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Roadblocks to health

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I have just had a great four weeks on leave in Europe, finishing with a reality check in London.

Believe me, the Aussie cricketers lacked a lot of skill and dedication at Lords and it was painful to be present, but more alarming were the London tabloid headlines.
Firstly, professional hackers obtaining personal National Health Service (NHS) data for insurers and legal firms on the Internet were the front-page allegations, and a parliamentary inquiry is to be held – certainly very sobering, and a wake up call for all of us regarding electronic record storage. Privacy is a cornerstone of the doctor-patient relationship.

The internet is a great tool, I love its speed and ease of access to all manner of things: medical information and research, my family, other professionals and its ability to simplify and enable banking from anywhere, anytime.

But hackers are able to penetrate its defences, and are very keen to do so if the rewards are great enough.

’What safeguards has the National E-Health Transition Authority put in place to ensure security?’ and ‘what communication has it had with both the British NHS and our own banking sector on their experiences?’ are the obvious questions springing to mind which demand answers.
Secondly, fiscal belt tightening or “austerity measures” have seen the NHS budget frozen. Its Chief Executive Officer Sir David Nicholson bravely claimed patient care will not be affected as new, yet to be devised “efficiencies” will cover the lack of funding.

Well hello, this is plainly not imaginable, as the same newspapers are baying loudly about alack of adequate nursing numbers resulting in less than optimal care all too often. Responsibility and blame is being placed on nursing administrators, rather than the politicians who leave the system underfunded.
Politicians must be held accountable.

If the tax system allows only second class public hospital care, let us be open about it and ask if a higher tax base is the best solution, or if there need to be changes of practise – in particular, humanely reducing the huge costs of often futile end of life care or improved better primary care provision to reduce tertiary care expenses.

To date, the public debate on these issues has barely started, but it must if patient outcomes are to be maximised.
Finally, it is great to see the Opposition supporting the repeal of Labor’s draconian restrictions on the tax deductibility of education expenses.

The introduction of such a cap would be a huge set-back for rural practice, and I must thank National senators Bridget McKenzie and Fiona Nash for their support after I lobbied them recently.