The British National Health Service: A Tarnished MoralVision? [Book Review]

Health Care Analysis 7 (4):363-376 (1999)

Last year (1998) saw the celebration of the 50th Anniversaryof the British National Health Service (NHS). One ofthe few completely nationalised systems of health carein the world, the NHS is seen by many as a moralbeacon of what it means to provide equitable medicaltreatment to all citizens on the basis of need andneed alone. However, others argue that it has failedto achieve the overall goals for which it was created.Because of scarce resources, some urgently needed careis not available at all, while that which is receivedis sometimes second class. For these reasons, it isclaimed that the NHS should be scrapped and replacedby other systems of health care delivery.This paper outlines the history of the NHS,indicating some of the problems and innovations whichhave led to its current organization and structure.The philosophical foundations of the NHS are then articulated and defended on the grounds that it stillrepresents a morally coherent and economicallyefficient approach to the delivery of health care.Scarce resources are the key problem facing the NHS,making rationing inevitable and it is shown thatthis is not incompatible with the moral foundations ofthe service. However, there can be little doubt thatthe NHS is now becoming dangerously under-funded. Thepaper concludes with arguments about why this is soand what might be done about it
Keywords National Health Service (U.K.)  underfunding
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DOI 10.1023/A:1009470500920
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