Letters calls & emails: Economics and medicine are unhappy bedfellows

Dear Editor

The article ‘Why this man wants to dock GP pay’, about Professor Alan Maynard, professor of health economics at York University (GP, 16 April), set me wondering, what is a health economist?

Is it a healthcare professional who, viewing healthcare as their prime concern, strives to get the best value for money? Such a definition would, I suspect, include most healthcare professionals and so we must look for another definition.

Perhaps it is someone who is first and foremost an economist, seeing the world primarily in financial terms and striving to fit the provision of healthcare to this world view? From this perspective, healthcare becomes subservient to money and no activity is ever viewed as worthwhile unless it can be measured financially and deemed cost-effective or ‘efficient’. So treating sick people and promoting our patients’ health are no longer worthwhile ends in themselves.

Indeed, only those aspects of medicine that can be given a monetary value and shown to be cost-effective (dare we say profitable?) will be worth financing. Is this what Professor Maynard really means when he says, ‘We have got to think about how to change the NHS and make it more efficient’?

Dr Antony Dowd
Somercotes, Derbyshire

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