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Britain’s Single-Payer Horror Show: Report Details NHS Body Count

Managing budgets instead of patients led to mass unnecessary death.

by
Mike McNally

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July 25, 2013 - 12:00 am
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British politicians used to boast that the National Health Service was — and some left-wing holdouts maintain it still is — “the envy of the world.”

These days, beset by scandal after scandal and facing spiraling costs, the NHS would be lucky to attract a covetous glance from an accident-prone Somali, and any U.S. conservative who doubts the urgency of stopping Obamacare before it can be fully implemented would do well to pay attention to the disaster unfolding across the pond.

A report released last week revealed that as many as 13,000 patients may have died unnecessarily in NHS hospitals between 2005 and 2012.

The investigation discovered appalling standards of care, with patients being left without food and water, forced to lie in soiled beds, and left in ambulances because there were no beds available. The report further accused hospital staff of being more focused on meeting government-imposed targets than on patient care.

To make matters worse, standards were allowed to slip so dramatically because the watchdog tasked with monitoring the performance of NHS hospitals — the Care Quality Commission — covered up incidents of its employees failing to spot problems or to investigate complaints; they even used gagging orders to silence potential whistleblowers.

Ministers of the last Labour government, which set up the CQC, have also been accused of ignoring warnings about high death rates and other problems.

In a separate development, a controversial “end of life” care program for elderly and terminally ill patients known as the Liverpool Care Pathway is to be phased out, after it emerged that hospitals were abusing the system to hasten the death of patients by withdrawing food and drink.

This is arguably the greatest scandal: patients were starved and neglected not because of staff shortages or bad management, but as a result of deliberate policies aimed at freeing up hospital beds and saving money. Staff even received financial incentives for placing patients on the program.

Against this backdrop of widespread failure, malpractice, and cover-ups, another report revealed that the NHS nevertheless faces a funding shortfall of £30B ($45B) by 2020 unless radical changes are made to the way the service is organized and run.

Not only is Britain’s socialized healthcare system broken, it’s well on the way to going broke, and neither the present Conservative-led government nor Labour seems capable of carrying out the reforms necessary to prevent standards from further deteriorating.

Some of the financial pressures on the NHS can be attributed to factors beyond the control of managers or politicians, such as a growing and aging population (although mass immigration policies under Labour didn’t help matters) and the high costs of new technology and treatments. But many of the most serious failings can be laid squarely at the door of Labour’s health policies, which fostered a culture of box-ticking, obsession with targets, and secrecy at the expense of patient care.

Successive governments have tinkered with reforming the NHS, both by promoting competition within the organization and by allowing hospitals to buy services from private health care firms, but the best opportunity for change came with the election of Tony Blair’s “New Labour” government in 1997. The NHS was set up by Labour in 1948 and the party has always portrayed itself as its “guardian.” Opinion polls have consistently shown Labour as more trusted to safeguard the NHS than the Conservatives, thanks largely to a decades-long strategy by Labour of denouncing every attempt at reform by Tory governments as being designed to “wreck” the service or to privatize it by stealth.

So, in the sense of Nixon going to China, Labour was in a strong position to force through the changes needed to bring the NHS into the 21st century, but the opportunity was squandered. While Labour doubled spending on the NHS during its 13 years in office, productivity actually fell, and the seeds of the recent scandals were sown. While Blair was initially serious about reforming the NHS while preserving its free-at-the-point-of-use character, he was frustrated both by ever-increasing costs and by bureaucrats, unions, and other vested interests within what is Britain’s last real nationalized industry.

When Gordon Brown replaced Blair as Labour leader and prime minister, he abandoned genuine reform in favor of more top-down control and a target-driven culture, with each new (often fiddled) reduction in waiting times heralded like monthly output figures from a Soviet tractor factory. Staff were bought off with huge pay rises, and family doctors were allowed to refuse to provide out-of-hours cover, causing patients with minor symptoms to clog up hospital emergency rooms. Blair’s first health secretary, Frank Dobson, said of his successors:

They preferred to take the advice of management consultants to medical consultants. Huge sums were diverted away from nurses, doctors, and patients to lawyers, accountants and PR men.

Comments are closed.

Top Rated Comments   
I am very suspicious of how these comparisons are calculated. Almost everything we have or do is cheaper in the US. But strangely, anytime someone has a political/social ax to grind we cost twice as much? I doubt it. 25% more? Maybe, we are about 25% wealthier per person than most of Europe, so that wouldn't surprise me.

