Britain has a population size of 57 million, nearly three times the number of people in Texas. The infant mortality rate in the United Kingdom is 5.7 per 1,000 live births, and life expectancy at birth is 74.6 years for men and 79.7 years for women. (Better than the U.S. infant mortality and life expectancy rates!) Britain has had a National Health Service (NHS) since 1948. 6.7% of GDP goes towards health expenditures, and the 1998 per capita expense was $1,461-US. This NHS system is different than the single payer system that is being proposed by organizations, such as Physicians for a National Health Program, here in the U.S.
The British government is a purchaser and provider of health care and retains responsibility for legislation and general policy matters. The government decides on an annual budget for the NHS, which is administered by the NHS executive, regional, and district health authorities. The NHS is funded by general taxation and national insurance contributions and accounts for 88% of health expenditures. Complementary private insurance, which involves both for-profit and not-for-profit insurers, covers 12% of the population and accounts for 4% of health expenditures.
Physicians are paid directly by the government via salary, capitation, and fee-for-service. GP's act as gatekeepers. Private providers set their own fee-for-service rates but are not generally reimbursed by the public system. Specialists may supplement their salary by treating private patients. Hospitals are mainly semi-autonomous, self-governing public trusts that contract with groups of purchasers on a long-term basis.
The British government this year has announced a huge funding increase for the NHS. Specifically, it will receive 6.2% more in funding every year until 2004. Current plans to improve the system over the next five years include hiring 7,500 more specialists, 2,000 GP's and 20,000 nurses; providing 7,000 more acute beds in existing hospitals and building 100 new hospitals by 2010; demanding that GPs see a patient within 48 hours of an appointment; and finally, guaranteeing that patients wait no more than three months for their first outpatient appointment with a specialist and no more than six months after that appointment for an operation.
As most of you already know, I am for a National Health Care Program in the U.S. I believe that health care is a basic human right, like food, shelter, and education. Society as a whole benefits from a healthy and educated population. RNed states that he/she does not want to pay for Universal Health Care, when in fact it would be a much cheaper and efficient system than what we have now. The more involved I get in the National Health Care movement and the more research I do on this topic, the more convinced I become that it would be in the best interests of our country.
"Health care is an essential safeguard of human life and dignity and there is an obligation for society to ensure that every person be able to realize this right,"(Cardinal Joseph Bernardin). "