Letter: Waiting for surgery

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The Independent Culture
Sir: As many as 25 per cent of operations may be unnecessary or could be replaced by better, less invasive treatments ("I was assaulted by a surgeon", 9 September).

There is no doubt that hospital consultants hold the key to the abolition of waiting lists and sensible managed care could remove such abhorrent lists before the next general election. Appointing extra consultants may not be the solution. In a recent case, the appointment of an extra surgeon led to a massive increase in workload for the same numbers of population.

It is now commonly recognised that someone must control the excessive zeal of surgeons and ensure that such treatments conform to best-practice, evidence-based and cost-effective guidelines. The National Institute of Clinical Excellence and the waiting list team action handbook Getting Patients Treated will address these issues, but it is essential to persuade hospital consultants to grasp the nettle. Consultants may fear that the abolition of waiting lists will lead to the collapse of the private medical insurance industry and their private incomes.

The solution would be to pay hospital consultants what they are worth and for the private healthcare companies to use their considerable expertise to run a vastly more efficient privatised NHS.

VINCENT ARGENT FRCOG

Director

The Waiting List Company

Little Friston, East Sussex

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