India's First International News Journal

Thursday, December, 8, 2022

India's First International News Journal

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The health service NHS groans under the consequences

No institution is more popular in the UK than the National Health Service (NHS). In the Corona crisis, however, the health care system is struggling with the consequences of chronic underfunding – and the number of Corona deaths in hospitals is growing dangerously.


Millions of Britons are currently stepping on the open windows and doors every Thursday evening to applaud and cheer on the health workers’ efforts. Such expressions of sympathy also exist elsewhere in Europe in the Corona crisis. What is unusual, however, is the almost religious homage that large parts of the British population and politics bring to the National Health Service (NHS) and its employees. After he was discharged from the hospital at Easter, Prime Minister Boris Johnson not only thanked his “brilliant” doctors and nurses but also started to praise the NHS. “We will win because the NHS is the beating heart of this country. The NHS is the best in this country. He is invincible. He is driven by love. ”

The pride of the British

early April a survey institute investigated the question of what British things, people or qualities the British are most proud of. At the top of the ranking was the NHS – a long way from the “Fish and Chips” snack bar, a typical British breakfast, and the Queen. No wonder politicians with commitments to the NHS surpass each other. The Labor Party boasts that under Prime Minister Clement Attlee in 1948, it created the world’s first health care funded directly from taxpayer money, in which all citizens can be treated free of charge and without insurance. Despite attempts to reform, the conservatives have never questioned the principle of state health care for everyone. After his stay in hospital, Boris Johnson himself has now swung himself up to the “high priest of the NHS”, as they did Financial Times formulated.

The Corona crisis has, of course, revealed not only the British pride in the NHS but also the weaknesses of the system. According to the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) in the United Kingdom in 2018, there were just over 2 hospital beds per 1000 inhabitants – in Switzerland, France or Germany there were twice to four times as many. Due to the lack of beds in intensive care units, the NHS now had to use the military to build seven emergency hospitals with thousands of intensive care beds in the shortest possible time to prepare for the expected influx of corona patients.

Missing equipment, insufficient staff

There are over 12,000 people who tested positive for the virus in the UK previously died in the hospitals. The course of the hospital casualty curve is similar to that of Italy – about three weeks behind. However, the increase in the number of infections and the number of admissions to the hospital seem to be stabilizing, which is why there are probably no overcrowded hospitals. The fact that many emergency rooms are half-empty has recently fueled the concern that the population will refrain from other urgent treatments for fear of corona.

Even if not all beds are occupied, the NHS groans under the burden of the pandemic. There is a lack of ventilators, doctors and nurses complain about missing masks, glasses and protective clothing. The NHS consists of almost 200 regional sub-organizations but suffers from bureaucratic centralism. Corona tests were initially only allowed to be carried out in a single London laboratory – which contributed to the authorities’ failure to provide sufficient testing capacity. The lack of personnel also became a problem. This has intensified since employees from continental Europe returned to their home countries in response to the Brexit vote. The government has now recruited more than 20,000 retired doctors and nurses as well as unemployed flight attendants to fill the holes.

Chronic underfunding

The shortages are a result of chronic underfunding. The NHS does not feed on cost-based insurance contributions but lives on annual payments from the state budget, which is exposed to all kinds of political influences. Adjusted for inflation, spending on the NHS is stagnating, although aging and growth in the population, as well as medical advances, lead to additional financial needs. Britain gave in 2018 according to OECD data a good $ 4,000 per person for healthcare. In Germany or Switzerland, it was just under $ 6,000 and $ 7,300, respectively.

A Swiss woman who has worked as a nurse in the British health system for 40 years describes the consequences of the lack of money on the phone: While quality and care in emergency medicine are good, it often takes months until an appointment with a specialist or a non-life-saving intervention such as hip surgery is possible. Access to specialized services can also vary depending on where you live – a phenomenon known as the “postcode lottery”. Minor cases are sometimes not treated at all or only in a makeshift manner. To skip the lines, more and more Britons are taking out private insurance, which enables treatment in a private clinic.

Egalitarian character

It is therefore not surprising that the NHS also shines far less brilliantly in qualitative comparison with other industrialized countries than the praises of the British suggest for their “world-class health system”. According to one study by the research institute Nuffield Trust In the UK, newborn mortality is above average, as is the number of patients who die shortly after a heart attack or cancer diagnosis. The values ​​are also particularly bad for the “medically avoidable deaths” that could have been prevented with available therapy.

This does little to change the British pride in the NHS, especially since it is primarily based on the egalitarian nature of care. This is remarkable in that Britain is not considered to be a particularly egalitarian country. The Education System has a reputation for reproducing rather than reducing social inequalities. Health care, however, is considered a fundamental social right. Many Britons look at American health policy with moral superiority and ignore the fact that widely accessible health systems are a matter of course in Western Europe.

More money for the health system?

Boris Johnson knows only too well about the love the British have for their healthcare system. In the run-up to the Brexit referendum, he toured the country in a red bus, which adorned the statement, instead of sending £ 350m a week to Brussels, the money should be used to finance the NHS. The number turned out to be fiction, but the government has canceled the NHS’s debt and promised new funds. The pandemic has now politically linked the fate of Corona patient Johnson to that of the health service. Even if the NHS survives the acute phase of the corona crisis without any problems, the pressure to tackle the bottlenecks should increase. Because of the impending economic crisis, the financial scope for this will become significantly smaller.



Jasbir Singh
Jasbir Singh
Studied humanities in Punjab. Trying to understand Indian Politics. Writing about Technology, Education, Brands, Business, and much more. Writer at The Eastern Herald.


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