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Dilemma for doctors

7th May 2007

NHS doctors have called for clearer guidance on whether they can direct patients to the private sector for treatment.

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The group, Doctors for Reform, has asked the General Medical Council (GMC) to clarify if they are allowed to help patients circumvent problem areas within the NHS by paying for private treatment in the UK or abroad.  Patients can, for example, speed up their overall treatment by having tests done privately in order to jump NHS queues.  However, Doctors for Reform argue there is no clear guidance on whether they are legally allowed to advise patients of ways in which to work the system to their advantage.  Current guidance states that doctors must give patients "the information they want or need in a way they can understand".  Doctors for Reform member, Professor Karol Sikora, said she understood what a difficult area this was for both doctors and their governing body; "Does withholding of information about treatments that might be in a patient's best interest but are available only either in the private sector or abroad constitute a contravening of GMC guidance?? she asked.

The GMC responded by saying it would be discussing the issue later in May as part of talks on the future of the NHS.  "As part of that process we are considering the question as to whether doctors should provide information about 'any treatment that you believe will be more effective for the patient than those that the organisation offers, but which is not available in the organisation providing care,’? said a spokesperson.

 

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