One of the best healthcare system in the world has been working seamlessly for the past 70 years and has become the role model for several countries. I’m talking about the National Health Service of UK and in this article we will be finding out how the NHS became one of the best healthcare system in the world by comparing it with the Indian healthcare system.
Differences in the Setup
NHS is a single powerful, organised system owned and driven smoothly by the government and works as the heart and brain of healthcare sector in the UK. All the medical facilities are owned by the government and the people working in the NHS are employed directly by the government. One of the best part of NHS is that it is totally financed out of taxation! Every health service is provided free of cost to all the permanent UK residents. The major player in healthcare sector of UK is the NHS, even though the private agencies exists. The cost of healthcare services provided by the private agencies is met by the private health insurance schemes.
In addition to providing high quality healthcare services, the UK government is responsible for giving shelter, safe drinking water, education and nutrition to all it’s citizens. The government also looks after the cleanliness of the environment and makes sure that it is not becoming a cause for any disease.
In India, the story is completely different. The complex and multiple levels of healthcare authorities each with different set of goal and programmes makes the Indian healthcare system a complete mess. Lack of proper regulation and name-sake public hospitals are indirectly helping the private corporate hospitals. The common man has to either be satisfied with the poor quality health service that is available at the public hospitals or else he has to spend money from his own pocket to get good quality services from the private hospitals.
Without providing good facilities like safe drinking water, proper waste disposal system, ensuring quality nutrition, healthy environment etc, India is looking at development wearing a straightjacket.
General Practitioner vs Specialist doctors
In UK, every person has to consult the General Practitioner (GP) doctor with whom he/she has registered. No patient can go directly to a specialist doctor. This is unlike the case in India where the patient decides which specialist he wants for specific diseases. The GP doctors in UK act as both a guide and a filter to the appropriate specialist.. In this way, no patient consults a Medicine specialist doctor for a common cold or vista a neurologist doctor for kidney stones!
How can one assume that the patient knows best, which specialist to consult for specific diseases? In India, the “doctor-shopping” is based on the consumer demands. Specialist doctors and super speciality hospitals are readily available for the ignorant and confused patient. They prefer themselves examined by an organ specific specialist doctor rather than a family doctor.
By giving more importance to the concept of family doctors and GPs, NHS has moved far away from the consumer driven healthcare market. The GP doctor in UK gets better salary and social respect than the specialist doctor these days.
Investigations and Pharmacies
A patient, (in a non emergency situation) might need to wait for weeks or even months to get a basic investigation done in UK. But here in India, investigations ranging from routine blood tests to MRI scans can be done at patient’s will anytime he wants. This is a paradox and not a dip in UK’s healthcare policy. Most of such investigations done by the patients in India are in fact a waste of time and money.
Pharmacies in UK do not sell medications unless there is registered doctor’s prescription. The number of private pharmacies working outside the NHS hospitals have a contract with the NHS to issue drugs only in a systematic and well organised manner.
On the other hand, the vast majority of pharmacies in India are owned privately. Any person can get any sort of medicine for “over the counter” purchase and the worst part is that prescriptions are not even required! Painkillers, steroids, antibiotics and even anti cancer drugs are available at the “medical shops” for rates which are fixed by the pharmaceutical companies. There is no kind of affiliation between these privately owned pharmacies and the government.
“No society can call itself civilised, if a sick person is denied medical aid because of lack of means” – Aneurin Bevan
In a few years time, health services in India will be accessible only to the rich people. The corporate private hospitals are getting huge help from the government by driving the patient load fem public hospitals to their side. Lack of basic health infrastructure and a properly regulated healthcare system is making the whole setup unstable. The concerned authorities are conveniently keeping their eyes closed and refuse to make changes in the current system. There are many visionaries like Aneurin Bevan who perfected the NHS in UK, but what is lacking is the support of the government. The hunger to make money in any means possible is here to stay in India and that is why we can only dream about a system like NHS in India. What do you think about this article?
Image Credit – Elliott Brown