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NHS: Postcode “lottery” strikes again

December 1st, 2009 Posted in UK Politics by

nhsBritain’s state-run National Health Service (NHS) doesn’t fare too well in comparisons of cancer survival rates.  Every year studies show far more deaths under the NHS’s watch than in countries of comparable wealth.  “20% higher than Europe” reported a recent headline, while new cancer drugs continue to be rationed, often considered “not cost effective“.

Now it’s the turn of survival rates within the UK to throw up some shocking results, and destroy a few fallacies in the process.  The Guardian reports that your likelihood of beating cancer differs hugely depending on where in Britain you live.  People in plush Kensington & Chelsea, lo and behold, are three times more likely to survive a year than folk out in Herefordshire.

So back to those fallacies – firstly, there is no such thing as “healthcare” as a set, unvariable service. Just like food, cars, shoes et cetera, healthcare standards are completely variable – and new innovations constantly provide standards that people could not have dreamed of in the past. Like the aforementioned products, higher standards will come with higher costs, and therefore higher prices.

Secondly, these variations are not ironed out by government-provided services. We simply end up with varying services and less choice between them. Typically it’s the poor who lose out, just as children in deprived inner-city areas are obliged to attend worse state schools than children in leafy home counties with a comfortable local comp in the village. The “postcode lottery”, often not a lottery at all, continues to affect both these state monoliths.

One Response to “NHS: Postcode “lottery” strikes again”

  1. David Heigham Says:

    Something the highly educated people at the Grauniad don’t like thinking about is that how much education you have had is an even stronger predictor of health and motality inequalities than how much dosh you have.

    That apart, the NHS we cherish delivers, on average, results for treatment which are ‘not bad but not good’ by international standards. That average continues,as it has done since before we had post codes, to be made up of localities where treatment results seem very good and others where they seem pretty awful. It is not that the NHS has not leveled out the inequalities, it is that it seems to have frozen them in place. In fairness, local inequalities in results seem even more pronounced in the USA; which cannot blame them on an NHS.