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England has one of the world’s largest healthcare systems, but that’s changing fast

On a rainy Saturday, thousands of people, among them workers, campaigners and more, carried out a march in London to protest funding and budget cuts for the National Health Service, England’s publicly funded healthcare system. The National Health Service is one of the U.K.’s major health care services, and is also one of the largest single-payer health care systems in the world.

The National Health Service was the subject of public controversy and criticism after its decision last year to make cuts to better improve local health services. It wanted to boost its local clinics and hospitals at the cost of shutting down some services, and in turn jeopardized the lives of those relying on those very services. Hospital services in as much as two-thirds of England could cease to exist because of financial reason, according to BBC.

According to the National Health Service website, the service aims to “set the priorities and direction of the NHS and encourage and inform the national debate to improve health and care.” It does this by commissioning contracts for general practitioners and other medical professionals. Its work includes creating a five-year plan to improve health care across the region, as well as help patients with cancer, mental health issues, learning disabilities and more.

The National Health Service has said the money that it saves from hospital budget cuts will be used to improve existing community services as well as to improve the standards of health care. Despite the National Health Service’s great contributions since its founding in 1948 — including home treatment — drastically altering budget figures and decreasing hospital funding is not the way to continue improving national health care. The repercussions that may not be obvious upfront are alarming.

By creating budgets, we limit how much we can do with money and other resources. Altering the allotted number of resources by even 1 percent could mean the difference between cancer patients receiving treatment or being up a creek without a paddle. Cutting funding for health care will inevitably shut down hospitals and put doctors and staff out of jobs, causing more chaos for patients.

I understand the National Health Service is doing all this primarily to improve the quality of its health care services and some are not as critical of the changes. Syracuse University London Center’s Health and Wellness Advisor Lisa Watkins views the National Health Service as a brilliant institution that meets the needs of everyone, regardless of the budget restrictions and funding cuts.

“This 70-year-old institution is now treating more people than ever, has increased the survival rates for cancer and related illnesses, has improved infant mortality rates. These improvements and many more, too many to quote, are sometimes overshadowed by media reports,” Watkins said.

But when it comes to medicine, treatments and assistance, dramatic changes are wrong because of the sheer number of lives that will be affected. If budget cuts are the only way to go, the National Health Service must have another system in place for the thousands of patients whose healthcare it will compromise.

In an article published by the U.K.’s Quality Care Commission, Chief Inspector of Hospitals Sir Mike Richards said, “What is clear is that while staff continue to work hard to deliver good care, the model of care that once worked well cannot continue to meet the needs of today’s population.”

Sir Mike is right. To reform health care, the system by which it operates must be refined. It is unjust to make these changes at the cost of patients whose lives depend on it.

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