Letter : Rationing health care: politicians should not be afraid to let the people decide

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Sir: Your article on the future of the NHS (30 October) ended with the difficult issue of rationing health care, but failed to consider the potential for public involvement.

There are many mechanisms for consulting the public. I have been running one such scheme for over three years for Somerset Health Authority and it has shown that members of the public can make a valuable contribution. They readily understand that a health authority has a limited budget and priorities must be set. If the consultation system is well designed, they act responsibly, bring their own experiences to the discussion and make sensible judgements about the relative merits of different ways of spending the limited cash available.

You suggest that politicians are trying to avoid the whole rationing issue because they fear the electoral consequences. You are almost certainly correct. The obvious response is to inject a truly democratic element into our arrangements by encouraging direct public involvement.

Dr ANN RICHARDSON

London NW3

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