Friday, July 19, 2013

Thousands dead!

This title might refer to a war, for example, in Syria, or terrorist attacks, as in Iraq. But, in fact it refers to the death toll in hospitals in Britain run by the National Health Service (NHS). A survey of hospitals that was recently carried out by a Committee of experts under Prof. Bruce Keogh has uncovered terrible practices in at least 14 hospitals, where misdiagnosis, inferior care and unhygenic conditions led to thousands of deaths, at least 3,400 needless deaths were recorded.

Examples given were patients being admitted to hospital and then not being visited by staff for 24 hrs. People left in dying condition without care, patients left in beds where they had defecated, lack of efficient diagnosis and medical treatment, lack of follow up after critical treatment, such as operations, and so on and so on. It seems this is not exceptional but rather the norm in British NHS hospitals. Ten hospitals are being immediately closed by the Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt.

I remember when I was a lad how relieved my parents were when free health care became available in Britain under the NHS. It was a Godsend for poor people. But, I also remember as I was growing up, the cold and dismissive attitude of nurses and doctors. One tried to avoid going to the hospital if at all possible. Maybe they were overworked and still are, but the deaths of thousands revealed in this Report clearly indicates a system that has broken down.

The British Coalition Government has come up with an 8-point plan to overhaul the system. They have decided to establish teams of 25 doctors, nurses and specialists to deal with specific areas of practice, such as maternity care, child care, geriatric care, etc. and these teams will be given authority to examine every aspect of patient care as it happens on a daily basis in each hospital. In this way it is hoped that such bad conditions can be eliminated.

It may be unpopular to admit it, but lack of competition in the welfare system has led to this situation. No wonder the US opposes "socialized medicine." In other cases where there is similar lack of competition and openness, such as the US Veteran's Hospital Administration, the military hospital system in the US, there are also unhygenic conditions and poor care. What was worse in the British system was that very often cover-ups, including altering death rates, were successful in allowing these practices to continue undetected.


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