Top doctor warns against ‘yellow pack’ hospitals

MEDICAL Council president Dr John Hillery has warned that any move by the health services to select everything on the basis of the lowest tender price could result in ‘yellow pack’ hospitals.

Having ‘yellow pack’ hospitals was not the way to ensure best possible patient outcomes, he stressed.

Value had to be judged on more than just money. There must be robust, high-standard training, health site accreditation, clinical governance, support for life-long learning for all health staff nd proactive regulation of all professionals in the health service.

“I have a concern that there will be a ‘yellow pack’ approach to all these, with low investment going to the lowest tender rather than paying for quality,” Dr Hillery said yesterday.

“I accept that the taxpayer has to get the best value for money, but value has to be judged on more than just money.”

Dr Hillery, who was speaking to medical staff at St Vincent’s Hospital in Dublin, is also concerned that the proposed tendering process for new medical school places may be based on the cheapest price.

“Value for money is important with medical school places but value must also be judged on more than the amount of money spent, otherwise we will not achieve the desired effect.”

He also said it was wrong to go looking for ‘demons’ to explain the things that go wrong in the medical world.

“We need to acknowledge that there are human frailties and we need to support systems that minimise the effect of those frailties on others and those they serve,” he said.

He hoped the new regulatory systems for doctors would be more than about discipline. Such systems must be pro-active, he said, protecting patients, promoting standards, preventing staff losing competence, restoring those who have problems and demonstrating that the majority are competent and working hard to maintain competence.

“A system that tries to maintain standards by threat and punishment is doomed to fail. And, unless the profession feels it has ownership of standard-setting, any new system will be weak,” he warned.

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