KeywordsDelivery of Health Care
Health Care Delivery
Allocation of Health Care Resources
Economics of Health Care
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AbstractLast year (1998) saw the celebration of the 50th Anniversary of the British National Health Service (NHS). One of the few completely nationalized systems of health care in the world, the NHS is seen by many as a moral beacon of what it means to provide equitable medical treatment to all citizens on the basis of need and need alone. However, others argue that it has failed to achieve the overall goals for which it was created. Because of scarce resources, some urgently needed care is not available at all, while that which is received is sometimes second class. For these reasons, it is claimed that the NHS should be scrapped and replaced by other systems of health care delivery. This paper outlines the history of the NHS, indicating some of the problems and innovations which have led to its current organization and structure. The philosophical foundations of the NHS are then articulated and defended on the grounds that it still represents a morally coherent and economically efficient approach to the delivery of health care. Scarce resources are the key problem facing the NHS, making rationing inevitable and it is shown that this is not incompatible with the moral foundations of the service. However, there can be little doubt that the NHS is now becoming dangerously under-funded. The paper concludes with arguments about why this is so and what might be done about it.
Health Care Analysis: An International Journal of Health Care Philosophy and Policy 1999; 7(4): 363-376
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