A robust defence has been mounted after the NHS came under attack last week by US conservatives using it as evidence for why President Barack Obama’s plans for health reform must be opposed.
As the row heats up it has triggered blogging debates and twitter campaigns with astounding levels of NHS support.
OnMedica has set out to give you an insight into some of the half-truths, distortions, rebukes and responses in the midst of the furore.
The waiting list claim
Republican Senator Bob Bennett said: “Right now, nearly 1.8 million Britons are waiting for hospital or outpatient treatments at any given time.
“Let's realise that the American voter will never stand for the kind of rationing by delay that seems to have crept into every other government-run health care system."
the figures quoted by Senator Bennett have been found to be ten to 20 years out of date
Although these comments are based on the Commonwealth Fund findings that over the last two years Britain had 33% of adults waiting two months or more for treatment of chronic illness (10% in the US), one of the worst waiting lists in the world, the figures quoted by Senator Bennett have been found to be ten to 20 years out of date.
Anna Dixon, director of policy at King’s Fund, the independent think tank, has said: “[These allegations are] stereotypes of the NHS from problems in the 1980s and 1990s when there were really long waiting lists”.
Although waiting lists are much smaller in the US, and healthcare is more advanced at the highest levels, Dr Alan Maryon-Davis, president of the UK Faculty of Public Health, has stated that “...most people do not need the very hi-tech stuff and if the treatments work then we usually will get them over here.”
Karol Sikora, a leading cancer specialist, said: “By British standards Americans are considerably over treated, but at least [those treated] don’t face delays like we do in Britain.”
However, he did go on to say: “It is a real crime against society how many people in America don’t have health care.”
(Sources – The Guardian)
The "out-of-date" and "unfounded" rationing claim
The Conservatives for Patients Rights have produces a claim stating: “In Britain, 40% of cancer patients are never able to see an oncologist; there is explicit rationing for services such as kidney dialysis, open heart surgery and care for the terminally ill.”
Macmillan Cancer Support’s Duleep Allirajah has responded by saying: “[This claim] comes from a 15-year-old study which is completely out of date. Since then we have had the NICE Improving Outcomes Guidance series and the NHS Cancer Plan for England, which has increased the number of cancer consultants and established specialist multidisciplinary teams.”
National Kidney Federation chief executive, Tim Statham, said: “Some parts of the NHS can't cope, because patient numbers are increasing by 6% a year, which is a huge burden. Of about 100 renal units in the UK, probably 20% are working at 100% capacity or above.”
There’s no explicit rationing. Some people don’t get treatment, but those decisions are made solely on the basis of clinical criteria and their risk of dying
The British Heart Foundations medical director, Peter Weissberg, said of the open heart surgery claim: “There’s no explicit rationing. Some people don’t get treatment, but those decisions are made solely on the basis of clinical criteria and their risk of dying. We only operate on people who are likely to benefit and not to die.”
(Sources- the Guardian, The British Heart Foundation)
The Kennedy claim
Most senior Republican on the Senate finance committee, Chuck Grassley, said his colleague, Edward Kennedy, would be left to die untreated from a brain tumour in Britain as he would be considered too old to deserve treatment.
Grassley stated: “I don’t know for sure, but I've heard several senators say that Ted Kennedy with a brain tumour [and] being 77 years old as opposed to being 37 years old, if he were in England, would not be treated for his disease, because end of life – when you get to be 77, your life is considered less valuable under those systems.”
Chief executive of the National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence (NICE), Andrew Dillon, responded by saying that this was utterly false: “it is neither true nor is it anything you could extrapolate from anything we’ve ever recommended to the NHS.”
(Sources – The Guardian)
The IBD Stephen Hawking claim
Quotes taken from an Investor’s Business Daily (IBD) editorial:
“The controlling of medical costs in countries such as Britain through rationing, and the health consequences thereof are legendary," the article said. "The stories of people dying on a waiting list or being denied altogether read like a horror movie script.”
“...people such as scientist Stephen Hawking wouldn't have a chance in the UK, where the National Health Service would say the life of this brilliant man, because of his physical handicaps, is essentially worthless.” (Edited out of current version)
They didn't choose an unfortunate example for an accurate point. They simply lied
Jay Bookman, writing for the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, said: “Of course, that same Stephen Hawking who wouldn’t have a chance in the United Kingdom was in fact born in the United Kingdom, has lived his entire life in the United Kingdom and lives there still today, at the ripe old age of 67. (He was in fact hospitalized earlier this month.) Hawking is, you might say, living, breathing proof that these people are first-class fools.
