The envy of the world

Millions believed this about the NHS, writes Dalrymple. The slogan, he says,

was last wheeled out in any force in 2008 for the 60th anniversary of its founding.

He asks:

Who were the people doing the envying — not just one or two of them, but en masse? It is no doubt true that immigrants from very poor countries were pleased enough to receive care under the NHS, comparing it with what they would have received at home. But is it really much of an achievement for a developed country to have healthcare better than that in Somalia or Bangladesh?

Dalrymple points out that it never occurred to those who repeated the slogan

to look to comparable countries across the Channel or North Sea to see whether those countries had anything to envy. In fact, between 1948 and 1975, even Spain under Franco performed better in the matter of improving the health of the population than did Britain. In most respects Britain limped behind other countries.

The statistics, he notes,

are not favourable to the NHS if one chooses reasonable standards of comparison, namely other European countries. The results are not disastrous, but they are not good. The NHS has failed even in its egalitarian goal: the gap between the health of the richest and poorest in society has only grown under its dispensation.

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