In an ironic twist, just as we in the U.S. begin the massive process of moving closer to an organized healthcare system, the British have begun the largest overhaul of their single-payer National Health system since it was founded in 1948. Details are still unclear, but the main thrust of the reoganization of is to shift control of England’s $160 billion annual health budget from a centralized bureaucracy to doctors at the local level.
As The New York Times reports:
Under the plan, $100 billion to $125 billion a year would be meted out to general practitioners, who would use the money to buy services from hospitals and other health care providers.
The plan would also shrink the bureaucratic apparatus, in keeping with the government’s goal to effect $30 billion in “efficiency savings” in the health budget by 2014 and to reduce administrative costs by 45 percent. Tens of thousands of jobs would be lost because layers of bureaucracy would be abolished.
In a document, or white paper, outlining the plan, the government admitted that the changes would “cause significant disruption and loss of jobs.” But it said: “The current architecture of the health system has developed piecemeal, involves duplication and is unwieldy. Liberating the N.H.S., and putting power in the hands of patients and clinicians, means we will be able to effect a radical simplification, and remove layers of management.”
The health secretary, Andrew Lansley, also promised to put more power in the hands of patients. Currently, how and where patients are treated, and by whom, is largely determined by decisions made by 150 entities known as primary care trusts — all of which would be abolished under the plan, with some of those choices going to patients. It would also abolish many current government-set targets, like limits on how long patients have to wait for treatment.
The jury’s still out as to what this will mean for patients. We’ll be studying the impact of these changes closely, as the U.S. stumbles through its own healthcare overhaul.
What do you think these changes will mean for patient care in England? Tell us about it at the MyHealthCare.com Forums.
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