The head of a British health care regulatory body is sounding warning bells about the drastic overuse of the country’s emergency rooms. The Daily Telegraph reports:
Too many patients — especially the elderly — are arriving in hospital as an emergency, when they should have received help much earlier, said David Prior, head of the Care Quality Commission (CQC).
As a result, he added, the healthcare system is on the brink of collapse and regulators cannot promise to prevent further scandals like Mid-Staffordshire.
In his first major speech since being appointed to lead the regulator earlier this year, Mr Prior called for large-scale closures of hospital beds and investment in community care….
“If we don’t start closing acute beds, the system is going to fall over.
Proponents of universal insurance often claim that it will reduce ER visits and encourage preventive care. But it isn’t working out that way in England right now. Something has gone wrong with the NHS.
Some of these problems may be attributable to human nature as much as to the incentives the British system sets up. People often leave things to the last minute. If they aren’t feeling catastrophically bad, they won’t go in for a checkup. And one of the problems with the NHS is that there are wait periods: you can’t always just drop in and get an appointment with a general practitioner. This exacerbates the human proclivity to not be proactive about health issues. Hospitals, on the other hand, have to take you in.
Either way, this story calls into question the narrative that the U.S. system is uniquely bad, and that we could save ourselves a lot of money and suffering by imitating European or Asian systems as much as possible. Clearly the story isn’t so simple. Every country has its own challenges and problems; single-payer systems are no silver bullet.
[Glove image courtesy of Shutterstock]