Thursday, September 03, 2009

UK's health system: more bureaucrats than doctors.

I was reading the British news, as I often do, and came across a story regarding the National Health Service in the UK—an institution that the Obamatrons and sundry statists in America want to emulate. The UK, as might be suspected, has had problems keeping medical costs down. As new technologies develop more medical options are available. And the more that is available the more that gets spent. One easy way to cut medical costs in any country is to simply ban all new technologies and drugs. If you want 1950s health care costs then use only 1950s health care technology.

But the UK doesn't want to be quite that drastic, even if they do restrict medical choices significantly. So the upward pressure on their health budget has a tendency to get completely out of control. Apparently the Labour government commissioned a study on how to cut NHS expenses. The report came back suggesting cutting 137,000 staff members.

I find that highly unlikely. Remember these are 137,000 government employees. Many of them have families and friends. They will be angry if they get sacked and they vote. So a political decision is likely to be made to keep the staff and cut costs somewhere else, where they hope it won't harm election night totals as much. One thing to remember under a politically-controlled health system is that what's good for the ruling party comes before what may be good for the patient. So the report looked for ways to cutting staff, without actually cutting staff, not filling vacant positions, for instance.

Cutting staff may not be a bad idea for the NHS, however. Buried at the bottom of the news story were some figure regarding staffing at the NHS. The NHS employes 1,368,694 people. Of those 49%, or 666,863 are classified as "non-medical staff." So for every medical staff member they basically have one staff member who is not medical. What I found interesting is that the total number doctors (both general physicians and hopsital doctors) is 121,808. The entire staff of doctors of the NHS are outnumbered by administrators alone, 178,151. If you add in the "senior managers" then the bureaucrats, 219,o64 of them, who control the system outnumber the 121,808 physicians who work in the system. For every 100 physicians in the NHS there are 180 administrators.

Video: Just some appropriate amusement from the classic British series, Yes Minister.

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