Overall of course, health results between most developed countries are very close for average length of life.
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
There's a big difference between administering "healthcare" in a smallish European country than in a sprawling behemoth of 310 million souls spanning a continent.

"healthcare" in general seems to have evolved into a buyer/seller kind of relationship where it is seems it's the responsibility of the inmate (excuse me, patient) to be financially sound enough to pay the salaries of the staff.

I've watched my stepmother be poked and prodded to the hilt in a hospital setting, tests up the wazoo, that is until the day her Medicare/supplemental insurance runs out and then it's...sayonara.

"things" will only get worse when Obamacare kicks in.



1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
Sebelius, the Angel of Death, has a real love for the socialist medical system just as she can never seem to get enough of abortions performed by government agencies. Sebelius is already preparing her plans to euthanize everyone over the age of seventy. She is the American Doctor Mengele in the flesh.
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
All Comments   (42)
All Comments   (42)
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The NHS and the Welfare State is a God here in the UK. We are all forced to worship it, and bow down before its endless cabal of priests.
Human sacrifice, from killing babies in the womb to killing useless oldies is standard practice.
As a Brit, I hate the system with a deadly loathing. I am only glad that I am relatively healthy and have never had to put myself at its "mercy".

Here is the leftist's utter hypocrisy though.
Our liberal left wing politicians all hate private schooling and private health. Since the war, these Labour Party apparatchiks have done their best to destroy all none state enterprise in both these areas.

Despite this arrogant policy, virtually all these top echelon Labour politicians send their own children to fee paying private schools and indulge in private health care!
Unlike these hypocritical cretins, I cannot afford to pay for health care and schooling for my children twice over, once via taxation and a second time privately.
Just like Soviet Russia, the elite live a different lifestyle.
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
"Managing budgets instead of patients led to mass unnecessary death."

By intent.
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
I saw numbers somewhere where the only government bureaucracy on earth that had more employees than the NHS was the Chinese army. Think about that.
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
The fundamental reason US healthcare is so expensive is that it is third party payer. Pay at point of service would create actual cost competition. Further, third party systems create a need to control fraud, and that means managed care. But all this also applies to government provided systems. Governments might reduce costs compared to the US system, but they can only do so by reducing cost and quantity/quality as a result.
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
It's also as expensive as it is because we already have government meddling to a large extent. Medicare and Medicaid already force physicians and hospitals to accept underpayment for services and those costs must be shifted to the rest of the payers in the system making everything much more expensive.
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
I have seen this in other countries and this is how it will go in America. They will start with free healthcare for everybody. Then there will be shortage of money. Then they will impose a very small fee for every healthcare service. Then the fee will increase with time. The service will be crappier and crappier but everybody will be happy: prices outside the system are unimaginable. Everybody will have forgotten what it was before and what it would be without this system in place at all.
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
A very good source of information about the British health system is Theodore Dalrymple. This is a pseudonym for Dr. Anthony Daniels, who practiced within the British system for many years in both an inner city hospital and a nearby prison. Dalrymple/Daniels had an extensive experience with the NHS and also practiced in foreign countries, including Zimbabwe (when it was still Rhodesia), and Palau (an island in the Pacific). His wife is French and is also a doctor. Here is one of his articles about the NHS but you can find many more articles by him with your favourite search engine. He's brilliant, articulate, realistic and conservative.

http://www.city-journal.org/2012/22_3_otbie-british-health-care.html
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
Regarding the NHS, a frequent source of information is the UK Daily Mail. Google "UK Daily Mail NHS" for the most recent exposes and keep reading.

I am a Dalrymple fan also, I heartily recommend his books, check Amazon for the reviews. Last read: The New Vichy Syndrome, Our Culture, what's left of it, and In Praise of Prejudice.

Dr. Dalrymple is the UK's Victor Davis Hanson.

1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
"...brilliant, articulate, realistic and conservative."

And down to earth informative & honest.

I was admirer before his PJM columns started.
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
I f everyone(all humanity, all nations)would stop trying to conquer and outdo each other this would be heaven on earth. The monies America spends each month buying our friends we could provide free health care to every citizen. Cancer could be eliminated and etc.. The problem is the ones in Britain and here are self serving and want to maintain the lavish life styles they have while the peasants( that's us) suffer.
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
My, my, my, you are waylon out there...
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
Right, because a country of 6 million people the size of Maryland is EXACTLY the same as a coutry twice the size of Europe with 300 million.

