Members of the public were surveyed from 11 countries; UK, Australia, Canada, France, Germany, the Netherlands, New Zealand, Norway, Sweden, Switzerland and the US.
They were asked that if they looked at the health system as a whole, do they think it needs minor changes in the system; fundamental changes; or do you think it should be rebuilt completely.
3% in the UK think the system needs to be rebuilt completely (the lowest in the world). 34% think there needs to be fundamental changes, and 62% think that only minor changes are needed. The UK public think their health care system needs changing less than any of the other countries surveyed.
There is very little professional appetite for the government’s proposals in the health white paper. Because it is a gift to private enterprise, the enthusiasts are very often GP entrepreneurs who have, or are planning to set up private companies like The Practice or Chilvers Mcrae. In a debate I had with Civitas the opponents (Steve Smith from Imperial in particular) made great play of how desperately awful the NHS was and how much it needed to change. That the NHS is either far too expensive or unpopular is a common theme from the privatisation advocates, but it doesn’t stand up to international comparisons. Julian Le Grand (another privatisation ideologue) is fond of saying that health systems should be judged by patient satisfaction, I hope he’s read the Commonwealth fund report.
As Paul Corrigan says,
If I were a Government about to embark on the biggest change in the health care system since the war this would give me pause for thought.
At the moment the public don’t think their system needs big changes.
I am not saying whether they are right or they are wrong, but their opinion could politically be very important.
Because if you start a revolution the public think isn’t necessary – and mess it up – they are likely to be pretty angry with you.
The idea that there is anything other than fringe support for the government’s reorganisation of the NHS needs to be exposed as propaganda and we doctors should take courage that if we take on this fight against the health white paper we will have the support of our patients and the wider public.