First of all, I would remove political hype from the debate surrounding healthcare delivery. However, this subject arouses passions probably more than any other and the voices of vested interests obliterate objective debate and decision making held to support the best interests of patients.
But what are those best interests? To me, it is patient-centred care utilising innovation and technology that is free at the point of delivery.
Not too controversial; but how best to deliver it?
The challenges are huge. Many commentators view models of care in developed nations as unsustainable. What proportion of national wealth should meet future demand? Is healthcare rationing now a reality? And are the latest government reforms of the NHS aimed at increasing further privatisation, or are they a move towards the efficient use of state-run resources? Ignoring the polarising political ideology for a moment, does this matter to the patient? Probably not.
Health delivery is complex. Neither public nor private sector has a monopoly on best practice – each can learn from the other. The NHS should have nothing to fear from private providers offering care within the context of a state-funded healthcare service, particularly with so many excellent examples already in place.
While staffed by many passionate professionals, the NHS is a bureaucracy that could benefit from private sector practice in resource utilisation. This doesn't mean lower quality service – safeguards and checks must ensure quality and cost-effectiveness from private providers.
Demographics and new treatments mean healthcare expenses are rising. However, government's ability to meet these costs is limited. Accepting this fact will allow HCPs, politicians and wider society an equal voice in the difficult decisions that lie ahead. The need is to determine the best provision for each of a vast array of services.
A utopian dream? Probably, but for me, a move towards a truly transparent public debate focused on the single goal of meeting patient need ahead of political rhetoric will offer the best legacy for one of the world's most admired healthcare systems.