Monday, November 09, 2009

The Blissful State of UK Health Care

Could government control of health care be bad for your health? Government targets increase superbug risks, say NHS infection chiefs - Telegraph Those targets relate to waiting times. More on that in a bit.

UK hospitals have been hit in recent years with a couple of major infectious diseases. In particular, Clostridium difficile (C. diff) and MRSA
MRSA stands for methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus. It's a strain of staph that's resistant to the broad-spectrum antibiotics commonly used to treat it. MRSA can be fatal.
So the government bureaucrats in charge of health care did what government bureaucrats always do. They looked at the small picture.
While rates of MRSA and Clostridium difficile are falling, after scandals over major outbreaks, other potentially fatal infections which receive less attention appear to be soaring, the Commons public accounts committee will say.

Around 300,000 infections are diagnosed in English hospitals every year – but many more potentially fatal bugs may be going undetected, because of a lack of surveillance, research has found.
By focusing on 2 diseases, they missed the point.

The result? Infection rates in UK are (by some measures) up 30 percent between 2003 and 2007. This has been "described as a 'rising tide' of infections threatening all hospital patients." E. Coli is one of the mentioned new offenders.

Oh, those targets mentioned in the Telegraph's headline? They have to do with how long patients can wait. (A response by the bureaucrats to allegations they were rationing health-care by making people wait.)
An anonymous survey of 170 NHS directors of infection control found that 59 per cent had experienced a clash between their efforts to block the spread of disease and rules which say new patients must be found a bed within four hours.

Infection experts say NHS managers are so fearful of missing the four hour target for Accident and Emergency patients to be admitted to a ward, that infected patients are being shunted around overcrowded hospitals, hastening the spread of disease, in a rush to clear space for new arrivals.
Some say these 4 hour targets have killed hundreds. The bureaucrats blame poor management.

If you demand simple answers to complex questions, you are going to be disappointed. Or in this case, dead.

But at least they're not rationing health-care (or making people wait.)

The self-same bureaucrats point out that MRSA and C. diff infections are down significantly. Translation: they beat the metric. Too bad they aren't measuring the right thing.

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