The right number of NHS beds
February 23, 2017 1 Comment
There has been a lot of news in the UK over an alleged crisis in the NHS: the government run system of hospitals in the UK. The British Medical Association, who are a trade union for doctors, claims that overnight beds in the NHS have declined. The government disagrees and they’re arguing over how the figures are collected.
This argument will drag on for a while and then sputter out and everyone will be pissed off. The reason it will sputter out is that there is no objective way of settling this issue. Neither the BMA nor the government knows how many beds people want or anything else. There is no prospect of finding this out as long as we have an NHS. Since the NHS is funded by taxes no patient has any choice about whether to fund it. As such, a patient can’t decide there were not enough beds and withdraw his financial support of the NHS. So NHS funding and resources have nothing to do with whether patients are satisfied.
A patient might say he wants more beds, but if there are more beds there is less of something else: MRI machines, say. Patients should be offered hospitals with different combinations of beds, MRI machines etc and left to choose which combinations to fund. Arguing about numbers of beds is irrelevant. What matters is people actually getting what they want, which the NHS can’t deliver.