The successor to our National Health Service

Adequate week-end provision of accident and emergency care all over the country is “impossible” to achieve — never mind acute procedures during the week — according to the chief executive of National Health Service (NHS) Providers. Current funding levels are inadequate.

As the NHS continues to crumble under the weight of growing popular demand, some sort of personal insurance-based system will have to replace it sooner or later. This is just as it was in my (working class) boyhood when I was diagnosed at home with advanced appendicitis by the local GP and was operated on within three hours in one of the two partially charity hospitals in my home town — years before the NHS came into existence.

The big difference between now and then, however, is that medical science has developed apace. Medics are now able to treat 20 or 30 times the numbers and types of diseases. We also depend on at least a dozen new medical specialisations working between and beyond the physicians and surgeons of the 1950s. This time, when we evolve to NHS’s replacement, there will need to be many more numbers of specialists than now.

The numbers of students wanting to enter these new medical professions is patent. What therefore will also have to be done is for the government to withdraw the closed-shop (trade union) privileges of the Royal Colleges of Medicine and allow an open market of training to develop. How long this will take is anybody’s guess. Perhaps it will only some about as a result of a greater catastrophe — a monetary one more than likely.

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