Magazine article New Statesman (1996)

Psychiatry: The Mad World of Private Asylums

Magazine article New Statesman (1996)

Psychiatry: The Mad World of Private Asylums

Article excerpt

Irecently had a patient whom I thought it right to admit to a psychiatric hospital. As he was privately insured, and as the local National Health Service institutions are noisy, over-crowded, dirty and dismal, I thought it in his interest to get him admitted to the local private hospital.

It was in my interest, too, not because I stood to make any money from it, but I hoped it would save me a lot of time. To get a patient admitted to an NHS psychiatric hospital these days is a labour, if not quite of Hercules, certainly of several hours, with much frustration and at least a score of telephone calls. The number of beds in the system has been so drastically reduced that a single admission causes a bed crisis for miles around. Bureaucratic hurdles have therefore been erected to deter doctors from even trying to admit their patients.

At least in the private sector things would be easy, or so I thought. I would call the hospital, as I have done in the past, nominate the consultant under whose care I wanted to admit the patient, and that would be that.

In the event, the process was just as bad as, if not worse than, the NHS. It took no time at all for the hospital to check that the man was sufficiently insured to pay the bill, but then bureaucracy struck. The staff of the private hospital, trained in the NHS, had recently introduced the same chaotic and time-consuming procedures prevalent in the NHS, and whose principal purpose there is the avoidance of real work, that is to say, the care and cure of patients.

Although I had given the patient's history to the consultant under whose care I wanted to admit him, and to the chief nurse of the ward to which he would be admitted, I was informed by someone further up the administrative hierarchy, a person of the very type that has proliferated in the NHS, that this was insufficient. …

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