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Letters: Britain's NHS isn't a sick system

August 11, 2012
  • The opening ceremony of the Olympics Games in London spotlighted Britain's National Health Service.
The opening ceremony of the Olympics Games in London spotlighted Britain's… (Roger Sendres / Gallo Images…)

Re "Britain's cherished, lousy NHS," Opinion, Aug. 8

I was dismayed to see that The Times ran an Op-Ed article criticizing Britain's National Health Service, the country's universal healthcare system, without a more detailed explainer of the writer's affiliation: the Manhattan Institute, a think tank that promotes a free-market ideology.

As an expat Brit, I never felt prouder of my heritage than when I witnessed director Danny Boyle's celebration of the NHS in his Olympic opening ceremonies in London. Of all the institutions in that nation, it is the one I miss most.

Dr. Theodore Dalrymple, who fails to mention that Britain does have a private system for

those who can pay extra for care, trots out the usual charges — long waiting times for elective operations, for example —and cites cancer statistics to prove the inadequacy of the NHS, ignoring the numerous other measures of success for the system.

The ultimate reason for British pride in its universal healthcare system, however, is exactly that: The system is universal. Public monies go to a collective good: public health. In a time when the middle class is being gutted and life for most of us has become increasingly precarious, this should be the envy of the world.

Frances Anderton

Santa Monica

Most patients served by Britain's National Health Service have no way of making direct comparisons with medical care in other countries. They are directly exposed to constant praise of their system — and increasing spending on it by politicians of all parties.

For those who can afford it — and some who can't — there is always potentially some relief. Private medical practice and private insurance are permitted in Britain.

One of the more revealing statistics I have seen comes from a study showing that most Britons who make more than $78,000 per year buy private insurance. That tells us more than any opinion poll.

Richard E. Ralston

Newport Beach

The writer is executive director of Americans for Free Choice in Medicine.

Dalrymple cites statistics about Britain's NHS to imply that government healthcare leads to inferior care. He neglects to mention that Britain and almost every other nation with single-payer healthcare beat the United States in life expectancy.

He also fails to mention that lengthy wait times for care under the NHS could be due to the fact that Britain's per capita spending on healthcare is 50% of the United States', a problem that is easier to fix than the greed of insurance companies in America, where many of us are forced to go years without treatment.

Bruce West

Newport Beach

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