A shortage of beds has also resulted in delays to emergency services, with some patients waiting up to 12 hours in emergency wards before being seen.
Do Britons Want to Get Rid of the N.H.S.?
Not at all. In fact, the thousands who marched in London on Saturday were there not to criticize the health service, but to urge the government to support it and give it greater funding to cope with the winter crisis.
Protesters carried banners with messages like “More Staff, More Beds, More Funds” and “Saving Lives Costs Money, Saving Money Costs Lives.” They chanted, “Keep your hands off our N.H.S.”
Created in 1948 during a bleak period after World War II, the National Health Service is seen as one of Britain’s most cherished institutions — a greater source of pride, according to some polls, than even the monarchy.
The service is known for its simplicity: It is free at the point of use to anyone who needs it. Paperwork is minimal, and most patients never see a bill. Almost no one in Britain is bankrupted by medical expenses, no one needs to delay medical treatment until they can afford it, and virtually everyone is covered.
To take one crucial measure, the United States spends more than all other rich nations on health care, but with decidedly mixed outcomes. According to the latest data from the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development, the United States spent 17.2 percent of its economic output on health care in 2016, compared with 9.7 percent in Britain. Yet Britain has a higher life expectancy at birth and lower infant mortality.
Why Did Mr. Trump Mention the N.H.S.?
Many observers noted that Mr. Trump wrote his Twitter post less than an hour after Nigel Farage — the former leader of the populist U.K Independence Party and an ally of Mr. Trump — appeared on a Fox News program and claimed that the pressures faced by the N.H.S. were caused by immigration.
“The big problem we’ve got is a population crisis caused by government policy on immigration,” Mr. Farage said. “We have a population of 65 million, but it’s increasing by half a million people a year. We just haven’t got enough hospitals, we haven’t got enough doctors, we haven’t got enough facilities.”
Mr. Farage also warned that if the United States introduced a universal health care system, it would become “politically impossible” to return to a private system or reduce the benefits.
“Let’s be in no doubt we’ve got a big problem, a really big problem with the N.H.S.,” he said.
Britain’s political leaders were quick to answer Mr. Trump. Prime Minister Theresa May said she was “proud” of the service, and Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt, also a member of her governing Conservative Party, responded on Twitter by criticizing America’s health care system for not covering all of its citizens.
Do Democrats Favor a British-Style System?
It depends. Many Americans — Democrats and Republicans alike — talk about support for “universal health care,” but that term usually refers to universal health insurance coverage, and there are competing visions of how to achieve that goal.
Public support for a single-payer system — one in which the government pays medical bills — has been growing, and politicians on the left like Bernie Sanders have urged American to “join every industrialized country and guarantee health care to all Americans as a right.” (The United States does have a single-payer system, Medicare, for Americans over 65.) Polls show that a plurality, but not a majority, favor such a system.
Before the Affordable Care Act was enacted in 2010, President Barack Obama expressed sympathy for the single-payer approach, but he ultimately went for a complex system of tax credits and legislative and spending changes to expand insurance coverage — bringing down the number of uninsured to 28 million in 2016, from more than 48 million in 2010.
Although a Republican effort to repeal the law failed last summer, the system remains on shaky ground. The Republican-led Congress recently rescinded the part of the law that requires individuals to hold health insurance, but companies with more than 50 people are still required to offer coverage for their workers.
For now, the system of subsidy payments to help low-income Americans get coverage remains intact, as does the system of exchanges from which people not covered through their employers can shop for a health plan.
Mr. Trump may have had a point — that many British people are unhappy with their National Health Service — but not one that supports his overall view.
Most British people want more funding to shore up their single-payer system, and support for getting rid of it is negligible.