Wednesday, December 14, 2005

Patient choice in the health service

Today's Guardian has a piece on the latest British Social Attitudes survey was conducted last year and published this week. As the report says - or perhaps that should be "admits":
It shows that around two-thirds thought that patients should have "a great deal or quite a lot" of choice over which hospital they go to for inpatient treatment.
It goes on to say:

The survey also suggests critics' fears that choice will be colonised by the middle classes at the expense of the poor may be unfounded: the pro-hospital choice groups are women, people aged 55 to 64, and people with lower or no educational qualifications. Men, young people, better educated people and those without recent experience of inpatient care are significantly less enthusiastic.

Those who are more in favour of choice tend to be heavier service users.

So perhaps it is not just the pushy middle classes who are in favour of choice in public services.

I am reminded of something Norman Lamb wrote in the Guardian after this year's Lib Dem Conference:

As a constituency MP I am forever having to deal with situations where those without power or influence are struggling to be heard by an unresponsive state provider. One of the biggest failures of the state has been the scandal of education provision, which penalises children from the poorest backgrounds. The growing educational apartheid in this country ought to shame us all.

The same goes for the health service. Again the most disadvantaged are the biggest losers. Over the last eight years the Labour government has had an unprecedented opportunity to demonstrate that its approach works, but the truth is that it has failed to make a difference for those most in need.

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