Suggestions that the NHS could operate on a part public part private model risks greatly exacerbating health inequalities in Britain.
The discussion over how to fund the health service has opened up again this week after waiting lists climbed to a record high of 7.6 million.
A total of 383,083 people had been waiting more than 52 weeks to start routine hospital treatment at the end of June, down slightly from 385,022 at the end of May.
Elsewhere, some 7,177 patients are estimated to have been waiting more than 18 months, down from 11,446 at the end of May.
Appearing on TalkTV, former adviser to the Conservartive Party, Leon Emirali said the answer to “fixing” the NHS is “full privatisation”, adding:
“Joanna made a point about free at the point of access. We can still have that with a level of privatisation, where we have private suppliers of healthcare – but for those who need it most, we can means test access to the NHS where those who need it the most in society get their healthcare for free and those who can afford to pay for it do.”
However, such a system could quite easily create a two-tiered system, exacerbating vast health inequalities that already exist in the UK.
To see how, you need look no further than our education system, which already operates on a part public part private model.
The number of pupils who are privately educated has risen to a record high in recent years.
A census by the Independent Schools Council (ISC) for January 2022 found there are now a record 544,316 pupils at 1,388 ISC member schools, a 2 per cent rise on the 2020 figures.
But the sociological implications are there for all to see.
Our boardrooms are heavily comprised of people who were privately educated, with almost half of FTSE 100 senior executives attending such schools compared to just 7 per cent of the population.
The majority of Rishi Sunak’s new Cabinet are privately educated, with 65 per cent of his top-tier team having gone to an independent school, and our prime ministers tend to be almost exclusively so.
Creating a private/ public funding model for the NHS will ensure that it remains free at the point of access, but it is likely to create a system that favours fee-paying patients and give them more options for care. Look at dentistry as a case in point.
Healthcare was once a great leveller in Britain. Splitting it in two could put a stop to all that.