Saturday, June 29, 2013

The Shame of the British National Health Service

You probably don’t want to, but you might remember the dancing hospital beds that filled your television screen during the opening ceremony of the 2012 London Olympics.

I am hardly an aficionado of dance, but it struck me as a major embarrassment. In 2008 the Chinese government put on a show to announce its arrival on the world stage. In 2012 the British government was telling the world that the sun was setting on its famed Empire.

If you count socialized medicine among your greatest modern accomplishments and trumpet your pride by putting on an aesthetically pathetic show of dancing beds… you days are numbered.

It’s a long way from the Industrial Revolution and liberal democracy.

While we are here, allow me to recall, yet again, the immortal words of a man who, by his own account, has never been wrong. I am speaking of Paul Krugman.

At a time when America was feverishly debating Obamacare, Krugman stepped forth to announce that he had done all the relevant research, consulted all of the studies and concluded that  stories about the deficiencies of the British health care system were lies.

In his immortal words:

In Britain, the government itself runs the hospitals and employs the doctors. We’ve all heard scare stories about how that works in practice; these stories are false.

Don’t ask how he knew. He’s Paul Krugman, so you must take him at his word. Isn’t he an expert in the functioning of the British National Health Service?

One doubts that Krugman really cares about how anything works in practice. Do you recall an instance where he was willing to admit that he was wrong about anything? If his plans do not work, he blames Republicans.

Meantime, the Daily Mail recently reported that, at hospitals run by the National Health Service, patients are starving to death or suffering dehydration because the nurses have neither the time or the inclination to feed them.

How many people are starving in the NHS? Around one a day over the past four years. Many are severely dehydrated, because providing good medical care does not seem to involve providing patients with food and water.

Whatever happened to: First, do no harm!

The Daily Mail reports (via Instapundit):

As many as 1,165 people starved to death in NHS hospitals over the past four years fuelling claims nurses are too busy to feed their patients. 

The Department of Health branded the figures 'unacceptable' and said the number of unannounced inspections by the care watchdog will increase. 

According to figures released by the Office for National Statistics following a Freedom of Information request, for every patient who dies from malnutrition, four more have dehydration mentioned on their death certificate. 

Critics say nurses are too busy to feed patients and often food and drink are placed out of reach of vulnerable people.

In 2011, 43 patients starved to death and 291 died in a state of severe malnutrition, while the number of patients discharged from hospital suffering from malnutrition doubled to 5,558.

Dianne Jeffrey, chairwoman of Malnutrition Task Force, condemned the statistics. 

She told The Sunday Express: 'Too many are paying the price with their lives while being deprived of the basic right to good nutrition, hydration and support.'

As the old saying goes, who’s lying now?


Bobbye said...

As horrible as this data is, what is more horrific is that there were apparently no family members or loved ones concerned enough to be aware of what was going on. A person does not starve to death quickly. The larger problem is that families think it is alright to abandon their old and sick to the care of " hired hands".

Stuart Schneiderman said...

Good point... you do have to wonder where the families were???

Anonymous said...

In the immortal wisdom of Obi-Wan Kenobi: "Destroyed, by the Empire."

Seems fitting.


Sam L. said...

Ah, Paullie "The Beard" Krugman. As you say, never wrong, but often contradicting what he wrote a few years back.

Bobbye, I've read stories where relatives tried to get the NHS to do what it claimed it should do, without success.

Dennis said...

If the ACA actually makes it into use we are going to experience the same things here. I would posit that we are right now with MEDICARE, TRICARE, et al. In many cases one has people making decisions about the healthcare of others who have little knowledge about these cases. When one cannot put a face to a patient then one is less involved with the health, et al, of that individual.
Understand that many of these programs were meant to provide care to others, but get their impetus from cutting costs. All we hear about the ACA is how it is going to cut costs. The "poor" were used to sell the government's involvement even though the "poor" will suffer the most under these programs.
Personal experience: One of the reasons I did twenty years in the military was for access to medical care in the future. My oldest daughter married a person who was in the ARMY who did twenty years also. My daughter started having trouble with her back and had a number of doctors, as I understand it, state that she needed an operation to fix the problem.
It seems that that operation is only done on active duty or the sponsor, husband. TRICARE refused her treatment. In order to ameliorate the pain these doctors started given her pain medication. I don't think I have to relate what that means. NO, she did not abuse the medications.
It seems that my daughter who is one in a million to have an adverse reaction to the combination of medications. Needless to say the found her in the shower too afraid and ridden with anxiety to move. TRICARE in its infinite wisdom almost killed my daughter even though as a wife of a soldier she did much to make his career possible for a variety of reasons. TRICARE is going to have to spend far more money that they would have, but need to cut costs on my daughter's healthcare. My wife spends a hour or two on the telephone talking to her and building her back up.
Needless to say I am NOT an advocate of government run healthcare because I have seen and experienced it in action. By the way, I won't go near a VA Center because I have seen how they treat veterans. If a country treats its veterans like this then does one think they are going to do a better job treating others? One only has to look at the number of veterans dealing with the VA and the wait times for action.
People really need to think about the ACA, which has more pages of do's and don'ts than the tax system of this country. Now if the IRS is any example, this does not bode well for one's health. Worse yet the IRS is going to be a prime organization in making it work.

