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UK patients feel they have little say over their treatment, survey finds

1 October 2009

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A new survey about health systems in the UK, US, Germany and India has found that a larger proportion of UK respondents felt they have little or no influence over where and how they are treated, compared with any of the other three countries.

The research appears in Health Reform: the debate goes public, a new report written by the Economist Intelligence Unit and commissioned by Philips.

Despite the introduction of Choose and Book in 2004, nearly six in 10 survey respondents in the UK said they are not encouraged to choose from a range of doctors or hospitals for their treatment, even though three-quarters of them would like the option to do so. In the US, by contrast, seven in 10 respondents felt that choice is encouraged.

However, although UK respondents are significantly less satisfied than Americans on some aspects of healthcare, they are notably more satisfied with the quality of their physicians.

Britons also appear more supportive of government health policies. Globally, the majority of respondents were critical about the handling of healthcare by their respective governments. However, 29% of Britons agree that their government has the right approach. By contrast, just 8% of Germans and 13% of Americans think their governments are on the right track.

Furthermore, despite their dissatisfaction with some aspects of the NHS, fewer than one-quarter of UK respondents agree that private-sector involvement would improve the country’s healthcare system.

“For the public, the NHS is not quite untouchable but it is very well-supported,” says John Appleby, Chief Economist at The King’s Fund, a London-based research centre focused on health policy.

Economist Intelligence Unit