Bartholomew lays this problem at the feet of diagnostic practices in Britain. He points to the fact that they have half as many MRI and Catscan machines per capita as the US has, and that even their x-ray equipment is 20 years out of date in most hospitals and in many cases past the recommended use-life suggested by the manufacturer. In Britain if you go in to the doctor you're lucky to get an x-ray when in the US a much more detailed test like an MRI would be likely. The is vital because x-rays just aren't effective in detecting many forms of cancer. They're find for broken bones, but for anything in the soft-tissue they're really not the right kind of test. The shortage of more advanced testing equipment results in long waits - as much as six months in many cases - and in doctors just not choosing to prescribe more advanced testing at all. With many forms of cancer early detection makes all the difference in survival. Six months can be the difference between life and death, or as demonstrated by the statistics the difference between a 50% survival rate and a 20% survival rate.
Bartholomew points out a related problem with treatment of heart disease. There is an apparent reluctance to prescribe surgery for common heart conditions, with long delays to see a surgeon and reliance on pharmaceutical treatment when surgery would be more effective. In the US almost anyone with blocked arteries around the heart gets almost immediate bypass surgery. I can't count all the people I've known who go into the hospital with minor chest pain and find themselves getting a multiple bypass that afternoon. In Britain there's more of a wait and see attitude, which means giving medication and waiting for six months, or usually until the patient has a full-out heart attack and dies. The rate of heart bypass treatment in the US is almost triple what it is in Britain with a correspondingly higher survival rate for heart disease.
In my my further research on this subject I ran into another fascinating article by Rebecca Goldsmith of Newhouse News which gives some good evidence to suggest that faced with such a high probability of unnecessary death in countries with socialized medicine the public is forcing those systems to go through radical changes. Alarming numbers of patients are looking for solutions outside of the European healthcare system, even travelling to the US or Eastern Europe for treatment. In Britain there's even been a remarkable growth in private supplemental health insurance which is now a 7.7 billion dollar industry there. In response, Britain, Germany and the Scandinavian countries are apparently introducing more and more privatization into their systems, finding ways to sub-contract healthcare to private institutions and borrowing ideas from the system we have here in the US. Germany and Britain are even selling off publicly owned hospitals to private management firms to increase efficiency. These changes have already shown some results, reducing wait times for non-critical operations (joint replacements and the like) by half - from 18 months to 9 months in Britain - and already showing a few percentage points reduction in death rates for some cancers.