NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis


October 12, 2007

The hungry maw of the National Health Service (NHS) is swallowing more and more resources, at the expense of virtually everything else, says Camilla Cavendish in the London Times.


  • New taxes passed on small business seemed unwise but also wholly avoidable, had the NHS been awarded the 3 to 3.5 per cent spending settlement that was expected.
  • But a 4 percent annual rise for the NHS, raising its budget from £90 billion (about U.S. $183 billion) to almost £110 billion (about U.S. $224 billion) by 2010, seemed to have become a political imperative.

And despite the increases, little has changed, says Cavendish:

  • Britain is now spending at about the European average, but lags behind too many other European countries in terms of results.
  • Far too many cancer patients, babies and stroke victims are still dying needlessly.
  • Far too many patients, particularly the elderly, are treated with a callousness bordering on brutality.

Further, if this simple fact is not obvious to ministers by now, all is lost, says Cavendish.  The limited moves that the last Blair administration made to introduce competition have paid off handsomely:

  • Letting independent providers carry out some procedures has slashed waiting lists for hip replacements, cataracts and heart operations, and has raised the standard for what can be achieved.
  • Payment by results and the NHS tariff have helped to make costs more transparent and to give a wake-up call to poor performers.
  • Giving the best hospitals more freedom as foundation trusts, under a savvy regulator, has injected a new sense of financial rigor.

Ministers are too easily persuaded that the battle is between public and private provision, says Cavendish.  But the real battle is between those who want to protect their monopolies and those who want competition.  Many NHS insiders who believe most fervently in the service are those who are fighting for competition. But they are still an endangered species.

Source: Camilla Cavendish, "The madness of feeding this ravenous NHS," London Times, October 11, 2007.

For text:


Browse more articles on Health Issues