By far the UK government’s cleverest decision during the pandemic, was to align itself to the NHS.
Their enfeebled battle cry was: “Stay home, protect the NHS, save lives.”
By hiding behind the skirts of the sainted NHS, any attack on lockdown or its impositions, would be an attack on the heroes and heroines of the NHS, who were fighting to save our lives.
Very clever strategy Dom; shame you completely screwed up later.
The reason their unwavering support for the NHS rang so hollow, was that those politicians who were now so keen to demonstrate their love for the NHS, had previously been seen cheering after successfully voting against the bill to give nurses a pay rise.
Their disdain for the NHS resurfaced when they said that daily car parking charges for NHS staff, which had been suspended during lockdown, would come back with immediate effect, while we were still being told to avoid public transport.
Their political support for the NHS also got them in trouble when Boris Johnson said that care homes were responsible for the deaths of 20,000 residents (50% of UK total), because they had not followed the correct procedures.
The care homes rightly replied; “Fuck off, it wasn’t our fault.” They were blamed because the government could not criticise the NHS, who had forced Covid-19 patients into the homes. So either it was the fault of the NHS, or it was government policy.
They accused the care homes to see if this excuse would fly, and it didn’t. The blame game was underway and it became extremely unedifying and the government had to hope the British public lost interest by the time we were all back in the pub. And we predictably did.
The pandemic has disappeared in the rear-view mirror, but it has revealed huge flaws in the structure of the NHS, where waiting times are at an all-time high, waiting times for ambulances, A&E and operations.
The NHS, which is the biggest employer in Europe, is structurally inefficient, a constant political conundrum and criminally underfunded. We should not have to protect it; it is there to protect us. Nor should a hundred-year-old man have to raise money for the NHS. It is not a charity.
The government, along with a willing and docile population, has deified the NHS and will be totally stuffed when it comes to the next round of public spending.
The NHS employs 1.3 million people and was started in 1948. It is funded through taxation, providing healthcare which is free at the point of use.
With around 395 deaths per million, the UK’s death rate during the pandemic does not compare favourably with other nations and, although government approaches have differed (No lockdown in Sweden), populations and living conditions vary, different health services must have played a massive part in relative success or failure.
Across Europe, healthcare is mostly provided through a system of regulated, competing private health insurance companies, with government subsidies for those who cannot afford it. There is a European-wide Health Insurance Card (EHIC), which allows European travellers free health care across most of Europe. UK citizens lost this fantastic benefit when we left the union.
In Italy, healthcare is regional, so standards are variable, peaking in the centre and the north (Milan and Rome) and care is free to those who qualify.
With 3.7 doctors per 1,000 inhabitants, Italy has one of the world’s best ratios and it spends 9.3% of GDP on healthcare. Italy’s pandemic death rate was 463 per million. This is likely so high because of Italian living habits, with generations living together in the same home (a common feature of southern Europe).
The Spanish death rate was 525 per million, despite their health system being considered excellent. Their ratio of doctors to population is 5 per 1,000, but their health care spending is 7% of GDP, which is low by European standards. Care has been decentralised into 17 regions, so is variable.
Germany did well in the pandemic and had a death rate of only 79 per million. Its healthcare is of a high standard, funded by 11.3% of GDP. Germany has 2,000 hospitals,half of which are public, the other half profit and not-for profit private sector establishments. Germany has 3.4 doctors per 1,000 citizens.
Buying medical insurance is compulsory and can be done in two ways; either via public insurance, processed through your employer, or private medical insurance. Care is free at the point of delivery, but without sufficient insurance, you can get hefty medical bills.
Sweden did not impose lockdown on its population, and although its mortality rate was higher than its Scandinavian neighbours, at 256 deaths per million, its citizens, economy and health care carried on as usual. For those who get sick, there is a great public health care system, subsidised by the government, managed at a local level, where patients are charged a nominal fee, with free care for under 20s and other groups.
Waiting times are reasonable, with specialist consultations within 90 days (operation within the next 90) and although there is private healthcare, most citizens feel no need to use it. With 4 doctors per 1,000, the country invests 11.9% of GDP in health care.
The WHO rates France as the highest-ranking system in the world. With 373 deaths per million, over 1,000 hospitals, 3 doctors per 1,000 inhabitants, France spends 11.5% of GDP on health and access is through private and state-administered insurance schemes. The one disadvantage is that treatments must be paid for up front and then up to 70% can be claimed back.
Health care across Europe is a patchwork and in all cases has evolved into a complex mixture of public/private financing. Refiguring a national health scheme is probably impossibly complex and all countries, for better or worse, are stuck with slight variations of the current system for generations to come.
As the UK excitedly awaits our new PM, we can only guess at which model the government is going to adopt for a ‘new look’ NHS. They’ll probably just privatise it.