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Think about the care in healthcare

BMJ 2014; 348 doi: (Published 23 June 2014) Cite this as: BMJ 2014;348:g4210
  1. Jonathan Benger, consultant in emergency medicine, University Hospitals Bristol NHS Foundation Trust
  1. jbenger{at}

Thinking about care separately from health may help raise its standing and ensure individuals get what they need, says Jonathan Benger

You can find the word “healthcare” everywhere. It is often used to describe the broad range of health related services provided to patients in the developed world. On the face of it, the word seems intuitive. We wish the services that we offer to combine both “health” (an improvement in physical, mental, and social wellbeing as a result of specific interventions) and “care” (the provision of support, compassion, and personal assistance). Recent events in the United Kingdom—exemplified by the problems in Mid Staffordshire1—suggest that although we may be skilled in providing health interventions, we sometimes fail to provide the care that people need.

To examine this further it may be instructive to divide health from care, and consider them as separate entities rather than one unified package. Health is traditionally the domain of doctors, who are accorded high status in society and substantial salaries as a result. Health is a highly valued commodity, enshrined in …

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