Stuart Schneiderman said...

I'm sorry to hear about your daughter, Dennis. I hope she is getting better.

I think it's important to underscore the point you make-- that government controlled health care systems are not really in the business of providing health care. They are about cutting costs, but they are also about maintaining the jobs of the bureaucrats who run them. In the private sector your job is judged in the marketplace. If your work can generate a reasonable profit, you will keep it. In the government sector you need but elect politicians who will keep you on the job. And then you need to burden the system with reams of regulations that you and only you can enforce.

Anonymous said...

Health "care" through accounting. And rules. And forms. And mandates. And processes. One can't do this with the human dimension, so it will lose all relevance and importance... after all, it's difficult to quantify.

We will have a healthcare system featuring the efficiency of the post office, and the compassion of the IRS.

We must keep in mind that this has nothing whatsoever to do with health, nor care.

Remember how viciously Sarah Palin was attacked for saying there would be "death panels?" We'll, there are.

When will our knightly journalists begin exposing the pay, benefits and job security of federal employees?


Dennis said...


My daughter does seem to be improving. A far cry from calling herself a crazy mother, which really set off her daughters.
Thanks for the kind consideration. It is greatly appreciated.

Dennis said...


Let me invite you to go spend a day at the local Social Security office. Note the people who come in and how they dress, their demeanor, et al and the demeanor of the people who work there. Ask yourself did the people who work there make the rules they have to live by? Social Security was never meant to be what it has become. This even though I think it is a "Ponzie" scheme. One has to always look to where the real problems lies.
Most federal employees are on FERS which basically is Social Security with a matched investment plan. Before FERS it was CSRS which required 7.5 % of ones pay invested in the retirement system. One could also invest in the same system without the match.
On the whole most federal employees do the job they were hired to accomplish, especially in DoD and outside of Washington DC. Now one might have a very good case as to whether they should be doing those jobs at all. Many of those functions would be better served at the State level or is not the business of governments at all, such as marriage, social and cultural issues, et al..
If one really wants to address the growth in government it needs to start there. One needs to look at political appointees, the growing lobbying affect and the growth in contractors as well as interest groups. They all have a function, but not to the degree it has become.
The reason I mentioned DC was that too many federal employees can move from agency to agency far exceeding their capabilities. It is very difficult to get anyone to make a decision because DC is so political. Though even DC has some very capable individuals who almost never make it into the upper levels of management. They are doers instead of politicians and equivocators.
Federal employees better understand that once they start making more money than their civilian counterparts, getting benefits that exceed those in the private sector, et al they are looking to be the bearers of the anger that the populous will eventually lay it at their feet. People almost always blame those who do the job instead of those who made the job possible and what it is to its citizens. Their job is to serve the American public. That is why it is called Civil Service.
While they are acting as shields for politicians, who will "throw them under the bus" at the first sign of general discontent they need to really consider CYA and what and where their best interests lie.
One needs to start laying the blame where it belongs.

Anonymous said...


Your daughter is in my thoughts and prayers.

Regarding your comment, I'm not sure I fully understand what you're saying. Here are my assertions or facts, as they pertain to government workers:

First, people make a choice to work where they work, and continue to work there, by choice. That includes the rules they work under. No one is putting a gun to their head. They choose their employment, which means they are responsible for their lives.

Second, the vast majority of government employees are involved in repetitive processing, tasks and transactions. It is, largely speaking, not creative work. Because creative work is in greatest demand in the modern economy, and thus earning the highest wages, it makes little sense that federal workers earn so much direct and indirect compensation. Furthermore, the point is even more mportant if government workers shy away from decisions because there is too much risk. People who take risks deserve rewards. It doesn't matter how "political" things are. Washington, D.C. is a one-industry town... it's all politics.

Third, federal jobs (excepting those in the military) already have average pay, benefits and job security that is nearly twice the national private sector average. That's outrageous. I love it when they say their compensation is justified by comparison, as they could earn much more in the private sector. Well, then go get a job in the private sector! Response? Crickets.

