Personal Views

How to control the misuse of health services

BMJ 1996; 313 doi: https://doi.org/10.1136/bmj.313.7069.1408a (Published 30 November 1996) Cite this as: BMJ 1996;313:1408
  1. William G Pickering

    Many people see their doctor unnecessarily or for trivial matters. Furthermore, many are not satisfied with what they are told and insist on this or that form of investigation, referral, or treatment, which always costs money.

    The very suggestion that people might be abusing medical services is not often discussed in medicopolitical circles and risks a storm of controversy and accusations of an uncaring attitude. It is as though patients—like customers in business—are always right. They must be indulged at the medical temple, even if their supposedly medical problems are entirely fanciful.

    The profession's outward diplomatic silence is by no means mirrored by silence within. There is continual noisy agitation at the miscellaneous problems deemed by some consumers as medical and worthy of professional and sometimes urgent attention. The low medical morale so often referred to now is likely to be partly related to this situation. There is nothing quite so dispiriting in any walk of life as feeling that you are being manipulated and …

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