NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis

Britain's Sorry Record Under Socialized Medicine

February 10, 2000

The state of health care in Britain is the subject of unending horror stories. Doctors, health-care advocates and even the government say that Britain's record is disgraceful. Take cancer -- the country's second biggest killer, after cardiovascular disease.

  • In cancer, the problems include a chronic lack of funds, specialists and treatment centers; a lack of national standards that means treatment is available in some parts of the country, but not in others; and a tendency in some cases to postpone aggressive treatment until it is too late.
  • Due to the chaos, 25,000 Britons die of cancer unnecessarily each year, according to the World Health Organization.
  • Because Britons go without drugs that are routinely administered in the U.S., the five-year survival rate for men with colon cancer is 41 percent in Britain versus 64 percent in the U.S.
  • For women with breast cancer, the five-year survival rate is 67 percent in Britain compared to 84 percent in the U.S.

Experts say the National Health Service has for years been administering "Third World cancer care" in Britain.

Spending figures alone show medicine and politics don't mix. Britain spends about 6.8 percent of its gross domestic product on health care -- nearly all of it public money. The U.S. devotes about 14 percent of GDP to health care.

The problems aren't confined to cancer. Some 500 people a year die while on the national waiting list for heart operations.

Source: Sarah Lyall, "In Britain's Health Service, Sick Itself, Cancer Care is Dismal," New York Times, February 10, 2000.


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