Case Studies, Globalfootprints.org
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UK

 

The NHS
Here, people have access to the National Health Service (NHS). This provides free healthcare for all, and is paid for through government taxation. At present visits to doctors and hospitals are free, although some prescription medicines have to be paid for. The charges are also determined by the patient’s income level. Despite employing over a million people to run it, the NHS is finding it increasingly difficult to meet all the demands placed upon it. Many people have to wait for a week to see a doctor and many months before they are treated in hospital.

Going private
As a result of delays in treatment, many people now choose to pay for health insurance, which means that they can afford to pay for private health treatment. Within the private sector, patients are treated more quickly, and some argue that the standard of care is much better. Eye and dental care is subsidised by the NHS, but for the majority of the population, this has to be paid for. The running of the NHS is a political issue, with each successive government making promises to improve and expand it.

The biggest killer
Within the UK, the biggest health problem is heart disease which kills one adult every three minutes. Many of these deaths could be prevented by following a healthier lifestyle and diet. The government runs regular campaigns to encourage people to eat at least five portions of fruit and vegetables a day, and to take regular exercise. Some schools in Scotland have banned children from bringing sweets, crisps and sugary drinks into school in an attempt to tackle the growing rates of obesity amongst young people. The NHS currently spends over £500 million a year treating obesity in the UK.

Long term strain
A further strain on the NHS is the fact that the population is now living for much longer than in the days of its formation in 1948. This means that there are now far more elderly people requiring long-term nursing care, which is placing an enormous strain upon the finances of the NHS. This has also become a very political issue, in that Scotland now provides free nursing care to the elderly in residential care homes, whilst the elderly in England and Wales have to pay for this type of care.