Friday, 28 January 2011

NHS Reforms: Patient Choice or Doctor's Choice?

There is lots of Government spin about current NHS reforms being all about 'Patient Choice' ... but the reality couldn't be further from the truth ... as these reforms are all about 'Doctor's Choice' (or more specifically 'GP choice'), as NHS budgets are handed over to them to manage. 

As my previous blog pointed out, most GP's have already profited very well from previous 'reforms' (e.g. taking massive pay-rises for themselves whilst working far less hours), and have shown themselves to be more than happy to pocket any additional money too (e.g. spending it on building property portfolios).  

So now the plan is give them virtually all the NHS budget (£80bn) to spend ... under a mirage of 'Patient Choice' ... when in reality GP's will be making all the decisions themselves, and ensuring they maximise the amount of money paid to themselves, their consortia and business partners. Deals, bribes, partnerships and back-handers will all undoubtedly be uncovered, in addition to all the additional lucrative Government 'incentives' on offer (for helping the Government to achieve £20bn in 'efficiency savings').  

'GP's Choice' will become increasingly a choice between 'caring for patients' and 'caring for their own bank balance' ... something many honorable and trustworthy GP's have already expressed concern about.

The Coalition have countered this by saying 'Patient Choice' means patients can go to a different GP if they wish, but the reality is likely to be the complete opposite of this, with 'GP Choice' resulting in GP's being more likely not to take on patients with serious conditions, and more likely to restrict the healthcare provided to the most needy/unwell in our society too (e.g. for treatment of expensive chronic conditions).

The reforms being proposed are testing the honor/integrity of our GP's, with many unhappy about how they compromise their unique (and trusted) position ... of being able to provide healthcare in the best interests of their patients. At the same time, others are no doubt quietly look forward to further pay increases and taking advantage of many additional ways to boost their bank balances (e.g. 'buying-in' additional services - provided by themselves!) ... at the expense of patient care.

If "Patient Choice" is really behind this reform, at what point did patients 'Choose it'? ... as it was not part of any of the Coalitions' pre-election prospectuses!  

I'm afraid it's all smoke and mirrors and spin again I'm afraid ...

Update 29/01/2011: More healthcare groups are raising their concerns, including the Royal College of Surgeons, the Royal College of Physicians and the Royal College of Nursing. Many commentators, including the Nuffield Trust research body, are expressing their fear that patients will lose faith in their GPs if they believe they are denying them treatment on the grounds of cost. It also pointed out that the pay doctors receive, likely to include cash bonuses, will be “sensitive”!