Senior tours England, studies health care

When Andrew Smith ’08 traveled to England this summer, he was not there to see Buckingham Palace or the Tower of London. In fact, Smith did not make the trip as a tourist, but as a researcher.

In May, Smith was awarded the Junior Fellowship Award for his proposal to study the differences between the American health care system and England’s current system. Smith says that he “knew that [he] wanted to do something having to do with medicine,” and due to the fact that his grandparents had some of the age-related diseases that he was going to study, he decided to travel to England.

While health care is privatized in the United States, England has a national health care system, which was set up in 1948, to provide free health care for all residents of the United Kingdom.
Smith was primarily interested in the quality of care the elderly receive in the National Healthcare System.

Although Smith has elderly grandparents suffering from age-related illnesses, the issue of elderly healthcare was not just a topic of personal interest for him. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the number of Americans aged 65 or older will soon increase from 35 million to 71 million. Smith knew that this issue is increasingly important to Americans, and he set out to discover how well the NHS is dealing with it.

Smith spent five days in Oxford and eight in London conducting a series of interviews.
He spoke to a number of medical doctors and professors at King’s College in Oxford and University College London, as well as to charity workers and nursing home employees. Smith also spoke with senior citizens dependent on the NHS for their health care.

Before starting his research, Smith thought the NHS would be better suited to meet the needs of the elderly than the private health care system in the United States. However, he discovered that national healthcare has its own problems.

“Although the cost of major medical procedures like expensive surgeries and limb grafting operations are always covered by the National Healthcare Service, every-day expenditures incurred by the elderly for necessities such as specialized food and care are often not,” Smith said. “The system is not suited to fit the individual needs of the country’s senior citizens.”

Back in America, Smith used what he had learned about the NHS to create a plan for a successful American health care system. 

He concluded that “neither system is perfect, but a hybrid system is most likely what is needed.”
One thing that Smith is sure of is that some form of socialized medicine is necessary for meaningful healthcare reform.