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Can You Mix State Health Care And Private

Jul 10, 2008
The National Health Service that the UK has been rightly proud of for so many years is, unfortunately, not fool proof. This is because it is, in essence, a business like any other and there is a budget that has to be kept to. At some point, that budget runs out and then what? People are left without treatment and without drugs.

'Postcode lottery' is one of the phrases that has been coined by the press recently to show that it depends on where you live as to whether or not you are going to get what you need from your doctor. Authorities in different areas will manage their budgets independently, therefore different amounts are channeled towards different things and it only takes one person to be in dire need of a new, expensive drug to throw those plans out.

This is one of the reasons that people take out private health insurance. Not only do you get the advantages of avoiding the waiting list but drugs and treatment become available that the NHS couldn't necessarily afford.

A cancer patient who could have benefited from private health insurance was recently refused any further treatment on the NHS for his advanced kidney cancer. The 49 year old father of three was given just months to live after being told that no further treatment was available for free.

This man was lucky in that the hospital treating him ignored government guidelines stating that people cannot mix private and public health care. This meant he was able to receive consistent care from the same specialists when he was able to raise the funds to pay for the drug, Sutent, at a cost of 3,000 pounds a month. Unfortunately, he had to cash in a pension fund and had the help of some very generous friends because he hadn't taken out private health insurance.

Mixing NHS care and privately paid care has been discouraged by the government for fear of it creating a two tier healthcare system but hospitals are bucking the system and allowing some patients a mix of NHS care and then, when funds run out, their private health insurance or other funds, kick in to pay for the rest of the treatment. Doctors are recommending drugs to patients and then telling them they can't be had on the NHS but people are dying prematurely for the want of them.

It is this very reason that makes many people do whatever it takes to raise the money to pay for their own treatment and exactly the reason that many of us should consider private health insurance before we get to this stage. Personally, I think the government should be glad that patients are willing to do this because it then frees them up to help other patients who maybe can't raise the money. Surely, at the end of the day the most important thing is that lives are saved.

The cancer patient mentioned above has seen vast improvements in his health, if it had been left to the National Health there is the possibility that he wouldn't even be here now. His quality of life has come on leaps and bounds so it's not as if the drug simply keeps him lingering on. Although he is unable to work, he can still get out and about which is something he couldn't do before the private health firm began home delivering his drug. All other checks, blood tests, x-rays etc are still carried out by the NHS, for which the patient is very grateful as this would double the costs involved.

I, for one, think that a two tier system is a good thing if it improves the lives of patients and saves lives.
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