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Friday, April 14, 2006

Britain's "Universal Care" Health System Puts Quotas on Referrals

The London Times reports that Britain's National Health System has a secret rationing plan: Doctors are being given a ceiling on the number of patients they can refer to specialists.

Says the newspaper:
Patients are being denied appointments with consultants in a systematic attempt to ration care and save the NHS money, The Times has learnt.

Leaked documents passed to The Times show that while ministers promise patients choice, a series of barriers are being erected limiting GPs' rights to refer people to consultants.

The documents reveal that health trusts across London have drawn up plans to establish panels that will "monitor" how many patients are referred to hospital by GPs. Local health trusts have been told that they must cut GP referral rates to those of the lowest 10 per cent nationally. This, the document claims, would save £25 million a year in the capital.

Consultant-to-consultant referrals are also being limited, in many cases denying patients a second opinion....

It is not known how many similar schemes are in existence, but the British Medical Association has confirmed it has found examples in Kent, Oxfordshire, Dorset, Wiltshire, Surrey, Sussex, Cornwall, Shropshire, Suffolk, Lancashire and Yorkshire, as well as London...
In other news about the effectiveness of Britain's national "universal care" government-run health system, a 54-year-old British accountant may have only months to live: He's being refused a drug that may prolong his life because it would cost the government health system a lot of money.

Strangely, if he lived in a different part of Britain he might have qualified for the drug. As Britain's Independent newspaper reported the story:
When James Tyndale and his wife first moved to Cambridge in the mid-1980s, he had no idea their choice of home would cut his life expectancy.

The chartered accountant is dying, at the relatively young age of 54, from a cancer of his bone marrow. If he had lived in another town, such as Southampton, Mr Tyndale [a pseudonym] would have been prescribed a powerful new drug, Velcade, which could prolong his life for up to two years...
Socialized medicine. You get what you pay for. Or, maybe, you don't.

(Hat tips to Jerry Pournelle. Go here to read an earlier National Center blog entry describing how Britain's "universal coverage" system saves money by denying hip and knee replacements to overweight adults.)

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Posted by Amy Ridenour at 1:26 AM

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