Thursday, August 13, 2009

Gee Thanks Guys



Tyler is a big fan of the US. We owe them bigtime. Not just for all those bailouts over the years, but also for inventing the future. It's difficult to imagine how much poorer we'd be - in all senses - without the free market dynamism and risk-taking capacity of our American cousins.

Yet for all that, they are sometimes a little... well, what should one say... a little brash. And their current beating up on the NHS is an excellent case in point.

Most of what's being said is spot on. The NHS does ration healthcare. In many ways it is Orwellian (not least for the poor schmucks who work in it). And it certainly fails to deliver the standard of healthcare most Americans take for granted.

A notorious example of this last point is cancer survival rates. According to a recent major study:
  • British women have a 53% chance of living at least five years after a cancer diagnosis, compared to 63% for women in the US

  • British men have a 45% chance compared to 66% in the US - a massive difference

Shocking. And if I were an American, I most certainly would not be opting for an NHS.

But the thing is, I'm a Brit. I may be dissatisfied with the NHS; I may want to dump it for social insurance; but at the end of the day, it's our NHS. And when the lovely Sarah P starts accusing our NHS of employing Death Panels to decide who lives and who dies, even I start to bristle.

Which is a real problem.

Because not only does bristling keep me awake at night, it also means my fellow British citizens are even less receptive to the idea of ditching the sacred NHS.

As the Major says, how dare the Yanks criticise our institutions - nay, our very way of life! Overpaid, oversexed, and they even tried to buy the golf club!

From R5 Live, to Twitter, to the Major's club, the wagons are being circled. This very evening Dave has felt compelled to write to all Conservative Party members reassuring us that the NHS is safe in his hands - "how proud we in Britain are of the NHS".

So guys, please... please just lay off the NHS.

Couldn't you find some other bogeyman to wheel out at your Town Hall meetings?

What about the Iranian Health Service?

PS Yes, I know - we can hardly expect our NHS to perform as well as the US healthcare system given the disparity in resources. That's what you get when they spend 15.3% of GDP on health, and we only spend 8.4% (2006). Except that our cancer survival rates are also well below the European averages, and there the disparity in resources has more or less been eliminated. Also we should all remember this rather unsettling fact - among developed economies, there is no meaningful correlation between health spending and life expectancy (see this blog). I suggest you eat more raw fish.

PPS For future reference, here's Dan the Man administering his Michael Moore antidote:


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