Patients choosing their hospital

BMJ 2003; 326 doi: https://doi.org/10.1136/bmj.326.7386.407 (Published 22 February 2003) Cite this as: BMJ 2003;326:407

May not be fair and equitable

  1. John Appleby, chief economist,
  2. Anthony Harrison, senior fellow,
  3. Steve Dewar, director of health policy
  1. King's Fund, London W1G 0AN

    In a speech last week, the British secretary of state for health, Alan Milburn, continued his push to extend the right of patients to choose their hospital—and in so doing, cut the time they have to wait.1 Given Sweden's experience where since 1992 a national guarantee of treatment within a certain period has been in place, and that of Denmark, where a similar guarantee has been in place for the past 10 years, squeezing an individualist notion of choice into a collectivist system of healthcare funding and provision may not prove as difficult as some expect. But it will not be pain free for the NHS or clinicians, or, potentially, for some patients.

    As currently conceived patients' choice is being driven by a need to reduce waiting times and hit targets (as it …

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