The NHS is one of the most advanced medical practices in the world. It is famous for its advanced use of technology and its high standard of treatment. Not only this, but it also famous for being state run and free for all citizens of the UK. The British are very proud of their health service, and it seems free health care is a founding part of our society.
However, as we are all very aware, Britain is currently facing an economic deficit of over a trillion pounds. This is an enormous amount of debt, infact it is far larger than many people truly understand. Lets put it into perspective quickly.
If you were to stack £50 notes, one on top of the other, until you had paid off Britain’s deficit, the pile of notes would reach past the moon. That is a lot of £50 notes!
Of course, the question on everyone’s minds is just how are we going to get rid of this awful debt? This has been central to government debate for many months now, and with the recent spending cuts announced, the critics are starting to give their views on things. The main worry is that the savage spending cuts is going to reduce aggregate demand in the economy, thus throwing us back into a recession. This would seriously damage long-term growth for the British economy and would put increased pressure on the government to deal with an ever-increasing deficit. So if we don’t want to cut spending for the fear of falling back into recession, how else are we going to pay off our deficit? Well the only real alternative solution is to increase government income. The government has already announced VAT rises, but is there not more that could be done?
Here is where I believe the NHS comes into it. The NHS prides itself on being a free, state run service. However, desperate times call for desperate measures, and I feel it’s about time we reviewed the financial model of our health service. The NHS performs around 7 million operations a year, at a cost of around 70 billion pounds. Of course, all these operations are provided free of charge, but this is where I believe reform could be in order. Of course, I am not suggesting for one minute that everyone should pay for medical care (we don’t want to follow in America’s footsteps), but there are definitely cases where a small payment I believe would do far more bad then good. Let me explain this in a bit more detail.
Each year many well off people receive operations such as cosmetic surgery, are provided with free dental treatment, and receive medicines such as anti-histamine, and all at absolute no cost to themselves. I believe cases such as these should logically require a small payment. For example if anyone earning over £25000 was required to pay a small fee, even only £50, for an operation that was going to have a life changing effect, it would be completely reasonable. Not only would it be completely reasonable, but it would save the health service billions of pound a year. Of course, there are many cases where payment would not be suitable. For example people suffering from terminal illnesses, or people needing emergency treatment for damages outside their control. The list of cases could go on and on, but at the end of the day its clear that many above average earners are receiving free treatment when they could easily afford to pay a small amount (fraction of the amount it would cost to go private) for treatment. The government, of course, would have to have implement a lot of rules and carry out a lot of means testing surrounding the process, but at the end of the day, it would be a long term solution to cutting our deficit without the risk of dipping back into recession.