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'Patient choice will not build a better NHS'

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The much-touted special relationship between the US and the UK has brought innumerable benefits, culturally and sociologically. However, when it comes to politics – and in particular, systems of healthcare – there isn’t a lot the US can teach us. After all, ours is justifiably acknowledged as one of the best in the world.

Why then have I observed the disconcerting trend of politicians in the UK using focus groups to direct policy? I’m deeply concerned that the US – hardly the expert when it comes to providing good, free healthcare for the masses – has steered our government towards the bizarre notion that choice should determine the provision of healthcare.

The last thing the majority of patients require is the extra burden, particularly in times of stress, of having to decide the best place to have treatment. All anyone treated within the NHS needs is a uniformly high standard of care.

Any electorate, having had its appetite whetted by promises of treatment times and locations being set by them for their convenience will not contentedly revert to the national stereotype of forming queues.

The expression ‘free for all’ equates to freedom for the more powerful to push to the head of the line. This surely undermines the founding principle of the national health service – for care to be freely available at the point of delivery but not necessarily at any time and location the individual demands.

Nurses have precious little free time and few opportunities to catch up on statutory documentation, without being on call morning and night to advise patients
about where best to have their treatment.

Is this yet another example of insidious American culture creeping into the UK?

Stephen Weeks, day treatment nurse, West Yorkshire

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