Letter from Nigel Edwards to The Times

A letter published in The Times on 30 June from Nigel Edwards, which was a response to a leading article on 28 June that argued poorer outcomes are down to the way the NHS is funded.

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Published: 02/07/2018

Sir, Your leading article on the NHS (“Health Disservice”, June 28) draws on data presented by my organisation and other leading think tanks. Yet its conclusion that poor outcomes on some of the big killers such as cancer are down to the tax-funded nature of the system is spurious. In fact, there is no reason to think that the funding system is part of the reason behind our poorer outcomes. Several other countries that do better on saving lives — such as Sweden and Canada — also have tax-funded systems.

Our below-average survival rates from cancer and other killer diseases are likely to be due to a combination of reasons, including fewer doctors and nurses and less provision of vital equipment. But the way health systems are run and operated also plays a crucial role. Few other health systems, including those modelled on the NHS, are as highly centralised and politicised as the health service in England. Perhaps the best birthday present we could give the NHS is to swap our obsession with how it is funded for a healthier obsession with improving our clinical outcomes.

Nigel Edwards
Chief Executive, Nuffield Trust