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Commentary

Hitting targets, missing dignity
Dr. Eamonn Butler, Adam Smith Institute, 7-24-05

In his blog on the Adam Smith Institute Web site, Dr. Butler decries how Britainís National Health System ignores the dignity and autonomy of British patients and risks their health in the process:

Britain's health system regulator, the Healthcare Commission, says that (thanks to an injection of tens of billions a year) the state-run National Health Service is now meeting lots of its targets, but is failing to treat taxpaying patients as customers. One figure I saw is that 25% of patients say they are treated 'as if they are not there'.

It is this, more than anything else, which defines the failure of state-run healthcare. Sure, when you look at the statistics, you find that some things the NHS does are actually very good, while others (like our performance on killer diseases like cancer and stroke) are pretty poor compared to other countries'. But what the statistics don't pick up is how people are treated as people.
A couple of years back I spent a good deal of time around one of Britain's 'flagship' hospitals, during the last illness of an elderly relative. Since then I've been determined never to set foot in the place again if I can help it. It was filthy, of course: one expects that. But the staff were also stressed out and frankly hadn't the time, or weren't well-managed enough, to handle their elderly patients with the dignity that any of us have a right to expect.


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