06 June 2007

Well, I Don't Believe This

OJ links to an article in the Daily Record(?) reporting that:
Doctors at Glasgow University found that between 1974 and 2003, a total of 462,000 people died in Scotland as a result of health service failings
Now, according to some web site I found, the population of Scotland in 2001 was about 5 million, and there were about 50,000 deaths. So, in the 29 years between 1974 and 2003, there were about 1.5 million deaths in Scotland and these doctors are saying that one-third, more or less, were caused by the National Health Service.

I understand that this is all very approximate, but it's close enough for government work. I can't believe that the NHS, as incompetent as it may be, is causing nearly one-third of all Scottish deaths, or anything like it. I wouldn't believe 25%, or 20%, or 10%.


Susan's Husband said...

I hate to go on record as defending the NHS, but I suspect that it contributed to a lot more deaths than it caused. For instance, if some one falls down and then dies from the injury while waiting for care at the hospital, did the NHS cause that death? Certainly NHS has contributory negligence, but cause? Not quite the same thing.

Harry Eagar said...

Sir Peter Medawar, whose opinion on such matters is not to be sneezed at, rated the NHS as the greatest achievement of the UK in the late 20th c.

People who know something about how well the free market delivered health care in Britain pre-NHS will understand why he said that.

Read W.L. Shirer's 'Berlin Diary' for the period of late May 1940, or the opening chapter of T.E. Lawrence's 'The Mint' (if you can find it) for reliable (because unconscious) evaluations.

Harry Eagar said...

I don't believe the claim, either.

It is in principle unknowable.

For example, in the US it has been well established that most people do not follow prescription regimens.

So even if the National Health correctly diagnoses and correctly prescribes, in some sizable fraction the customer will die anyway.

Once again, we are presented with an unsolvable but not uninformative conundrum: Either the people pushing the study don't know what they are about; or they know but are lying.

Useful to know, either way.