The UK is a model for Universal Health Care and Americans should pay attention to their best practices.  Promoting consumer choice, patients have the choice of going to a National Health Service (NHS) hospital free of charge or a private hospital where the patient is responsible for the bill.  

Recent concerns, however, have surfaced about the NHS-mandated standard of limiting emergency room wait times to 4 hours.  This mandate has spawned claims of “patient stacking” where patients would be held in ambulances until they could be treated within the four-hour limit.  Of the more than 44,000 (in the past 15 months!) that were detained in an ambulance for over an hour, you can imagine tragic stories including the death of a 16-year old terminally ill cancer patient who waited over an hour to be picked up by an ambulance.  Ambulances were available but were being “tied up” waiting to hand patients to the emergency room.   

As a side note…Even if patients wanted to pay more for emergency room services, there are no emergency room services provided at the private hospitals.    

A Case for Universal Health Care
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2 thoughts on “A Case for Universal Health Care

  • Maybe the hospitals find some way around it, but I read that the clock starts 15 minutes after the ambulance arrives at the hospital…thus, less incentive to leave patients in the ambulance (but still incentive to wait to pick them up until the time limit can be complied with). Also, what percentage of emergency room visits require an ambulance? I would guess 10% or less. Also, wouldn’t an ambulance be the ideal place to be if an emergency room doctor is not yet available (since they have trained responders in the ambulance)? Am I missing something?

    Maybe there is a good opportunity in providing a for-profit ambulance service.

    Although I see where you are coming from (stupid gov’t rule to make things better actually makes things worse), I have a hard time believing that people are dying all the time because of lack of emergency room treatment in the UK. Surely this would be big news if it were more than an isolated problem.

    My prediction is the the US gets some form of universal coverage (or at least universal children’s coverage) by 2015.

  • You are correct…The director of the NHS states that the clock starts 15 minutes after the ambulance arrives at the hospital.

    The stat that gets me is the over 44, 000 patients waiting in an ambulance over an hour before getting into the hospital itself. Maybe the waited this long, becuase the director of NHS hadn’t made the statement yet. It may not be so much the wait as it is the wait for other patients that need an ambulance and have to wait until one is available.

    An ambulance picked my son up from the pediatrician because of respiratory problems and lack of oxygen. Although I’d hate for him to stay in an ambulance for over an hour in that condition, I cannot tell you what I would do if an ambulance was not available at the time when he needed it the most.

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