The National Health Service of United Kingdom provides an all-inclusive range of health services to its residents. This healthcare system receives its funding from the public through general taxations. The focus of this healthcare system is to provide free medical services, which is usually expressed as ‘free at the point of use’.
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This expression has had several interpretations over the years from different people in the United Kingdom leading to several questions concerning the free medical service. How does the system work? Any person with a National Health Service number is eligible for the ‘free at the point of use’ medical service, and this covers every individual in the United Kingdom including non-residents.
The main principles of the National Health Service are to provide healthcare services to all people, and this means all the medical services that the resident of the United Kingdom might need. Over the years, the principles of the NHS have been undergoing several changes in an attempt to determine which services a resident should acquire free of charge.
This has brought rationing of the services that the programme could cater for and to which extent it can cover the patient’s needs. The rationing of National Health Service should be practiced in the United Kingdom and other countries which have similar programmes for several reasons. There was a proposal of savings in the healthcare department and to achieve its main goals, the National Health Services should introduce rationing in the provision of healthcare services.
The efficiency saving requirements are meant to improve services to be provided by the programme, and this type of savings will make the nurses and doctors apportion the services they provide the subscribers of the programme with. In this case, under the moral claim for free treatment or service from the National Health Service, would fall the case where the patient, for instance, requires a surgery, threatening his or her life (Butler, 1999, p. 45).
The rationing may also improve the services provided by the programme and at the same time reduce the waiting lines, which many patients seeking for healthcare services face nowadays. In addition, the apportion of medical services provided by the National Health Service (NHS) will boost the private healthcare firms, which provide similar medical treatment.
There will be a boost in their businesses and people will not depend on this healthcare system but rather seek for the assistance of private healthcare. In the end, there will be competition from both ends hence provision of better medical services from both parties. For the above reasons, rationing in the National Health Service has been a proposal that so many people have debated on and others seem to welcome the idea; especially the funders like the government (Gorsky, 2008, p. 72).
The big question relates to whether rationing of the National Health Service should be carried out, because the scope of its services covers the following: long-term healthcare, dentistry, primary care, ophthalmology, and in-patient care.
If healthcare rationing is brought, it should begin with reducing the scope of the medical services the programme provides so that there can also be a reduction in the expenditure. In the recent times, some of the services previously presented in the list offered by the NHS have been removed. The following services like hip replacements, eye problems, and many others were qualified as ‘not urgent’ and were all added to that list.
However, this new healthcare “status quo” can only worsen the situation in this public sector as people start shifting from public to private medicine. However, most of the private practices do not deal with complaints and if NHS hires the staff who handles various complaints, including of primary care service, private healthcare organizations have no facilities to provide the patients with qualitative responses in timely manner (Ringold, Holla & Koziol, 2011, p. 79).
Another way in which rationing of National Health Service can take place is through encouraging the citizens to cover their own health bills. This approach should be in line with reduction of the investments from people registered with NHS.
This will minimize the number of patients in the United Kingdom seeking for healthcare treatment from this organization and give them the option to choose for themselves and apply for healthcare insurance from other medical care providers.
Reducing taxes will make sense to the decisions concerning the government’s move to healthcare rationing in the country as the apportion should be accompanied with the reduced taxes towards healthcare services because the government is the primary sponsor of the healthcare programme (Lemco, 1994, p. 62).
Another notable way, in which rationing can be successful, is through decentralization of the procedure. National Health Service is centralized to the government which makes its operations difficult and below standards. By delegating the responsibility to other parties in the medical field, the government can achieve many positive improvements.
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For instance, the government can remove surgery in certain hospitals and continue providing other services and instead of totally removing some services from its list, it can shift such services onto third parties so that the government can have fewer responsibilities. From this point of view, rationing will be seen as a good invention because all hospital facilities will be subdivided according to the type of services they provide and some hospitals will become referral.
Butler, J 1999, The ethics of health care rationing, New York: SAGE.
Gorsky, M 2008, “The British National Health Service 1948-2008: A Review of the Historiography,” Social History of Medicine, 21(3), 437-460.
Lemco, J 1994, National health care: lessons for the United States and Canada, Michigan: Michigan Press.
Ringold, D, Holla, A & Koziol, M 2011, Citizens and Service Delivery: Assessing the Use of Social Accountability Approaches in Human Development Sectors, Geneva: World Bank Publications.