The NHS lies to us and we lie to ourselves about the NHS. That’s the deal. On Sunday – the NHS’s 72nd ‘birthday’ – Matt Hancock asserted that the NHS is ‘the best healthcare system in the world.’ Can he really believe this? Does anyone? It is debatable whether the NHS is the best healthcare system in Britain. Believing it to be the best in the world requires a uniquely insular form of blind patriotism.
It is a claim that can be tested with empirical evidence and there are plenty of health statistics to consult. The UK has 2.5 hospital beds for every thousand people. The OECD average is 4.7. We have 2.8 practising doctors for every thousand people, less than the OECD average of 3.5, and we have 7.8 nurses for every thousand people whereas the OCED average is 8.8.
It is outputs that matter, not inputs. Or even, the relationship between them. But it’s still not true that the size of the inputs is the defining measure of whether something is good or not.
I don;t believe the NHS is better either but the number of doctors, beds, nurses, isn’t the way to show this. It’s the outcomes of however many we do have.