The NHS is in dire straits, as well we know – but should healthcare professionals start to restrict treatments in order to ease the pressure? The Hertfordshire Valley CCG has recently started denying treatment to patients who are morbidly obese until they have lost some weight, amidst claims that this strategy would compromise the trust that is vital to patient-practitioner trust.
In dentistry, we may think that it would be easier to restrict time consuming treatments to those patients who are willing to take responsibility for their own oral health and maintain a healthy hygiene routine. But would this tactic undermine our remit as healthcare providers? We do, after all, have a responsibility to our patients – and this should not be dependent on their ‘good behaviour’ or lifestyle choices. Indeed, a better approach would be to investigate the causes of their potentially damaging behaviour and provide holistic solutions to help them improve.
Denying treatment would probably not improve oral health; indeed, we are well aware of patient’s willingness to take matters into their own hands – and it is likely that if a patient needs treatment, they will find a way to get it, and this will undoubtedly cause more bad than good in the short and probably long terms.
As such, we need to treat every patient with care and consideration – show them that they are not going to be turned away if they do not meet the correct criteria. We need to show that we are prepared to help. But alongside this we need to provide them with what they need to help themselves – and give them the proper encouragement to do so in the long term.