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Sunday 20th May 2018

Personalised NHS doesn't exist

18th February 2008

Richard Smith explains in The Guardian why the concept of personalised services within the NHS will prove to be an uphill struggle for the government.


The newspapers have been writing about the government's "third phase of public service reform" - namely "personalised services". What are they? In my experience I have seen how the NHS offers "impersonal services". It is to be supposed that personal care is the opposite.

Upon visiting an orthopaedic clinic with my mother, I am struck by how impersonal the whole experience is. Arranging and arriving for an appointment confirms this, as no-one has sent the time and date details to me, despite two requests.

Although we arrive ahead of time at the outpatients department, the orthopaedic clinic is in another part of the hospital. At the clinic, neither receptionist acknowledges us, as they are busy looking at a computer.

Once they have finally confirmed the appointment we wait for an hour - listening to other patients talk about the length of time they have been waiting. I check with the receptionist, who says it will be another 20 minutes. After a brief break to get coffee, I find my mother has disappeared.

I find her sitting by herself in an examination room, where a doctor "sweeps in" without introducing himself and starts shooting questions at my mother. He says he will put her on a waiting list for hip surgery and she will need to wait three or four months.

He goes on to state bluntly: "You realise that the operation has a death rate of one in 4,000, I mean one in 2,000, that you can get clots in your lungs, that the wound can become infected, and you can get dislocations".

Although it is unlikely my mother has heard this information he leaves the room, taking her lack of response as "informed consent". A nurse informs us that the waiting time is actually six months.

This is not "personalised service" and it will take some considerable effort to make the current health service provide it.


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