Humor Magazine

Our Authorised Icon - the National Health Service

By Davidduff

I promised my e-pal, Dom, a few words on our NHS - "the envy of the world" even if no-one else copies it!  Like most Brits I just take it for granted because it is an institution with which I have grown up and lived with all my life.  Again, like most Brits, I enjoy good health and only have need of it on an occasional basis and sometimes on the even more occasional emergency basis.  I think it is fair to say that most people using the NHS find the experience positive but there is a minority, and, I think, a growing minority, who are disappointed and even outraged at their treatment.  As always with giant institutions, the faults and weaknesses are slow to build up pressure but when eventually they burst the results are cataclysmic - as the recent North Staffs Hospital outrage showed.  That deeply shocking affair has led to a far more jaundiced view of the NHS and its workings, not only by the public but also - and long overdue - the authorities.  It is now obvious that things need to change.

First of all, I think it is entirely right and proper that in a sophisticated western society everyone who earns a wage or enjoys an income should contribute to a universal health service.  I think the charge for this should be seperate from general taxation so that people can see how much they are paying for the service.  Also I think everyone in receipt of an income, even those on minimum wages or state pensions, should have a small amount deducted so that they, too, can see that they are contributing.  Obviously those on higher wages will pay more in line with the relevant tax rate that applies to their income.  My reason for insisting on as many people as possible paying directly into the NHS fund is to restore the sense of customer/supplier which has been sadly lacking in the NHS for decades.

Second, I would, in effect, privatise the hospitals and let them operate in a true market place.  Thus, if you are ill you go to your General Practitioner who, in effect, gives you a voucher for treatment of your condition.  You then 'spend' that voucher at a hospital of your choice.  Of course, your GP will recommend certain hospitals or clinics and they, in turn, will be keen to impress, first, your GP with their good service, and second, you, as the final customer.  The GP practice, in turn, will earn according to the number of patients they attract.

What I think is essential is that the customer/supplier relationship is re-instated in medical matters.  I often use the comparison of the supermarkets who supply that other essential requirement for life and health - food!  There you see, for the most part, big organisations vying for your custom with good produce and good service.

There are two riders - probably a lot more but time is pressing - which need to be considered.  Whilst I think a universal health service is a proper part of a modern state it need not, and should not, be more than basic.  A lot of what is provided these days under the NHS is not basic - cosmetic operations, fat reduction, IVF, abortion, etc - and if people want those sorts of things they should pay for it themselves.  Finally, I think that people should be encouraged to opt out of the NHS by taking private health insurance and that should be reflected in a reduction to their NHS contribution.

There, pick the hole sinthat  - shouldn't be too difficult!


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