Britain’s National Health Service, held up as the gold standard by leftists everywhere, announced just last week that it will “ban patients from surgery indefinitely unless they lose weight or quit smoking.”
According to the Telegraph:
In recent years, a number of areas have introduced delays for such patients—with some told operations will be put back for months, during which time they are expected to try to lose weight or stop smoking.
But the new rules, drawn up by clinical commissioning groups (CCGs) in Hertfordshire, say that obese patients “will not get non-urgent surgery until they reduce their weight” at all, unless the circumstances are exceptional.
The criteria also mean smokers will only be referred for operations if they have stopped smoking for at least eight weeks, with such patients breathalysed before referral.
East and North Hertfordshire CCG and Herts Valleys said the plans aimed to encourage people “to take more responsibility for their own health and wellbeing, wherever possible, freeing up limited NHS resources for priority treatment”.
Both are in financial difficulty, and between them seeking to save £68m during this financial year.
This is far from the first time that the NHS has denied treatment to some of Britain’s sickest patients:
-About a decade ago, Alice Mahon, a Member of Parliament from the left-wing Labour Party, needed the drug Lucentis to keep from going blind but the NHS refused to provide it for her. She lost sight in her left eye.
-In 2012, a report from Macmillan Cancer Support found that the NHS denies cancer treatment to as many 14,000 elderly patients annually because they are too old.
-About two years ago the NHS faced a funding crunch. It cut costs by refusing to pay for about 17 drugs that treated various types of cancer including breast, bowel, prostate, and pancreatic. It affected up to 5,000 patients.
-During the same funding crisis, a survey of physicians in the NHS found that 75 percent had seen rationing “including treatments such as speech therapy, operations to remove varicose veins, Botox to help children with cerebral palsy move better and even potentially life-saving stem cell transplant surgery.”
It seems like I’ve written this 100 times already, but I’ll gladly write it 100 more: Rationing health care on the backs of the sickest patients is a feature, not a bug, in single-payer health care systems like Britain’s.
When politicians control health care systems—as they do in single-payer systems—then the people most likely to get good care are those who can most influence politicians’ reelection chances. Unfortunately, it is the sickest patients who are most likely to lack such influence. For starters, relatively few people get seriously ill in any given year, too few to have much impact on elections. Nor are people who are seriously ill in much condition to be doing the things that can influence health care policy, like organizing, working on get-out-the-vote campaigns, or lobbying.
That is why the NHS has had waiting times for the sickest patients—those who need cancer treatment, bypass operations, hip and knee replacements, and so forth—for decades. The NHS has the money to eliminate waiting times, but the patients who end up waiting for treatment lack the political power necessary to change the NHS’s spending priorities.
It is also why the NHS has the power to deny Charlie Gard the ability to go abroad for treatment. Charlie Gard was an infant who had a deadly genetic disease. His parents had raised the money to pay for an experimental treatment in the United States. Yet the powers that be at the NHS decided that the treatment wouldn’t work and denied Charlie’s parents the opportunity to try, sealing Charlie’s fate. Since there are so few Charlie Gards in the United Kingdom, politicians can allow the NHS to, in effect, sentence sick infants to die without facing any consequences.