NHS: Maybe they fund fruit fly research too

Not to knock  my UK colleagues, but –would it be fair to say that maybe the headlines of some British newspapers are not the best source of information about England’s National Health Service?

 More demonizing of CMS nominee Donald  Berwick – who has said he “loves” the UK plan — in a column in today’s Globe, under the headline:” Dangerous to our health.”

 …(T)hose who have to live with the NHS and its “bottlenecks’’ don’t always find them so admirable. The British press has been reporting horror stories about the realities of government-run health care. Some recent headlines give a sense of the coverage:

“Overstretched maternity units mean mothers face a 100-mile journey to have baby.’’

“Hundreds of patients died needlessly at NHS hospital due to appalling care.’’

“Cash-strapped NHS trust introduces rationing for common children’s conditions.’’

“Standard of care in some wards ‘would shame a third world country.’ ’’

“Stafford Hospital caused ‘unimaginable suffering.’ ’’

No one can deny that America’s health care system is flawed in many ways. But when it comes to the standard that matters most — the quality of health care provided — our haphazard, expensive, insurance-based system towers above the NHS.

The comments are rolling in:

One reader says:

  Normally, a (Jeff) Jacoby column should be taken with a few tons of salt when it comes to facts. But this one really is flawed beyond belief. I have met many Brits during my travelsand, while they will complain about the NHS, I have never met any that thought it should be done away with. When I explained how our “free market” health system actually worked they tend to react with horror. When I tell them about Republican criticisms of the NHS in the United States they usually say they are ridiculus. General overall health in Britian, they tell me, is pretty good as a result. And no one fears denial of care based on ability to pay or bankruptcy because of illness.

As for the rather shocking headlines, I decided to check them out–one is from a blog (we all know the truth value of most political blogs), two are from the Daily Mail, a tabloid paper famous for supporting fascists before the war and at least one was based on tory party propoganda from the recent election. Two were from the Daily Telegraph, derisively known as the torygraph and connected with Rupbert Murdoch. One was from the Sunday Times (the Staffordshire Hospital story) which referred to the conditions at that hospital an “anamoly”, led to a clearing house of the management of that hospital and is leading to a review of accredidation of hospital managers.

 Another offers a conflicting view of the stats. The numbers indicate international rankings:

 Per capita costs, in dollars:
#1 US: 4361.
#16 UK: 1754.
http://www.nationmaster.com/graph/hea_hea_car_fun_tot_per_cap-care-funding-total-per-capita

Infant mortality, per 100,000 live births:
#26 UK: 5.01
#37 US: 6.37
http://www.geographyiq.com/ranking/ranking_Infant_Mortality_Rate_aall.htm

Life expectancy: years, men–women
US: 77–81
UK: 77–82
http://unstats.un.org/unsd/demographic/products/socind/health.htm

Cancer deaths: per 100,000
#9 US: 321.9
#16 UK: 253.5
http://www.nationmaster.com/graph/hea_dea_fro_can-health-death-from-cancer

Poll results from the UK: preferences, percentages
Prefer the UK’s National Health Service: 89.9%
Prefer the US system: 10.1%
http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/poll/2009/aug/14/nhs-health

A quick ride in the Googlemobile presents a more mixed picture than does Mr Jacoby, who dwells on the UK system’s imperfections while ignoring ours. And one of his statistics seems disputable, if not actually wrong. Meanwhile, for all its problems, UK citizens overwhelmingly choose their system over ours. The huge number of MRI machines in this country are extraordinarily lucrative investments, costly to the system, duplicate facilities, and are of largely unproven utility in improving health care outcomes. Our increased performance of, and reliance on, diagnostic tests, too, may or may not reflect better care; it may reflect a dearth of primary care and an increased reliance on hospital emergency rooms.

 

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One thought on “NHS: Maybe they fund fruit fly research too

  1. Just a minor quibble. The Telegraph was owned by Neocon Conrad Black until he got in trouble for diverting funds from Hollinger Inc., the parent company, for personal use. The Times, however, is owned by Murdoch.

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