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Patients still mistrust NHS

Many people continue to mistrust the NHS, according to new research

Many people continue to mistrust the NHS, according to research carried out by the department of social policy, sociology and social research at the University of Kent.

The study authors, Professor Peter Taylor-Gooby and Dr Andrew Wallace, found that mistrust of the NHS still existed despite increases in spending, falling waiting lists and increased survival rates in the priority areas of heart disease and cancer.

The research, which was funded by the Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC), also revealed that most people think that recent NHS reforms are at best irrelevant and at worst damaging.

The reforms, which were first initiated in the 1990s, were based on two basic principles: competition between hospitals and clinics with patients choosing where to go and the money following the patient; and targets set by government for treatment, health outcomes, waiting lists and other areas.

People surveyed praised front-line staff who they thought provided a high-quality service under difficult circumstances, but criticised managers who they believed were distant, ill informed about patients' needs and more concerned with balance sheets than with patient-centred care.

One interviewee stated: "The NHS is too money-oriented. It feels like there is no humanity left in the NHS. There is no human compassion; it is just as if you are a piece or meat or a pound sign, or a number."

Talking to PMLive, Professor Taylor-Goody said: "The government runs into difficulties when it tries to convey information about complex healthcare decisions to the general public which they will see as transparent and fair."

"We need to improve the NHS and the new policies are making headway in this. However, if the reforms are seen as a waste of public money and are not trusted, there is a real danger that they could be counter-productive. The government needs to do more to consult people and convince them that their concerns are being taken seriously," he concluded.

A more detailed summary of the research can be requested by email: P.F.Taylor-Gooby@kent.ac.uk.

3rd December 2007

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