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Denying treatment to those most in need

Pills1 The warnings that the Coalition Government’s NHS reforms would be bad for patients are sadly beginning to come to fruition. We have seen nursing job cuts, an A&E crisis, and hospital waiting times beginning to rise. There are terrible stories in the press of ambulances being delayed and police cars being used to transport people to hospital. Last week I raised my concerns about the leaked document which outlined Government proposals to close three quarters of Britain’s specialist brain cancer centres, including seven in the North of England.

The Government are now trying to change the way new drugs are evaluated as they want to include a “wider societal benefit” test. The National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE) has rejected the government’s proposals warning they could discriminate against older people.

Wider societal benefit is a measure of the impact of a treatment on the extent to which people living with an illness or disease “produce” or “consume” resources. Under plans being actively considered by the Government, new drugs would only be licensed for use in the NHS if they are judged to be of benefit to wider society, and experts have warned that vulnerable groups, such as the elderly, could lose out.

By placing a monetary value on the contribution particular groups taking drugs will make to society, younger people just starting their working life would be scored higher than old people who have retired. I believe this is a very dangerous policy, if the elderly, unemployed, people with learning disabilities or women are disadvantaged in accessing vital drugs and treatments.

The Government have tried to distance themselves stating that they will not discriminate against older people, however, NICE have warned that any assessment of “wider societal benefit” would inevitably end up taking age into account, and they have rejected the idea. Sir Andrew Dillon, Head of NICE said: “We are really concerned that we don’t send out the message that we value life less when you’re 70 than we do when you’re 20.”

I believe the “wider societal benefit” approach is morally and legally wrong, and the Government have no right to favour one set of patients over another and to discriminate based upon age. Health Ministers should not pick and chose who they consider more valuable to society.

This approach goes against everything the NHS stands for, who must treat patients irrespective of the age, gender or wealth. A crude economic measure of wider societal benefit chooses to ignore the contribution old people have made to the NHS for over many decades.

When considering access to new treatment the NHS should focus on the improvement to a patient’s quality of life when judging the effectiveness of a new treatment, irrespective of their age.

The Coalition Government have failed our NHS, opening it up to competition and privatisation, prioritising profits over patient care. The wider societal benefit test is just the latest effort which will deny treatment and services to those most in need, proving that you can’t trust David Cameron with the NHS.

Image credit: photka / 123RF Stock Photo

One Comment

  1. Robert says:

    This week a news report and a program in Wales discussed the issues in hospital about care and treatment.

    A consultant stated his hospital had just received a fine of £6 million pound, the commentator said why did you get a fine.

    The consultant and two administrators said well under the New labour regime, if a hospital treated more patients then they had the year before , then they would be fined to ensure they did not treat more patients so adding to the cost to the NHS.

    But the consultant said with people coming into hospital with more people like Immigrants, like people with illnesses, accidents, what ever it was a hospital duty to treat everyone.

    But they said labour had put in place a system in which hospital were paid for treating less people and fined for treating more, and hospital are doing everything possible not to pay these fines by sending people home not treating them or not allowing them into hospital’ to not sending ambulances for them.

    Funny old world is it not.

    THE Royal Derby Hospital has lost out on about £2 million because of a national ruling which has penalised it for treating too many patients.

    Hospital boss Sue James had hoped to finish the financial year with extra cash, which she could spend on buying new equipment and updating the four-year-old Royal Derby building.

    But she has fallen foul of a national rule designed to keep hospital admissions to a minimum.

    It means hospitals sometimes receive back only 30% of what they actually spend treating a patient. This happens when hospitals admit more patients than they did the previous year.

    In April and May, the Royal Derby saw a 4% increase in the number of patients arriving at its accident and emergency department. This pushed it over the number allowed under the spending “tariff”.

    And this was one reason why the hospital believes it will not finish the financial year, next March, below budget as it intended.

    Chief executive Mrs James said: “We had hoped it would be the first time in about four or five years we would finish the year with a surplus.

    This report I just put up is for 2009 but this week a number of hospital have stated they are being fined for having to treat more people and they said this can be due to illness epidemic like flue or increases in people within the hospital area.

    The idea is that no hospital does to much and it was put in place by the Progress new labour party Blair and Brown socialism for you.

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