Don’t tell anyone, but for some time I have been buying quiches from M&S. Like most commercial ones, there’s a lot of pastry and not a great deal of filling, which doesn’t much matter because the filling is not all that tasty, but these are better than most from the major food stores. However, recently, my daughter has been getting me some from The Deli in the High Street.
Have you read that the NHS has been judged the best, safest and most affordable healthcare system out of 11 countries analysed and ranked by experts from the influential Commonwealth Fund health thinktank? This survey is carried out every three years and ranks health services based on 11 criteria. The NHS came top also in 2014, the last time the survey was carried out. Predictably, the good old USA, which spends proportionately nearly twice as much as we do on health care, came last!
Predictably also, Mr Jeremy Hunt, the Secretary of State for Wealth – sorry, that should read “the SOS for Health” – and NHS England have been quick to jump on this report and claim it justifies the changes he has been making. However, look behind the headline figures.
In 2014, the NHS came top in eight of the eleven criteria. This year, it came top in just four, and second in one, a significant decline. What is more, the NHS came tenth on healthcare outcomes, which measures how successful treatment has been. Now surely, this is the most important of the criteria by which any health care service can be judged. What is the use of being the cleanest, most cost effective, most efficient and most caring if your patients die? This is significant. The report concludes that the NHS does very poorly, for example, in its five-year survival rates for breast and bowel cancer, and deaths among people admitted to hospital after a stroke.
People who, like me, have criticised the direction the NHS is taking have been categorised as criticising the NHS. This is not so. I think we have some of the world’s best health care professionals and still an excellent health service. My criticism is that governments over the last couple of decades have moved from the basis on which the NHS was founded more towards a system akin to that in the USA. What is more, they have been taking advice from the very organisations that have led the USA to have the most expensive health care in the world and the worst in the developed world. Where is the sense in that?
Last week, for the first time in a considerable period, I had dinner at Relish. The place was packed, as always. They must be doing something right – perhaps it is the excellent food and wine.