National Health Service

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The National Health Service (NHS) is the United Kingdom's nationalised health care system. It was established in 1948 as part of Clement Attlee's post-World War II Labour government's socialist program, and has been supported by politicians of every party since then.

The NHS is nominally funded out of "National Insurance contributions", a form of personal taxation comparable to the US Social Security system. The NHS revenue stream is, in theory, entirely separate in operation from income tax.[1] In practice, the NHS is funded from general taxation, and is accepted by the British electorate as being funded in this way. All prescription medicines (however not over-the-counter ones) are available for a low standard fee in England, with the fee in Scotland being slightly lower. Prescriptions are entirely free of charge in Wales[2]. NHS treatment is available to all residents of the UK. Most services, including complex and expensive surgical procedures and drugs, are free at the point of use, and those that are not (such as the provision of glasses and dental care) are free to people on low incomes. This ensures that everyone is able to be treated, no matter what their individual wealth or means may be.[3] "Private" (i.e. non-NHS) doctors and hospitals do exist in Britain, but fewer than 10% of Britons choose to buy private health insurance in preference to using the NHS. (The big exception to this is in the area of dental care: NHS dentists are relatively difficult to find in many areas, and many people are forced to "go private", even if uninsured.)

As a result of its comprehensive coverage, the resources of the NHS have been consistently tightly stretched for many years, leading to consequences such as lengthy waiting lists for surgery. This was the case in the 1980s and 1990s in particular. Since 1997, the NHS has benefited from substantially increased spending under the Labour Party, but there is a perception among many in Britain that the extra money has not been well spent or delivered appropriate improvements. However, it is noteworthy that when individuals are surveyed regarding their own experience of the NHS, the vast majority report positive experiences.

All party support

The NHS is supported by politicians of all parties in the UK, but is widely regarded as the child of the Labour Party, and inspires particular affection in the supporters of this party. All post war governments have consistently supported the National Health Service. British voters can see that it works well. Even Margaret Thatcher worked to reform the National Health Service and make it more efficient. [4] Currently the Conservative website attacks the Labour party because they feel it is underinvesting in the health service.



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