The NHS is facing a growing backlash over its lack of transparency following a series of damning reviews into its performance.
Theresa May’s government has repeatedly insisted that the NHS is doing a “thorough job” but many patients have expressed concern over its ability to respond to requests for information, such as whether a person has been diagnosed with cancer, or if there is a shortage of medication.
“The NHS has a huge amount of work to do, but I think we can’t be complacent about how the service is performing,” said Fiona Scott, director of the public health think tank the British Heart Foundation (BHF).
The NHS, she told Al Jazeera, has to be better at answering the “question of why people are having trouble accessing their care”.
Scott said she was “very concerned” about the way the service was responding to queries about how many people have been diagnosed.
“We have to look at whether it’s being provided with the right level of care.
We can’t expect the NHS to be perfect,” she said.”
When you have a situation like this, where the public has concerns, it’s not an easy thing to sort through.”
The BHF has written to the NHS about its transparency failings and the Government has pledged to address them.
“If you think it’s a problem, you can get in touch with the secretary of state for health,” said Kate Barker, a director of policy and campaigns at the BHF.
The BHS told Aljahed the government would “review the process of identifying and reporting problems and improve the service in the coming months”.
The NHS is not alone in facing criticism about its response to queries.
In the United States, the American Society of Clinical Oncology has called for an overhaul of the way it processes questions about patients’ health.
In a survey of 3,000 US doctors, published on Thursday, the society found that more than half of respondents had been unable to answer a simple question about a patient’s symptoms and asked to fill in a questionnaire that would allow the doctors to gauge the level of trust patients feel in the NHS.
“It is hard to believe that a hospital can respond to such a simple request with such a degree of confidence,” said Dr Sam Covington, president of the society.
He said that patients’ mistrust in the healthcare system was often driven by perceptions of financial and ethical shortcomings in the organisation, and that this was exacerbated by a lack of access to the information necessary to properly assess patients’ needs.
In response, the British NHS said that the results of its survey would be shared with its patients, the BHS said, but that the “response rate was less than 10 percent”.
In a statement, the NHS said it was taking steps to improve its transparency practices and said it would “work closely with the BHD to understand how we can improve”.
The BHF has also been critical of the British Medical Association’s (BMA) handling of the NHS’s response to the survey.
The NHS said its response rate was “in line with other large, developed economies”, but that its own survey revealed that it had only “a handful of people who were able to answer questions”.
It added: “We have made a number of changes to our governance structure to ensure that the public can have a say on the way our hospitals and health services are run.”
The survey also found that almost half of NHS trusts in England had not yet responded to the questionnaire, while almost half did not have a website that could be used to provide information about a request for information.
A spokesperson for the British Association of Clinical and Research Hospitals (BACHR) told Alije it was investigating the survey and said: “There is a significant risk that patient trust may be eroded if the government doesn’t take urgent steps to ensure the NHS can deliver a better service to its patients.”
Dr Barker said that in a situation where people’s trust in the health system is at stake, she believed the BHFS was entitled to expect better from the NHS than the Government.
“That’s the role of the government.
That’s the responsibility of the Health Secretary,” she added.
Dr Barker also pointed out that many patients were waiting for appointments.
“They are not going to go to the doctor if they’re waiting for an appointment because they don’t trust the system,” she told the BBC.
“We need to have a real conversation about the trust in NHS care.”
The BBC’s Richard Galpin in London reported from London.