British model that inspired the SUS does not resist the impact of covid-19

The weekend magazine of the French economic newspaper Les Echos carries a long report on the crisis facing the British public health system. The text shows how the National Health Service (NHS), proud of the subjects of Queen Elisabeth II, could not withstand the shock of the Covid-19 pandemic and has been showing its limits.

The weekend magazine of the French economic newspaper The echoes brings a long report on the crisis facing the British public health system. The text shows how the National Health Service (NHS), proud of the subjects of Queen Elisabeth II, could not withstand the shock of the Covid-19 pandemic and has been showing its limits.

Created after World War II, the system is based on a simple principle: provide free, tax-funded health care “from the cradle to the grave.” But the device, which inspired the SUS model in Brazil, is finding it increasingly difficult to close this account. If, in the 1940s, the British government dedicated 250 pounds per inhabitant to healthcare expenses, this amount exceeds 3,000 pounds today.

Without forgetting that the health system represents a gigantic salary mass in the country. The NHS is the biggest employer in the United Kingdom and the fifth in the world, behind only McDonald’s and Walmart groups, the Chinese army and the US Department of Defense, he recalls Les Echos Week-End.

less resilient system

According to experts consulted by the report, the NHS can still be proud in some aspects, such as the mass use of generic drugs or the average length of hospital stays. However, the country has a much lower number of beds than its European neighbors (2.5 per thousand inhabitants, against 6 in France and 8 in Germany). In normal times, hospitals have an occupancy rate that fluctuates between 80% and 90%, which “makes the health system less resilient in the face of extreme shocks,” including a simple seasonal flu epidemic, the magazine details.

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In addition, the British system suffers from inflation in the prices of treatments and an aging population, which increases the demand for medical care. Not to mention the lack of nurses and doctors, which makes the country recruit many foreign professionals. This resource, however, was affected by Brexit, as immigration became much more difficult.

Vulnerability

The Covid-19 pandemic exposed the vulnerability of the NHS, unable to respond to the sudden increase in demand, assesses the report. The result: at the beginning of the outbreak, in just a few weeks, the UK became the country with the highest death tolls in Europe.

Even so, the possibility of privatization still faces strong rejection. Even Margaret Thatcher, who ruled the country from 1979 to 1990 and managed to impose many internal reforms, backed down from the protests when she hinted at modifying the public health system in 1982.

Currently, only 10% of the British population benefits from a private health insurance system, compared to 34% in Germany and 63% in the United States. However, some experts fear that the shortcomings exposed by the pandemic could change the mind of the British and generate a real race for private health plans. “The main risk, if this is confirmed, is that of an increase in inequalities in terms of health”, warns the magazine Les Echos Weekend.