SHOULD THE NHS BE PRIVATISED?
By Rishi Shah
NHS- the world’s largest publicly funded health service, free at the point of use for more than 65 million citizens, dealing with more than 1 million citizens per 36 hours, employing 1.5 million people (one of the world’s largest workforces), funded at £115 billion a year. The plethora of facts is endless, however in light of all these benefits, the NHS is surprisingly inefficient, among many other disadvantages. Therefore, the argument of transferring NHS from being publicly funded to privatised, is brought about. Privatisation is generally where the transfer of a business, industry, or service from public to private ownership and control, and it goes beyond government control. (There can be regulation however that is a much less powerful mechanism).
The benefits of the privatisation of the NHS are mainly centred around improving the current drawbacks. This includes the fact that many believe the NHS is only a short term and patch-up solution, which may not be sustainable in the long term. The problem is seen in the fact that 9 out of 10 local trusts which run hospitals are spending beyond their budgets, furthermore the service faces a funding gap of £20 billion by the end of the decade. Additionally, doctors have gone on strike over a new, less generous contract that the government is imposing on them and this means that not even the workers of this service are happy which makes it more likely for there to be problems in the future. The reason for this is simply the rising demand for health care from an ageing population is outstripping supply. Private businesses are more efficient than the government at delivering public services and as the main purpose of any private firm is to make profit it means that waste is reduced. Additionally, like in all privatised industries, the increase in competition, will be beneficial to the British citizen. Although, after being privatised there will be cost to the healthcare, the competition will naturally ensure prices remain low and the quality of care is constantly increasing. The regulation of this industry can always ensure that care standards do not fall and overall, it benefits all. This is especially necessary due to the current fallings in the NHS, namely the longer waiting lists, poorer quality of service and the lack of hospital maintenance in areas. Privatisation, to many, seems like the perfect solution to this. Introducing competition will mean that there are low prices and better quality: benefitting the consumers. The profits the firms make would be imposed by 19% cooperation tax and this benefits the government. They can use this to reduce the budget deficit or improve other services. Overall, the view that a privatised NHS may answer many of the current problems is not unfounded, although there are many arguments against this…
On the other hand, the privatisation drawbacks to the detriment of society. For one the services that the NHS provides currently could get worse, as fundamentally public services, like healthcare, involve caring for people. Essentially, this requires a non-profit driven motive, but private companies will inadvertently make a profit from public services by cutting corners or underinvesting. There is a conflict between making a profit and taking the time to care. In the NHS, the doctors or service as a whole, isn’t driven by profit, instead to provide best health care to each patient. This means time is spent and there is no incentive to cut corners. When privatised there is very little chance of this continuing. The NHS is a natural monopoly (A natural monopoly is a type of monopoly that exists as a result of the high fixed costs or start-up costs of operating a business in a specific industry.) Many believe that private monopolies often are the most detrimental and damaging. Due to it being privatised there is no consumer power because the citizens can’t go elsewhere. Although this is also currently true with the NHS, it is annulled by the fact that there exists a democratic accountability to the government funded NHS, capable of enforcing change. However, one no longer has power as a citizen to make the service better through democratic accountability, as it is privatised.
Overall, I do not believe that privatisation is the way forward for the NHS as it is too large-scale currently and it will not be successful. However, there is a need for change. With increased funding and more attention to addressing inefficiency, the NHS has a better, brighter future, with a more plausible solution, than the radical privatisation notion.