Kristian Niemietz appears on Radio 4's Moral Maze
This week, Prime Minister Theresa May announced a 70th birthday ‘present’ for the NHS: an extra £20bn a year by 2023, paid for in part by tax rises. It has been received with cries of ‘about time’ and ‘not enough.’ Other voices mutter that we are simply pouring good money after bad into a system that is broken. To go with the funding boost, the government has promised a 10-year plan that “tackles waste, reduces bureaucracy and eliminates unacceptable variation,” but sceptics say we’ve seen those promises before.
With an ever-ageing population and increasing pressures on the system, is it time for a fundamental re-appraisal of the NHS’s priorities? What is it actually for? Is the job of the NHS to help us when we get sick, or to keep us from getting sick in the first place? Do expensive treatments need to be rationed, and if so, how should we decide who gets them? The sickest, the youngest, the ones with the best chance of recovery or the ones who can’t afford to go private? The mantra of ‘free at the point of delivery’ embodies a fundamental moral principle that makes the NHS the envy of the world, according to many. Others believe it has turned our healthcare system into a religion – and delivered worse health outcomes than different systems in comparable countries.
Further IEA Reading: Universal healthcare without the NHS