Britain’s National Health Service: Simple, Sensible and Civilized

Recently, the American Medical Assn. responded with skepticism to President Obama’s plea for healthcare reform. In Britain, too, the massed ranks of the medical profession at first fought bitterly against a “socialized” service covering all from cradle to the grave. But Labor’s health minister, a firebrand from the mining valleys, Aneurin Bevan, brought them into line with a mixture of enticements and threats.

The NHS was, and is, a classically English compromise, in which individual doctors are independent contractors paid by the government according to the number of their patients. Doctors are free to remove patients from their list, and patients are free to go elsewhere. Once ideology was laid aside and the system got working, it was actually quite simple.

Once launched, in an astonishingly short time, a matter of a year or so, the NHS was accepted by even its worst enemies — the doctors and the Conservative Party — as indispensable and a civilized way of dealing with life, illness and death.

Does that sound so awful?

Clancy Sigal | CommonDreams.org