How The European Union Kills People

There is no doubt that one of the reasons why our health care system is a failure is because it is distorted by regulations, targets and legislation - some of which originate in London but much of which now comes from the European Union.

There is no doubt at all that the European Union has done enormous damage to the quality of medical care provided to patients in Europe. It is, for example, because of the EU that general practitioners in England no longer provide 24 hour cover for their patients and it is because of the EU that hospital patients rarely see the same doctor twice and may often go for several days (particularly over weekends and bank holidays) without seeing a doctor at all.

It was back in the 1990s that European politicians and bureaucrats insisted that the European working-time directive should be applied to doctors as well as coach drivers and factory workers. This was done purely for political reasons.

Britain accepted the EU rules for doctors. (The Government could have refused to accept the legislation but it didn't. As our politicians always do, our ministers bowed down to the EU's demands.) One reason for the acceptance of the new legislation was, without doubt, the fact that there will, as a result of sexual discrimination, soon be far more women in medicine. Women doctors are far less likely to be driven by vocation and altruistic motives and far more likely to want as much money as possible for as little work as possible. Many women doctors marry, have babies and want to work office hours. Just like female MPs, they demand a regulated `work-life balance' and expect the job commitments to be adjusted to suit them. They aren't prepared to give the commitment that male doctors have always given. And so patients lack continuity and male doctors have to work harder. The result has been the worst and fastest deterioration in the NHS since its inception in 1948.

Today the entire NHS is in a mess, doctors no longer provide patients with anything half way decent medical care, and patients are dying like flies because the quality of care has deteriorated. There is no longer any continuity of care.

Thanks largely to the EU employment rules doctors in hospital (as in general practice) are now working strictly limited hours. Many GPs no longer provide the 24 hour, 365 day service which was an integral part of family practice just a few years ago. The modern GP works the sort of hours usually associated with schoolteachers, librarians and accountants. Similarly, many hospital doctors now work only short, fixed weeks. Hospital doctors who are `on call' are deemed to be working when they are sleeping.

At the same time the EU has also taken rights away from patients and given all the rights to employees. The result is that staff everywhere have all the power and can be as rude as they like without censure.

Today, if doctors work more hours than the EU permits then the hospital must pay a huge fine. (In exactly the same way that the EU controls the amount and type of rubbish our councils can collect so doctors working hours are controlled precisely by the EU.) The result of this bureaucratic absurdity is that doctors have to leave half way through treating patients and at weekends hospitals are often completely empty of doctors. I wonder how many patients have died as a result of this policy? I'm damned sure it is considerably more than ever died as a result of doctors being tired. Today it is rare to see a doctor (or a physiotherapist or, indeed, anyone else who isn't a patient or a visitor) in a hospital at weekends. Patients are left lying in bed for over two days. No one, it seems, has heard of deep vein thromboses or pressure sores.

Today, hospitals don't discharge patients at the weekend because consultants aren't available then. And they know that if they send patients home at the weekend they will have empty beds and will have to take new patients - something they don't like doing over weekends with a skeleton medical staff in the hospital.

Another result of the shortage of doctors has been that nurses have been given the right to prescribe and to perform surgery - and to take on these responsibilities without any medical supervision and without the sort of training required for doctors. To the problem of bad prescribing by doctors has now been added the problem of bad prescribing by nurses. Most nurses (like most doctors) know very little about the drugs they prescribe and know next to nothing about side effects. We need fewer - not more - people handing out prescriptions.

To make sure that doctors stick to the EU's regulations, hospitals actually employ highly-paid bureaucrats whose sole job is to make sure that young doctors clock off on time and don't spend a moment more than they should looking after patients. Hospitals employ Working Time Directive Project Managers (salaries around 40,000 a year) whose job description involves ensuring the compliance of young professionals with the 48 hour working limit.

So, with one thing and another, it is hardly surprising that it is often difficult to find a doctor on a hospital ward these days. And it is hardly surprising that the standard of care in our hospitals has fallen and still falling rapidly.

And it is hardly surprising that more and more patients are getting fed up with the poor quality of care they receive from doctors. In 2007, the number of complaints heard by the General Medical Council was twenty times as great as it had been in 1997. Incidentally, a high proportion of the complaints relate to services provided by foreign born doctors. Naturally, no one is allowed to mention this although it has been the case for some years.)

Forcing the EU working directive into the world of medicine has created one other massive problem.

When doctors qualified in the 1970s, specialists only became consultants or GPs after around 30,000 hours of experience and training. In 1971, when I was a junior hospital doctor I worked all the hours available. It was not uncommon for a junior house officer to work 168 hours a week, snatching hours of sleep whenever there was a lull in activity. We didn't complain about this because it was an accepted part of our training and, being young, we managed perfectly well. Every patient was looked after by a designated consultant team. The consultant, registrar and house officer were responsible for patients from their admittance to their discharge. The extraordinary workload meant that young, resident doctors learned an enormous amount about practical, medical care. Today, thanks to reduced working hours, young doctors can become consultants or fully qualified GPs after 6,000 hours of training. So, today's specialists have one fifth the experience of their predecessors just 30 years ago. How can that possibly be acceptable? If airline pilots were suddenly allowed to fly passenger planes after a training period that had been cut by four fifths there would be a public outcry.

Copyright Vernon Coleman 2012 Taken from Do Doctors And Nurses Kill More People Than Cancer? by Vernon Coleman. This book is published by EMJ Books. For details of how to purchase a copy please visit the shop on this website.