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Science
THE BRITISH PATIENT
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Examining health provision from the patient's perspective

Wednesdays 15, 22 & 29 May 2002, 11.00-11.30am

Ruth Richardson, historian and broadcaster who has looked at the relationship between British society and medicine over the past 500 years, presents three programmes which explore patients and doctors in the hospital, in General Practice and in the home.

Hospitals, wards and waiting rooms

In the past few years the British medical profession has been beset by a string of scandals - the Bristol heart babies, the Alder Hey organ scandal, the Harold Shipman case. This has all come at a time when there is political consensus that the NHS is in crisis and desperately needs more funding. The focus has been on doctors and health provision - The British Patient looks in the other direction, and turns our attention to health from the patient's point of view. Can patients improve health provision? Can they improve their own health care? Do they have responsibilities? Do patients obstruct doctors? Is there more to being a patient than turning up for your appointment? Is there more to being a doctor than writing the prescription?

The first programme in this series examines some of the pioneering ideas in practice at two Oxford hospitals. From the running of a cancer clinic to the minor injuries stream at Accident and Emergency doctors, nurses and patients talk about their combined efforts to refashion doctor patient relationships.

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A visit to our GP is usually our first contact with the health service. But as the NHS takes more and more criticism, just how much do we know as patients about how the system works and more importantly how to get the best out of it? In the second programme, Ruth visits a General Practice Surgery to find out how the expectations of family doctors and their patients are changing.

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The series concludes with a look at how initiatives are catching on outside the traditional centres of the hospital and the GP's surgery. Ruth meets a new breed of expert patients in Portsmouth and tries out the latest in self-operated heart monitors. She also looks at new initiatives including the internet which may influence future patient-doctor encounters. The old adage that "doctor knows best" may be dead but what is going to replace it and how much knowledge should the patient have?

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