By Julia Glavas
The global pandemic of COVID-19 has overburdened many countries' healthcare systems in recent months; however, one system, in particular, had been in crisis long before the pandemic: the United Kingdom's National Health Service which celebrated its 72nd-anniversary this July. A new analysis by Edge Health, a leading provider of data to NHS trusts, warns that a second and then the third wave of "non-Coronavirus" deaths are about to hit Britain. Unless radical solutions can be found to resume normal service and slash waiting lists, the NHS may be forced to institute a formal regime of rationing.
Despite this, enthusiasm for a single-payer health system continues to build in America as the latest Hill-HarrisX poll shows 69% of registered voters support "Medicare for All." 1 Unfortunately, the current coronavirus pandemic is making government-funded healthcare even more appealing to the general population. This is much to do with the fact that nearly half of Americans receive health coverage through their employer and more than 35 million people could be unemployed by July. 2
NHS spending is currently at 140.4 billion and will see a 33.9 billion increase by 2023-24 according to a new five-year funding deal, yet it has struggled to fully staff its hospitals and clinics since its birth in 1948. 3 Figures show that there are over 115,000 full-time equivalent staff vacancies, including 40,000 nurse vacancies in England, which are set to double in only five years. 4 Working conditions for medical professionals in the UK are substandard as a result of overcrowded hospitals and long hours. This, combined with stagnant pay, accelerates the declining morale among the workforce. In fact, NHS staff have been quitting their medical positions to work outside the health services like in supermarkets where they say the pay and benefits are better and the stress is less. NHS Provider, Chris Hopkins confirms this.
"Years of pay restraint and stressful working conditions are taking their toll. Pay is becoming uncompetitive. Significant numbers of trusts say lower paid staff are leaving to stack shelves in supermarkets rather than carry on working in the NHS," he said in 2018.
This shortage forces the NHS to rely on less qualified staff, and 90% of health leaders say that understaffing is putting patient safety and care at risk. Meanwhile, almost every state in the United States will have a projected surplus growth rate faster than demand by 2030 with quality care that fosters innovation and technological developments in medicine. 5 Such a shortage has resulted in longer wait times for patients. Before the crisis, 2.1 million scheduled operations are thought to have been canceled on top of the 4.5 million people who were already on hospital waitlists. 6 That's almost the entire population of Kentucky on a waiting list for medical care.
Unfortunately, time-sensitive diseases such as cancer can't afford to wait up to 18 weeks for medical care. 1 in 5 British patients did not receive cancer treatment on time in the year of 2018-2019. 7 Keep in mind "on time" is considered to be 62 days after an urgent referral by a physician. This is why the UK sits at the bottom of the global league for cancer survival rates for five out of seven common cancers. The United States (97%) saw a higher prostate cancer survival rate than the UK (78%) by nearly 20%. In addition, one of the most common cancers, breast cancer, has a survival rate of only 76% in the UK compared to 90% in the US. Wait times, combined with a lack of experimental procedures, make cancer a more likely death sentence in the UK.
These inherent flaws are often overlooked by the captivating idea of "free healthcare", perpetuated by Bernie Sanders and his pals. So next time you consider universal healthcare as the next "progressive" move for healthcare in the United States, take a look across the Atlantic and consider the facts first.
Julia Glavas was born and raised on Long Island, New York. She is currently a sixteen-year-old student at Smithtown High School West. Striving for a degree in political science, she frequently writes political editorials for her school's newspaper and website.