WHEN PATIENTS come to me, the one thing they want is to get better.
Of course, in focus groups people say they want choice but in reality they just want a good hospital nearby.
Choice in this context is meaningless. Doctors only know a couple of local hospitals and most people know none. How can they choose between them?
The government claims in its new white paper that it is on track to get rid of hospital waiting lists completely within four years.
If waiting lists do disappear it will mean an increase in demand for NHS treatment because now people go private to jump the queues.
The government wants to appeal to the middle classes and Daily Mail readers in the run-up the next election and convince them to back a publicly funded health service.
That means giving them the same choices as they get when they choose a bank or book a holiday.
Information technology should be used as effectively for health as it is for banking and travel. But this plan is linked to a fake choice agenda which opens the door to privatisation.
You will see your GP, decide on the treatment and which hospital you want to have it at. It will be organised electronically on one huge NHS computer system.
In London a US firm, Capital Care Alliance, is already running the system at Kensington and Chelsea hospital.
You will get an electronic ticket and then you can book an appointment through the internet or NHS Direct at any hospital you choose.
It is absolutely right to make access to healthcare easier and faster, but these plans are a Trojan horse for privatisation.
Health secretary John Reid says private provision will be around 10 to 15 percent of the health market.
But the Private Finance Initiative already means that private companies are building new hospitals and running key facilities in them.