As I Predicted…
Previously I have argued that one way to control costs of health care in a nationalized system is to control access. And one way to do that is to control wait times (see here and here as well). Well, it now looks like the United Kingdom’s health care system is going to make my prediction are reality.
In March, Patricia Hewitt, the Secretary of State for Health, offered her apparent blessing for the minimum waiting times by announcing they would be “appropriate” in some cases. Amid fears about £1.27 billion of NHS debts, she expressed concern that some hospitals were so productive “they actually got ahead of what the NHS could afford”
Andrew Lansley, the shadow health secretary, added that the minimum waiting times shed new light on the Government’s target that patients should wait no longer than six months. “It is outrageous that the purpose of the Government’s targets is not so much to drive down waiting times, as to impose a six-month wait.”
The measures also seem certain to add to the anger that erupted last week after Ipswich Hospital in Suffolk admitted it had forfeited £2.4 million because it treated patients too quickly, having already agreed a 122-day minimum waiting time with East Suffolk Primary Care Trust (PCT), its funding body. The hospital finished the last financial year £16.7 million in the red.
The Sunday Telegraph has learned of five further minimum-waiting-time directives. In May, Staffordshire Moorlands PCT, which funds services at two hospitals and is more than £5 million in the red, introduced a 19-week minimum wait for in-patients and 10 weeks for out-patients. A spokesman said: “These were the least worst cuts we could make.” In March, Eastbourne Downs PCT, expected to overspend by £7 million this year, ordered a six-month minimum wait for non-urgent operations. Also in March, it was revealed that Medway PCT, with a deficit of £12.4 million, brought in a nine-week wait for out-patient appointments and 20 weeks for non-urgent operations.–emphasis added
Ahhh the joys of socialism. I tell ya’ I can’t wait till we get socialized medicine here in the U.S. and we don’t have to pay those big fat administrative costs.
Via Radley Balko.