Is private care ethical?
On the 60th anniversary of the public UK health service Muireann Quigley and Brian H Willis ask whether it could survive without coexisting private care
Since its inception in 1948 the UK National Health Service has had three core principles: it should meet the needs of everyone; be free at the point of delivery; and be based on clinical need and not ability to pay.1 Private medical care has always existed alongside publicly funded health care, with wealthier patients often seen privately and the NHS providing health care for people who cannot afford it.2
The ethics of private practice in a largely publicly funded system such as here in the United Kingdom are not at all simple. Contentious points include access to treatments, queue jumping by people who can afford to, the use of NHS facilities for private purposes, and many more. We could not cover all of these here so we have given four case studies chosen to show the complexity in NHS and private health care. The two systems, public and private, do