Doctors’ dilemma

MEDICAL history is replete with bloomers and mistakes. Now they are increasing by the day with rising workload on a limited number of doctors in a general hospital or a family clinic. A medical practitioner can hardly devote enough time to listen to a patient’s health woes, diagnose the ailment and prescribe the right medicine. In specialist hospitals, where complicated and life-saving surgeries are done, the waiting period for an operation by a skilled and experienced professional is excruciatingly painful. With a worldwide shortage of medical professionals, including nurses, hospital errors in treating and taking care of patients have become common. So it is hardly surprising to know that more than 2,000 patients died in British hospitals last year due to accidents and errors.

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Published: Sat 12 Nov 2005, 10:15 AM

Last updated: Thu 2 Apr 2015, 6:48 PM

According to UK National Audit Office, the National Health Service’s spending watchdog, half of those deaths could have been avoided. But how to avoid mistakes when there is a severe shortage of doctors and nurses and the health system is under so much strain? Reports indicate that some patients prefer to go to some other country for treatment, which is relatively cheap, instead of waiting for long for an appointment with a specialist. The soaring cost of running a public health system and manpower shortages are prompting the authorities to hire secondary and tertiary health personnel from outside and outsource patients’ health records. No doubt, these steps may ease the pressure on the system. However, they have their own problems, such as language issues, cultural differences and poor social interaction as far as the foreign medical workforce is concerned, and security and accurate transcription of medical records when they are done outside of the country. But these pinpricks should in no way impede the effective functioning of the NHS. Many countries, which are sending nurses to the UK, have English language courses to train the aspirants and recruits in writing and speaking skills. A functional English language test for the foreign nurses selected to work in British hospitals and orientation courses in the host country could remedy some of the staffing problems.

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