A senior official in the UK’s single-payer healthcare system says that patients should stop selfishly putting their own health and well-being first in order to improve the funding and “morale” of the NHS.
Jessica Arnold, who “has held a number of senior roles in the NHS,” argues in the Guardian that the National Health Service would be in fine shape if citizens were willing to suffer in silence until the service can tend to them.
Arnold makes an impassioned plea for Brits to stop using private healthcare, regardless of long wait times, because the private sector drains staff and resources from the NHS.
“I strongly encourage people not to use private healthcare services,” she writes. “I implore anyone who uses private healthcare to be aware that they are effectively privatising the NHS by doing so.”
In a ponderous sentence, she writes: “I ask people to think carefully about the impact of prioritising themselves at a high cost to not only other people who do rely on the NHS, but to their future selves who may rely on the NHS one day because they have an accident or emergency, or become really quite unwell, or can no longer afford to pay privately.” (Emphasis added.)
The op-ed comes as the NHS announced its worst month in history – for three months in a row, each one worse than the last.
She acknowledges that NHS hospitals send patients to private providers, because they are “struggling to manage the demand and backlog of patients.” Yet she wants the government to rescind this “superficial effort to reduce long waiting lists” and close all the exits for the sake of the NHS’s needs.
Private health services represent a modest share of the UK healthcare sector (approximately 11 percent of all non-urgent cases), less than other European nations with universal healthcare.
“In France, Italy and Austria, countries which one could hardly accuse of an exaggerated faith in free markets and private initiative, the private sector accounts for about one third of the hospital sector,” wrote analyst Kristian Niemietz of the Institute of Economic Affairs. In Germany and the Netherlands, virtually all hospitals are private.
This competition produces to radically different outcomes, Niemietz found:
If the UK’s breast cancer, prostate cancer, lung cancer and bowel cancer patients were treated in the Netherlands rather than on the NHS, more than 9,000 lives would be saved every year. If they were treated in Germany, more than 12,000 lives would be saved, and if they were treated in Belgium, more than 14,000 lives would be saved.
In other words, without private healthcare, people may never get to become "their future selves."
Yet the Labour Party would like to stamp out even this tiny fragment of competition. Shadow Chancellor John McDonnell, a self-described Marxist, has said that as private sector “contracts run out, they should be brought in-house,” or nationalized (which is much what he says about every industry).