NHS crisis: As patients in pain increasingly go private, the health service is being lost – Scotsman comment

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The UK spends less on healthcare than comparable countries like Germany and France

For many years, there have been people who have claimed that the NHS is being privatised, sometimes “by stealth” and usually because of the use of private companies. However, as the King’s Fund think tank recently pointed out, this is largely a myth, with outside contractors having “always played a role in the NHS, with services such as dentistry, optical care and community pharmacy being provided by the private sector for decades”.

But the news that nearly 780,000 Scots – about 14 per cent of the entire population – were on a waiting list for an appointment, treatment or test on March 31 is the latest sign that the NHS is collapsing under multiple pressures, leading to the privatisation of healthcare.

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Faced with waits for treatment of a year or more, people in pain are going private if they can afford it, while those who cannot are forced to exist on painkillers. Desperate patients are spending tens of thousands of pounds of their own money on operations, some remortgaging their houses or travelling abroad where costs are cheaper.

An NHS that is not there when people need it might as well not exist as far as they are concerned. And this effective absence is how the NHS will be lost. As more people take out private health insurance, the level of public support for the idea of healthcare, free at the point of delivery, will diminish and the health service will gradually be reduced to an overworked, underfunded service for the poorest people.

Currently, the UK spends less of its GDP on health than comparable nations like Germany, France and the Netherlands and, as the saying goes, you get what you pay for. If we choose to allow this process to continue, if we fail to elect politicians willing and able to reverse it, at some point in the future, people will look back on the NHS as a historic curiosity and wonder how, just a few years after it featured so prominently in the celebration of all things British at the opening ceremony of the London 2012 Olympics, we allowed it to die.



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