The Telephone: It Rations Care and Saves the Planet at the Same Time

In the United States, the telephone is seen as a way to expand doctor services. In Britain, it is being viewed as a device for rationing services. Britain’s National Health Service (NHS) has lots of employees and a severe shortage of physicians.[link, link, and link] The shortage has been exacerbated by a government recruitment program which hires only once a year, even though physicians leave the Service year round. The shortage is likely to get worse thanks to a new European Working Time directive that will cut the physician work week to 48 hours. [link]

The solution: telephone consultations. If doctors don’t have to spend time seeing patients, each physician can treat more patients. Moreover, the NHS Sustainable Development Unit has discovered that trips to the doctor leave an inevitable carbon footprint.┬áSo patients will, as the Telegraph puts it, “… be encouraged to stay at home and consult their doctor by phone instead of traveling to GPs’ surgeries under plans for a “greener” NHS.” [link]

Comments (5)

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  1. Larry C. says:

    Ingenious thinking. From a global warming point of view, you have an obligation to use the phone.

  2. Vicki says:

    How sneaky.

  3. Tom H. says:

    Interesting. In the United States we see the telephone as a way to expand access. In Britain, apparently it is a way to limit access.

  4. Bart says:

    There’s also something called e-mail.

  5. Linda Gorman says:

    The question is whether physicians really need to see patients or not? If not, why do we spend so much money teaching them how to do exams?

    Would your response change if the visit were free versus requiring a substantial copay?