Are budget cuts and privatisation the solutions to the NHS’s financial fears?
Profoundly British and unique to the UK, the National Health Service (NHS) is forever being bandied about across the media. Last week, think tank The King’s Fund startlingly revealed that the NHS has a dwindling amount of funding remaining and could potentially be out of money as early as 2015.
With healthcare cash flow under close scrutiny, this will undoubtedly mean severe cuts in spending for NHS services. But what impact will this really have and will budget restrictions hamper our healthcare?
Retired doctor Neil Stirling said on community website Quora “In my opinion spending cuts seem to happen most often to people, rather than buildings or tech equipment. It’s also quicker to cut a salary than it is to halt a new build, with less perceived repercussions. Many services are being moved and relocated to super modern buildings, but I can’t help thinking that the numbers of qualified staff won’t be there to staff them.”
Surgeon Maciej Zatonski takes a more pessimistic view, saying that cutting spending will mean that “quality, safety and speed” is also reduced as a consequence. “You can already see the impact of cutting costs: longer waiting times, understaffed departments, poorer quality of service, etc.
“In the long run you might expect best specialists to move into more lucrative and less demanding private sector – this will further cut the quality of services on the NHS as highly successful and qualified doctors will move to private sector first,” he commented.
Privatisation versus public?
Although the NHS was originally declared to be financed entirely from taxation, to provide free health services for all, talk of money naturally turns to talk of privatisation and whether this would aid the NHS’s monetary woes.
“Private healthcare is the very antithesis of efficient healthcare because the profit driven nature of the thing trumps everything else. Patients become mere industrial feedstock,” retired GP Steven Ford said. American Will Fowler agrees by claiming that privatisation would only make the NHS more “uneven and unequal.” He continues “Just saying ‘let’s make it private’ is not a basis or rationale for anything to improve about it. It will turn the system on its head and have the opposite effect.”
Marketing expert Rupert Baines reflects on both sides of the privatisation argument, saying that in terms of efficiency, privatisation would not help. However “NHS scores poorly on grounds of patient choice or comfort. Increased competition and private services could focus on that. So it is very likely that (at a cost) comfort, convenience and flexibility would improve. If you value those then that is a ‘yes’.”
Labour party member Alasdair Russell also weighs in the debate, saying “The NHS – one of the least ‘privatised’ healthcare providers in the world – spends less than half as much than the US, one of the most ‘privatised’ healthcare systems in the world. Not really that efficient, is it?”
Despite the NHS struggling with money, Brits across the country still applaud its values and the idea of bringing all healthcare professionals together under one organisation. Daniel Thomas, Quora user, comments “I am immensely proud to live in a nation that offers universal health call to all and gets the job done at a fraction of the cost to many other advanced medical systems, often at the same standard.”