Heavy drinkers given low rating in treatment 'pecking order' poll

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The Independent Online
HEAVY DRINKERS whose alcohol habits cause them to be ill are considered less worthy of medical treatment than people whose health problems are related to smoking, eating too much, or being 'workaholics', according to a public opinion survey.

A Gallup poll for the National Association of Health Authorities and Trusts (Nahat), on the eve of its national conference in Brighton, was designed to test public ideas on developments within the health service.

While most of the 1,000 people questioned would not send patients 'to the back of the queue' for so-called self-inflicted illnesses, a clear treatment pecking- order emerged.

Nearly one-third, 32 per cent, said that heavy drinkers should have to wait longer for treatment; 25 per cent thought that smokers should wait; 11 per cent nominated overweight people, while 7 per cent decided that people who overwork should go to the back of the queue.

The survey, produced with the help of the Brighton Healthcare NHS Trust, shows that patient- friendly initiatives scored highly in the questionnaires. Three-quarters of those responding wanted hospital outpatient appointments to be available to them at weekends and in the evening. The same percentage wanted their GPs to be as available at weekends as they are in the week.

According to the answers, respondents want to see the services provided at their convenience rather than at the convenience of doctors. The majority, 91 per cent, said that GPs should provide more diagnostic services like blood tests, in the surgery. People wanted more minor operations available at the surgery and wanted to see consultants' out-patient appointments locally rather than travelling into town to the hospital.

Asked about hospital care, 81 per cent said they wanted more information about their treatment. Most wanted a member of staff to act for them if problems arose with their treatment or care.

Philip Hunt, director of Nahat, said that the results of polling showed how much people valued prompt treatment, and how much they wanted to be treated by their GPs as far as was possible.