A Perspective of the Nation’s Health and Health Care

We could not carry out the task defined in our terms of reference without considering what were the objectives of the NHS, what they should be and how far the NHS does and may succeed in reaching them. We therefore started by asking what as individuals we could reasonably expect of society in helping us maintain our health and caring for us when we were sick. We found no simple, unique answer to this question. But whatever answer is offered will define the nature of the health service we want and its objectives. It is therefore a question which, whether we are patients, providers or policy makers, we all should keep before us.

It is important also to understand from the outset that good health depends on much more than a good health service. No health system can be looked at in isolation from the society it serves or the way that that society chooses to behave.

In Chapter 2, the first chapter of this section of the report, we put forward our view of what the objectives of the NHS should be; there and elsewhere we discuss how well it achieves those objectives and how it might be helped to do better in the future. In the succeeding chapter we make some estimate of how well the NHS is performing compared with what it has been able to do in the past and with what other countries have achieved. In the last chapter of this introductory section we discuss some of the failings of the NHS which have been put to us.

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