In England, Scotland and Wales our predominant form of healthcare is public via the National Health Service (NHS). All citizens pay National Insurance and general taxation, which in part goes to fund the NHS. The NHS provides free care at the point of access (GP, emergency care) to residents and non-residents. Established in 1948 after the Second World War, the NHS was part of a larger goal of general social reform. Some individuals choose to also pay for private healthcare, which often has the advantage of being faster than standard social care.
In other countries there are different systems for healthcare. In Scandinavia as with the UK, all healthcare is funded by taxpayers. In the USA, the majority of healthcare provision is private and only the poorest are treated by the state. In France there is a mixed system, where there is high taxation to finance a public system available to all and then individual practitioners choose how much to charge and a set tariff is reimbursed to the patient by the state. The difference between the fee and the tariff is picked up by a private insurance company if the patient has bought excess insurance.
There are several advantages and disadvantages to these different forms of providing healthcare.
There is currently a lot of news and debate on the privatisation of the NHS – and it’s a good idea to read around it extensively. This is slightly different from the idea of private healthcare in itself, but you may still be asked about it in an interview. In essence, there is a gradual increase in the amount of NHS budget going to large private firms such as Virgin Care, Care UK and Bupa.
The BMA reports that every year for the past five years, the amount of money spent by the NHS England on healthcare that is provided by the independent sector has increased, with the current yearly total at almost £7bn, totalling 6.3% of the total NHS budget. They also found that more than two-thirds of doctors are fairly or very uncomfortable with independent sector provision of NHS services, with the most common concern being that it destabilises NHS services. There is some fear that the steady increase in contracts to large private companies is part of a larger campaign to privatise the NHS wholly and bring about a more mixed model of service rather than being free at the point of access.
Words: Riley Botelle
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