Most Brits who can afford private health insurance buy that instead.
The Boyle ceremony got underway with images of a bucolic Britain being swept away by a cigar-chomping elite that builds satanic mills filled with oppressed workers as steeplejacks hang from the towering chimneys. Later, 600 doctors and patients recruited from National Health Service hospitals were featured in a bizarre tribute to socialized medicine, with children bouncing up and down on 320 hospital beds arrayed in front of a giant Franken-baby wrapped in bandages. Villains from British children’s literature, ranging from Cruella de Vil to Lord Voldemort, sweep in on the children, in an apparent reference to conservative forces seeking to reform the tottering NHS. The 15-minute sequence ended with a series of red lights triumphantly spelling out “NHS.”
Left-wingers were thrilled. “Brilliant that we got a socialist to do the opening ceremony,” tweeted Alastair Campbell, former communications chief for the Labour party. Boyle denied he was promoting a political agenda. “The sensibility of the show is very personal,” he told reporters. “We had no agenda other than . . . values that we feel are true.” At a news conference beforehand, he explained that one of the reasons he “put the NHS in the show is that everyone is aware of how important NHS is to everybody in the country. One of the core values of our society is that it doesn’t matter who you are, you will get treated the same in terms of health care.”
Can anyone seriously believe that? Sunday’s British papers report that a study by the research firm Lloyd’s TSB Premier Banking found that nearly two-thirds of Britons earning more than $78,700 a year have taken out private health insurance because they don’t trust the NHS. A survey by the British health-care organization Bupa found that two-thirds of its customers cited the risk of infection from superbugs as a top reason for buying private insurance. Shaun Matisonn, the chief executive of PruHealth, says that “patients today are sophisticated consumers of health care. They research the treatments they want, but cannot always get them through the NHS.”
Horror stories about the NHS abound. A 2007 survey of almost 1,000 physicians by Doctors’ Magazine found that two-thirds said they had been told by their local NHS trust not to prescribe certain drugs, and one in five doctors knew patients who had suffered as a result of treatment rationing. The study cited one physician who characterized the NHS as “a lottery.” A new study this year by GP magazine supports that conclusion. Through Freedom of Information Act records, it found that 90 percent of NHS trusts were rationing care.