Despite its much heralded presence in Britain’s health care, the problems of the NHS are severe, notorious, and increasingly scandalous in the most fundamental attributes of any health care system: access and quality.
Waits for care are shocking in the NHS, frequently exposed by British media reports, and long proven by facts, yet they go virtually unreported in the U.S. For instance, in 2010, about one-third of England’s NHS patients deemed ill enough by their GP waited more than one additional month for a specialist appointment. In 2008-2009, the average wait for CABG (coronary artery bypass) in the UK was 57 days. And the impact of this delayed access was obvious. For example, twice as many bypass procedures and four times as many angioplasties are performed in patients needing surgery for heart disease per capita in the U.S. as in the UK. Another study showed that more UK residents die (per capita) than Americans from heart attack despite the far higher burden of risk factors in Americans for these fatal events. In fact, the heart disease mortality rate in England was 36 percent higher than that in the U.S.
Access to medical care is so poor in the NHS that the government was compelled to issue England’s 2010 “NHS Constitution” in which it was declared that no patient should wait beyond 18 weeks for treatment – four months – after GP referral. Defined as acceptable by bureaucrats who set them, such targets propagate the illusion of meeting quality standards despite seriously endangering their citizens, all of whom share an equally poor access to health care. Even given this extraordinarily long leash, the number of patients not being treated within that time soared by 43% to almost 30,000 last January. BBC subsequently discovered that many patients initially assessed as needing surgery were later re-categorized by the hospital so that they could be removed from waiting lists to distort the already unconscionable delays. Royal College of Surgeons President Norman Williams, calling this “outrageous,” charged that hospitals are cutting their waiting lists by artificially raising thresholds.
Beyond access, the quality of medical care in the NHS, based on data in the medical journals, is unacceptable. Comparing data for cancer, heart disease, and stroke, the most common sources of sickness and death in the U.S. and Europe, and the diseases that generate the highest medical expenditures, we see the overt failure of the NHS and its socialist relatives.
· For cancer, American patients, both men and women, have superior survival rates for all major types. For some specifics, per Verdecchia in Lancet Oncology, the breast cancer mortality rate is 88 percent higher in the United Kingdom than in the U.S.; prostate cancer mortality rates are strikingly worse in the UK than in the U.S.; mortality rate for colorectal cancer among British men and women is about 40 percent higher than in the U.S.
· Even given the lifestyle-related disadvantages inherent to American patients (physically inactive, obese, and with high blood pressure – all significantly higher than comparison countries), studies also prove better medical care for stroke in the U.S. than in Britain. In 2010, the British scientific journal Lancet Neurology stated in its editorial about stroke treatment entitled “Time is Brain for Carotid Endarterectomy” that “early intervention is crucial for a good outcome,” yet “two- thirds of patients (in the UK) face an unacceptable delay.”
· To assess the quality of care for high blood pressure, or hypertension, we must look at two sets of data. First, once hypertension is diagnosed, is it treated or does it go untreated? About two-thirds to three-fourths of patients with high blood pressure in England were left untreated, compared to less than half in the U.S. Second, hypertension treatment in the UK has been inferior and less successful in controlling blood pressure than the U.S. One comparison showed that blood pressure control was best in the U.S., outperforming Canada, England, Germany, Italy, Sweden, and Spain. In a separate analysis of over 21,000 patients already visiting doctors for hypertension, the best rate of success was in the U.S. (63 percent), compared with 31 percent to 46 percent of patients in England and the European countries.
· No disease has more far-reaching and more serious consequences than diabetes, with a risk for death about twice that without diabetes, and significantly worse disease outcomes. In 2011, the World Health Organization determined that of seven countries including England and Scotland, the U.S. had the highest proportion of adult diabetics who were actually receiving treatment for their known diabetes, as well as for their hypertension and high cholesterol. The U.S. also performed best by several different quality measures, approximately twice the success of England and Scotland.
Add to those illustrious facts the heinous scandals about the quality of care in NHS hospitals that are repeatedly discovered, investigated, and catalogued with promises of change. These scandals, like the Staffordshire Trust debacle where between 400 and 1,200 neglected and abused patients died in squalid and degrading circumstances, are directly caused by the very culture of the NHS, as overtly admitted even by the UK government at its highest levels.
Happy Birthday To Great Britain's Increasingly Scandalous National Health Service - Forbes