The UK and US health systems are often compared due to their contrasting approaches to healthcare. Despite both systems striving to provide quality care, there are key differences that impact the delivery and outcomes of healthcare in each country. This essay will identify and analyze two major differences between the UK and US health systems and discuss the opportunities for advocacy and political interventions that advanced practice nurses can undertake to improve the current health system.
One significant difference between the UK and US health systems is the method of financing. In the UK, healthcare is primarily funded through taxation, and the National Health Service (NHS) provides virtually free healthcare to all residents. The UK government allocates a specific budget to the NHS, and healthcare services are provided based on need rather than ability to pay. This universal coverage ensures that everyone has access to necessary healthcare services, regardless of their financial status. In contrast, the US health system relies on a combination of private health insurance and public programs such as Medicare and Medicaid. The majority of Americans obtain health insurance through their employers or purchase it individually, which can be costly and often leaves many uninsured or underinsured. The lack of universal coverage in the US results in disparities in access to care and financial barriers for many individuals, particularly those from low-income backgrounds. Consequently, one opportunity for advanced practice nurses to advocate for is the implementation of a universal healthcare system in the US, which would provide equitable access to healthcare and ensure that individuals are not burdened by exorbitant medical costs.
Another key difference between the UK and US health systems is the organization and delivery of healthcare services. In the UK, primary care plays a central role, and individuals are typically registered with a general practitioner who serves as the gatekeeper to other healthcare resources. Specialists and hospital services are accessed through referrals from general practitioners, ensuring a coordinated and longitudinal approach to care. Moreover, primary care services are well-integrated with other healthcare providers, contributing to a comprehensive and holistic model of healthcare delivery. In the US, however, the primary care system is often fragmented, and coordination among providers is challenging, particularly for individuals with multiple chronic conditions. Additionally, specialists in the US often operate independently and are not bound by referral systems, leading to variations in care and potential overutilization of services. Advanced practice nurses can advocate for a more integrated and collaborative primary care system in the US, emphasizing the value of comprehensive, team-based care and promoting care coordination to improve patient outcomes and reduce healthcare costs.
Advocacy and political interventions by advanced practice nurses can play a crucial role in enhancing the current health system in both the UK and the US. In the UK, nurses can engage in lobbying and advocacy efforts to secure sustainable funding for the NHS and prevent privatization of healthcare services. By actively participating in policy-making processes and joining professional organizations, nurses can influence healthcare policies and ensure that the needs of patients and frontline healthcare workers are considered. In the US, advanced practice nurses can advocate for reforms that expand access to primary care services, such as the removal of barriers to nurse practitioner practice and reimbursement parity with physicians. They can also contribute to the development and implementation of policies that address the social determinants of health, as improving social and economic conditions can have a significant impact on population health outcomes. Furthermore, advanced practice nurses can collaborate with other healthcare professionals and community organizations to promote health equity and address health disparities in underserved populations. By actively engaging in advocacy and politics, advanced practice nurses can drive positive change and enhance the current health system in both the UK and US.