Patients prefer better care to faster treatment, report claims

Patients would prefer to wait for better hospital treatment, rather than go to a hospital with shorter waiting lists.

A study, conducted by RAND Europe, the King’s Fund and City University, found that patients were more likely to choose to be treated at a hospital with a good reputation rather than one that has shorter waiting times.

The researchers say that the report raises questions about the government’s policy on patient choice.

Lead researcher Peter Burge said: “This study shows that waiting time isn’t everything. Some patients will be prepared to wait considerable amounts of time in order to obtain treatment at a hospital with a better reputation.”

However, the study found that less wealthy patients were prepared to accept being treated at hospitals with a poorer reputation. Mr Burge said: “The reality of these differences in choice raises uncomfortable questions about how best to provide a health service that ensures equal access for those in equal need.”

The findings of the study are based on an evaluation of the London Patients Choice Project, one of the first government schemes to offer patients on waiting lists quicker access to hospital treatment.

The study also found that patients were willing to trade off longer operation waiting times, if the NHS would pay and arrange for transport, and also claimed that there was a lack of information available on hospital reputation, to help patients make informed choices.

Commenting on the report, Liberal Democrat health spokesperson Steve Webb said: “Accessing quality healthcare should be a right and not the preserve of people who know how to work the system. Choice is not a reality for people without the means to travel or for their visitors to stay nearby. It is clear that wealthier people and those with access to better information about the quality of services will be able to get access to the best care.”


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