NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis


June 28, 2007

The government of the United Kingdom and the National Health Service (NHS) must be more open with patients about the need to ration treatments and services in a system with a limited pot of cash, doctors said yesterday at the British Medical Association (BMA) conference.

Attendees heard that rationing was inevitable and a "necessary evil" in today's health service.  Scottish doctors also warned that targets which did not improve patients' care were being given preference to funding treatments which would make a difference.

It comes after growing discontent over decisions made by NHS rationing bodies in the United Kingdom, including the Scottish Medicines Consortium:

  • Patients have voiced anger that new, but expensive, treatments are denied them on the NHS.
  • In some cases they are available in Scotland, while patients in England go without.

Alex Smallwood, from the BMA's junior doctors' committee, told the meeting in Torquay (in Devon, England) it needed to be accepted that rationing must take place in the NHS, but this had to be done much more openly.

"It is no longer possible to provide all the latest to absolutely everybody without notable detriment to others," he said.

"Rationing is reduction in choice.  Rationing has become a necessary evil.  We need to formalize rationing to prevent an unregulated, widening, postcode-lottery of care. Government no longer has a choice."

Source: Lyndsay Moss, "NHS rationing is 'necessary evil', say doctors," The Scotsman, June 26, 2007.

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