Wednesday, 14 October 2009

The social economics of marketised health

Rosamund Stock

Now that so many things (including hospital trusts and especially foundation trusts) are to be run as businesses, all assets are there to be "sweated". So we have hospitals which are constantly run at capacity in order to increase so-called efficiency.

But the costs, not necessarily monetary, the costs of doing so are transferred to the patients. So we have patients going into hospitals without knowing which ward they will be on. At the most vulnerable point in their lives when many are terribly worried (in fact many are terrified) by what lies ahead, they are cast adrift in a huge building where they know virtually no one, all the social relationships which they could have established from admission the day before, the temporary identity they would have constructed have been ripped away from them. They are forced to wait at one of the most important times of their lives in a characterless waiting room with no chance to explain or discuss their worries, or explain to those who will look after them about their other conditions.

People are social animals, they need to belong, they can only be "people" as part of a network of social relationships. In social psychological terms, these patients have been hooded and bound.

This is the cost of "efficiency" in the public sector.

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