The UK operates both a public healthcare system and private healthcare initiatives. The public healthcare system of the NHS is free, the funds for operation are paid through general taxation of the public. The core principles of the NHS as stated on their website are ‘The NHS is committed to providing quality care that meets the needs of everyone, is free at the point of need, and is based on a patient's clinical need, not their ability to pay. The NHS will not exclude people because of their health status or ability to pay’.
All people are eligible for registration with a doctor in the UK that is with the NHS and on a set salary. The role of the GP is to manage the health care needs of his patients and make referrals to other specialists within the NHS if necessary. Most surgeries now have walk in clinics or manage a system where you can only book an appointment one day in advance in an attempt to keep waiting times to a minimum.
Should hospital care be needed the patients information will be sent to the hospital for assessment of how urgent the care is in order to prioritise against other patients. The average wait time is three weeks to see a consultant, in-patient treatment wait is 6 weeks. Emergency care is also provided and cases are prioritised on arrival by a nurse and the patient will then wait to see a doctor. The goal is to have all patients seen within 4 hours of arrival.
Also part of the UK healthcare system is the promotion of affordable prescriptions to everybody by charging a set fee no matter the drug. It also helps those under 16, over 59 and on low incomes by giving exemption from paying this fee for any prescriptions. Other services included within the NHS are Dentists, ambulance services, childbirth care, clinics and walk in centers.
Running parallel to the NHS is an active private sector of healthcare that although is still very much lesser used than the free alternative, it is gaining in popularity. One of the main attractions of private healthcare is the speed of access to medical care and companies promote themselves as a more ‘personal touch’.