The role and future of the NHS is one of the main topics in today’s general election.
The NHS will be a particularly important topic for people with diabetes who rely on the NHS for treatment and monitoring.
An underpinning question is that of privatisation of the NHS. Currently, it is estimated that 18% of the NHS budget is spent on private providers.
It is therefore not a question of whether the NHS is to be privatised or not. The question is more whether you want the NHS to increase or decrease the influence of private providers and what type of influence you want that to be.
Some private companies offer innovation that may be outside of the NHS’s scope. However, other schemes include selling off physical assets that the NHS owns.
Across the country, different parts of hospital care are run by private firms. In some regions, entire NHS hospitals are run by private firms. Examples of these are Circle Bath and Circle Reading, which are run by the company, Circle Health.
One of the issues to consider with private providers is cost of services. The NHS is currently the largest employer of people in Europe. With its large size, it has strong buying power, which means that companies have less power to over-charge the NHS on medications, treatments and other services.
If, however, the NHS were to be portioned into smaller organisations, the NHS would begin to lose this buying power. In the US, in which healthcare is dominated by private firms, each firm has far less buying power than the NHS and this a significant factor in why treatments are far more costly in the US than they are on the NHS.
This year, we have been saddened to report on a substantial number of deaths that have occurred in the US because some US citizens have not been able to afford insulin.
If prices are to go up for the NHS, it will mean the NHS will need to make cutbacks and either offer cheaper, less effective treatment or make certain treatments available to fewer people.
In business, companies are able to prosper and able to fail if they are not profitable. In most cases within healthcare, failure presents a real problem. If a privately-run hospital fails, what happens to patients and the NHS?
This situation has occurred with Hinchingbrooke Hospital, run by the company Circle Health. The hospital ran into financial difficulty and, after three years of a decade-long contract, control of the hospital was handed back to the NHS, and taxpayers bore the cost of the hospital’s failure.
If a privately-run healthcare service is profitable, shareholders reap rewards. If a privately-run service fails, it impacts the NHS and taxpayer. The other note to bear in mind that profitability is no guarantee of better-quality care.
Today, marks a chance for many in the UK to consider the future of the NHS in their voting decision for today’s election.