Letter: Rationing the NHS

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The Independent Culture
Sir: Early next year, the Government is commencing a 24-hour telephone service, called NHS Direct, to deal with patients' health queries. This does not seem a sensible use of taxpayers money. At present, patients can ring their general practitioners at any time of day or night and duplicating this service does not provide any obvious benefits. What problem is NHS Direct trying to solve?

Nurses are having to be trained and will have to be paid to give advice, and the protocols which they are using have been tried and tested in America. They number over 200 and, not surprisingly, are extremely "safe". The result may well be that ambulances will be called more often, rather than less often, and that accident and emergency departments will become yet busier.

The National Health Service provides 24-hour cover. Co-operatives are working well. NHS Direct seems to be an expensive solution to a non-existent problem.


General Practitioner

Ilfracombe, Devon