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NHS: Postcode “lottery” strikes again

By Julian Harris
December 1st, 2009 at 4:11 pm | 1 Comment | Posted in UK Politics

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.

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