Another Horror Story from Britain’s NHS

My wife works in cancer support, and she told me this evening about a case of a British woman who wrote into one of the online groups with which she works. She had had limb salvage surgery for bone cancer, replacing her humerus with a titanium prosthetic bone (my wife had the same type of surgery years ago). But the surgery was botched and her shoulder dislocated. Since that time, she has been unable to get another surgery. My wife showed me a picture: the titanium prosthesis is NOW PROTRUDING FROM HER ARM through the skin. It’s horrible. She has had an appointment with a plastic surgeon for a year, but it keeps getting put off. And a plastic surgeon is not whom she needs at this point. “I don’t have the heart to tell her, but her arm can’t be saved,” my wife says. The woman has small children and is now in such pain she can no longer work. She doesn’t go to the media because she’s afraid of losing the appointment she does have.

Socialism kills, folks. And when it doesn’t kill, it amputates. More on the National Health Service here, here, and here.

P.S. When I write about the horrors of Britain’s NHS, I often get snarky comments about the bad state of American health care. Yes, the U.S. has a health care payment system problem, but our problem is roughly the opposite of Britain’s. We spend far too much on health care, but the overall quality and quantity of health care Americans receive is worldbeating. Single-payer systems “solve” the overpayment problem by setting up a monopsony, but monopsonies have their own inefficiencies. A free market in health care would solve the overpayment problem without appreciably reducing quality, by relaxing medical licensing (increasing the supply of providers) and ending subsidies of excessively generous health insurance (giving customers an incentive to shop around on price).

5 thoughts on “Another Horror Story from Britain’s NHS

  1. You provide interesting food for thought. I know that health policy is not necessarily you area of interest, so I will be short. You are correct: The US does have better results than other countries, particularly in cancer-based outcomes. And yet, this is the purported “world-beating” system outcomes end. I would encourage you to look at the Commonwealth Fund (http://www.commonwealthfund.org/Publications/Fund-Reports/2008/Jul/Why-Not-the-Best–Results-from-the-National-Scorecard-on-U-S–Health-System-Performance–2008.aspx) or any other source that compares the US health system’s performance against a broad range of health indicators, not just cancer.

    I think after you actually research and understand the sub-optimal outcomes reached in a number of different areas your analysis might change. This is not to say that the NHS is any better or is desirable by any means- but your statement that Americans receive “world-beating” health care should probably be changed to “privately-insured” Americans and those on Medicare.

  2. It is true that Britain has a “Single Payer” system of socialized medicine. However,for those that can afford it, British citizens have the option to purchase private insurance or to see private doctors who are out of the system or to leave the country and go to another country where medical help can be purchased. With that said,there are only 2 countries in the world where opting out of the “Single Payer” system is forbidden by law. They are North Korea and Canada. This is one of the reasons that tens of thousands of Canadians every year come over the border to America or even to Mexico or Thailand to get needed medical care. You can be sure that within the next few years that a “Single Payer” system will come to America but there will be options,for those that can afford it,to buy private insurance or to pay doctors out of the system or to go to a foreign country for medical care. The rest of us will just have to wait in line.

    1. Yes, that’s right, but one reason the UK system is so bad is that it’s not just nationalized insurance, but nationalized health care. The doctors and nurses are civil servants, the hospitals are owned & operated by the state, etc. No other Western democracy has a fully socialized health care system like that.

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