The mass NHS delusion

No one on the Continent would choose Britain as their country of medical care, rather the reverse

Some people think, or pretend to believe, that if they fall seriously ill in any country other than Britain, they will be treated very badly or simply left to die. It is as if in such benighted lands without the National Health Service, doctors and nurses work with neither skill nor devotion.

But Dalrymple points out that the NHS

is neither necessary nor sufficient for medical and nursing staff to show devotion. The parents of a well-taught schoolchild do not thank the Ministry of Education.

If a German were to say, ‘For God’s sake, get me to the NHS,’ a psychiatrist would be called

Dalrymple says the UK ought to face up to the fact that

being ill and seeking treatment is a more unpleasant experience in Britain than in it is many civilised countries.

The NHS has not served the nation well, if international comparison is the criterion by which it should be judged. For example, says Dalrymple,

  • when the NHS was founded (when British healthcare was among the best rather than the worst in Europe) the population of France had a life expectancy six years lower than that of Britain; it is now two years higher.
  • The health of the population in Spain improved more under Franco than that of the British under the NHS in the same years.

Manifold deficiencies

The comparisons hardly

suggest any particular virtue to the NHS.

Survival from many serious illnesses such as cancer, heart attacks and strokes

is lower in Britain than in most European countries. These statistics are not apparent to patients or their relatives, and in any case the NHS is immune to criticism because its deficiencies are assumed to be departures from its essential goodness or the result of inadequate funding.

Innumerable scandals

No number of scandals,

such as that of Mid-Staffs in which hundreds of patients were neglected to a degree that often defied belief, all in plain sight of a large bureaucracy supposedly devoted to ensuring the quality of patient care, can dent faith in the NHS. Staff committed, and management connived at, acts of cruelty that would have made Mrs Gamp blush. Mr Cameron’s government, anxious not to seem an enemy of the NHS, which would have been politically damaging, swept the scandal under the carpet.

Dalrymple suspects that

the sheer unpleasantness of the NHS is reassuring to the British population. It evokes the Dunkirk spirit: we are all stranded on the beach of illness together. And if we cannot all live in luxury, we can at least all die in squalor. Justice is served.

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