CamdenNewJournal

The independent London newspaper

Where is the human element in hospital’s planning?

22 November, 2018

TO what extent is the interest of the public ever taken into account when hospital trusts make fundamental changes to their operation?

A case in point is the decision by the Royal Free Hospital in Hampstead to send eye patients on a long trek for elective surgery to Chase Farm Hospital.

For an elderly, infirm person – many patients at the eye department at the Free may fall into that category – a journey to Enfield from Gospel Oak or Chalk Farm, say – will prove a forbidding and almost exhaustive expedition involving taking two or three buses and having to walk long distances.

Did the Free trust directors simply regard the whole project as a paper exercise and fail to take into account the human element? By all accounts there has not been a public consultation.

While the eye department at the Free may have benefited from tighter management in recent years – it has occasionally often been overcrowded, resulting, on some occasions, with “checked in” patients having to be put back for another appointment – a possible reason for a transfer of services could have been to free up space for other uses.

But at risk is the reputation of the Free’s eye department which at one time was regarded as one of the best in the capital, led by eminent opthalmologists, including the Queen’s own eye surgeon.
While it is true that the team at Chase Farm have operated proficiently over the years the two, once merged, with patient delays more than likely, its service may be impaired.

Again, the Free has taken another controversial step – it has set up a private GP service inside the hospital, one of the few – perhaps the only one so far – in the UK. According to its brochure its doctors will charge £80 for a consultation, offering various scans all, presumably, at a price.

Thus, within a publicly owned institution financed, essentially, by the Exchequer and public taxes, there is allowed to grow the very antithesis of a National Health Service, a privately owned service, which bows before the alter of profit. Patients are registered only if they can pay, not if they are in need.

It is true that hospitals have been allowed designate wards for private patients but these have been under the control of the management, in other words the NHS, and profits made from their services are funnelled back into the hospital kitty.

A private GP service is a step in the wrong direction – towards the baleful privatisation of the NHS.

It is much to be deplored.

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