Thursday, August 03, 2006

How to help the NHS

The NHS is in meltdown. Only the most ardent New-Labourites still have their heads in the sand about the crisis that is affecting it. Smarter minds than mine are working on what to do, but I have a couple of suggestions:

1. Support people with private health insurance. Having private health care is not a sin, if I could afford it I would. And the people who do have some are alleviating the pressure on the NHS. There should be some kind of tax break to recognise this - not a huge tax break, but an amount that would recognise not only are private health patients saving the NHS money, but also time - by coming off waiting lists, they are freeing spaces for people who need treatment and can't afford or wish to go private. Private health insurance should NEVER be compulsory, but the tax system should recognise that private patients help the NHS by not using it.

2. Despite my support for private health care I would ban NHS employed staff from working in the private sector and using NHS rooms/equipment and time to do so. If a consultant wants to earn thousands of pounds in the private sector that's fine. But to do so by telling NHS patients that he can't help them on the NHS but come round later today when I'm doing private consultations with your chequebook and I will treat you then is just sickening. An argument against this is that all dual-role doctors will go private, I don't believe it. And anyway, the market probably couldn't cope with the newly full-time private providers. I doubt there would be enough demand to cope with the supply.

As for private operations/care being provided on NHS premises - not a chance. The beds - bought by the NHS, the equipment - bought by the NHS, the rooms - paid for by the NHS, should all be used by NHS patients. If private companies want to provide private healthcare then that's fine, but they also have to provide the infrastructure and free up the space and equipment for NHS patients.

3. Managers are fine. But they don't make medical decisions and shouldn't make medical decisions. I was in hospital a couple of years ago for a fairly serious operation. In 10 days I was moved 7 times. Almost every time it was preceded by some bitch with a clipboard visiting the ward. By moving me, it aided her bed usages figures. I don't care. It hurt and it wasn't in my best interests. I spent my last night in hospital in a cubicle just off A&E - that is not patient care at its best. When I refused to moved one day I was marked out as a trouble-maker. It didn't seem to matter that my blood pressure was dangerously low, necessitating emergency treatment in the middle of the night and I was so sore that I couldn't even sit up, it was the request of the bed manager that I move to a different bed to ensure that there was the correct bed turnover for the ward. Put clinical decisions firmly in the hands of clinicians.

I know there's lots more to be done. But I think these are areas that could at least be looked at.

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