OK it was substandard circa 1995 - the Conservative government had starved it of cash in the hopes that people would get so tired of waiting for operations they would switch to private healthcare (they were hoping to create a US style system here). Some people did take out private plans only to find they covered only minor stuff and excluded all the chronic stuff that you really need a healthcare system to deal with. So people then switched the government, and money was pumped into the system.
It's now 2009 and things are very different. Here are some stats to show why Britain's health system outperforms the American systems:
1. Infant mortality: number of deaths per 1000 live births
Sweden 2.75 Japan 2.79 France 3.33 Germany 3.99 Spain 4.21 Australia 4.75 UK 4.85 Canada 5.04 Ireland 5.05 Cuba 5.82 USA 6.26
As you can see, all the countries with socialised healthcare save babies better than the USA.
2. Life expectancy. This is directly correlated to access to good quality healthcare. Put bluntly, those those don't have access to good doctors die before they have to. If loads of people in a given country don't have access to good medicine, the average life expectancy rates drop.
Japan 82.2 years France 80.87 years Sweden 80.63 years Australia 80.62 years Canada 80.4 years Spain 80.1 years Germany 79.75 years UK 79.7 years Ireland 78.9 years Chile 78.36 years Cuba 78.26 years USA 78.21 years
Much of the criticism of the UK in the American press is around alleged failures in treating cancer in the UK. But clearly the USA ain't saving sufficient cancer patients to prolong life!
3. How much heathcare costs as a % of GDP - the following figures are from the OECD
UK 8% of GDP France 9.5% of GDP Canada 9.7% of GDP Germany 10.7% of GDP Switzerland 10.9% of GDP USA 17% of GDP.
You are paying how much? And your babies are still dying? You've been robbed. Even more scary is the fact that the US government spends 8% of GDP on Medicare, which only covers retired people. But the UK makes the same amount cover the entire nation from cradle to grave and delivers better outcomes. Plus business in the UK isn't burdened with healthcare costs, and individuals don't go bankrupt just because someone in the family is ill.
That's why the UK has lower unemployment rates than the USA and lower bankruptcies (UK unemployment stands at 7.2% of the workforce, in the USA it's 9.5%). Bankruptcies in the UK are running at 107,000 per annum out of a population of 62 million i.e. 0.17%, in the USA bankruptcies are running at 1.2 million per annum out of a population of 300 million i.e. 4%. In other words you have nearly 23 times the number of bankruptcies in the USA compared to the UK, and all because you don't have a proper socialised healthcare system.
Still think your system is better than ours?