Implications Of The British Health Care Scandal

The initial reports of patient abuse (that’s a mild description of what transpired) in the British health system were horrific. The revelation that the government of the UK was warned of serious problems in 2008 borders on the criminal. The bureaucracy is responding as one would expect.

The existence of the study is likely to increase pressure on Sir David Nicholson, who has been chief executive of the NHS since 2006. He faces calls to resign.

David Cameron has now has appointed Dr Berwick to bring in a “zero-harm” agenda that would make sure patients are put first.

A Labour spokesman said that Dr Berwick’s report was commissioned as part of Lord Darzi’s review into improving NHS care and that its findings had been fed into that. “That same Darzi report was praised yesterday by the Prime Minister for kick-starting a lot of work on quality of care,” he said.

A Department of Health spokesman said that the NHS had “changed significantly” since the IHI report and had already taken steps to improve quality.

Dr. Berwick is the individual who first warned of deficiencies in the system. I’m sure it is of great comfort to the families of the abused patients, the patients themselves and future patients to know that the bureaucracy is ginning up a “zero-harm” agenda. Future consumers of the health care in Britain might, however, take pause and note that individuals implicated in the abuse are still there in the hospital tending to their patients.

Walter Russell Mead has a take well worth noting.

Abuses occur in all systems and the best of Britain’s NHS doesn’t look anything like Stafford. But in a system where it’s difficult to fire employees for misconduct and where patients are seen as annoyances rather than customers, things like this can happen more often. A consumer-based health care system is important for many reasons, not the least of which is its ability to empower dissatisfied patients and their families to take their business elsewhere. We also worry about the inevitable push that a government-run health care system would experience to recognize unions and grant civil service style job protection. The thought of Nurse Ratchet with civil service protection gives us, we confess, a few qualms.

While Obamacare is not a cookie-cutter imitation of the NHS or anything like it, it does move us away from a consumer-centered system and closer to a UK-style system where patients are forced to take what the bureaucrats and the life-tenured employees choose to give.

No doubt the Obama administration hopes that nudging the American system in a more statist direction won’t lead to all these bad results. We shall see.

Indeed we shall see but optimism is hard to muster.

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