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Friday 25th May 2018

The A&E debate too

18th October 2006

"In The Comedy of Errors, Shakespeare explores the mishaps that arise when people are misled by their own eyes." Thus the government needs to explain to voters why what they see happening is not all it seems. Convincing people that the NHS is improving whilst cutting emergency services up and down the country is going to be difficult. Clinical trends point in opposite directions; while some treatments that used to require a hospital stay can now be delivered at home or by the GP, other high-tech treatments are best provided in specialist centres. "Caught in the middle are traditional, district hospitals, whose relative importance diminishes." The case for rationalising services to improve efficiency can be strong but can also involve genuine inconvenience for some patients and big political costs. Remember Kidderminster? The performance of our health service in terms of waiting times may be better but "voters will not believe such claims when all they hear of locally is cuts". And if void is then filled by the independent sector offering poor value for money, the reforms will be even harder to defend.

Leader in The Guardian



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