Caution from India amidst UK National Health Service privatisation debates

Categories: In The Media and Opinion.

Hannah Fox, a UK general practitioner, is currently working in Kolkata, India. She writes for The Guardian about how this experience has put complaints about the UK’s NHS into stark perspective.

Dr Fox uses the example of end of life care to illustrate her point that “a publicly funded healthcare system creates an optimal environment for ethical decision-making.”

India has one of the most privatised healthcare systems in the world and this, explains Dr Fox, results in pressure for doctors to generate profit by recommending and performing unnecessary procedures and pushing for superfluous – and sometimes harmful – interventions.

This system also provides opportunities for corruption and profiteering at the expense – and to the detriment – of patients and their families.

“Those who do practise ethically cannot sustain their careers in these institutions,” she says. “Striving for cure regardless of the patient’s quality of life is propagated by the medical culture, miscommunication, false reassurances and the market healthcare economy.”

Dr Fox is quick to acknowledge the shortcomings of the UK’s NHS. There, as in most countries, “patients at the end of life are still at risk of over-treatment and hospitalisation when they would rather be at home.”

However, she notes that situations such as the one she witnessed of a man being admitted to intensive care in the very last days of his life, would not have happened under the NHS.

Dr Fox concludes: “India is a stark example of how commodifying healthcare can lead to corruption, erode doctors’ integrity and damage relationships with patients… In the UK there is a system that supports ethical decision making, regulates practice and ensures patients’ best interests are at the heart of NHS care, and we must fight to preserve this.

“Market forces, competitive healthcare and the selling of lucrative sections of NHS care to the private sector are solutions we embrace at our peril.”

Read the full blog post on The Guardian website.

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