The IEA today made public the results of a major new survey of 100 leading British health opinion formers on the future of the NHS. The research was conducted by Dr. Helen Evans*, RGN. Called Sixty Years On: Who Cares for the NHS?**, the study lays bare the private views of a large number of the countrys most senior health politicians, policy advisers, academics, journalists and professionals.
Containing a series of devastating blows to the NHS at 60, the research shows that when speaking off the record a substantial majority of Britains health elite no longer believes in nationalised healthcare. Instead, an overwhelming majority accepts a much greater role for private provision including private hospitals, clinics, GP services and dentists.
While the NHS is itself now charged with being inequitable, two tier, rationed and costly, a majority also believes it is too monopolistic and wants to see a much greater role for private insurers and even the introduction of personal health savings accounts.
Looking at private funding arrangements versus State funding arrangements, a majority of the respondents surveyed believes that because peoples healthcare is unpredictable, some of its costs will increasingly have to be covered by private sources: government arrangements such as taxation cannot do it all.
Commenting on the results, Dr. Evans said:
The results show that the world has moved on from the 1940s. Opinion formers are now much more aware of the in-built failures of the NHS. As peoples expectations increasingly outpace what the state can deliver, and as nationalised healthcare loses the battle for hearts and minds, behind the scenes our opinion formers are starting to seriously consider market alternatives.
With NHS dentistry collapsing before our eyes, ever more voters having private medical insurance, private health cash plans, or simply self funding for private surgery, the political class is starting to think anew. Already, in many of their minds, the NHS is dead. They wont go on the record and say as much, but that is privately what they think.
IEA Editorial and Programme Director, Professor Philip Booth commented:
One of the most telling responses to the survey was to the question about statutory restrictions on advertising. From the beginning, an important aspect of the NHS has been the use of restrictive practices to reduce information flows to consumers of healthcare ostensibly for their own protection. It is clear that opinion formers simply do not believe that justification. An overwhelming majority of the sample 81% - regarded Treasury Ministers as having the most to gain from the statutory restrictions on advertising medicines because they promoted consumer ignorance about the possible range of available treatments. In other words, the banning of advertising of pharmaceutical products is perceived as a measure designed to keep patients in the dark so that they do not demand expensive drugs. In the light of the current controversy about NHS patients not being allowed to purchase additional drugs, this finding is very significant indeed.