Remember the President’s remark to the AMA last week about how well nationalized health care works in other countries?  When asked for examples, the Press Secretary, Robert Gibbs, couldn’t come up with any.  Maybe this is one reason why:

— In a turnaround from just a year ago, when the NHS reported it was on track for a 2008 budget surplus, the government-run health service now faces a $24 billion dollar deficit for 5 years, beginning in 2011. That number would represent a record shortfall for the 50-year-old institution.

BMJ, an international, peer-reviewed medical journal based in London, reported in May that the surplus was likely a facade all along, with officials hoarding money already allocated in their accounts to create a positive balance sheet.

As a result, the journal said, “(p)atients could be missing out on crucial health care, the cost of which has already been financially allocated, because NHS organisations are trying to make a surplus in their finances, MPs (Members of Parliament) have said. Surpluses for the NHS are good but can leave money ‘sitting unspent in bank accounts’ rather than being used to treat patients, said a report published this week by the parliamentary committee for public accounts.”

According to the Associated Press, the national health provider’s newfound shortfall could “force the government to skimp on dentistry, fertility treatments, and cutting-edge drugs.

How do patients fare under care-by-the-numbers?

— Kidney cancer patients were enraged in 2005 when they were refused access to the drug Sutent, which could prolong their lives up to two years, because the National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence, ironically nicknamed “NICE,” did not deem it cost-efficient.

NICE says it “provides guidance on the appropriate treatment and care of people with specific diseases and conditions within the NHS.”

James Whale, an irreverent British television and radio personality who survived the disease, lashed out at the NHS when it reported its most recent surplus in May.

“They have been pleading poverty throughout the last year, denying sick and dying kinder cancer patients’ drugs, treatment and support,” Whale said in a statement. “(A)ll the while they actually did have the money to save lives and make a difference.”

Sutent has since been made available on a limited basis after public outcry.

More patient horror stories at the link and at Faces of Government Healthcare.