How to Revive Free Healthcare for Everyone

the healthcare debate, NHS, two surgeons are operating on a patient

Warmer questions

  1. When was the last time you went to a hospital? What was it like?
  2. Do you have to pay for medical treatment in your country?
  3. If you could improve public healthcare in three ways, what would you do and why?

Reading section

Healthcare as a human right

Health care may be defined as the act of taking preventive or compulsory medical procedures to maintain the health of a person’s whole body. This may be done by surgery, by the administering of medicine, or other. These services are usually offered through a healthcare system made up of hospitals and physicians. It is delivered by healthcare providers or professionals in various fields including pharmacy, nursing, medicine, dentistry, psychology, general and specialised physicians, etc.

Ideally, access to appropriate, high-quality healthcare should be considered a basic human right, in which each nation ensures that every person is covered by equal healthcare, irrespective of their gender, origin, income, or age. But healthcare varies across the different countries of the globe.

In “The Case for Investing in Public Health” report, the World Health Organization underlined that cost-effective interventions provide returns on investment and cost savings on either a short-term or a long-term basis. As a general rule, most of the studies include long-term health and broader societal benefits in their ‘returns’, which −after all− is the goal of public health.

As a prime example, obesity is a rapidly growing public health problem affecting a growing number of countries because of its predominance, costs, and health effects. Excessive fat accumulation in the body may lead to significant long-term health consequences including the development of coronary heart disease, diabetes, and osteoarthritis as well as increasing the risk of developing certain cancers.

England holds one of the worst records and tendencies in obesity compared with the rest of Europe. Tackling the obesity epidemic and guaranteeing that this does not affect future generations is a major challenge. The increase in the prevalence of obesity causes a substantial impact on the National Health Service (NHS) budget. Proven cost-effectiveness of most preventive investment measures taken now will only show success in 10-20 years’ time. No doubt, investing in the good health of the population and prevention activities provides real economic and social benefits. But these investments also have many drawbacks. So a wide-ranging debate about investing in public health continues.

Questions to consider

  1. Mental and physical health care are both equally imperative when considering the health of a whole person. Is mental health an area of concern for the NHS?
  2. A recent study estimated that more than 50% per cent of the UK population could be obese by the year 2050. Should average-weight individuals pay for the obesity of the rest of the population?
  3. Artificial intelligence innovations for health care have the potential to transform the diagnosis and treatment of diseases. How will A.I. revolutionise medicine?
  4. How cost-effective is prevention activity in general? And what are the most cost-effective public health interventions?

Vocabulary matching

Match the words on the left with the correct definitions on the right.

Vocabulary Definition
1. Unrecognizable a. economical with food or money
2. Surgeon b. improve the position or condition of something
3. Revive c. health care at a basic rather than specialized level for people making an initial approach to a doctor or nurse for treatment.
4. Chronic disease d. make determined efforts to deal with (a problem or difficult task)
5. Taxation e.not able to be recognized or identified: synonyms: unidentifiable, unknowable.
6. Frugal f. a medical practitioner qualified to practice surgery.
7. Primary care g. long-lasting disease
8. Segmenting h. money paid as tax
9. Tackle i. divide

  1. e
  2. f
  3. b
  4. g
  5. h
  6. a
  7. c
  8. i
  9. d

Video: How to revive public healthcare

Britain’s National Health Service is facing unprecedented challenges—70 years after it was first created. Lord Ara Darzi is a world-leading surgeon and a former British health minister. This is his prescription for nursing the NHS back to health.


Watch the video and answer the questions below.

  1. How many years does the NHS celebrate this year?
  2. When was the NHS formed?
  3. What does the NHS represent today?
  4. How does NHS’s future look like?
  5. Who is Lord Ara Darzi?
  6. What are Darzi’s plan talking points?
  7. What is the NHS spending almost 9 billion pounds on?
  8. What does the government need to do to cut the costs?
  9. How is the government cutting costs?
  10. How many people use the NHS?
  11. What is the best return on investment any country could make?

