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July 30, 2007

Socialized Medicine

Of course, arguing by anecdote isn't the right way to go about it, but still:

A woman of 108 has been told by health chiefs that she must wait 18 months to get a new hearing aid.

No such thing as long waiting lists in a socialized medical system, no siree.

Donna Tipping, from the Royal National Institute for the Deaf, said: "I am afraid this is a common problem.

"There are more than half a million people waiting for hearing aids in this country.

It gets worse too:

Mr Bircher, a consultant at St George's Hospital in south London, said all of Britain's specialist trauma beds are full, meaning some patients can wait three weeks before their badly broken bones can be repaired.

July 30, 2007 in Health Care | Permalink


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"Mr Bircher, a consultant at St George's Hospital in south London, said all of Britain's specialist trauma beds are full, meaning some patients can wait three weeks before their badly broken bones can be repaired."

Only in February this year, Patricia Hewitt, the previous health secretary, was insisting that we need fewer hospital beds for acute treatment because it is now possible to deal with so many more patients by day-treatment:

Last September, IPPR in a report were saying:

"It is true that there are currently too many general hospitals in England. Acute care, like accident and emergency (A&E) and specialist surgery, needs to be concentrated in fewer locations so that doctors with the right skills, experience and equipment are available to treat the sickest patients safely. More routine services could be provided locally outside general hospitals in community centres more accessible to people who need them."

Who got it so wrong then?

Btw Tim, you missed this bit of enterprise by NHS doctors in the news today:

"British doctors are to rebel against high prices set by pharmaceutical companies for their products by giving patients a cheap but unlicensed drug that prevents blindness"

Posted by: Bob B | Jul 30, 2007 10:29:14 AM

News update:

A link to another and longer press report on the shortage of NHS hospital beds to treat trauma patients:

"One of Britain's leading trauma surgeons has broken cover to expose the scandal of a national shortage of emergency trauma beds which is leading to thousands of serious injury victims suffering in agony.

"In an unprecedented intervention by a senior practitioner in the NHS, Martin Bircher, a consultant at St George's hospital in London, one of Europe's leading centres in the treatment of major accident victims, has revealed a system paralysed by red tape and disputes over funding, which is putting thousands of patients waiting for treatment in specialist wards at risk. . . "

Posted by: Bob B | Jul 30, 2007 2:22:08 PM

On the other hand, in a private system, some people don't get treated at all, or have to go to the back of the queue. Healthcare is a scarce resource, there are always going to be limits.

It's not like private care is banned in this country...

Posted by: Peter Clay | Jul 30, 2007 2:39:07 PM

"Healthcare is a scarce resource, there are always going to be limits"

True enough but we are supposed to have a "national" system of healthcare and it's reasonable to expect to have accessible hospital beds to cope with urgent cases of patients needing trauma care - as from road traffic accidents, accidents at work or - perish the thought - another terrorist incident in London such as 7/7.

It comes across as frankly outrageous when a trauma care consultant at St George's Hospital - a leading London medical school - is complaining of no trauma care beds available when just over a week back a ward of 28 beds was reported in the London Evening Standard as being closed down at Mayday Hospital, Croydon, a half hour's drive away at normal speeds in London traffic from St George's.

Besides all that, for years there have been regular media reports of the chronic shortage of beds for psychiatric care:

Remember that Patricia Hewitt in March 2006 was widely reported as rejecting claims that "patients will suffer because of the NHS cash crisis, after a hospital trust said it was cutting 1,000 jobs"

Because of the botched national recruiting scheme for appointing junior hospital doctors, the press today is carrying reports of the resulting downstream shambles:

"NHS London drafted in 50 more staff and spent an extra £3 million-to appoint 10,000 new doctors in time for this week. It also warned last month that the changes could put patients at risk, because of a mass handover and delays in filling posts. . . Managers at Queen Elizabeth Hospital, which is still to fill four posts, have twice the number of new staff. Elective surgery has been cancelled at St Helier hospital and scaled back at Epsom on Wednesday as 170 doctors start work. . . "

Posted by: Bob B | Jul 30, 2007 5:24:38 PM