Patients are not best judges of the NHS
04 January 2013
The head of the Royal College of General Practitioners (RCGP) has suggested that patients are not necessarily the best people to judge whether the NHS is providing a decent standard of care.
The Prime Minister David Cameron had said that patients should be asked a question along the lines of 'How likely are you to recommend this ward to friends and family if they needed similar care or treatment?'.
He told the BBC: "I first saw it working in Salford at an excellent hospital with really good standards of care; they are very proud of their friends and family result and they put it on the door, and on the notice boards, and the wards of the hospital. It can act as a flashing light, if the numbers start to dip down you see a problem and then you know you need to do an investigation."
However, the RCGP chair Clare Gerada said the health service was a little more complex than that.
"The NHS isn't Facebook, and healthcare isn't a commodity like eating in a restaurant," she said. "And we must make sure that we don't confuse issues around the NHS such as shortages with the care that patients get from the staff that look after them."
Towards the end of last year, Gerada also poured cold water over the NHS Commissioning Board's document 'Everyone Counts: Planning for Patients 2013-14'.
The document outlined the incentives and levers that would be used to improve services in the NHS and was part of a drive to help local clinicians deliver more responsive health services, focused on improving outcomes for patients, addressing local priorities and meeting the rights people have under the NHS Constitution.
However, Gerada said: "We are concerned that this will create unrealistic expectations, especially at a time when financial constraints are placing a severe strain on our NHS and the care that we can provide for our patients.
"We fully support patients having more influence in their healthcare, but the reality is that GPs are increasingly having to make very tough and unpopular decisions. We must make sure that they do not end up being scapegoats for the rationing that lies ahead as less money is invested.
"In times of austerity it is important that we invest in what we know works best for patients - general practice. The focus should be on targeting resources on those who need them most, and on collaboration and cooperation, not competition."