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Wednesday 17th January 2018

In praise of hospitals

16th March 2006

16032006_smiley_face1.jpgBad food, dirty wards, despondent agency staff, and postponed operations. Such criticisms, says the Lancet, are probably what spring most readily to the minds of consumers — patients — when they think of hospitals. This bad reputation extends even further in political circles. Such prejudice, says the Editorial, is neither right nor fair.

According to a government report leaked to the Financial Times, the EU diktat that by 2009 no doctors will work longer than 48 h a week will lead to “service failure in hospitals. This is symptomatic of the belief that hospitals have now become 'a hindrance to, rather than a facilitator of' health care. Some politicians see hospitals as expensive institutions that hinder patient autonomy and discourage rehabilitation. According to government opinion surveys, they do not even provide the individualised care patients want.

It is worth reflecting, says the Lancet, on the crucial role hospitals have in society. They began as refuges for the poor, acquiring a renewed focus on rehabilitation, cure, and science, in turn, through the centuries. They have now become 'temples to high technology'. Throughout this they remain the places where many of us will die.

The care provided by overstretched, yet tirelessly compassionate, hospital staff are the key to recovery or dignified death. These same workers are coping with policy changes, politically driven targets, performance measures, and increasing demands from patients encouraged to exercise choice. Hospitals and their staff, ends the Lancet, 'deserve nothing but the highest praise — and a good deal of sympathy.'

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