Your Healthcare – when you need or when they can?

Posted on February 15, 2011 by

Why do we have to pay money to government and wait for a treatment forever until you have suffered all pains and misery?

UK is not India, UK is not Uganda. It’s a modern, well developed for centuries, very wealthy country. Still health care here is the worst in the world. People have to wait for days to see a GP, and then beg their GPs week after week in order to get a reference to a specialist, and even then you will have to wait for weeks for a specialist’s appointment. In case you need a further scan or test, wait and wait again and spend a good part of your lifetime travelling to and from hospital. In case of an emergency, 4 hrs is govt allowed waiting time – funny it’s still called ‘emergency’!! What a world is this??

I think healthcare sector should be let free. It should be an open market. People should be able to buy what they want, whenever they want. People will make decisions as to which service provider based on quality of service and price of each provider. People pay whenever they want a healthcare. Then there will be more suppliers and more competition and quality of care will also be good. When there are many suppliers, you won’t have to wait all day or many days to see a GP. Doctors should be allowed to practice independently – even from their home. All govt has to do is control the price these doctors charge and monitor the eligibility/quality of clinicians, like what BMA does.

Another side of it, when people have to pay for treatment, they will think more about their own health. If they don’t take good care if it, they will have to spend a lot of money on it later – this is possible in UK considering the people attitude and behaviour, though it may not work for other countries like India.

Also, people will start thinking of and taking more of health insurances. Health insurance industry will grow and prices will come down. For a drowning economy like UK’s, manufacturing is history due labour cost of production, and a possible way of achieving growth is through development of the financial service sector. Health insurance will be a good boost for it. Health insurance is a good form of financial service compared to mortgage and loans segment of it. Mortgage and loans make population debtors and end up in economic turmoil like the present one. But health insurance is for good reason, it helps people to finance their health related costs, rather than forcing them to take a loan to pay for a surgery or another treatment.

There are widespread rumours that the new government’s strategies and plans are pointing fingers at that direction – privatisation of NHS. But, while watching the way and the speed of changes are being introduced, I don’t feel that they are patient oriented. It looks like their actions are only for favouring private corporate sector –that’s my guess. It looks like these private sector companies have provided the election funds on a condition that NHS sector will be opened up for private companies to enter.NHS will be privatised – in the words of one of my colleague, NHS will become merely a stamp that will appear on any company providing healthcare, just like you see “By Her Majesty’s Appointment” stamp on pickle bottles, cosmetics, etc. The only people who are going to get any benefit from these superfast reforms are companies providing health care or companies supplying goods and service to healthcare industry. (This is my view only, may not be true – let future tell the truth).

Open market is good, and I support it – if it brings competition and lead to better services at lower costs. Like what we have seen on retail land phone services or mobile phone sector. Competition is always beneficial for consumers. But what if it leads to monopoly or cartels? Take the case of IT/communications infrastructure – even though its open, BT still dominates and their market size intimidates other small companies. My worry is that, if the health sector is opened for all, which is very soon in the present speed of developments, have the government got enough measures in places to protect small players and prevent monopoly or oligopoly? On the other side, cartels (formal/explicit agreement among competing firms to fix prices) are another threat. For example, in an unlikely situation, if all doctors get together and decide to raise their consultation fees, there is only little we people can do against it. Here again, I don’t think government will effectively be able to control the price of services.

Finally, hear this story: When I was in India, I heard this from my friends. My friend’s uncle, living in a small village in Kerala, India, went to his local hospital. He had been suffering from stomach ache the previous day and thought it would be better to have it checked. He reached this small private hospital – small but it has got all sort of specialists, surgeons, modern theatres, imaging centres, Labs, etc – at around 9am, seen by a doctor straight away, in 30 minutes a specialist examined him, did a scanning and met the specialist again before noon with results, diagnosed he has Appendicitis. All done before lunch time. A surgery was planned. Resident surgeon was not available that afternoon so another surgeon was called in from a nearby hospital. Luckily the patient wasn’t eating anything since last night, so a surgery was arranged for the evening, all sorts of tests were conducted and results were analysed by afternoon, went through all pre-operation procedures and legal procedures, and had his appendix removed before 9pm. He was absolutely fine. Later that night he was back in the ward, with his wife beside him to look after. Considering his age and other health conditions, he remained in the hospital for few more days, and then left perfectly alright.

Surgery within 12 hours! In a small village hospital!  He did not have to sell his car or house or land for this surgery! It was cheap but good quality. And it’s not a one-ff incident; this is how it works every day. Can you imagine this in UK? That’s the level of progress in a developing country like India, where in a developed country like UK you have to wait for months.

I told this story to a friend here in UK, and as expected, he did not believe me. For them, 2- 4 months waiting time is normal for such a surgery.

Posted on
Tuesday, February 15th, 2011
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