U.S. Perspective on NHS Initiatives

Letter to the Editor
The Times of London
July 30, 2000

I am a US health policy specialist, and have just returned from a week in the UK where I followed with great interest the government’s efforts to shore up the failing National Health Service.

Mr. Blair has stated that this is the NHS’s last chance. If his government cannot make a solid difference with the huge new investment it plans, it could go down in history not as the savior of the NHS, but, ironically, its destroyer.

But frankly, Alan Milburn’s solutions will not work, because they are all top-down bureaucratic dictates, and the NHS has too much of that already. As the advisors from Virgin Atlantic found, doctors and nurses are already drowning in a sea of paperwork that is crushing innovation and initiative. The Blair/Milburn efforts at micromanagement will just make that worse.

At some point, the British government will realize that the only solution lies in privatization, but not until it fails at this last grasping effort to save a system that is as old and creaky as its over-capacity hospitals.

By contrast, a group of British journalists recently returned from visiting several hospitals in Washington, D.C., including DC General, which relies heavily on public funds and ranks near the bottom in quality rankings. Yet the British journalists said they found it bright and clean with a competent, motivated staff supported by the latest medical technologies and that they would much prefer to be treated there than in one of the NHS’s best!

Why does your government persist in trying to save a structure that has simply had its day?

For more information, please contact:
Grace-Marie Arnett
Galen Institute
P.O. Box 19080
(703) 299-8900

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