Sunday, June 28, 2009

Six new rights - spin not substance

So are the new 'rights' for patients being unveiled by Gordon Brown anything but spin? He has promised to scrap unpopular targets in favour of a list of rights that patients can demand:
  • An operation within 18 weeks of patients first seeing their GP
  • A free health check-up for all at the age of 40
  • Treatment from an NHS dentist
  • Die at home if they suffer from a long-term medical condition
  • See a cancer specialist within two weeks
  • Be treated in accident & emergency departments within four hours.
They all sound great but strangely familiar, except perhaps for NHS dentistry. Firstly, I doubt very much whether these targets will be scrapped in favour of a 'patient' right. I can't see Brown trying to defend himself on why he doesn't know what the length of waits are and I can't see Burnham not getting concerned if the number of people waiting 18 weeks waits was to increase.

Of course ministers will keep a close eye on these areas and they will come down hard on hospitals and PCTs who are seeing increasing waits. Laissez faire is not something that Labour are good at. It would be quite a bizzarre state of affairs to have a government in a position that it doesn't monitor and manage key indicators of accessibility for NHS service.

This is clearly spin rather than substance, but that said, making it clear what patients should expect is welcome.

The dentistry right is the interesting one. Access to NHS dentistry is extremely patchy across the country and needs significant investment and time to get it right. How many people will have their right to an NHS dentist met by a dentist 20 miles away?

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