|You are in: Talking Point|
Tuesday, 11 December, 2001, 10:49 GMT
Patient choice: Will it work?
The British government will pay patients for private medical treatment, and even treatment abroad, in an effort to cut waiting lists in the publicly-funded health service.
The choice will be given to people who have waited more than six months for an operation.
The government said it is trying to tackle decades of under investment in the National Health Service.
But the opposition Conservative party said the scheme is about political expediency rather than clinical priorities.
Patient groups said it will raise patients' expectations and the government must now fulfil those expectations.
Can this scheme work? Will it be a boost to the NHS, or does it mark the beginning of its end?
This debate is now closed. Read a selection of your comments below.
It's another roundabout way of avoiding the real issue: funding the NHS to adequate levels. The Conservatives may believe that putting extra money into the NHS isn't the solution but I think everyone else knows that it is. Why don't we just fund the system properly instead of all this messing around?
NHS treatment should be means tested so it is available for those who have no other option and who do not cause health problems by their choices (smoking etc). However, everyone else should have to pay health insurance if they want access to health services.
National Insurance contributions make up only a tiny proportion of the NHS budget. Those who pay tax don't use the NHS as much as those who don't. As an insider I can see the NHS crumbling under the pressure of demand, expectation political interference and increasingly defensive practice. Passing the easy work to the private sector has already diverted huge sums of money away from where it's needed most. Time to set up an independent Royal Commission to look at alternatives to the present service.
Most of the gap between health spending here and in the rest of Europe is due to lower private spending, where we are bottom of the league. There are plenty of ways of delivering "free" (tax-funded) healthcare without having to rely on this megalithic, Stalinist, centralised disaster, aka - the NHS.
I think a mix of the NHS and private hospitals, as done in parts of Europe is the best solution. But the government must ensure that it's not the same surgeons chasing their own tales doing operations in both sectors, whilst trying to make a fast buck.
The government could save the NHS and the holiday industry at the same time. If the NHS team up with say Thomas Cook you could go to Florida to have your operation and then have a couple of weeks at Disney land at the same time. Brilliant.
This scheme will be no different from the parental choice for Schools. Of course hospitals do not have an infinite capacity, and so patients will find in practice that the 'people's choice' hospitals will become too busy, or over-subscribed and they will not get in anyway. This is really an abrogation by the Government of its duty to use our taxes efficiently for our benefit.
I don't want to be cynical but is it not the government's job to run the country. Evidently we will be unable to provide our own water companies, power generating companies, transport system, or health service. How long before we are shipping our kids off to school at some European destination. This stinks of a country that has exceeded its carrying capacity and its basic ability to provide for its people, which makes us vulnerable. Get a grip Blair and co, stop selling this country off, and stop making us the laughing stock of the world.
Of course it will work for those who have to wait for longer than six months. But finally it comes down to spending more money either on the NHS itself or on buying services from the private sector. In the long run it is more expensive to buy services from the private sector. So the government spends more money than it would have otherwise spent on the NHS. Anybody see the resemblance with Railtrack here?
To Martin: First of all, the reason consultants can see patients straight away when seen privately is that this is done in their own time not that for which they are contracted to do for the NHS. Some consultants work 60 hours a week for the NHS. Secondly, one of the proposals was that a patient waiting longer than six months would be able to choose the hospital and time of his choice. I can see this causing big problems - imagine a patient at hospital A waiting more than six months deciding to have his operation at hospital B in another health authority's district right away. This would mean all the patients at hospital B would have their own appointments delayed. At its extreme it could mean patients at that hospital having to wait more than six months!
Why is the government set on closing hospitals and offering patients treatment abroad? Why not invest in hospitals and safeguard local communities rather than spend our money overseas?
Judie Read, UK
Lin Meng-chin, Taiwan
Does it really matter whether it's clinical priorities or political expediency? For those who have waited ages for these operations it's really good news. Over the years the NHS (once the shining star of the welfare state) has been run down by successive governments, be it Labour or Conservative. This is a short-term solution and now the government should ensure that proper funding is available for the NHS to provide the services required of them and meet the expectations of an ageing population.
The whole scheme is another government scam. Six months on a waiting list, does that include the wait to see the consultant and the wait for tests? Having waited three years for a bypass I do not believe a word of it. You will only get this treatment if your local health authority can afford it and when they say no the government will have someone to blame. It is just spin to make the majority less concerned about the pathetic resources we have.
Charlie Keeney, England
In my opinion the NHS is a national disgrace. It should be wound down and finally abolished forever and then people can take out private cover to suite their needs.
Just before boarding the ferry, my wife became so ill that I rushed her to the local hospital. Dunkirk public hospital was fantastic. Patients were kept in twin bedrooms with TV and telephone, the food very good, and batteries of doctors examined her to see what was wrong. In the end, they decided on keyhole surgery that revealed an atypical appendicitis. Yes, an appendix removed by keyhole! If France is able to achieve this, why not Britain? As far as sending patients abroad, it is to be noted that many Eastern European countries have very good health facilities and thanks to their weak currencies, treatments and operations are very good value for money even after taking into account travel costs. Maybe an idea for the NHS to explore.
What we are seeing this week is a government beginning to panic; be it health, education, transport, law and order or political sleaze.
Anything that marks the beginning of the end of the shambles that is the present NHS is to be welcomed. The public are getting tired of the unions placing their members' interests above those of the patients.
The only way we will find out if it works is to try it! People are too quick to criticise instead of encourage - perhaps the phase "whinging Poms" is right!
Ank, Edinburgh, Scotland
The public want results, so what other choice is there? The Government cannot provide the extra nurses and doctors required overnight (short of abolishing the private sector and conscripting the displaced staff), so patients will have to go where there is spare capacity. But it should NOT be a substitute for increasing the efficiency and capacity of the NHS itself.
The Government have quite obviously not thought this through. I can honestly say this has to be the worst waste of public funds I have heard of since the Millennium Dome. If they have the money to send people from the NHS to the private sector then they should spend it on more hospitals, beds, surgeons and doctors within the NHS, not putting it in another company's pocket. It's basic maths - something the Labour Party haven't got a grasp of yet. Short term it may reduce the waiting list. Long term the problem will still be there but with a larger population meaning more waiting lists
06 Dec 01 | Health
Patients 'to pick' their hospital
06 Dec 01 | Health
How patient choice works abroad
Other Talking Points:
Links to more Talking Point stories
|^^ Back to top
News Front Page | World | UK | UK Politics | Business | Sci/Tech | Health | Education | Entertainment | Talking Point | In Depth | AudioVideo
To BBC Sport>> | To BBC Weather>>
© MMIII | News Sources | Privacy