Mark Littlewood from the Institute of Economic Affairs spoke to Richmond’s HR, ITDF and PIMS audiences on board Aurora (16th – 18th May, ) about the serious concerns he has for the future of the UK National Health Service.
Most conference sessions at Richmond forums are specific to the industry of the delegates but we also include generic economic sessions and some subjects which we consider of general importance to all delegates, such as global warming (or lack of it), brain development in today’s youth and in this case the National Health Service.
Mark’s concerns were twofold: the cost and the poor quality of the service. Additionally, people in the UK, whether media, politicians or the general public, treat the NHS as a sacred cow which must be guarded at all costs and is pretty much immune from criticism.
The reality is that it costs UK £114 billion a year (UK £3000 per year per person) and that number is set to double by 2040 adding 5% - 8% to income tax – probably an unaffordable amount.
Mark points out that not only is this cost unrealistic but we receive a really poor service for the money.
The UK kills 12,000 people more, every year than the EU average.
Surviving a treatable illness is 33% worse than EU average
Surviving a treatable illness is 45% worse than France
Singapore supplies the same quality of service but at half the cost
These worrying facts are avoided by the NHS and Government, often by meaningless claims that perhaps 98% of patients are satisfied with the NHS. One is tempted to ask what they are comparing their experience with and whether the 12,000 who died each year were interviewed or would have preferred to have been treated elsewhere in Europe.
Mark is not advocating changing to an insurance-based system like the US which, contrary to the beliefs of the British public, already spends approximately the same amount per capita of public money as the UK in addition to insurance premiums, but to some form of savings system where the state would continue to be responsible for emergency treatments but individuals would build their own savings pots for elective treatments. The UK £3000 a year currently paid in tax would instead be paid into a personal account and used as required resulting in downward pressure on prices, less total demand as people take advantage of “free “services and more choice for patients.
Mark views the current direction of the NHS as unsustainable and believes we need to act urgently to address the problem.
It may be that the current US administration should be looking harder at the problems of the UK as it plans major changes to its own health system.
Mark Littlewood biography
Mark Littlewood is the IEA’s Director General. He was educated at Balliol College, Oxford, where he read Philosophy, Politics and Economics. He went onto study at City University Law School. Since 1995, Mark has worked in political communications, public relations and public affairs – variously for the European Movement, the Environment Agency and the London Bus Initiative.
In 2001, he became Campaigns Director for the human rights group Liberty, leaving in 2004 to found NO2ID, the group which opposes identity cards and the database state, and became its first national co-ordinator.