An open letter signed by more than 60 Welsh doctors has called for the NHS in Wales to follow England’s lead and introduce patient choice.
The letter, which argues that a lack of choice in the Welsh NHS is increasing health inequalities, was reported in today’s Western Mail and echoes the views of many mental health service users and carers in Wales who believe that services must be driven by the needs of individual patients: that if a single user needs a particular service then as far as possible such a service should be developed or purchased specifically for them.
The letter reads: “Many patients are unaware it is official policy of the Assembly Government that, with regards to health, choice is not important in Wales. This is in direct contrast to England.
“It means that if a service is available in your LHB area, a patient must use that service and does not have the choice to go to another hospital.
“You will only go elsewhere if a service is unavailable in your LHB or if your doctor can make out a case – by filling out a long, time-consuming form, and this does not take into account any research needed to support the case.
“If there are some advantages to lack of choice, could we hear them? Perhaps there is a long-term plan for enhanced standards, above and beyond those in England, in return.
“Is it right that the only way to ensure a patient retains choice is for them to pay, or to take out private medical insurance?
“Rather than reduce inequalities, the removal of choice has the potential to increase them.”
Patient choice was introduced in England as a pilot project in 2002 and gradually extended.
To read the Western Mail story please visit: http://www.walesonline.co.uk/news/health-news/2010/03/10/doctors-call-for-more-patient-choice-in-nhs-91466-25999067/