Health Care, Aisle 5!

Although Great Britain is not normally where one would think to look for ideas on health care reform, the government is going to experiment by installing doctors in J. Sainsbury, a leading supermarket. Reports The New York Times:

Some Britons can add a visit to the doctor to their shopping lists. On Monday, J Sainsbury, one of Britain’s largest supermarket chains, is to become the first in the country to offer a visit to a family doctor in one of its stores.

Unlike Wal-Mart‘s entry into health care with clinics and discount pharmaceuticals in the United States — a foray by a private enterprise into public health — at Sainsbury, a team of government-financed doctors will see patients. To start, they will work in the evenings and on Saturdays in a fully equipped consultation room in one store in Manchester. If the pilot project succeeds, it is expected to be introduced in other Sainsbury stores this year.

The supermarket doctors will help not only patients but also the government. British authorities have struggled to improve their taxpayer-financed national health service and to make doctors more readily available to patients. The doctors may also help Sainsbury. Like other retailers, the company is searching for ways to increase profits as growth in its traditional food business has slowed.

The National Health Service remains a highly flawed program, sacrificing patient choice to government control. But the willingness of the Brown government to consider creative reforms like supermarket docs should encourage American politicians to look for answers in private entrepreneurship rather than public mandates.