Are Patients Receiving Enough Information About Healthcare Rationing? A Qualitative Study
Journal of Medical Ethics 2010 February; 36(2): 88-92
BACKGROUND: There is broad international agreement from clinicians and academics that healthcare rationing should be undertaken as explicitly as possible, and the BMA have publicly supported the call for more accountable priority setting for some time. However, studies in the UK and elsewhere suggest that clinicians experience a number of barriers to rationing openly, and the information needs of patients at the point of provision are largely unknown. METHODOLOGY: In-depth interviews were undertaken with NHS professionals working at the community level of provision, and with patients and professionals receiving or providing treatment for morbid obesity and breast cancer (n=52). RESULTS: Nearly all patients wanted to know about healthcare rationing and had high expectations of their clinical professionals to provide all relevant information about treatment options. However, professionals did not always understand these information requirements, and cases of implicit rationing were common. The existence of relevant national guidance was not always known about, meaning that patients were often reliant on other sources of information about treatment options, which included the popular media, the internet, patient advocacy groups and informal networks of support. DISCUSSION: Clinical professionals need to understand patients' need for detailed information when it comes to rationing, and to understand that they are the main gateway for this to be provided. However, disclosure could be distressing for both patients and professionals, and thus the most sensitive and acceptable ways to make this information available requires further investigation.
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