Annals of Government Medicine

The London Times headlines: “Cancer patients face record wait.”

Cancer patients are being forced to endure the worst waiting times since records began, official figures reveal.
In total, 168,390 patients were not seen or treated within the specified times. The figure is up 24% on the same period in 2018-19. Staff shortages, lack of equipment and beds filled by patients needing social care were to blame.
In September, 76.9% of patients with suspected cancer began treatment within two months of an urgent referral from a GP.

“Urgent” isn’t what it once was. Delays in obtaining treatment often lead to poor outcomes:

Last year, for the first time, the NHS carried out more than 2m checks. It says cancer survival is at an all-time high, yet Britain is near the bottom of international league tables for cancer survival and is lagging years behind some countries for some types of the disease.

The National Health Service is unaccountably popular with Britons. In the current election campaign, Jeremy Corbyn made an issue out of documents apparently obtained by a hacker that, he said, showed the Tories were planning to “sell the NHS” to the U.S. Labour described alleged discussions between the Teresa May government and the U.S. as “the plot against our NHS.” Upon his arrival in London for the recent NATO meeting, President Trump was asked about the claim that he was trying to “buy the NHS.” Trump said he wouldn’t take the NHS if it were offered on a silver platter.

It is pretty certain that the documents (which appear to be genuine) were obtained and leaked by Russians, evidently in an effort to promote Labour in the election. Reading news stories about this caper, I was puzzled by the concept of “buying the NHS.” This column, also from the London Times, resolves the mystery:

What we can rule out right away is that the Americans have any interest in literally buying the health service. Neither Mr Trump nor anyone else gazes jealously at the NHS as a money-making asset they would dearly love to acquire. They may wish to sell us things that we need in order to run British healthcare better, but they are no more interested in owning it than we are in purchasing the USA’s crumbling, nationalised postal service.
What the leaked documents do show is that the Americans are interested in removing barriers to facilitate more buying and selling across the Atlantic. This should be seen as an opportunity, not a threat. NHS drugs and general equipment (everything from shower curtains to beds and hand sanitiser) are bought from the private sector. If a foreign company can offer these goods for less, they will win the contract and that is a win-win outcome.
There is one issue which arises from Mr Corbyn’s 451 pages of leaked documentation which does relate directly to cost and is right to be highlighted as exactly the sort of thorny issue we will confront as we move towards signing new trade deals in a post-Brexit world. Differences in the intellectual property regimes in the US and Britain mean that if we simply gave the Americans absolutely everything they asked for, we might well find it harder to source cheap generic pharmaceuticals. But that is exactly the sort of issue a British negotiating team will refuse to agree to, unless they are wilfully engaged in an enterprise to maximise self-harm.

All of which suggests that the political scene in Great Britain is nearly as silly as our own, with Labour rivaling the Democrats in making absurd allegations against its opponents.

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