Letter: In defence of decent doctors

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The Independent Online
THE MOST popular doctors are said to be those who tell patients what they want to hear. On this basis Christopher Huhne's bedside manner is impeccable. His analysis of the current state of the NHS ('Patient NHS could recover', Business, 27 March) should bring comfort to politicians, potential patients and anyone else who wants to believe that the NHS reforms are well-motivated and, that given a fair trial, will provide comprehensive high- quality medical care free to all, regardless of means.

This sanguine view appears to be threatened only by those villains of the piece - the consultants. This dastardly group of Sir Lancelot Spratt lookalikes have been 'up in arms since 1948', 'hating . . . the shift of power' and 'keeping a long waiting list . . . to encourage patients to go to the private clinic'.

The Establishment line is that more patients are every day in every way getting better and better. Hospital managers, Department of Health officers and all others whose daily bread depends on the reforms being seen 'to work' are unlikely to dissent from this view.

It's hardly surprising that politicians don't care much for consultants who assert that the new arrangement is an inappropriate, inefficient method of purchasing health care, which has rendered the individual patient considerably worse off.

What is surprising is how many journalists have joined the consultant-bashing brigade. Most consultants have not cried woe since 1948. They have seen reforms come and go while getting on with their work, in the knowledge that, whatever the politicians did, the pattern of disease wasn't going to change overnight.

The power lost has been the power to run a hospital according to clinical need rather than the financial dictates of a purchaser. The great majority of consultants have always worked for more than their contracted hours.

Surveys have shown consultants to be held high in public esteem. Among their number may be the arrogant, the incompetent and even the crooked; yet most of those that I know are highly professional, modest, hard-working people, who care deeply about their patients and the NHS. Many genuinely believe that the reforms were a tragic mistake and a lost opportunity, but are nevertheless devoting extra time towards trying to make them work.

Dr J F Rose

Consultant Radiologist

Wetherby, West Yorks