I am very happy to say that after having a month and a half away from blogging to focus on exams and university open days, I am back to talk about the documentary Hospital on BBC 2 that has returned for a second series. I blogged about series one and have no doubt that this will not be my last blog about the program – it is incredibly inspiring and encouraging, whilst providing a realistic view of the current strains on our NHS and on our doctors.
I would like to focus on Episode 2 of this series – where private medicine’s benefits and disadvantages were discussed.
It is common to assume that it is completely unethical to encourage private healthcare as it is only available for those who can afford it. I was interested to hear in Hospital that most of the money made in private medicine goes back into the NHS to fund new drugs, new staff and new technologies – it makes up “5 percent of total NHS turnover”. This is encouraging as it means that not only those who pay for the care benefit, but also those who do not use private healthcare benefit through use of the NHS. Private medicine also releases the burden on beds in wards as patients are placed in separate private wards. The beds in the private wards are also often used when NHS wards are completely full – allowing extra space for sick patients to come and receive as high quality care as in NHS wards, even when the NHS section of the hospital has reached full capacity. On my work experience in a hospital I noticed that the Consultant that I was shadowing in the NHS respiratory wards also spent some time in the private wards so the point that private patients receive better care may not be true. Private work also means that doctors can make more money, which may encourage them to stay in the job for longer, helping to prevent a shortage of doctors.
However, some medications are only available for those who are willing to pay which brings up an ethical debate as people question whether it is is fair that people can “buy more life” whilst others, who do not have as much money, can not. Some people argue that condoning the private medical sector leads to unfair mistreatment of people who do not pay for their treatment at the point of use as doctors are more likely to spend time on private wards where they receive higher pay. Some people that were interviewed in Hospital stated that in private wards you get a more comfortable area to convalesce and more personal care. This is worrying as everyone should be treated equally – whether you have more or less money, and people should not be given a higher chance of survival than others due to economic advantage.
I found it sad to find out that some people are forced to sell all of their belongings in order to have a chance to fight for survival against a traumatic disease, such as cancer. People feel that they must sell all that they own in order to afford new treatments that are not available on the NHS due to fears that they are not tested very well nor are proven to work, to attempt to increase their chance of survival. It was also interesting to hear that rules vary from region to region so some drugs are allowed to be prescribed in certain places that are not allowed to be prescribed in other places – a postcode lottery. This means that some patients are forced to travel long distances for care that others may get on their doorstep.
In this episode of Hospital I also learned again that some imaging options or invasive surgery are not necessarily the best option for people with an already bad quality of life. Doctors must assess whether they believe that the risk of dying from surgery is greater than if the person is left untreated. This is often a difficult ethical decision as it is most kind for the patient to die in as little pain and suffering as possible.
I look forward to watching tonight’s episode on catchup tomorrow.