Why the NHS needs real reform

The NHS isn’t working. The NHS budget has risen by a third in just four years, but hardly any additional patients are being treated and waiting lists remain above one million. Cancer care and accident & emergency services are getting worse. Political targets distort doctors’ priorities and give a misleading impression of overall performance. Up to a fifth of NHS resources – £10 billion a year – are lost through waste, fraud and inefficiency. More patients are paying for their own operations to avoid waiting lists, creating a two-tier system.

Why other systems are better. Other countries are able to spend more by raising health funds from a variety of sources. Under social insurance systems, premiums are paid to third party insurers who, unlike governments, are under an obligation to serve customers. Patients enjoy shorter waiting times, better standards of care and real choice.

How the NHS lags behind. Detailed comparisons of the healthcare systems of Britain, the USA, France, Germany and Switzerland show that Britain spends less on health as a proportion of GDP than nearly every major country. Other countries have far more doctors and no waiting lists.

Attacks answered. Ministers have begun to attack other countries’ healthcare systems, so as to persuade the public that there is no alternative to a taxpayer funded system. But every one of their claims is misleading.

The Government’s “ten year plan” is not real reform. Patients will still wait; they won’t have real choice; the system is still centralised and there is little diversity of provision.