Fourth, most federal employees are unionized, representing a large, attractive voting block that goes for Democrats in significant numbers. Federal employees can't collectively bargain for wages and benefits, but they can bargain for comfy, mind-numbing work rules. That said, the benefit of their existence as a voting bloc means Democratic politicians will find said unions serve their purposes. That makes the federal workers political actors desiring political favors funded by other people's money. It's spitting in the eye of the taxpayers -- voting for and funding campaigns that expand the federal political-economic complex without end. More, more, more! They know what they're doing.

Fifth, civil service and public service are monikers for a different time (before the New Deal) when government was not competing as a full economic participant with the private sector for services and control. Today's civil and public servants are drawn by compensation and power that is disproportionate to their contribution to society. When their cushy life gets threatened, we see/hear CYA... no surprise there. The fact that "very capable people never make it to the upper levels of management" makes the point exactly. Government is not about performance. The system is designed from the ground up to ensure mediocrity and minimalism. Which is why entrusting the government with more responsibility ensures inefficient outcomes in service delivery when compared to the private sector.

(Cont'd below...)

Anonymous said...

(Cont'd from above)

Sixth, Washington, D.C. Recently became the most wealthy metropolitan area in the United States, supplanting New York City. This is ridiculous, as Washington produces nothing. The money circulating there is all to purchase and utilize power. The only reason for this is that government has too much power and control over our lives, and it's getting bigger and bigger and bigger. This is not what the Framers intended. Washington is the seat of a constitutionally-limited federal republic. Power in this framework is to be decentralized. In the past 80+ years, this has not been the case. Washington is out of control, as are its politicians, political employees, bureaucrats, lawyers, regulators, media/journalists, et al. They have lost respect for the citizenry that employs them (and they've forgotten that last piece, too). Politicians will always "throw them under the bus," which is reason# 2,368 for why they deserve and should have as few powers as possible (as enumerated in the Constitution).

Seventh, as for Social Security, it IS a Ponzi scheme. And ObamaCare has everything to do with Obama's philosophy (Leftism) and egotistical desire for a grand legacy. It has nothing whatsoever to do with "care."

Eighth, government is dehumanizing. Government dependence erodes human dignity. It makes people into "its," statistics, metadata. Government expansion brings the bureaucratic culture to everything it comes into contact with. It consumes the human spirit. It is this dark force that creates the Social Security office scene you describe. I have no interest in visiting, as it assaults my desire to live free as long as I can. After all, that's what the doctor's office is going be like in a few years... just like the British NHS.

So, with that, where does the blame belong? With the people? Government today has become too much of a Leviathan. It's beyond the point of no return unless drastic action is taken, and modern democracies do not have the stomach for drastic action. Washington, D.C. is for sale. Look what Silicon Valley's been doing the last 5 years. Where do we think the NSA's servers and database software came from? Everyone is at the trough gobbling-up goodies... "free" stuff. The only check on government power appears to be economic implosion, and the devolution of power it will necessitate. The truth will set us free!


Dennis said...


A lot of government work is not repetitive and requires a great deal of education to accomplish the tasks that one accomplishes. I worked R&D for years, and along with a large number of people helped to develop a lot of the technology that the military utilizes today. Very educated and intelligent people who felt the defense of this country was and is important. When we sent our men and women to fight they need to have the best equipment, et al, that can be provided.
Suffice it to say you know very little about why and how many federal workers do their jobs, Having audited both civilian and government entities I found the same amount of problems in both areas. Usually the people at the organizational level were intent on providing the services required and some at the upper level were money oriented.
Again, if you read what I stated, the blame belongs to those who create the jobs, not in the people who work them. You can rail at them and will never accomplish a thing except making yourself feel good.
The problem is a government that insinuates itself into every aspect of people's lives. Limit the government's power and you eliminate the need for many government workers jobs. If one works in the energy field does one quit their job because the EPA says that a lot of this energy is bad hurting the planet? Name the field of endeavor and there is someone who thinks you should not work for the entities that ply that endeavor.
Government unions, especially at the federal level, have always been a paper tiger with little actual power. NOTE: That is why one does not see them striking. Without the ability to strike there is no real power. If one looks at Virginia where a lot of federal government workers reside one finds a lot of Republicans. Federal workers are no more monolithic than any other group.
All the bitching and moaning accomplishes little until one is ready to address the real problem which is the size of government and the politicians in the legislative, judicial and executive branches. Control them and you control and solve the problem.
By the way most people do NOT pick their jobs. They take them and do whatever is necessary to support their families and those who depend upon them. Why else do you think we have so many unhappy people in their respective jobs? I did not bartend at an Officer's Club and a young enlisted person because I loved to bartend. I did it to support my wife and three children. Reality is sobering experience.
You and I have many ideas and concepts about various issues, but sometimes we differ on how to approach problem solution.