Working together to promote equality in access to health care

Listening to some of the narratives about health care provision can be discouraging and disheartening as they give the impression that it is a system in crisis, and one that is failing the citizens. In reality, it’s not all doom and gloom because there are many structures and processes within the system which work very well, and we can be assured that the vast majority of the employees do their best to offer high quality services.

The World Health Organisation (WHO) Constitution enshrines that “…the highest attainable standard of health as a fundamental right of every human being, and, the right to health includes access to timely, acceptable, and affordable health care of appropriate quality”. But, given the significant shortcomings that we keep hearing about within the present structure it is evident that there are inefficiencies in the attainment of those fundamental rights.

You only need to take a drive along the main roads up and down the country to see the vast number of private health care clinics and labs; an indication of the growing demand. That mushrooming is happening because there are so many failings in the public health service that directly affects health outcomes and quality of life. It has therefore become the norm for anyone urgently needing access to medical diagnostic equipment or specialist care – notwithstanding their financial standing – to fork out large sums of money to these private institutions. But, we must not forget that the public health care system is responsible for providing consistent, reliable, accessible services to all citizens.

You will not be surprised to know that it is not only the decisions of the politicians that has caused some of the failings in the system. A lot of it lies at the feet of ordinary people like you and me – from the senior management who neglect to authorise the acquisition of, and routine maintenance of equipment; the doctors who sabotage the system so that patients can be referred to their private practice; the pharmacist who knowingly gives out 24 tablets instead of 30 and sells the remainder on the black market; the nursing staff pilfering the garbage bags; the cleaner not wiping the beds properly leading to cross contamination; the security officer turning a blind eye to the drug dealer peddling his goods in the corridors; the absentminded administrator  mislaying patients files, the patient who does not return the walking aids after they have recovered, and so on and so forth.

Most people aren’t necessarily aware of their part in perpetuating the failings so it is incumbent upon each and every one to start to think and act differently and to go beyond talking about the inefficiencies and failings. The good news is doing so does not need to be complex, and if each person makes a small incremental change the impact can mean more accessible to a wider selection of the population, giving people choice as to their preferred health services provider.

The uncomfortable reality is that a step in positively promoting equality in access to health care requires considerable socio-cultural shifts, input from thought leaders, critical thinkers and activists and the mobilising of a powerful collective that will challenges some of the negative behaviours.

Dr Yansie Rolston FRSA is a UK based disability and mental health specialist advisor. She is a social strategist and trainer who works internationally at various levels of government, business and civil society.  Contact her at yr@efficacyeva.com

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