Breast Cancer

A National Health Service (NHS) survey of 500 senior hospital doctors found that 41 percent had private insurance in 2006. The fraction rose to 55 percent in 2007 [link].

According to the British Medical Association spokesman, private medical coverage does not demonstrate a lack of commitment to the NHS. Instead, British doctors want speedy treatment so they can get back to their NHS patients as soon as possible.

Dr. Sarah Burnett, a consultant radiologist in London, is one of them. She took out private medical insurance while she was employed by the NHS because "NHS treatment is not a pleasant experience in any way – from the standard of the food, to ward cleanliness and the chance of catching MRSA." [link]

Her private insurer detected breast irregularities in a routine screening, arranged an ultrasound examination that showed multiple small tumors within two hours, and arranged an appointment with a surgeon for a skin-sparing mastectomy an hour after that. A few days later her surgery was over.

Without the heavy hand of distant regulators trying to dictate how people receive care and how physicians practice medicine, British private medicine delivers top-notch care highly valued by its customers.

The public system?

Dr. Burnett explained that "The type of surgery I had is only rarely available on the NHS, depending on the expertise of your local surgeon."

According to the 2008 National Mastectomy and Breast Reconstruction Audit for England and Wales, NHS waiting time targets require the performance of "definitive treatment" within 62 days of the initial referral, but this target may not be met. Targets also specify that immediate reconstruction should be available for all women undergoing mastectomy. Yet in 1997, only 7 percent of patients were offered immediate reconstruction. By 2006 that figure had increased to only 11 percent. Also, 26 percent of NHS hospital Trusts performing mastectomies said that they did not offer immediate reconstruction locally. [link]

Breast reconstruction surgery is resource-intensive and NHS funding discourages the procedure. As a result, some segments of the NHS control access to breast reconstruction by creating administrative barriers, like requiring a psychological evaluation that takes time to schedule and complete.

The Royal College of Surgeons and the NHS Information Centre are more blunt. They found that the "NHS failed to provide breast reconstruction for nine out of ten cancer patients at the time of surgery." One side effect of this failure is that patients must undergo more than one hospital stay which, aside from the inconvenience, increases their health risk. [link]

Comments (6)

Trackback URL | Comments RSS Feed

  1. Ken says:

    Completely disabusng the notion that in Britain health care is available to all, regardless of ability to pay.

  2. Nancy says:

    This is like public school teachers in the United States sending their own children to private schools. I bet anything that these doctors who buy private health insurance for themselves and their families are totally supportive of socialized medicine for everyone else.

  3. Clark says:

    You are absolutely right, Nancy. The British Medical Associaltion has always been a strong supporter of the British National Health Service.

    Just as all the US teachers who send their own children to private schools are strong supporters of public education for everybody else’s children.

  4. Bruce says:

    I like the excuse that NHS doctors need speedy treatment so they can get back to their patients as soon as possible. By implication, the clients and customers of those who are not doctors will just have to wait.

    That is, the business of doctoring is important. Everyone else’s business is not.

  5. Breast Cancer is one of the diseases that affects most women but it can be detected early and treated early too:~~

  6. Rajendra says:

    What do you think that other western epuareon countries do not use advanced techniques for premmies? FYU the most advanced specialist in premmie care I had ever met as a Spaniard who worked for their national health service. They were on the cutting edge in his unit let me tell yout that. It is funny who some people in this forum seems to be squirming and looking for excuses and claiming that the numbers are skewed by all kinds of specifically american factors. That is simply not true. All numbers in all countries are affected by local factors but the US health numbers are so bad all accross the board when compared with the other developed nations that they are extremely hard to justify. What is it then? if it is not a badly functioning health care system. Are americans genetically deficient? Is the environment specially unhealthy? Besides the number I have been used are “adjusted” numbers the WHO reports not the numbers the countries themselves report. The WHO adjusts the numbers the countries report to make them fit a common set of criteria precisely to make them comparable.