Wednesday 12 August 2009

We love the NHS

He's back. Dan Hannan has caused another internet craze, with the hashtag #welovetheNHS now dominating the trending topics on twitter, in response to Hannan continuing to deride the NHS as "Marxist" and act as the poster child for some startlingly ill-informed attacks on the NHS from the madder end of the US right-wing.

Indeed, even the Daily Mail is riding (somewhat) to the defence of the NHS against claims that it is "evil", quoting Stephen Hawking's rebuttal of the claim that he would never have been allowed to live if he was British. Given that he is British.

'I wouldn’t be here today if it were not for the NHS. I have received a large amount of high-quality treatment without which I would not have survived', says Hawking.

I have contributed to the twitter thread - having spent most of yesterday at the hospital, where everything seemed to turn out OK in the end.

GP worried about baby Sonny's breathing yesterday when went for jabs; sent us on to hospital for checks. all fine.

btw, #welovetheNHS

I do hope Conservatives might feel they can join in the praise for the NHS - and its core dare we say "progressive" principle of basing healthcare on need, not ability to pay.

But they may be feeling confused. Their leader has said he can sum up his political priorities in three letters - "NHS". Yet several prominent Conservatives seem to want to attack the principle of the NHS.

John Redwood is impressed by the US opposition to President Obama's "socialism" on health reform. Anthony Browne, now Boris Johnson's head of policy, wrote back in 2001 of the need for Britain to "ditch the ideology and ditch the NHS".

David Cameron apart, I am struggling to think of a prominent Conservative who has sought to argue a principled defence of the NHS. This leads to the suspicion that the Conservative party's expressions of support for the NHS is based solely on its public popularity. Indeed, most centre-right think-tankers grumble privately that Cameron has taken radical reform or the move to an insurance-based model off the table for political reasons.

The Daily Mail points out that

The UK spends less per head on healthcare but has a higher life expectancy than the U.S.. The World Health Organisation ranks Britain's healthcare as 18th in the world, while the U.S. is in 37th place.

One can go further.

There does not seem to be any doubt at all that Brits are healthier than Americans, as the peer reviewed evidence from the Journal of the American Medical Association, which we quoted in fact-checking Hannan's claim that the NHS had made the British more ill:

In fact:

US residents are much less healthy than their English counterparts and these differences exist at all points of the SES distribution ... The US population in late middle age is less healthy than the equivalent British population for diabetes, hypertension, heart disease, myocardial infarction, stroke, lung disease, and cancer ... These differences are not solely driven by the bottom of the SES distribution. In many diseases, the top of the SES distribution is less healthy in the United States as well

...Level differences between countries are sufficiently large that individuals in the top of the education and income strata in the United States have comparable rates of diabetes and heart disease as those in the bottom of the income and education strata in England."


Tim said...

Thanks for this.

An important fact always get lost amidst all the visceral anti-statism of the US healthcare debate: that it is the PRIVATE provision of health services that creates the most administrative waste, not the public. This is the reason America spends so much on healthcare, yet cannot manage to insure 50 million of its population.

_______ said...

Hope baby sonny is doing well.