If Britain’s nationalized health care system offers a glimpse of America’s future under Obamacare, bureaucrats who will be forced to decide how limited funds are allocated should be prepared to take flack.
Britain’s National Health Service, the NHS, recently spent £4,800 – about $7,200 – on enormous breast implants for an aspiring model while nearly 1,200 patients starved to death in hospitals over the past four years. Critics say the deaths were caused by neglect due to understaffing.
The NHS provided Josie Cunningham with 36DD implants in January after she told her doctor that being flat-chested was causing emotional distress.
“I could never go on holiday, as I lived in terror of ever being seen in a bikini and could never set foot outside without a padded bra,” explained Cunningham.
The 22-year-old from Leeds said she planned to leave her 5- and 2-year-old children with her parents while she pursued a modeling career.
Critics are outraged over the procedure by the cash-strapped NHS.
“This is a waste of NHS cash, and taxpayers will be stunned that they have been landed with the bill. The NHS is there for people with serious medical needs, not as a means of helping wannabes who fancy a career in modeling,” said Matthew Sinclair, chief executive of the TaxPayers’ Alliance.
Andrew Bannister of St James’s Hospital, where the surgery was performed, said all hospital operations must be funded by an external commissioner, which at the moment is the Primary Care Trust.
“They will have specific criteria which will decide whether an operation is appropriate for funding,” he said. “Normally, quite a careful assessment is carried out. It is not the hospital’s decision whether to fund. Cosmetic procedures are not normally funded, but in some cases there may be exceptional circumstances that allow it to go ahead.”
In addition to the breast implants, the NHS has also spent £25,000 – about $37,000 – on a sex-change operation for a 19-year-old male diagnosed with “gender identity disorder.”
The funding priorities are under fire as the British government reveals widespread cases of starvation, malnutrition and neglect at hospitals.
Earlier this month, the London Daily Mail reported government figures showing as many as 1,165 people starved to death in NHS hospitals over the past four years.
The paper cited critics who say “nurses are too busy to feed patients and often food and drink are placed out of reach of vulnerable people.”
Figures from the Office for National Statistics show 43 patients starved to death and 291 died in a state of severe malnutrition in 2011. The government said 5,558 patients were discharged while suffering from malnutrition.
Critics have accused the NHS of skewing the numbers to hide the number of patients dying needlessly.
A major investigation is underway at the Royal Bolton Hospital in Greater Manchester, which has one of the highest mortality rates in the country.