Headlines: May 27th, 2009

New research says the National Health Service is no longer meeting its founding aims and compares poorly with other healthcare systems. The pamphlet suggests a scheme of payments to each patient would give better value for money in difficult economic times.

“A Premium on Patients? Funding the Future NHS” has been produced by Tony Hockley, a Research Associate at LSE Health, for Politeia. The paper says that on a number of measures, such as cancer survival, asthma treatment and levels of TB, the NHS is doing worse than other systems. Even the gap in health outcomes between rich and poor patients, it says, is wider than when the service was founded.

Mr. Hockley says these failures come in spite of changes on the ‘supply side’ backed up with huge increases in public funding between 2002 and last year. Total spending had reached an average of more than 1,900 pounds per person, though this varied around the country with Islington Primary Care Trust getting more than 2,000 a head while Barnet and South Gloucestershire received only 1,178 pounds.

The study says there has been little incentive for improvement and the centralised system is the victim of constant intervention from politicians. Targets, priorities and directives could all supersede the judgment of doctors and the needs of patients. Mr. Hockley is proposing that each person should receive a per capita sum of around 1,000 pounds as a health premium, which would be topped up on the basis of need using the remaining funding. Such a change, he says, would lead to a system that responded to patients’ needs rather than to the political calls of the day.