The chair of the Commons public administration committee has called for GPs to be more open with patients about treatment costs instead of worrying about “polluting the clinical environment” with financial issues.
In the current tight spending environment, doctors needed to be honest about the financial costs of their clinical decisions, North Essex MP Bernard Jenkin said yesterday.
Speaking at a roundtable event at the Conservative Party conference hosted by think tank Reform, he said: “There’s a lot of information in the health service but everybody’s worried about too many people knowing.”
Patients should be armed with “basic information” such as how much their appointment with the GP cost, the costs of any drugs they are prescribed and how much a referral to a specialist would be.
He said: “The reaction I see among most medical professionals is that somehow we’re polluting the clinical environment by introducing this idea of cost.”
Royal College of Physicians chief executive Martin Else said the complexity of care pathways meant it was often difficult to apportion costs to different parts of the system.
But Mr Jenkin replied: “In any industrial process they end up apportioning costs on a very rough and ready basis. That’s where we have to start.”
He said ministers should instruct the NHS to publish every data set it collects and that if data was not going to be published, it should not be collected in the first place.
“There’s nothing more demoralising than collecting information that’s useless,” he said.
Another problem was the public and MPs expecting ministers to recall facts and figures off the top of their heads when under the spotlight, even if this information was not essential to their day to day job.
Mr Jenkin said: “We’ve got to stop pretending that the secretary of state is a large repository of information [and needs to know] how many Urdu speakers have been treated in Glasgow for testicular cancer.”