Stephen Hawking was also reported in the Guardian and Daily telegraph to have said he “wouldn’t be here today if it were not for the NHS. I have received a large amount of high-quality treatment without which I would not have survived.”
Ezra Klein, blogger for the Washington Post, wrote: It's not just that they didn't know that Stephen Hawking was born in England. It's that the underlying point was wrong, as you'll note from the continued existence of Stephen Hawking. They didn't choose an unfortunate example for an accurate point. They simply lied.”
(Sources – bbc.co.uk, ajc.com, the Guardian, ibdeditorials.com)
The “Evil” and “Orwellian” financial cap on human life claim
Conservative blogger Michelle Malkin stated: “The effects of socialised medicine in Britain – engineered by government-run cost-cutting panels on which Obamacare would be modelled – continue to wreak havoc on the elderly and infirm.”
This is a reaffirmation of former Republican vice-presidential candidate Sarah Palin’s claim, left on her facebook: “And who will suffer the most when they ration care? The sick, the elderly, and the disabled, of course.
“The America I know and love is not one in which my parents or my baby with Down Syndrome will have to stand in front of Obama’s ‘death panel’ so his bureaucrats can decide, based on a subjective judgment of their ‘level of productivity in society,’ whether they are worthy of health care. Such a system is downright evil.
“Rep. Michele Bachmann highlighted the Orwellian thinking of the president’s health care advisor, Dr. Ezekiel Emanuel, the brother of the White House chief of staff, in a floor speech to the House of Representatives. I commend her for being a voice for the most precious members of our society, our children and our seniors.”
[The comparison] reflects a fundamental lack of intellectual honesty and seriousnes
Steve Benen, writer for the Washington Monthly, argues: “It is worth emphasizing, for those who remain confused and misled that democratic reform proposals would not create a British system. The comparison doesn’t even make sense in any substantive way, and the very premise of the IBD attack, which has been widely parroted by the far-right, reflects a fundamental lack of intellectual honesty and seriousness.”
Blogger for the Liberal Centre for American Progress, Mathew Yglesias, stated: “The NHS is a pretty great model and the British are on to something... if you were actually able to get British levels of care for British price levels [in the US] you could redirect [the savings] to trying to improve the social circumstances of the poor, trying to reduce exposure to health hazards, and building infrastructure (trains, sidewalks, bike paths, even the dreaded parks) suited to less sedentary lifestyles. We'd be much better off that way”.
(Sources – Facebook.com, michellemalkin.com, Washingtonmonthly.com, yglesias.thinkprogress.org, bbc.co.uk)
The claim from our side of the pond
Conservative MEP Daniel Hannan made a statement that was at odds with the modern message of David Cameron’s Conservative party. In an interview with Fox News he supported some of the Republican claims by stating: “I wouldn’t wish it on anybody. We have a system where the most salient facts of it are you get huge waiting lists, you have bad survival rates and you would much rather fall ill in the US.”
It does them and the NHS a disservice for Daniel Hannan to give Americans such a negative and partial view
Conservative shadow health secretary, Andrew Lansley, rebuked his colleagues claim by saying: “There are millions of people who are grateful for the care they have received from the NHS.
It does them and the NHS a disservice for Daniel Hannan to give Americans such a negative and partial view. That we can access Health care free at point of use, based on need, is something others envy.”
Mr Cameron also disputed Mr Hannan’s remarks, saying: “I support the NHS 100% and the Conservative Party supports the NHS 100%.”
(Sources - The Independent, The Guardian)
WHOs vital statistics
Some of the statistics that the US right-wingers neglect to mention are those provided by the World Health Organisation (WHO).
WHO statistics reveal that despite the US spending the most per capita on health ($6719, over twice as much as the UK), life expectancy at birth is two years less than in the UK (US 78 years – UK 80 years). There are significantly less nurses and midwives per 10,000 people (US 94 – UK 128) and only three more doctors per 10,000. They also have the second worse numbers of hospital beds for every 10,000 people out of all countries in the G8 with 31, just beating China by nine. Cardiovascular mortality and male and female obesity rates are also higher, although cancer mortality is lower.
(Sources - who.int)