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Camden New Journal - COMMENT
Published: 14 August 2008
Health chiefs are putting finance before patient care

THE governing body of healthcare in the borough – the Camden Primary Care Trust – moves in mysterious ways.
Suddenly, it has found itself exposed by a respected cancer charity as a primary care trust unwilling to back medical decisions taken by eminent specialists at such nationally recognised training hospitals as the UCLH and the Royal Free.
What are these specialists doing that the PCT finds so unacceptable?
They are carrying out their duty to give their cancer patients the best possible treatment. Their logical, clinical approach, based on years of experience, is to give their patients the most advanced medication first and then seek financial approval next.
They embark on treatment pretty much straight away because they know the PCT can take up to three months to make up its mind – too long a delay for patients struggling to live.
If the PCT rejects the specialists’ eventual application for approval, it then does something extraordinary – it fines the hospital!
Clearly, this can create an atmosphere at the hospital in which a specialist – once rapped over the knuckles – may hesitate next time to use the same treatment. What is strange about this is that the PCT is actually thumbing its nose at government guidelines, which lay down a shorter time for PCTs to make decisions.
Strange? Because the Camden PCT is known – perhaps more than other PCTs – as one that closely observes government policy in every other field.
It became one of the first in the country to sell GPs’ surgeries to the US corporation UnitedHealth – pushed in this direction by Blairite free-market policies.
Perhaps the PCT has found itself forced to turn against government guidelines on cancer treatment because it is so desperate to make hospitals in the borough come to heel financially.
Somewhere along the way it has lost sight of its prime duty – to provide care for its patients.

IT WAS 70 years ago this week that the Parliament Hill Lido opened its doors for the first time and provided an open-air pool for people living in the boroughs of St Pancras and Hampstead.
The £34,000 spent by the London County Council to build the pool has proved spectacular value. Grade-II listed, it is both architecturally significant and still offers an affordable swimming experience.
It proves that grand municipal projects are worth the investment.
If they could do it in 1938, with the Depression still peering over their shoulders and war in Europe looming, it is a shame we can’t do something similar today.

Send your letters to: The Letters Editor, Camden New Journal, 40 Camden Road, London, NW1 9DR or email to The deadline for letters is midday Tuesday. The editor regrets that anonymous letters cannot be published, although names and addresses can be withheld. Please include a full name, postal address and telephone number. Letters may be edited for reasons of space.

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