The junior doctors’ strike kicked off which has resulted in 4,000 routine treatments being cancelled and even more appointments, check-ups and tests. The doctors are on strike in a dispute regarding a new contract and their concerns about the level of pay for working weekends and stronger limits on working hours.
Absurdities and Fallacies
For most people who luckily are not employees of the state it seems strange to go on strike to demand changes to your contract. Imagine if the whole economy was built upon such an absurd and inefficient system. Most people’s minds are so obscured by the fallacious arguments around this issue that they cannot see the absurdities:
- Why are customers of the NHS who pay for the services (via tax) being punished?
- Why are the customers not being reimbursed for the lack of services during the strikes?
- Shouldn’t those who fund the NHS (i.e. taxpayers) have the power to sack the NHS or the government for such a mess?
- Would you pay for such a rubbish service in the private market?
How does the market work?
In the market, if you pay your employers too low, your competitors will take them off you (hence why retention is a big challenge for businesses) and if you pay them too high, you will incur costs and go bankrupt. The market then- in the words of Adam Smith- gravitates the price towards what the employee is producing for the employer. It isn’t a perfect system but it is the most efficient, accurate and dynamic one known to man so far. People in the market move jobs all the time for variety of reasons; some get a part-time job to pursue a hobby, some freelance so they can work from the comfort of their homes, some move for higher pay and more job benefits, some move solely because of location etc. This is the flexibility that the market affords- if you don’t see it in some places in the market, it’s because the government is involved in one way or another.
The Free Market Alternative to the NHS
The employees of the NHS find their job location, pay packages, hours and career progression highly bureaucratic and rigid. In the free market there wouldn’t be a monopoly such as the NHS which forces you to pay for its services via the coercive apparatus of the state. Instead, thousands of companies- from big multinational corporations to small firms- would compete with each other to provide you the best service for the best price. This healthy competition is also good for the doctors. If a private healthcare provider pays a doctor too low then the doctor will simply move jobs to someone who’s paying higher or get headhunted by rival companies.
Is Private Healthcare Bad for the Poor?
First of all, the NHS is not free; it costs the taxpayer well over £110 billion. And also with the good- such as ‘free’ treatment if you break your leg- comes the bad; especially in diagnosis. Here are some stories:
- Toddler dies of brain tumour that doctors failed to diagnose
- Woman dies as doctors fail to diagnose her cancer 25 times
- Doctors fail to diagnose cancer 50 times
In fact, one report warns that doctors miss one in three cancer cases. In fact the article recounts this story which demonstrates the superiority of private healthcare when it comes to diagnosing health issues:
A pensioner saw her doctor three times about difficulty swallowing, but it was not until she went private that she was diagnosed with end-stage oral cancer.
Nigel Farage has been in a similar situation:
After six weeks, I went to see my GP in Biggin Hill. By this time, I was having difficulty walking. My left testicle was as large as a lemon and rock hard. The GP arranged for me to see a consultant that day. To say that this consultant was disinterested would be an understatement; perhaps he had a round of golf booked for the afternoon. ‘‘Keep taking the antibiotics,’’ he preached, and that was that.
I was in a terrible state by now. I phoned the office and spoke to one of my bosses. He told me that I was covered with private medical insurance and that I should use it. The next day I saw a private GP, Dr Solomon, in the City. He told me I must have a scan. I had been alarmed by the swiftness of my own GP’s referral to a consultant but, after that, no medical professional had taken me seriously. Until now. Dr Solomon made an immediate appointment for me to see a top surgeon called Jerry Gilmore in Harley Street.
Second of all, in the market the suppliers want to grab as much market share as possible and therefore would compete for it. If a luxury healthcare provider offers healthcare for £10,000 a month but only a 10% of the population could afford that then other providers would compete to provide slightly lower quality healthcare at a £1,000 a month to grab another 20% of the market. Other providers would provide basic healthcare for the masses for £50-£100 a month. They would all also compete for ‘pay-as-you-go’ type of treatments. Now you may be thinking can a £50 a month healthcare provider be any good but you’re forgetting one very important thing. Competition brings about low prices but high quality and also incentivises innovation. Look at mobile phones: not everyone could afford them at first but now in a market economy we have phone companies competing with each other and almost everyone has a smart phone and everyone has some sort of a mobile phone. This is because the market competition pushes for higher quality products (which entails innovation) at lower prices. This is the historical pattern of the market; products are made more and more accessible to more and more people and quality continuously increases. This is true for anything from mobile phones, cars and PCs to toiletries, meat and clothing.
This is all notwithstanding the fact that people can still pay charity if they like now that they’re not compelled to do so by the state and that medical health companies can – for sincere charitable reasons or simply because of PR/Marketing- treat the poor and unwell.