seeing homeless people freezing on the streets makes me cry). However, my first thought was not to go home, but plan for retirement in France, where as well as lovely countryside and nice food, there is a greater chance of surviving if you have a stroke. That plan was vetoed by my multi-lingual husband on the grounds that although he speaks several foreign languages, he refuses to die in one. So, England it is, and we will have to take the health service as we find it.

It follows that I am comforted by the report in today's Guardian that "the NHS fares better on free access to healthcare" out of 11 advanced industrialised nations, even though I think the report by the American Commonwealth Fund needs to be taken with a pinch of salt.  There are a number of factors liable to skew the figures.

For example, it is usual for people in both France and Canada to have annual health check-ups with a full blood screen, which is fairly time consuming for the patient.  I've currently got one routine screen outstanding from my annual check-up in August. It is not surprising that more people in both countries report skipping a test, treatment or follow-up than in the UK where there is far less screening. This has nothing to do with access to treatment being denied.

Nevertheless the report does suggest that the NHS is doing relatively better than I'd realised, and I am a little reassured.

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