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Australia’s lesson in how to look after patients properly


ONE evening last week my wife, a very fit 80-year-old, had a fall. Next morning I took her to A&E at our public hospital 30 minutes away. On arrival at 08.30 I collected one of the many wheelchairs available in reception and wheeled her in where she was checked in immediately. Less than ten minutes later the triage nurse took her in for processing and on to the ward. Fifteen minutes after that a doctor arrived and examined her; a number of other medical staff attended without any delays and prepared her for X-ray. At 09.15 my wife was taken for the X-ray. Less than ten minutes later she was wheeled back into the ward. The doctor reappeared almost immediately and told her she had broken her femur. Showing the X-ray to her on a screen brought to the bedside, he said that the orthopaedic surgeon would have to be consulted about surgery. I was allowed to be with her throughout all this time. At 12.40 the surgeon arrived and informed my wife of the procedure he would undertake, but apologised because he couldn’t do it that day, but scheduled it for the next day.

The next day was Easter Saturday because my wife had been admitted on Good Friday!

This is Australia.

This is not some top-class private clinic in Sydney, but our local general hospital.

How is such superb health care financed? Partly by the government, partly by individuals’ own medical insurance and partly by payment by the patient where certain items are limited or not covered. Insurance premiums are not crippling even at age 80+ and are generally tax deductible (unlike in the UK). Nor are costs for surgical procedures astronomical as they are in the United States.

So, here is a readymade total solution to the woes of the NHS we have been hearing so much about lately: adopt the best-in-the-world medical care enjoyed by Australians in every detail.

The shibboleth of free-at-the-point-of-delivery was always wrong. Anything provided free is always abused as I discussed in a previous TCW article which can be viewed here. Charging small or larger amounts for medical care is neither unfair nor unjust; not only would it hugely help to fund health care generally but it would stop abuse almost overnight. Elective surgery would be curtailed, abortions (terminations to use the mealy-mouthed term) would be less likely to be used as a state-paid-for birth control procedure for the feckless. Obese patients could, and should, be charged considerably higher fees or even the whole cost for surgical procedures. This would reflect the greater difficulty and costs in performing them and would also be an effective incentive to lose weight which no government initiative has yet achieved. Missed doctors’ appointments without cancellation (one of the banes of a doctor’s life) would also almost disappear. GPs who know their patients (as they should) could even be allowed to waive certain fees for the very poor. This would avoid the need for complex and intrusive means testing.

The NHS is worshipped with near-religious zeal, but it is idolatry of a false god which is neither perfect nor even very good.

Of course adopting the Australian model could not be accomplished overnight; it would take some years and would require determination and dedication together with standing up to vested interests and accepting significant job losses (too many of which are jobsworth positions anyway, ‘diversity managers’ being a classic example). More hospitals would have to be built to improve Britain’s shockingly low bed-to-population ratio and more doctors and nurses recruited and trained, hopefully without robbing third world countries of their much-needed medical staff.

It is long past time both the government and the opposition got together and got real about this, facing down vociferous minorities and virtue signallers. It’s not privatisation, and it’s about saving lives.

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David Wright
David Wright
David Wright is a former Royal Navy engineer officer, then an expatriate senior manager in the Far East for many years before running his own business in the UK. He now lives in Australia.

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