The three paradoxes of private medicine

BMJ 2004; 329 doi: (Published 02 September 2004) Cite this as: BMJ 2004;329:579
  1. Marcus J Longley, associate director (
  1. Welsh Institute for Health and Social Care, University of Glamorgan, Pontypridd

    Like many people in Britain I have inherited—and have subsequently nourished—a profound dislike of private medicine. However, it now appears that the reality is much more complicated and disturbing.

    We had been told that my daughter would have to wait at least two years to see the consultant as an outpatient, and we felt that this was totally unacceptable. So we made one simple phone call to the private hospital, and she was seen in two weeks.

    This much was accomplished without trauma. When we made the appointment it felt like any other—perhaps to see the general practitioner or a school teacher. But the experience began to be qualitatively different when we got there. It began with a feeling of relief that the uncertainty and waiting were over. Then, three things happened that gave me pause for thought.

    Instead of the joy of clinical resolution, you are left with a tainted feeling of shameful compromise and guilt

    Firstly, the staff were different. They may have had the same job titles …

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