The IPPR’s Richard Brokes argues today that, “people should be out on the streets campaigning for changes to NHS services to protect the health of their families, not to keep services the way they are.”
This highly controversial argument will be a boon to the Government, who, it is revealed today, are very worried about the public’s rejection of NHS market reforms.
The IPPR argue that campaigns to save hospital departments may be causing “1,000 unnecessary deaths” a year. To do this they take Lancet research that shows that patients fare better in new, specialist units, and say that if patients were taken to specialist units, instead of local hospitals, more lives would be saved.
This sounds like research that will have to be looked at very closely, but one thing springs to mind immediately. Surely any benefit that can be gained from specialist units will be lost from the fact that patients have to travel further. If heart attack victims face a greater delay for treatment then surely more will die before they even get to the modern units.
It missed out on another thing. Cardiac units are just one service offered in local hospitals. Once services are shipped out of local hospitals, they tend to lose more and more. Surgery is diverted elsewhere, and so are A&E departments. Once those are gone, a community really does face problems in getting to other hospitals that can be many miles away.
There is nothing wrong with genuine modernisation. It is good to have specialist units backing up good local hospitals. It is also good for minor procedures to be moved out into well trained doctors’ centres. However, the research carried out by the IPPR seems questionable and aimed to give political cover, rather than being part of a genuine debate about which services are best provided where.