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Too much choice?

Do you think we get enough choice? Everywhere I look there seems to be a bewildering array of items to choose between. If I go out for a coffee, I am expected to choose between about 10 different types of coffee, at least three different sizes of cup, with at least three different types of milk. And then they ask me if I want cream on top. STOP! Too much pressure, particularly if there is a long queue behind me. At least if I end up with a "suboptimum" choice, it is, after all, only a cup of coffee.  

However, when it comes to things that are more important in life than a cup of coffee, such as healthcare, the concept of choice becomes even more complex. What I want is a decent service that is easy to access. I want a friendly and courteous GP service where I can get an appointment within a reasonable time frame at a time convenient to me, and where I know I will receive skilled, knowledgeable and compassionate clinical care.  

The government seems determined to offer us choice in our public services since apparently this is what we want. It's true that in an ideal world I would like to be able to choose exactly who treats me and exactly where and when I receive treatment. Ideally, all the available options would have world-renowned experts in all clinical conditions that may affect me, my family and friends and my patients. (While I'm at it, I would prefer not to catch any nasty infections like MRSA while I'm there please, but that's a subject for another blog…)  

However, unless you live in a large city, you are very unlikely to have the luxury of two centres of excellence within a 30-mile radius: in the country you are lucky if you have one! So, realistically, what I really want is a local hospital that can provide good enough care for the majority of health conditions. I'm not really bothered by choice and I don't want to examine league tables. I would be happy just to know that when it comes to the more usual health problems, my local hospital is good enough. I suspect that many patients would agree.  

Admittedly some choices are important. I would like to choose an appointment at a convenient time. If I need to be admitted, I would like to be able to choose my admission date (unless it's an emergency, in which case I would be grateful just to have a bed!) However, I find choice quite stressful when it comes to the bigger issues in life. There's a big difference between choosing a disappointing coffee and coping with a poor healthcare decision. I'm a healthcare professional, but I don't feel confident that I have sufficient knowledge and skills to avoid making a bad choice. What must it be like for people without any clinical knowledge?

Your comments: (Terms and conditions apply)
"A nice summary of what we would probably all like in healthcare. If I had a long-term condition like asthma, COPD or diabetes I would like to be looked after by staff who have had relevant training. My choice would be made much easier if staff wore ID badges and perhaps displayed certificates. For my annual review the choice between a diploma level Practice Nurse and untrained nurse is obvious" - Name and address supplied

"I believe we have too much choice. Too much choice deflects full absorbtion of relevant knowledge and often lead to ill founded decisions. Choice in health should start with assessing pt level of knowledge of incident/disease etc followed by information giving which should be clear honest relevant and useful to person receiving the info which includes choice, which I believe should be limited to no more than three options. pt then reflects and return with decision to move forward on next step." - V Henry