Human Exceptionalism

NHS Meltdown: The Long Waits for Care Keep Getting Longer

The NHS–for which our temporary head of Medicare Donald Berwick swoons–continues to show us the perils of centralized control of health care and single payer budgeting.  Now, not only is there rationing by QALYs under NICE, but Canadian-length waits for care.  From the Guardian story:

New NHS performance data reveal that the number of people in England who are being forced to wait more than 18 weeks has risen by 26% in the last year, while the number who had to wait longer than six months has shot up by 43%.In March this year, 34,639 people, or 11% of the total, waited more than that time to receive inpatient treatment, compared with 27,534, or 8.3%, in March 2010 – an increase of 26% – Department of Health statistics show. Similarly, in March this year some 11,243 patients who underwent treatment had waited for more than six months, compared with 7,841 in the same month in 2010 – a 43% rise.

Despite rising demand for healthcare caused by the increasingly elderly population and growing numbers of people with long-term conditions, the NHS treated 16,201 fewer people as inpatients in March 2011 compared to March 2010, the latest Referral To Treatment data disclose. The British Medical Association said the longer waits and fewer treatments were inevitable: “Given the massive financial pressures on the NHS, it was always likely that hospital activity would decrease and waiting times would increase,” said a spokesperson. “The capacity of hospitals has been limited by staffing freezes, and commissioners of care are under pressure to ration surgical procedures considered to be of low value. As well as the personal impact on individual patients, there is a potential long-term consequence for NHS hospitals, which are at risk of being financially destabilised as they lose income.”

Obamacare threatens to similarly meltdown the excellent access and care the vast majority of Americans enjoy to improve access for the minority now poorly served.  (For example, I had a physical last week, getting in to see my doctor within a week of the time that I called to make the appointment.  He decided I needed a knee X-ray, which I received within hours of the doctor’s order. He called me with the result the next day.)

Expanding access is a good public policy goal.  But it needs to be done without erecting the bureaucratic behemoth now being constructed by the federal government and as a pretext for creating a bureaucratic state.  The good news is that it’s still not too late to learn the lesson that centralized health care bureaucracies and single payer systems are bad for our health.

By the way, the guy in the YouTube clip I embedded grew that beard in 7 weeks, not even halfway through the egregious waits for appointments now being suffered through by many patients in the NHS.  Awful.

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