AIP Column: The UK's National Health Service and the Ford Pinto School of Cost Analysis

The UK’s National Health Service is racking up serious negligence claims filed by families of those patients who have suffered and/or died at the hands of its government run health care. Right now, those claims are at £2.2 billion (about $3.6 billion), with half of those claims come from maternity cases alone. With the government announcing that these claims to rise by 80% next year, you’d think they would re-think their government run system and possibly make changes as the Dutch did a few years ago to improve the system’s quality and save lives. Well, the UK isn’t going to do that. Instead, they’re following the Ford Pinto school of cost analysis. Here’s a portion:

Like all countries with government-run health care systems, the UK has a limited amount of resources to fund its National Health Service while trying to meet an infinite demand. The result is low quality care, waiting lists, and rationing. In most areas of health care, that means longer waiting lists for procedures and treatments. The NHS would love to be able to tell pregnant mothers that they will have to wait another three months to deliver, but of course they can’t because nature won’t wait.

Babies are born whether the hospital and its staff are ready for them or not, which means the hospitals must then make do with what they have for these laboring mothers, and that is a frightening prospect. According to a UK report, the maternity care in London was so understaffed that women were pushed into waiting rooms, where they were required to stand for hours while they were in labor because no beds were available. A 23-year-old was turned away by midwives only an hour before she delivered because there weren’t any beds. She said she was reduced to going to the bathroom where she slapped herself to keep her mind off of her labor pain. Another in a labor and delivery room was horrified to see cockroaches in her “eating area.” One woman said she “cried” when she walked into her room to find a filthy shower and paint peeling off the walls. This is in the United Kingdom, not some third-world nation.

Even worse than long waits and filthy labor and delivery rooms is that hospital maternity departments are so woefully understaffed that they must close their doors and send laboring women to other hospitals. These diversion procedures cost time, which increases the risks of tragedies happening. Rachel Canter was pregnant and in the late stages of labor with her third child, a boy she had planned to name Jake, when she was turned away from Barnet Hospital because its maternity department was so full they had to close their admissions. Rachel was told to go to Chase Farm Hospital, 20 minutes away. Unfortunately, baby Jake suffered breathing difficulties and died shortly after he was born. She blames the understaffing of the hospitals for her son’s death. The midwives at Barnet Hospital concede that the facility has serious understaffing issues and report that the maternity department must close its doors three times a week as a result. You would think in 21st century Britain pregnant women would no longer get the very old line: “sorry, there is no more room at the inn.”

Please read the rest, and if you have any thoughts, feel free to a comment either here or at AIP.

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