Hinchingbrooke hospital in Huntingdon, Cambridgeshire, is due to be the first NHS hospital to be run by a private company.
Though there is and has been a massive uproar in the direction that the government is taking the NHS, there seems to be little to slow down the process of turning our NHS into a mutated form of that of our transatlantic cousins.
"Keep our NHS free" is the general battle cry; However, in truth, there may be little difference in patients' experience after the privatisation of the NHS. When one goes to the hospital, they go through an intricate triage system of clerical staff, porters, nurses, junior doctors and other healthcare professional before they even reach the consultant. IF the reach the consultant. Like most professions, the higher up one goes up the medical profession, the role starts to take on a more organisation and leadership. Many consultants have private practices and are able to take on both their NHS as well as private work commitments.
However, what may come at a premium is the lack of knowledge that patients may have when it comes to specialised choices that physicians and surgeons make when it comes to their specific treatments. Let us look at breast surgery for example - presently the French justice system is to investigate a breast implant manufacture after the death of a 53-year-old woman in Marseille from lymphatic cancer. Now, just like when you go to buy glasses, there are many different manufacturers; types of lenses; and frames; breast implants have many different type of manufacturers and materials used in them. Unlike the outcome of having a frame that may not suite your face, the wrong type of implant may be fatal. According to radio france internationale, "This is not the first time implants produced by Poly Implants Prothèses, PIP, have raised concerns. The company uses non-medical silicone for its products which is believed to seep through the implant into surrounding tissue causing the formation of small cysts."
With the age 24 hour media coverage and celebrity obsessed news, it is hard for the general public to equate breast implants with anything other than glamour models and "insecure women". These pre-conceptions cause people to have little sympathy for people who undergo such surgeries given the above risks. In truth, there is more to breast implant operations than the purely aesthetic side, such surgeries are an integral part of the healing process for maestectomies that occur due to breast cancer. Also, according to the World Health Organisation's definition of health: "a state of complete physical, mental and social well-being and not merely the absence of disease or infirmity". So by this definition, even a purely aesthetic operation that would allow the patient "mental and social well-being" will be considered as an operation that would improve their health.
However, if the dangers of that type of implant are so well known, why would this lady have chosen such an implant? Unfortunately, the type of prosthesis used is usually up to the doctor's personal preference. Whether or not your doctor talks to you about the type of implant use would largely depend on whether or not it is a private doctor or not. So this is not a conversation about the validity of breast implants but about providing a complete picture of information for patients to allow them to make an informed decision. In the private sector, there is a plethora of extensive information that spells out all the risks and different options that are not present in the NHS. If one tries to find out information about breast implant replacement or breast implant removal, one would find more extensive information from private clinics than from the NHS.
There could be many different reasons but the main ones that stand out are:
'Financially viable' is a phrase that you would hear at least once a week if you work in the NHS. What it means is that if there are 2 products that one could use in a surgery and one is more expensive but is only a certain percentage more safe, then the cheaper one will be used as the money lost is not deemed worth for the relatively low increase in safety. What this threshold is is usually set by the management. This is not a problem in the private sector as the costs are taken by patients who generally wouldn't mind.
Secondly, in the private sector, the doctor-patient relationship is altered from the patient following the doctor to the doctor working directly for the patient, within the confines of his professional medical opinion. What that would mean is that doctors will be more inclined to divulge more information to patients and involve them more in the decision making process.
Everyone who can afford to go private does so anyway, the only thing privatisation may do is take the ever increasing NHS bill from the taxpayer. As long as we have the same doctors that treat us today, their drive to take on such a job will mean that their genuine care for their patients, no matter how it may mature with age will not allow them to put profit before care.
If you ask any patient about their opinion on a doctor, the first thing they would mention is how much and how well the doctor explained what was going on. In a country where we have some of the best medical care in the world, the provision of clear information my be the competitive playing field; and as long as doctors don't abuse this, patients can only benefit.
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