In 2017, the way the U.K. perceives the National Healthcare Service (NHS) is changing. From it once being a stable part of British society that promised to care for everyone, the NHS is beginning to be more widely thought of as endless waiting lists, careless procedures and tired, overworked staff with not enough time to give the care expected. With the prospects of the government having to fund staff pay rises instead of it coming out of NHS budgets, the future of our strained healthcare system looks uncertain. Would taxpayers really be getting their money’s worth if it went private?
According to a report done by the Parliamentary and Health Service Ombudsman in 2012, there had been a dramatic increase in the number of people complaining about how individuals or institutions in the NHS have failed to acknowledge some of the mistakes made in care, up 50% from the year before. By the same token, a study done in May this year states that only 12% of people believe the NHS has improved over the past year, and it’s the general consensus of the public that waiting lists have became ridiculously longer, bed shortages are leaving hospitals in crisis and junior doctors and other workers are struggling with the intense workload, poor pay and high-pressure environment even more. The adequate response needed is to have more government funding or to go private and it looks as though the NHS has chosen to become more privatized at the risk of state patients being neglected.
Before the Health and Social Care Act passed by the Conservative-Lib Dem coalition, the NHS could only make 2% of their income from private sources; however, since then, the cap has risen to a staggering 49%. Our supposedly free national healthcare service is receiving only slightly less than half of its money from private patients, so how can the majority of us state patients trust that we are being valued as much as our peers? The non-state patients are being chased and competed for, despite ever-growing waiting lists. In Bournemouth in 2014, the number of state patients waiting too long for operations had gone from 70 to 483 each month. Private income there at the time had accelerated ten-fold.
While some may argue that private patients deserve some of the luxuries they have for paying for their treatment (such as less waiting time and more attention from staff), it shouldn’t be at the expense of non-private patients and taxpayers who finance the service. Waiting lists should be reduced, there shouldn’t be a shortage of beds and the government should be prioritizing the NHS in terms of funding. It’s easier said than done. Although private treatments can boost NHS funds, it shouldn’t go against its promise to provide good treatments for all. Two in three people are prepared to pay more tax to ensure the NHS can maintain its internationally acclaimed standard of treatment and 77% believe the NHS is “crucial to British society” and should be protected at all costs.
That being said, it’s obvious that the public care about and need a free healthcare service. No matter what the deal we get in the wake of Brexit and the current Labour vs. Conservative political climate, British society should ensure that the NHS is a faithful constant for all U.K. citizens, regardless of their financial situation. In 2017, we need to take a stand and show the NHS is worth something to us and the generations that will come after us. In 2017, we need to ask ourselves: how much is our health worth?