1. This year Britain’s National Health Service celebrates its 70th birthday.
2. Formed in 1948, it was the first state health service in the world.
3. It’s the world’s 5th biggest employer, with a budget of 110 billion pounds a year.
4. Like many healthcare systems, the NHS is faced with a funding shortfall and critical staff shortages meaning its future looks perilous.
5. He is one of the world’s top surgeons and a former British Health Minister. He’s been on the healthcare frontline for 3 decades and he’s come up with a plan for reviving the NHS.
6. To tackle the public health crisis. To embrace innovation. To use data better. To invest.
7. The NHS spends almost 9 billion pounds a year dealing with diseases related to smoking and the growing obesity epidemic.
8. To cut costs, the government needs to tackle this public health crisis at its root.
9. It cuts costs in three ways. Firstly, by regulation (banning smoking). Secondly, by taxation (sugar tax or a levy on alcohol). Thirdly, by behavioural intervention (how to help people make the right choices).
10. One million people use the NHS every 36 hours.
11. The best return on investment any country could make is in health. Healthy nation means a productive nation, healthy nation means economic growth. For every pound you spend it helps you get two pounds back.


The advantages of investing in public healthcare

  1. Productivity and Competitiveness: healthy populations make for more productive populations (and vice versa). An innovative and competitive healthcare system would make a nation stronger internally, as well as a better competitor internationally.
  2. Stabilisation Tool: investments in health systems contribute to the growth of the national economy through employment creation. Healthcare-related jobs provide stabilisation and often minimise severe economic crises.
  3. Foreign Direct Investment: investments are the driving force behind a large number of innovations; without proper healthcare improvements, FDI −critical for economic growth− suffers remarkably.
  4. Improved Life Expectancy: investments in public healthcare systems rise people’s life expectancy and provide increased quality of life through treatments such as kidney dialysis, and new vaccinations like diphtheria and polio.

The disadvantages of investing in public healthcare

  1. Public health care forces healthy people to pay or others’ medical care (through tax contribution). Chronic diseases, like diabetes and heart disease, make up most of health care costs.
  2. Private or government investors focus on providing basic and emergency health care. Most public health systems thus report long wait times for elective procedures.
  3. To keep costs low, private or government investors limit payment amounts to public hospitals’ staff. In consequence, doctors often have less incentive to provide quality care.
  4. In public health systems, investors may limit −to cut costs− services with a low probability of success. Various public health systems may not cover drugs for rare conditions. They prefer palliative care over expensive end-of-life care.

Potential debating topics

  1. Sick people, or individuals who are already ill, or in need of medical treatment, should pay higher taxes than healthy people.
  2. I am a healthy and strong person. I should not be forced to pay such high taxes to support the infirm, the sick and the weak.
  3. There are avoidable diseases. Each person should take care of herself in order not to impose a heavy financial burden on society.
  4. Individuals should be able to buy private health care in the marketplace only. If people didn’t have to pay such high taxes, they would be able to afford a private health practice a more convenient and personalised care.
  5. Individuals’ contribution to taxes should be proportional to people’s degree of health, sickness or disability.
  6. Health is not just a private matter for individuals or their families. The individual’s health is the collective responsibility of society as a whole.
  7. Health should be a public issue of utmost importance for every nation. Medical providers should not turn away patients who cannot pay for care, even if a patient’s medical condition is not an emergency.
  8. Health care should remain tax-based so all persons are entitled to social and health-care services on an equal basis.


The use of a government’s (or private) funds in strengthening a nation’s public health services reflects the value society puts on health and other public goals. Nations should all focus efforts and resources to provide a meaningful and equitable response to the needs of their communities.

Further reading

The advantages and disadvantages of public healthcare

Universal Health Care in Different Countries, Pros and Cons of Each