An Overview of the British Healthcare System

by Legal Author on January 29, 2013

(Guest post regarding the British Healthcare System compared to the US Health System)

For many years, health care and how it can be most effectively delivered to the public has been in the media has been under discussion in the media. The British System of healthcare is often cited as one of the models that should be followed both in terms of cost and medical outcome. Some of the details of the National Health Service allow a look at how it compares to the American system of private health insurance.


The National Health Service, the United Kingdom’s system of healthcare delivery to its citizens, was instituted in 1948 after World War II. In effect, it employs the physicians, nurses and other health workers and owns the clinics and hospitals where care is provided. The NHS pays directly for general practice services, emergency care, long-term care and dentistry. No payment at the time of service is required. All costs are covered through general taxation. In contrast, bankruptcy due t

Comparison to the U.S. Health System

Under the National Health Service in the United Kingdom, citizens get their care without having to negotiate payment or get approval from their private health insurance company. They go to assigned clinics or physicians. Patients often have to wait for appointments, lab tests and surgeries. By comparison, the United States has operated under a private health insurance system. Patients are able to choose their own doctors or may choose them within a designated insurance network. Treatment is generally immediate without long waiting periods. However, many people who do not have insurance may have difficulty getting preventative examinations, regular care, special treatments or surgeries when they need it. Though government programs such as Medicare and Medicaid are available in the United States, many people do not qualify for this type of medical coverage.

Limiting Cost

The National Health Service in the United Kingdom has an agency called the National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence that determines what new drugs and treatments should be offered to the public. The criteria include cost-effectiveness and outcome in regard to additional years of life gained from the drug or treatment. In contrast, the private health insurance system of the United States may allow more expensive drugs and treatments, including experimental treatments, but also limits the amount of lifetime coverage, generally to around $2 million. In addition, the U.S. private health insurance companies have historically to cover many people with existing illnesses.

Successes of the NHS

The National Health Service has been rated 2nd of the 7 top industrialized countries of the world. The United Kingdom has longer life expectancy and lower infant mortality than the United States. Their system spends only $2,500 per year person in the U.K. compared to the $6,000 the United States spends per person. It consistently wins the approval of the British citizens it serves, despite the shortcomings the system demonstrates. The system has a coordinated system of cancer screening. Immunizations are free to all citizens. In contrast, most people must pay for child immunizations in the United States. Child health is monitored with a program from pregnancy throughout the first 5 years of age, with visiting nurses maintaining a continuous educational outreach.

Problems with the NHS

Because many people utilize the services of the NHS, there are often lengthy waiting times for services that have resulted in deaths. In addition, for some illness, such as myocardial infarctions, NHS outcomes come in significantly lower than other countries with national healthcare systems.

This piece was composed by Trevor Leary, a freelancer based in the great city of Louisville, KY; if this post sparked your interest it may be beneficial to view health care jobs available in the UK.

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Legal Author

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