Re: Political self-obsession and onanism
Actually I can easily imagine the NHS being better semi-privatised. It's a sacred cow in British poliitics, so the NHS will continue to be on the edge of failure until Labour change their minds. The Tories won't be trusted to reform it well (despite the fact that Labour have claimed they're going to abolish the NHS in every election since 1950 - and there's been no sign of it happening yet). And Labour don't seem to want to reform it.
But I've lived in Belgium, and their system is not that much different to the rest of Western Europe. And a friend of mine ran a company in Belgium in the early 2000s that shipped NHS patients who'd been too long on waiting lists over for the operation. The Beligian (semi-privatised) system did things like heart bypass operations for a third of the cost of the NHS - and with lower hospital infection rates and better survival rates. A third of the cost then went to this company, who brought the patient over, put a relative up in a hotel (so they could have a visitior) and held their hands and filled out the paperwork / dealt with the language issues.
So in the Belgian system you had government owned hospitals, the universities owned teaching hospitals, their were church and charity owned ones plus fully private ones. You picked yours (probably on the advice of your GP) and then went and it was all covered by your insurance. There were big non-profit insurers, with policies paid for by employers or by government for those on benefits - and then you had a second top-up insurance scheme to cover things like bed-and-board (I seem to remember hospitals charged €20 a night for your food and bed linen) - which meant you got edible food.
The government set the cost of basic operations, if the hospital screwed up or gave you a post-op infection then they had to pay to treat it - but you could pay extra if you wanted a fancy-dan private hospital with hot and cold running call girls and fresh flowers every day.
And of course for all the talk of the NHS being this monolithic public system - the GPs are mostly private contractors or partnerships running their own companies. Personally I think it would be better as a mixed system, like most of the rest of Western Europe - though I think the insurance schemes they use may be more complex than just using taxation to fund it.