Saturday, April 9, 2011

David Cameron & The NHS: Hope, Faith & The Supermarket

It is well known that we as doctors do not have all the answers and we can only base our diagnosis and treatment on current knowledge.

Patients or their relatives are used to trust the judgement of doctors and always hope for a better or even miraculous outcome. Their faith in their doctor is often supplemented by their own religious faith.

David Cameron is no different and he has stated so on record.

I am not here to analyse his faith.

I am here to re-tell one of the stories of hope and faith I have experienced as a very junior consultant in 1978

I need to tell the story from a long extract from my book The Cockroach Catcher. 

The year was 1978 and I was employed by one of the fourteen Regional Health Authorities. The perceived wisdom was to allow consultants freedom from Area and District control that may not be of benefit to the NHS as a whole so the local Area or District Health did not hold our contracts. Even for matters like Annual Leave and Study Leave we dealt directly with RHA.

Referrals were accepted from GPs and we could refer to other specialists within the Region or to the any of the major London Centres of excellence. Many of us were trained by some of these centres and we respected them. They were the Mayos and Clevelands and Hopkins of the United Kingdom.  

Money or funding never came into it and we truly had a most integrated service.
We used to practice real, good and economical medicine.

Child Psychiatry like many other disciplines in medicine does not follow rules and do not function like supermarkets. Supermarkets have very advanced systems to track customer demands and they can maximise profit and keep cost down. In medicine we do sometimes get unusual cases that would have been a nightmare for the supermarket trained managers.

As it is so difficult to plan for the unusual it will become even more difficult if the present government had its way (and there is every sign that they will), not only will the reformed NHS find it difficult to cope with the unusual, it will find I extremely difficult to cope with emergencies.

Why? These cases cost money and in the new world of Supermarket Styled NHS, they have to be dealt with! For that reason, not all NHS hospitals will be failed by Monitor. Some will need to be kept in order that someone could then deal with unprofitable cases. They will be the new fall guys.

But supermarkets can get things wrong too. In Spain after the Christmas of 2009 there were 4 million unsold hams.

Back to the patient:

Would my patient be dealt with in the same way in 2011?

     GP to Paediatrician: 13 year old with one stiff arm. Seen the same day.
     Paediatrician to me: ? Psychosis or even Catatonia. 
           Seen same day and admitted to Paediatric Ward, DGH.
     Child Psychiatrist to Gynaecologist: ? Pregnancy or tumour.
     Gynaecologist to Radiologist: Unlikely to be pregnant, ? Ovarian cyst.
     Radiologist (Hospital & no India based): Tell tale tooth: Teratoma.
     Gynaecologist: Operation on emergency basis with Paediatric Anaethetics Consultant.
     Patient unconscious and transferred to GOS on same day. Seen by various Professors.
     Patient later transferred to Queen’s Square (National Hospital for Nervous Diseases), 
             Seen by more Professors.
     Regained consciousness after 23 days.
     Eventually transferred back to local Hospital.

None of the Doctor to Doctor decisions need to be referred to managers.

How is the new Consortia going to work out the funding and how are the three Foundation Trust Hospitals going to work out the costs.

The danger is that the patient may not even get to see the first Specialist: Paediatrician not to say the second one: me.

Not to mention the operation etc. and the transfer to the Centres of excellence.

Here is an extract from: Chapter 29 The Power of Prayers




          …………Something else was going on here, and I was not happy because I did not know what it was. I was supposed to know and I generally did. After all I was the consultant now.

          Thank goodness she could breathe without assistance. That was the first thing I noticed. I saw mother in the corner obviously in tears. She asked if her daughter would be all right. I cannot remember what I said but knowing myself I could not have said anything too discouraging. But then I knew I was in tricky territory and it was unlikely to be the territory of a child psychiatrist.
          A good doctor is one who is not afraid to ask for help but he must also know where to ask.
          “Get me Great Ormond Street.”
          “I already did.”
          She is going to be a good doctor.
          “Well, the Regional unit said that they had no beds so I thought I should ring up my classmate at GOS and she talked to her SR who said “send her in”.”
          Who needs consultants when juniors have that kind of network?  This girl will do well.
          “Everything has been set up. The ambulance will be here in about half an hour and if it is all right I would like to go with her.”
          “Yes, you do and thanks a lot.”
          I told mother that we were transferring her daughter to the best children’s hospital in England if not in the world and the doctor would stay with her in the ambulance. She would be fine.

“........Ten years later mother came to see my secretary and left a photo. It was a photo of her daughter and her new baby. She had been working at the local bank since she left school, met a very nice man and now she had a baby. Mother thought I might remember them and perhaps I would be pleased with the outcome. 

"I was very pleased for them too but I would hate for anyone to put faith or god to such a test too often."

 

There is, after all, a difference between healthcare and hamburgers.  Healthcare is not a commodity.

As Doctor William Mayo explained in 1905: “The best interest of the patient is the only interest to be considered, and in order that the sick may have the benefit of advancing knowledge, union of forces is necessary…it has become necessary to develop medicine as a cooperative science.”

The Mayos also made it clear that patients’ interests were not well served if doctors competed with each other. Late in life William emphasized that in addition to making a commitment to the patient, doctors must make a commitment to each other:  “Continuing interest by every member of the staff in the professional progress of every other member,” would be essential to sustaining the organization’s future.


More:



Virtually all Mayo employees are salaried with no incentive payments, separating the number of patients seen or procedures performed from personal gain. One surgeon refers to this tradition as a ‘‘disincentive system that works.’’ Adds another surgeon: “By not having our economics tied to our cases, we are free to do what comes naturally, and that is to help one another out. .  .. Our system removes a set of perverse incentives and permits us to make all clinical decisions on the basis of what is best for the patient.”

Looks like Mayo patients have their prayers answered!!!

Unfortunately our patients may now have to pray harder!!!

See also:
Teratoma: One Patient One Disease?
Leadership Lessons from Mayo Clinic

If you would like to read the whole book:

NHS: The Way We Were! Free!
FREE eBook: Just drop me a line with your email.

Email: cockroachcatcher (at) gmail (dot) com.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I remember the RHA days. Thanks CC for reminding me. We could have stayed that way and improve upon it.

I fear though that privatisation is the main agenda.

Would prayers work?