Thursday, 14 June 2012

Patient Choice and the British Government

Does the British Government agree with Patient Choice - when it comes to the choice of medical therapy. Patient Choice is certainly Government policy; just as it is the policy of every political party in Britain. 

But does it actually believe in it?

My answer is 'Yes, maybe'. In a recent written Parliamentary answer, Minister of Health, Anne Milton, stated:

          "The Department does not maintain a position on any particular complementary or alternative therapy including *homeopathy*. It is the responsibility of local national health service organisations to make decisions on the commissioning and funding of such treatments, taking into account their safety and clinical and cost-effectiveness and the availability of suitably qualified/regulated..."

Earl Howe, another Health Minister in the House of Lords, gave an identical response (11th June 2012). This statement shows not only that the Government is committed to Patient Choice, but also to local, rather than centralised, decision making - which again is highly commendable.

The problem is that up-and-down the country, local NHS Primary Care Trust (PCTs) are refusing to allow patients who want to use Homeopathy, and other CAM therapies, to have access to it.

So unfortunately, Patient Choice, and local decision making do not go well in this situation. The reason for this has nothing to do with effectiveness, or safety, or local funding issues - but it has everything to do with the monopoly position of Conventional, drug-based medicine within the NHS, and the determination to maintain it, at any cost.

Several months ago I spoke to my former MP, Louise Menche about this. I ascertained that Louise is no friend of Homeopathy, or CAM therapies generally. But we did agree that within each PCT (or within each of the new GP-led commissioning organisations) there should be a member of staff who is willing, and sufficiently qualified, to respond to patients who wish to receive 'drug-free' treatment. This would be a simple solution to this problem of implementing Patient Choice.

Access to medical treatment on the NHS is a right every citizen has (not least because every citizen has paid for it!) Every patient should also have the right to choose the treatment he/she wishes to receive. As I said to Louise Menche, I did not want to choose the treatment she wanted for herself. Similarly, no-one should be trying to prevent people choosing other options, which the Conventional Medical Establishment is certainly seeking to do at the moment.

So the issue is no longer one of belief, and the policy is in position - it is now just a matter of implementation. Unfortunately, the Government has not yet recognised that in order to implement Patient Choice, effectively, it has to take more action to enable it.