Government should get health basics right firstMinisters need to focus on everyday issues

29 April 2007

 

As it approaches a decade in power the government seems to have forgotten the day to day health care issues affecting everyday lives, Which? says today.

Recently our research found that only 18 per cent of NHS patients were very satisfied with hospital food, while only 36 per cent of UK dental practices are taking on new NHS patients.

A third of adults have needed out of hours services in the past year but only two in five called NHS Direct.

We've also found that only around two thirds of people have tried to book a dental appointment in the last year.

Dental appointments

Of these, 38 per cent didn't even attempt to get an NHS appointment. Of those who did try, more than a quarter (26 per cent) found it difficult.

Furthermore, Which? mystery shopping results show that NHS dental care is still a postcode lottery. 

People living in the North West of England, Yorkshire and Humberside and South Central England are less likely than average to have access to NHS dentistry. Around 15 per cent of dental practices in these areas are taking on any new NHS patients.

In contrast, around 60 per cent of practices in London and the West Midlands were open to new NHS patients.

Hospital care

On the surface patients seem satisfied with the NHS but when questioned about their hospital stay certain issues cropped up time and time again.

Many were unhappy with the discharge process, cleanliness wasn't always up to scratch and some people even didn't feel cared for.

Which? health campaigner Frances Blunden said: ‘The government has ploughed enormous amounts of money into the NHS but on the ground the public are seeing cuts in services and considerable difficulties getting treatment.

‘In dentistry we’ve found that where needs are not currently being met, people are either putting off having treatment or are being forced to go private.

‘Although the government has succeeded with shorter waiting times and increased patient choice, these issues affect such a small minority.

‘Inconsistent out-of-hours services and hospital care and difficulties in getting NHS dentistry – these are the real everyday health care issues that the government needs to focus on.’