Patients in the UK think they have more rights than they actually do, according to a survey conducted by The Patients Association. The report, The Public Perception of Patients Rights within the UK National Health Service, has revealed that the public want to know a lot more about the quality of the healthcare providers and the treatments and healthcare options on offer than they currently have access to.

Some of the most surprising examples of patient delusion uncovered by the survey include:

  • 90% of the UK public believe that they are entitled to receive enough information to take their medicines properly;
  • 90% believe that the NHS gives patients the right to be treated in a hospital that meets government standards;
  • 80% are under the impression that they are entitled to receive information about the quality of the performance of the hospital they are due to attend;
  • 75% believe that they have the right to information about the potential choices of treatment for their condition;
  • 75% think they have a right to a second opinion on the NHS;
  • 75% believe they have the right to be protected against medical error while attending hospital;
  • 67% say they have the right to be treated, or to have an operation, before their condition gets worse; and
  • 50% believe they have the right to receive information about the quality and performance of their GP.

According to Simon Williams, Director of Policy at the TPA: “Thee findings of this survey are disturbing. Clearly, the public believes that the NHS gives them many rights as patients - when, in fact, patients in this country possess only a few entitlements.” He went on to add that, “Although the UK government has established a set of healthcare targets, these are failing to be met - for unacceptable reasons -and patients are suffering as a result.”

The survey also found that some people are finding it hard to exert the few legal rights that they have, such as gaining access to personal medical records or the right to make a complaint. A large part of this problem is down to the fact that many are reluctant to confront their doctor with issues of their healthcare they are not happy with.

But, while some harbour strong doubt that doctors have patients’ best interests are at heart, and so do not even attempt to resolve any problems, other, more knowledgable and articulate patients, are able to gain access to the NHS services they believe they need, further widening the growing differences in the standard of healthcare within the population.

Given this growing inequality, “the time is surely right to discuss precisely what patients within the NHS should be entitled to, and ask how the system might be reformed - so that patients can, at last, receive predictably equitable standards of care without needing all the skills of a trained negotiator,” Williams stated, claiming that “The current, inadequate, top-down approach to ensuring that government targets are implemented must be changed to allow grassroots input.”

But Harry Cayton, National Director for Patients and the Public, said: “We are working with patient organisations to provide information which empowers patients to ask health professionals for better information if they feel that they are not receiving it.”

He added: “Patients will also have new rights from January 1 to have a choice of at least four hospitals if they may need an operation or treatment, and they will be able to get easily comparable and accessible information about the different options available to them,” reports BBC News Online.