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So Much Harm to Patients': British Doctors Describe NHS as 'Worse Than Communist China

"Not even in Communist China did they have managers overruling doctors in the operation of hospitals and health services.”

A general view of Stafford Hospital on the day that Robert Francis QC Publishes His Inquiry Into Mid Staffordshire Hospital on February 6, 2013 in Stafford, United Kingdom. (Photo: Getty Images)

Proponents of President Obama's "Affordable Care Act" often suggest skeptics look across the Atlantic to the United Kingdom as an example of what can be made better with the American health care system.

But doctors in the United Kingdom have about had it, it seems, calling their own system "worse than Communist China."

A recent report in the U.K. Telegraph chronicles the conclusions of the British Medical Association’s annual conference, where doctors loudly lamented the undue power of abusive managers and bureaucrats, who seem to have as much or more power in hospitals than the actual doctors.

"The result is the perfect toxic professional working environment for this explosive mixture to generate disasters such as Mid Staffordshire which did so much harm to patients," said Dr. Peter Holden, a member of the BMA’s GP negotiating committee.

"Not even in Communist China did they have managers overruling doctors in the operation of hospitals and health services,” he added.

Lyn Hill-Tout the new chief executive of Mid Staffordshire Hospital Trust speaks to the media on the day that Robert Francis QC Publishes his inquiry into Stafford Hospital on February 6, 2013 in Stafford, United Kingdom. (Photo: Getty Images) 

The Mid Staffordshire "disaster" is a reference to the revelation that up to 1,200 people died unnecessarily at an NHS-run hospital between 2005 and 2009, some suffering from starvation or dehydration and left in complete squalor (this is the case where people were drinking the water out of flowerpots they were so desperate).

Dr Keighley, who is set to retire after roughly four decades in the profession, said he has seen an alarming turn in that "we now see health boards talking about 'their' patients – almost implying that the doctors it employs or contracts with are mere technicians in the pursuit of their corporate aim."

The shortage of doctors willing to work in such environments is creating a crisis of its own, and those who can still handle it are warning about the impacts their "burnout" has on patients.

"The more stressed I got, the more detached I became from my patients", Dr. Amy Small said, according to the U.K. Guardian. "I started to cut them off while they were talking, trying desperately to ignore the little cues that they dropped indicating they had things they really needed to talk about. I felt their care was starting to suffer. I wasn't the doctor I wanted or aspired to be."

The 32-year-old said there's "no way" she can continue at her current pace for the next 2 years, "never mind the next 35."

Of those who remain, some blame the government's "micromanagement" and fixation with "oppressive box ticking" for decreasing their efficiency.

"Why am I now asking large numbers of patients if they do gardening, or old people with Zimmer frames if they go cycling?" Dr. Laurence Buckman asked.  "General practice is stretched beyond capacity, saddled with box-ticking administration, unrealistic workload and declining resources."

(H/T: WeaselZippers)

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