Britain’s ailing national health care system continues to try to heal itself, usually at patient’s expense. I don’t know about you, but this proposal doesn’t strike me as something that’s going to result in improved health care:
Millions of people with arthritis, asthma and even heart failure will be urged to treat themselves as part of a Government plan to save billions of pounds from the NHS budget.
Instead of going to hospital or consulting a doctor, patients will be encouraged to carry out “self care” as the Department of Health (DoH) tries to meet Treasury targets to curb spending.
The guidelines could mean people with chronic conditions:
• Monitoring their own heart activity, blood pressure and lung capacity using equipment installed in the home
• Reporting medical information to doctors remotely by telephone or computer
• Administering their own drugs and other treatment to “manage pain” and assessing the significance of changes in their condition
• Using relaxation techniques to relieve stress and avoid “panic” visits to emergency wards.
Gordon Brown hinted at the new policy in a message to NHS staff yesterday, promising a service that “gives all of those with long-term or chronic conditions the choice of greater support, information and advice, allowing them to play a far more active role in managing their own condition”.
The Prime Minister claimed the self-care agenda was about increasing patient choice and “personalised” services.
Government happy talk notwithstanding, a lot of Brits are also suspicion that this is an Orwellian plan where all patients are equal, but some are less equal than others:
But an internal Government document seen by The Daily Telegraph makes clear that the policy is a money-saving measure, a key plank of DoH plans to cut costs.
Critics claimed the plan would provide doctors with an excuse for ignoring the elderly or those with debilitating, but not life-threatening long-term conditions, and would not work without significant investment in community health services.
The Arthritis Research Campaign said it risked providing health managers with “an excuse for neglecting elderly patients”.
Jane Tadman, a spokesman for the charity, said: “Arthritis is already too low down the priority list and the fact that this is being mooted as a money-saving measure is very worrying.
“Some GPs don’t take arthritis seriously enough, and the result of this could be to give them another excuse to tell arthritis patients just to go away and take their tablets.”
The Patients’ Association welcomed more moves to empower patients, but warned against using self-care systems to save money.
“We are all for better-informed patients,” said Katherine Murphy, a spokesman. “But it is a concern that financial pressures will take precedence over clinical needs.”
Peter Weissberg, the medical director of the British Heart Foundation, said: “People affected by heart disease need specialist care. Whilst we support changes that empower people to look after their own health, we would be very concerned if they led to any reduction in the availability or quality of expert care for those who need it.”
You really can’t blame the government, though, for this somewhat inane proposal. What we’re seeing is the inevitably of nationalized health care. For a long time, Europeans enjoyed a strong economy (in England, aided by Thatcher’s reforms), and mainland Europe especially benefited, for many years, from the American military presence that removed Europe’s obligation to put money into its own defense infrastructure. A failing health care service is also probably inevitable when you have a declining (that is, shrinking and aging) native work population, and an influx of immigrants who rely on the system but either don’t work or work in such low paying jobs that they can contribute little to the system on which they rely. In other words, the government is doing its best to deal with a whole bunch of economic chickens coming home to roost.