Whilst reading yesterdays Times today (it was sitting around at lunch) I came across an article by Camilla Cavendish arguing that the NHS is "...swallowing more and more resources, at the expense of virtually everything else":
"The NHS is Britain’s last big state monopoly. It is the largest employer in the developed world. Its 1.4 million staff outnumber the private and public healthcare workforce of Germany, a country with 25 per cent more people and better health outcomes.[*]
In the 1990s it was possible to argue that the NHS was starved of cash. But not any more. Britain is now spending at about the European average, but lags behind too many other European countries in terms of results.
That is the real price of having built a bloated State. No one dares speak the truth, because there are so many vested interests to offend. But the writing is on the wall: a tax-funded free healthcare system is looking ever less sustainable. Politicians always fear the “popularity” of our health service. But that popularity will wane if the NHS comes to be seen as the enemy of every other public service."
Take a look at UK health spending compared to the rest of the OECD. Looks to me like we are getting the health outcomes we'd expect for the money we're putting in. Seems like rather than being a problem with tax-funded free healthcare, the problem is with people like Camilla Cavendish who pretend that we spend a disproportionate amount of money on the NHS when we clearly don't, and who pretend that privatising this system, or shifting to an insurance based system will magically decrease the health spend. It seems to me that it is people like her pretending that we are over taxed and downplaying the real costs of healthcare that cause other public services to lose out.
* I doubt this is true, it isn't clear where her figures are from, but given higher German healthcare expenditure, and e.g. figures like "In December 2003, 4.2 million people were employed in the health care sector, constituting 10.7% of the German workforce, according to data from the Federal Statistical Office (Federal Statistical Office 2003a).", I call bullshit.