Q) India needs a public health model on the lines of Britain’s National Health Service (NHS) to address the crucial gaps in the public healthcare system. Comment.

Why this Question?

Important part of GS Paper-II.

Key demand of the Question 

Discuss in detail the need for a public health model on the lines of Britain’s National Health Service in India.


Comment– here we have to express our knowledge and understanding of the issue and form an overall opinion thereupon.


Start with an introduction about healthcare in India.


In the first part, give details about the gaps in the Indian healthcare system.

In the next part, write about the NHS and how such a system can significantly address these lags.


Conclude with a way forward.

Model Answer

The current surge in COVID-19 infections has exposed problems amounting to near-chaos throughout Indian healthcare, even if the pandemic has also brought to light Herculean attempts by medical staff, patients’ families, and governments to try and cope with what has been called a tsunami, one which is rapidly getting worse. In effect, COVID-19 may bring about serious consideration of an Indian national health service.

Public healthcare in India

  • Even after the pandemic, the Indian government continues to budget less than 1 per cent of GDP for healthcare, one of the lowest in the world.
  • In contrast, China invests around 3 per cent, Britain 7 per cent and the United States 17 per cent of GDP.
  • So, 62 per cent of health expenses in India are paid for by patients themselves
  • This is one of the main reasons for families falling into poverty especially during the pandemic.
  • In India, hospitals are beleaguered with absentee staff.
  • As per a Niti Aayog database, in the worst state of Bihar in 2017-18, positions for 60 per cent of midwives, 50 per cent of staff nurses, 34 per cent of medical officers and 60 per cent of specialist doctors were vacant.
  • Those on the job, despite being handsomely paid, are chronically overworked.

Britain’s National Health Service (NHS)– Britain’s legendary health network cures 15 million patients with chronic ailments, at a fraction of the cost spent by the US. The NHS funded by direct taxes is also the fifth-largest employer in the world, after McDonald’s and Walmart. One of every 20 British workers is employed as doctor, nurse, catering and technical personnel.

Prospects of National Health Service

  1. The result is a mighty achievement in public policy, politics, and the provision of top-class universal healthcare, including training, research, and changing engagement with the public as society changes.
  2. The service is funded entirely from general taxation. The budget includes payment to general practitioners, most of whom remain private providers but are paid by the state for treating NHS patients.
  3. Items listed in general practitioners’ prescriptions incur no charges in the devolved regions of Scotland, Wales, and Northern Ireland, and in practice only a proportion of patients in England have to pay for prescription items.
  4. All hospital treatment and medicines are free, as are outpatient and follow-up appointments.
  5. The British public share the costs through their taxes, and almost without exception receive treatment solely according to their clinical needs.
  6. With about 1.1 million staff, the NHS is the largest employer in the U.K. Its current budget is about 7.6% of GDP, but despite its size and scale, it provides highly localised access to care.

India now faces a very serious health crisis, possibly the worst since Independence. By all accounts, several areas of the Indian healthcare provision are under severe strain. The precise structure envisaged may need some adaptation for today’s society and conditions but dealing effectively with the pandemic may require much more than creation of a service. Immediately India must ramp up its health infrastructure and increase spending over 1.2% of GDP.