‘The gains would appear to be minimal’

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it is a mission statement of sorts. Six simple words standing at the top of the front page of the NHS Quality Improvement Strategy, the health board’s blueprint for improving the service it 
provides to its patients. Person-centred, safe, effective and efficient care. As slogans go, it is a pretty good one. It is hard to think of six better words to sum up what a good National Health Service should be all about.

And, for the most part, our medics do a sterling job of living up to that motto.

It is hard, though, to see how the changes being proposed today will help them to keep delivering on that aim. How does cutting the amount of time that people can respond to an invitation to treatment make the health service more “person-centred”? Quite clearly it doesn’t.

Might they make our hospitals more effective and efficient? Possibly, but the gains would appear to be minimal, and have to be offset against the great inconvenience that the new rules would cause many people.

What happens when someone goes on holiday for a week and comes back to find their chance to accept their operation has gone? Will they have to wait another three months? That is effectively telling those who are ill or injured that they must put their lives on hold – no holidays of more than a few days – until they get a letter telling them they can be treated.

Besides, efficiency is not the reason being put forward for the change. We are told it is needed to bring Lothian into line with other health boards.

That might help monitor performance within the health service – an important consideration – but does nothing to help patients access the services they need – surely a far more important consideration.

The problem is this looks like a move that will help improve waiting time statistics but will do nothing for patients except make life harder for them.