Today I had to visit my local hospital for a routine check-up. It’s not an unusual event: I go to my local hospital every six months and also to a London hospital every four months for the same medical condition. In the hands of the National Health Service I have always received professional care from experts who have treated me with nothing but kindness and respect. Slightly disconcerting then, to see notices pinned to waiting room walls, warning that verbal or physical abuse towards staff will not be tolerated. Of course not. But why would anyone want to attack those who only seek to help the sick?
In recent years the UK National Health Service has come in for considerable criticism and I have no doubt that it suffers in places from mediocre management and process inefficiencies, partly the result of expecting skilled clinicians to take on a management role – something they’re not trained for. Nevertheless, it is a sad fact that NHS managers have to balance demand against finite resources. This has resulted in a number of high profile media reports of people being denied life prolonging drugs because they are too expensive. Do you save the life of one person who requires expensive drugs or 10 who need cheaper medicines? A real moral dilemma.