In an eerie reflection of the U.S. debate over school vouchers, healthcare experts in England are divided over a new policy that allows patients covered under the National Health Service (NHS) to choose the best hospital for their non-emergency treatments. From BBC News:
Ministers say the Patient Choice reforms will cut waiting times and drive up standards of care. But union leaders fear it could force unpopular hospitals to close and that patients could make wrong choices.
The nationalized British system is notorious for its waiting lists. Last month, UK Health Minister Lord Warner bragged that the NHS will meet its commitment to deliver a maximum wait of six months for an operation. The average wait time is two months. Warner continued:
"But we want to cut waits even further. That is why the NHS is now working towards an even more challenging target. By 2008, no one will wait longer than 18 weeks from GP referral to the start of hospital treatment. Not only will this guarantee patients more certainty about their treatment, it will also finally end the NHS' hidden waiting lists."