The quality and access to healthcare services for citizens of a country are primary indicators of the entire health system. Some countries have universal healthcare, while others prefer insurance-based programs. For example, the United Kingdom’s National Health Service (NHS) is a universal centralized system adopted in 1948 (Dayan et al., 2018). This system is funded by taxation in the U.K.’s four countries, England, Scotland, Wales, and Northern Ireland (Charlesworth, 2019). The government determines the allocation of resources in England, while the rest three states receive funding by the Barnett formula (Charlesworth, 2019). The U.K. spends only 9.7% of GDP on the nation’s health and medical research (Dayan et al., 2018). Still, the system’s efficiency is generally higher than in the U.S. which spends 17% of GDP on healthcare (Barer & Bryan, 2018; Dayan et al., 2018). It appears that the British NHS offers tremendous benefits to the citizens, providing regulated universal health coverage.
NHS is a free universal healthcare system that involves referral from general practitioners to more specialized care. Although the waiting time for non-urgent cases is as long as in the United States, U.K. citizens have equal access to care (Dayan et al., 2018). The longer time to wait might be explained by the lower proportion of clinicians to clients, one physician to 356 patients (Dayan et al., 2018). However, despite the amount of work medical workers perform here, they are paid less than American doctors and nurses. For instance, the average pay for British nurses is $50,000 per year, compared to the U.S.’s $53,000 (Dayan et al., 2018). The average annual income of the U.K.’s physicians is about $165,000, but it includes overtime and other bonuses, which are not counted in other countries when reporting salaries (Dayan et al., 2018). Still, the NHS seems to be more focused on providing access to high-quality care to all people than the insurance-based system in the U.S.
The country’s legislation supports the professionals’ obligations to improve people’s health by emphasizing the importance of preventive care. The U.K. has only 2.6 and 46.5 beds per 1000 people in hospitals and long-term care facilities, respectively (Dayan et al., 2018). It shows that the government attempts to make healthcare more efficient by shortening the length of stay and improving prevention and rehabilitation. Indeed, the U.K. has a relatively high life expectancy and a long healthy life expectancy. (Dayan et al., 2018). The number of patients who skip consultation or prescription medication in this country is much lower than in the United States (Dayan et al., 2018). Moreover, the British government clearly stated that everyone has the right to end-of-life care and palliation, while euthanasia is illegal in this country (NHS, 2020). Overall, the legislation and NHS allowed for creating an environment of negligible difference between poor and affluent classes in terms of access to medical care.
In conclusion, the U.K.’s NHS system provides access to free healthcare to the country’s entire population, regardless of income. Although doctors need to work more due to fewer physicians, I think that the British government supports their professional obligations. Clinicians receive relatively fair pay and are encouraged to shift their perspective to preventive care and rehabilitation. Moreover, medical services should be accessible to everyone, and the funding for such a system can be received from taxation, like in the U.K. Indeed, the four principles of biomedical ethics, justice, non-maleficence, autonomy, and beneficence, suggest that all people have equal right to receive medical care. Therefore, I argue that healthcare should be free for everyone because health is a fundamental human right.
Barer, M. L., & Bryan, S. (2018). Health services research spending and healthcare system impact: Comment on “public spending on health service and policy research in Canada, the United Kingdom, and the United States: A modest proposal.” International Journal of Health Policy and Management, 7(3), 278–281.
Charlesworth, A. (2019). Measuring the productivity of the health care system. OECD Journal on Budgeting, 19(3), 131–151.
Dayan, M., Ward, D., Gardner, T., & Kelly, E. (2018). How good is the NHS? King’s Fund.
NHS. (2020). Euthanasia and assisted suicide.