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The Patients Association has warned of “widespread rationing” within the NHS after doctors pledged to stop giving patients numerous tests and treatments, including x-rays for back pain and antibiotics for flu.
According to the Academy of Medical Royal Colleges, which represents the UK’s 250,000 doctors, many patients are currently “over-diagnosed”, “over-treated” and receiving “unnecessary care”. The body is looking to end the culture that currently compels doctors to always try some sort of investigative test or treatment because of patient pressure.
However, there are concerns that the need to save money will come at the expense of patient care.
“While not treating a cold or flu might be the best thing to do, I would be very concerned that [in future] a GP or hospital doctor might think twice about whether ordering an investigation for the patient to get a diagnosis, such as a scan or x-ray, is needed or not,” said Katherine Murphy, the Patient Association’s chief executive.
Despite these concerns, the AMRC has warned that high quality healthcare would be unsustainable in the future in the face of growing demand if the culture of over-treatment isn’t tackled.
Choosing Wisely, a policy already in use in the US, is to be introduced by the academy and will aim to bring an end to the use of treatments that are not supported by evidence and may actually do more harm than good.
“The whole point of Choosing Wisely is to encourage doctors to have conversations with their patients and about the value of a treatment. It’s not, and never will be, about refusing treatment or in any way jeopardising safety. It’s just about taking a grown-up approach to healthcare and being good stewards of the resources we have,” said Professor Dame Sue Bailey, the academy’s president.
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