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Debate: Privatisation of the NHS

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Should the NHS be privatized?

This article is based on a Debatabase entry written by Kirsteen Macleod. Because this document can be modified by any registered user of this site, its contents should be cited with care.

Background and context

With the current social climate boasting a distinct air of discontent with the National Health Service there is a certain justification in calling for the privatisation of health in the UK, in accordance with American policies. The reputation of the NHS has taken a severe battering over the past few decades, with critics citing it’s funding problems and bureaucratic mismanagement – the pride of the British nation is now crumbling and the case for complete overhaul of the present approach is indeed controversial.

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Argument #1

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Yes

In the politics of today there is a noticeable commitment to the virtues of private enterprise and competition in the free market. The example of the rail service presents a comparison for the virtues and indeed potential dangers of privatisation, but is more importantly evidence of a government who uphold the advantages of private ownership.

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No

In principle, there is no need for the government to relinquish control of the NHS. General health care for all is a widely acknowledged right in this country, and problems within the NHS due to overburdening of doctors, etc. will not be resolved through shifting the managerial responsibility. If the government wants to improve the NHS they should raise taxes in order for the public to raise the standard of a national health care service for all. People have always paid for public services through taxation – this is not a new radical solution.

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Argument #2

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Yes

The issue of funding is a crucial one in this debate. The nature of private businesses fosters an environment of competition, and with it the improvement of resources and facilities as companies compete for "business". The injection of much needed cash into the NHS system can only raise the standard of treatment patients will receive.

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No

Privatisation will always result in an emphasis on efficiency and profit. The vulnerable and the poorest in society will always suffer from such a scenario. The question of prioritising health care and rationing will always favour the rich, since targeting vulnerable groups will be an inefficient use of resources

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Argument #3

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Yes

The NHS is undoubtedly in crisis. It has been argued that the standard of treatment for patients is too poor to justify it’s continued existence. What’s more, the population of this country is ageing, and will pose an even bigger burden on state funds as time goes by. This requires immediate solution and immediate investment from the private sector. If this is not achieved, people will be obliged to take out private health insurance anyway, in order to ensure they receive adequate treatment.

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No

This also raises another issue: the nature of health as a basic human right – not one to be dependent on how much health care you can afford. . In addition, since health is predominantly determined arbitrarily why should one person pay more for more extensive treatment, just because they have the misfortune to contract a more serious illness? A National Health Care systems fosters more equality in society.

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Argument #4

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Yes

Privatisation gives ordinary people the chance to become share holders in the health service. Since businesses must be responsible to the shareholders, this will give the general public more of a direct interest in the running of the NHS.

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No

It is naive to assume that shareholders hold any power over privatised industries. The nationalisation of the NHS at present allows the people more influence over it’s services through democratic accountability of the government.

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Argument #5

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Yes

“Fund-holding” practices have already been introduced into the NHS by the Conservatives to give doctors and health boards purchasing power in order to increase competition and improve standards, and reduce the inefficiency of centrally administered funds.

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No

These practices have encountered several problems even on this small scale. Doctors and health staff have to spend much of their valuable time entrenched in administration work, expensive individual resources cannot be acquired from an annual local budget, and local needs and priorities take precedence and resources away from minor issues that could be better represented when tackled at a national level.

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Argument #6

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Yes

The health service at present effectively punishes those who work hard and are involved in individual enterprise. Hard work should not be punished by the redistribution wealth by a means of high taxes, taking money away from the rich to pay for the ideal utopian health care for all. Those who use private health care already continue to pay tax to finance the NHS and services which they may seldom use.

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No

Private healthcare already monopolises the best doctors, enticed into the private sector by better pay and better working conditions. Privatisation clearly widens the divide between rich and poor, between those who can afford health care and those who cannot. Society functions such that those who are more successful have an obligation to help those who are less fortunate. This is evident in all other public sectors – health is one of the most fundamental of these.


Motions

  • This house would privatise the NHS
  • This house would pay for its health care

See also

External links and resources:

Books

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