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Int J Health Policy Manag. 2014 Nov 16;3(7):371-6. doi: 10.15171/ijhpm.2014.123. eCollection 2014 Dec.

Morality and markets in the NHS.

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Harvard University, Cambridge, MA, USA.
Green Templeton College, University of Oxford, Oxford, UK.


Since its establishment in 1948, the history of the National Health Service (NHS) has been characterized by organisational turbulence and system reform. At the same time, progress in science, medicine and technology throughout the western world have revolutionized the delivery of healthcare. The NHS has become a much loved, if much critiqued, national treasure. It is against this backdrop that the role of this state-funded health service has been brought into moral question. Certainly, the challenges facing healthcare policy-makers are numerous and complex, but in the wake of the Health and Social Care Act (2012), no issue is more divisive than that of market-based reform. Here we explore the turbulent history of the NHS, from its foundation to the birth of the healthcare marketplace. We explore arguments for and against the healthcare market and resolve that, amid an evolving economic and moral framework, the NHS must ensure that its original tenets of equity and autonomy remain at its core. We propose a values-explicit, systems-based approach to renew focus on both the processes and the outcomes of care.


Marketplace; Morality; National Health Service (NHS)

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