Occasional reflections on Life, the World, and Mathematics

“Not infinite”


From The Guardian:

British nurses are planning to debate whether GPs should start charging patients for appointments.

The Royal College of Nursing’s (RCN) annual conference in Liverpool will discuss whether the union backs the idea of charging people a fee to see their family doctors.

Traditionally the RCN has stood behind the belief that the NHS should be free at the point of delivery. But nurses have put forward the motion, saying that NHS finances are “not infinite”.

“Not infinite” sounds like a sensible observation. Neither are the funds available to the police infinite, which is why we charge people a fee to report a burglary, with extra hourly charges for the investigation. And schools. And that’s why when the smoke alarm klaxons you out of bed, the first thing you need to do is grab enough cash to pay the firefighters who show up. Because their finances are not infinite.

Obviously, the RCN is just trying to make the point that healthcare workers are having their salaries squeezed up against the free-at-the-point-of-delivery. But this argument is made often, and it’s ridiculous. If you want to advocate patient fees, as opposed to all the other ways that the nation could increase funding of the NHS, it can only be because you think that the service that is now free is being overused, and you want to encourage ill people to do something else, besides visiting their GPs. In any case, the cost of administering the £10 fee would probably be more than the fee would bring in.

Here’s what charging for fire and rescue services looks like.

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