Subtract out the auto accidents, the drugs, and the teenage thugs shooting each other, and we'd be doing a lot better.
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
60 million
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
The Danish health care system is a single payer, universal, and much appreciated (87% satisfaction) health delivery system. It is not cheap. According to OECD's Health Data 2009, Denmark's health cost per person, public and private, was $3,512. But in the US the cost is more than double at $7,290!

In addition, Danish health care covers everybody - 100 percent of the population-while in the U.S. fewer than 80 percent of citizens are covered, and often only partially.

So basically the U.S. system costs more than twice as much and still leaves nearly a quarter of the population in the lurch if they need any medical care.

In fact, the U.S. could get universal coverage and still save about 1 trillion dollars per year on health
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
The Danes also have a nearly homogenous country both culturally and ethnically (or they did until recently) which meant they had a population that bought into the system and were willing to work hard and sacrifice much for it to make sure that it worked because they nearly universally trusted that everyone else was doing the same.

In recent years, this cultural homogeneity and work ethic has been breaking down and there are cracks appearing in the Danish system. The young no longer work as hard as they once did because they feel they are entitled to the benefits no matter whether they work or no, and they countries ethnic homogeneity is being swamped by a wave of immigrants who do not share the Danish work ethic or feel the close-knit feeling of need to work to support the rest of the culture.
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
The left always has to find some obscure example of wonderful healthcare after everyone starts to learn about the last wonderful example.
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
Does the Danish system cover the following expenses outside the hospital?: prescription drugs? Physical or occupational therapy? Drug or alcohol treatment? Psychologist or psychiatric therapy? Canada's famously inexpensive health care system doesn't cover these things, except in-patient in a hospital.
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
I am very suspicious of how these comparisons are calculated. Almost everything we have or do is cheaper in the US. But strangely, anytime someone has a political/social ax to grind we cost twice as much? I doubt it. 25% more? Maybe, we are about 25% wealthier per person than most of Europe, so that wouldn't surprise me.

Overall of course, health results between most developed countries are very close for average length of life.
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
Consider our lower life expectancy: If you factor out deaths due to auto accidents and homicide, we actually have the LONGEST life expectancy. The primary implication is that our healthcare system seems to provide the best outcomes, but beyond that it hints at our higher costs. You expect a country with more gunshot wounds, knife wounds, ground and pound wounds, auto accident wounds, etc., to have higher healthcare costs.
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
Your data is out of context. Note that you already admit that the Danish system is a combination of public and private provision of service but don't tell us what the ratio is.

Further, Denmark is smaller than all but one or two US states. How many Intensive Natal Care Units are needed? One. Centrally located, and that is not fully utilized.

If you want to subdivide the US into 'Concierge' regions we could then begin comparisons.

Other questions? How a many Africans in Denmark? How many illegals?

Finally, where do the extra dollars in US health care go? Not into health delivery, but into government bureaucracy, bureaucratic driven administration, and legal and consulting fees also driven by government intrusion. READ for example the Hill Burton act which for nearly 45 years has driven US health care costs through the roof.

Collette, the ultimate questions 1. Why is 100% free needed? 2. Are you willing to reduce your consumption of emotional kool-aid for factade?
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
and how are you going to do that cost control, without making doctors indentured servants.

guess you are missing where doctors are retiring, and/or going to boutique practices that remove them from the main stream of patients.
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
There's a big difference between administering "healthcare" in a smallish European country than in a sprawling behemoth of 310 million souls spanning a continent.

"healthcare" in general seems to have evolved into a buyer/seller kind of relationship where it is seems it's the responsibility of the inmate (excuse me, patient) to be financially sound enough to pay the salaries of the staff.

I've watched my stepmother be poked and prodded to the hilt in a hospital setting, tests up the wazoo, that is until the day her Medicare/supplemental insurance runs out and then it's...sayonara.

"things" will only get worse when Obamacare kicks in.



1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
Apologies Mr. McNally!
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
I am unconvinced our congressmen have the nerve and the political acumen to successfully repeal Obamacare and that it will be implemented.

One of the reasons for this may be because it is so difficult to communicate why it will be the same outcome for us as what is happening with the NHS. This is not a debate that can be won with sound bites by conservatives. Trying to explain why Republican health care policies are better takes critical thinking. When Joe Citizen reads something like Mr. Preston's last paragraph (which I agree with BTW) above highlighting Republican proposals, there is no way they infer why a market-based alternative to Obamacare is better for them. It all comes off as technical mumbo-jumbo.
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
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