What Happened When An American Used Britain’s ‘Socialized’ National Health Service?

American Jim Edwards has spent half his life living in the US and half living in the UK.  As a dual citizen, he has experienced both health care systems first hand and has some startling news for Americans – socialized medicine works, and it works better than privatized medicine in almost every conceivable way.

In a piece for Business Insider, Edwards compares the healthcare systems across several areas:

  • Accident and Emergency waiting times
  • Making non-emergency appointments
  • On-the-day Care
  • Quality of GP care
  • Paperwork
  • Overall quality of care

Accident and Emergency

Image source: DMG Media

Image source: DMG Media

Edwards finds that the standards of care in UK A&E would have most Americans green-eyed with envy. In fact, the waiting times that Brits complain about, would seem like a miracle in most US hospitals.

“The headline number is that 84% of patients are seen within four hours. In the UK, this is regarded as a huge failure — the standard the NHS is supposed to meet is 95% of patients in four hours.

In the US, having sat in many an ER waiting room for hours at a stretch, the idea of a hospital seeing nearly 9 out of 10 patients in four hours would be regarded as a miracle.” writes Edwards.

As NHS doctors triage patients in the A&E, you would be seen immediately if you were hit by a bus, but if you had a superficial wound or break then you would be placed at the back of the queue.  No one bleeds out on a gurney in an NHS Accident and Emergency unit.
Making Non-Emergency Appointments
Image via Shutterstock

Image via Shutterstock

Edwards was surprised to find that whereas in the US, the appointment was on his terms, things are quite different in the UK.  In the NHS you are also triaged, and your appointment scheduled accordingly, and not on your terms.  He describes his reaction to this:
“At first I found this jarring. In America, I get to choose when I see the doctor! In Britain, I better show up when I’m told. But the appointment came quickly, as the local health authority in London has targets it needs to meet. Ultimately, I saw the logic of it: This is a public health system. It needs to manage its costs and services. If you’re really sick, you’ll show up. If you only want to show up when it’s convenient for your schedule, then how sick are you, really?”
On-The-Day Care
Image via The Pulse

Image via The Pulse

Edwards was stunned by the fact that in the UK’s NHS, you can walk into a primary care clinic at 9am without an appointment and see a doctor almost immediately.

“In America, I’ve always had a long wait to see my doctor. I have read many a back issue of Newsweek in my primary care / general practitioner (GP) doctor’s office. I’ve sat there for an hour playing with my phone while the doc sees patients in the order they were booked.

In the UK, I showed up at 9am and was seen instantly.

This was one reason I became convinced that the NHS way of scheduling is superior: You might not get the time or date that you want, but once you’re in, you get seen super-quick.”

He states unequivocally that in his experience “America is worse at on-the-day care.”
Image via Business Week

Image via Business Week

All Americans know the horrors of the US healthcare system’s nightmare bureaucracy.  As Edwards writes:
“There is a load of paperwork for patients in the US. This is easily the worst aspect of US healthcare — the billing paperwork. If you’ve ever had any health issue that required more than a simple doctor visit, you will know that it precipitates a seemingly never-ending series of forms, bills, and letters.”
In 2012, Mitt Romney argued that “‘Obamacare’ puts the federal government between you and your doctor.”  A look at the NHS proves that nothing could be farther from the truth. Instead, a public healthcare system takes insurance companies out of the way of you and your doctor.  There is zero paperwork to complete for patients in the UK healthcare system. None. At All.  You make an appointment, you arrive, you are seen and treated, and you leave.  No charge, no paperwork.
Quality of Care
Study those last two columns on the right closely.  There is not a single category in which the US system outperforms the UK.  Not one.  Despite annual spending per head of less than HALF that spent in the US, the public healthcare system of Britain delivers results the likes of which the patchwork private system of the US can only dream.  This is hard proof that the profit motive is detrimental to public health.
The figures also accord with the personal experience of Edwards, who writes:

The bottom line: I prefer the NHS to the American private system. It’s a little more inconvenient in terms of appointment times, but due to the fact that it is free, has no paperwork, and the treatment on the day is super-fast, the NHS wins.

Americans think they have the best healthcare in the world. Take it from me, a fellow American: They don’t.
The next time a conservative starts ranting about ‘socialized’ medicine, show them this.
Featured Image via IEDesign