Since Labour came to power in 1997, the spend on the NHS has more than doubled, yet patient waiting ...
Since Labour came to power in 1997, the spend on the NHS has more than doubled, yet patient waiting lists have not demonstrably reduced nor have services improved. In fact the cleanliness of NHS hospitals appears to be worse than ever before with reported cases of MRSA in recent years.
The system has failed to respond to this huge injection of cash, almost no extra patients have been treated, with some million people remaining on waiting lists.
This compares to the health systems of Germany, France and Belgium, where patients are not faced with the same delays.
For example, UK cancer services have deteriorated to such an extent that only a third of patients are given radiotherapy within four weeks. Less than a fifth of new 'resources' reach front line services, with much contributing to higher salaries rather than new staff (Ref: Professor Jim Thornton, University of Nottingham).
Britain is the only developing country that relies on taxpayers alone to fund healthcare services. Others spend far more through a mix of public funding and insurance. France and Germany have twice as many doctors per head than the UK and only half of Germany's hospitals are state-run.
Other countries have systems responsive to patient needs, not centrally controlled by state apparatiks. Professor Thornton quotes the NHS admitting over £10bn of its then £50bn budget was lost through waste, blamed on fraud and inefficiencies.
However, the internet has allowed frustrated patients to seek choices and knowledge regarding their medical conditions and treatment over the past few years. Consequently, the pioneers of "medical tourism" were often frustrated NHS patients who simply wanted a hip replacement and were tired of waiting.
Hospital providers in Europe, South Africa and Asia saw huge opportunity for foreign patients paying in foreign currency, who wanted instant medical treatment or surgery in spare beds standing available in their hospitals. Some providers abroad have since built state-of-the-art hospitals to cater for this surge in new foreign patients, which has encouraged the growth of the medical tourism market.
hip to be squared
In recent months, the watershed case involving Yvonne Watts, a British woman who claimed compensation from her primary care trust after she paid to have a hip operation in France, has once again hit the headlines. On 16 May, the European Court of Justice, said the NHS could not refuse to refund the cost of treatment in another EU country if a patient had to wait longer than a doctor advises.
There are important points of both law and principle affected here, however it appears from now on NHS patients facing an undue delay when awaiting surgery are entitled under EU laws to seek medical treatment elsewhere in Europe with the promise of full reimbursement.
No longer can either the Government or the NHS dictate to patients when and even whether they may be treated. In fact, under EU rules of freedom of movement, one EU healthcare system must pay the patient's bill if that patient is obliged to look elsewhere for treatment because of hold ups outside their own control.
This blows the case for Government and NHS waiting list controls wide open. It is no longer acceptable in the EU for waiting lists to be the norm or for governments to decide on such rationing procedures for its citizens.
Watts had first been offered a year delay on the NHS for a hip replacement, but her clinician recommended surgery much earlier. She duly went to France and paid £3,800 to have a hip replacement, which costs around £10,000 privately in the UK.
The UK Department of Health argued in court that if all NHS patients were guaranteed reimbursement of their medical treatment costs when they opted for treatment abroad, it would seriously undermine the NHS system of administering medical priorities through waiting lists.
However, looking at it from another perspective, patients seeking treatment elsewhere, particularly abroad, are removing themselves from these lists, allowing others to move up the ladder for quicker treatment.
The NHS patients who search abroad for treatment or go private in the UK have already paid their contribution for treatment via taxes and NI contributions.
Instead of delaying treatment, why should a patient not have the choice of going private or going abroad and billing the NHS? After all, treatment abroad is often 50% cheaper than the UK private medical sector.
Sending patients abroad actually saves money and cuts waiting lists - which are an artificial method of controlling supply of decent treatment and medical services when clinically needed, against a backdrop of escalating demands.
This is the whole basis of tax-based social medicine, which in a consumer choice, democratic age, is wholly unacceptable to the public. The British public demand choice, quality and convenient medical treatment right now; not sometime in the future.
A survey published last year by Norwich Union, found 74% of UK dotors were seeing an increase in patients going abroad for their medical treatment and surgery.
Belgium has been one of the most popular destinations for both elective surgery and cosmetic surgery. A private patient in London could pay upwards of £11,000 to £12,000 for a knee replacement and over £9,000 for a hip replacement. These operations with longer stays, allocated in hospitals for rehabilitation, cost £6,500 and £5,500 respectively in Belgium last year.
It is clear patients on NHS waiting lists can not only have treatment abroad quickly, taking themselves off lists and therefore reducing the numbers for delayed treatment, but can also save thousands of pounds for both themselves and the NHS, if they are to be reimbursed for treatment in Europe.
testing their patients
Worldwide Financial Planning estimates some 10,000 elective surgery operations were completed overseas last year on British patients, with possibly another 40,000 going abroad for cosmetic or dental reasons.
Popular centres include Germany, France, South Africa, Thailand and India. Complex heart bypass surgery can be offered in state-of-the-art Indian hospitals for less than 25% of the Western or London private cost.
Consequently, once empowered and informed, NHS patients find not only can they get quality treatment abroad at much better prices, they can get it now rather than wait in discomfort. Healthcare deliveryservices are expanding globally as major hospital groups realise the huge foreign currency potential of medical tourism. Not only do British patients become the referrers of the future, they often return with family members for future holidays and the like.
The healthcare delivered in the EU key countries is far better than in the UK, yet the system seems to be blind to change, until now.
With almost two million people directly or indirectly employed by the NHS, this organisation has become a socialist gulag. It is not designed to satisfy the 21st century consumer patient, who demands service, choice and quality. It is safe to say patients do not want a promise on a waiting list.
Increased NHS spending has not cut waiting lists
Quicker treatment available abroad
EU rules have forced the NHS to pay for needy patients to be treated in other countries
Medical tourism can benefit the NHS, removing patients from waiting lists
£92bn transferred since 2015
Achievements, charity work and other happy snippets
Since first announcement