Stay Home, Protect the NHS, Save Lives – this is what Britons have heard for months since the outbreak of the pandemic. According to a report published by the Institute of Economic affairs (IEA), however, the NHS has not been the “star performer” in the battle against the coronavirus.
Kristian Niemietz, Head of Political Economy at the Institute of Economic Affairs and author of the aforementioned report, has spoken to Sputnik about the importance of public debates on health systems and shared his thoughts on the role of the National Health System in fighting COVID-19.
Sputnik: In the IEA report, you state that there is “nothing special about the NHS” and “no reason to be ‘grateful’ for the fact that we have it”. What did you plan to achieve by publishing the report?
Kristian Niemietz: The aim of the report is to counter a variety of common misperceptions that have arisen since the beginning of the pandemic. One of them is the idea that the British healthcare system has been an exceptionally good performer. There is no reason to believe that it has been. Not only do we have one of the highest COVID death rates in the world, we also have one of the highest excess mortality rates (the number of deaths over and above what we see in a normal year), and a higher case fatality rate (the death rate among people diagnosed with COVID) than most of our neighbours.
Obviously, much of this is not specifically the fault of the health system. It has more to do with the government’s overall pandemic response. But that is exactly the discussion we should be having: to what extent has the health system been up to the job? Elsewhere in Europe, you get debates like that. Here in Britain, we don’t have that. Only totally uncritical adulation of the NHS.