Letter: NHS is good value

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The Independent Culture
Sir: In your leading article of 12 November you welcome expansion of the private sector, in preference to publicly funding the health service. I should be rubbing my hands with glee at this prospect. I am paid about pounds 30 per hour for my contracted 37.5-hour NHS week but I charge five times that for private patients. That rate includes minimal overheads, no need to teach junior staff or medical students and very little paperwork.

Are you still sure you want more private medical care? In case you are, I shall remind you that we have the least expensive health system in the western world. In spite of what you read much of, the care is of a standard at least equal to that obtainable in the USA and Europe. To give you an example, look at the outcomes of neonatal intensive care, which are as good as in any country. In the UK we have the added advantage of knowing we are not undergoing treatment because it is in the pecuniary interest of the doctor.

If this country continues along its present path of decrying everything that is publicly funded, it may well end up with what it will deserve - a ridiculously expensive and wasteful US-style system, such as President Clinton has been failing to control.

We must scotch the idea that modern medicine is a bottomless pit of expense. Take the example again of care of the newborn or maternity services, which are not seriously underfunded. If all areas of medical care were as appropriately funded we would have, once again, an excellent service and still it would be billions cheaper than the USA or European systems.

The central problem we have is a political one. How do we overcome the phobia our main political parties have about spending our money on services we want.

Dr ALASTAIR SCAMMELL

Lincoln

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