Definition: Defining the Meaning of Health Care
Health care - (healthcare) is defined as the diagnosis, treatment, and prevention of disease, illness, injury, and other physical and mental impairments in human beings. Health care is delivered by practitioners in allied health, dentistry, midwifery (obstetrics), medicine, nursing, optometry, pharmacy, psychology and other health professions. It refers to the work done in providing primary care, secondary care, and tertiary care, as well as in public health.
Primary care - Refers to the work of health professionals who act as a first point of consultation for all patients within the health care system.
Secondary care - The health care services provided by medical specialists and other health professionals who generally do not have first contact with patients, for example, cardiologists, urologists and dermatologists.
Tertiary care - Specialized consultative health care, usually for inpatients and on referral from a primary or secondary health professional, in a facility that has personnel and facilities for advanced medical investigation and treatment, such as a tertiary referral hospital.
Quaternary care - The term quaternary care is sometimes used as an extension of tertiary care in reference to advanced levels of medicine which are highly specialized and not widely accessed.
Home and community care - Many types of health care interventions are delivered outside of health facilities. They include many interventions of public health interest, such as food safety surveillance and distribution of needle-exchange programs for the prevention of transmissible diseases.
The National Healthcare System (NHS) of the United Kingdom was launched sixty years ago and has grown to become the world's largest publicly-funded health service. The NHS was created out of the ideal that solid healthcare should be available to all citizens, regardless of their income. With the exception of fees for particular optical, prescription and dental services, the NHS is free at the point of use for an person who is a resident of the United Kingdom; approximately sixty-million people. The NHS covers everything from antenatal screening and common treatment for colds, to more serious things such as accident and emergency treatment, open heart surgery, and end-of-life care.
Centrally the NHS is funded through national taxation; however, in Scotland, Northern Ireland, England and Wales, the NHS is managed separately. There are some differences that have emerged between these systems in recent years, although they remain very similar in many respects. They continue to be spoken of as belonging to one, unified system.
Nationally, the NHS employs greater than one and a half million people. Of the persons employed by the NHS, almost half are clinically qualified, to include approximately ninety-thousand hospital doctors, four-hundred thousand nurses, thirty-five thousand general practitioners, and sixteen-thousand ambulance staff members. Only Wal-Mart, the Indian Railways, and the Chinese People's Liberation Army directly employ more people than the NHS. The NHS in England clearly comprises the largest portion of the system, it caters to approximately fifty-million people while employing greater than one point three million healthcare workers.
The NHS deals with approximately one-million patients every thirty-six hours; four-hundred and sixty-three people a minute, or about eight people per second.
Every single week about seven-hundred thousand people visit an NHS dentist; an additional three-thousand people experience a heart operation through the NHS. Every general practitioner in the United Kingdom's ten-thousand plus practices will treat an average of one-hundred and forty patients each week.
Approximately sixty-percent of the budget for the NHS is spent on payments to staff members. Twenty-percent of the budget pays for pharmaceuticals and additional supplies, while the remaining twenty-percent is spent between buildings, equipment, training costs, medical equipment, catering, and cleaning. Almost eighty-percent of the NHS' total budget is distributed through local trusts in line with the particular health priorities in their particular areas.
Life expectancy in the United Kingdom has been rising, while infant mortality has been falling, since the NHS was established. Surveys related to the NHS have shown that patients are generally satisfied with the care they are receiving through the NHS. Persons who have had a direct experience with the NHS usually report being more satisfied than persons who have not.
The NHS is divided into two sections; Primary and Secondary Care.
- Primary Care is commonly regarded as a, 'frontline,' service because it is the first point of contact for most persons. Primary Care is delivered through a wide-range of independent contractors including dentists, pharmacists, general practitioners, and optometrists.
- Secondary Care is also referred to as, 'Acute Health Care,' and may be either Emergency Care or Elective Care. Elective care is defined as specialist medical care or surgery, commonly following a referral from a health care professional such as a primary or community health professional like a general practitioner.
- Primary Care Trusts (PCT's) are in charge of Primary Care. PCT's have a large part in commissioning secondary care. PCT's are at the center of the NHS, controlling eighty-percent of the NHS budget.
- There are 175 acute NHS trusts and 60 mental health NHS trusts which oversee 1,600 NHS hospitals and specialist care centers. Foundation trusts are a new type of NHS hospital of which are currently 115 available across England.
- Emergency vehicles are provided by the NHS ambulance services trusts. There are 12 ambulance trusts in England. The Scottish, Welsh and Northern Ireland ambulance services provide cover for those countries.
- NHS care trusts provide care in both health and social fields. There are few care trusts and they are based mainly in England. There are none in Scotland and the Scottish NHS has no plans to introduce them.
- NHS mental health services trusts provide mental health care in England and are overseen by the PCT.
- There are also agencies under the umbrella of the NHS. These include the National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence (NICE).
NHS Principles and Values
The NHS was created with the ideal that good healthcare should be available to all citizens despite their income. The NHS has three core principles, which include that it meets the needs of everyone, that it be free at the point of delivery, and that it be based on clinical need and not the ability to pay. These base principles were a part of the creation of the NHS in 1948; however, in the year 2000 the program was modernized and some new principles were added. The new principles require that the NHS provide a comprehensive range of services, access to these services throughout primary and community healthcare, intermediate care and hospital-based care. The new principles also include that the NHS will provide information services and support to people in relation to health promotion, disease prevention, self-care, rehabilitation, and after-care.
Additionally, The NHS is responsible for shaping it's services around the preferences and needs of each individual patient, as well as their family members and carers. The NHS is required to be responsive to the needs of various groups and persons within society, and to treat patients as individuals with appropriate respect for their dignity. The NHS is required to respond to the different needs of various populations within society, and to continue to be funded nationally, as well as making services available for every citizen of the United Kingdom.
The NHS is required to continuously work at improving the quality of services they provide to the citizens of the United Kingdom, as well as working to diminish errors within the system. Professionals and organizations within the NHS system are required to establish procedures which should be either modified or even abandoned, as well as new practices which will lead to an improvement in patient care. Healthcare workers providing care are required to work towards making the NHS safer and to support a culture where learning can occur from, as well as reduce; mistakes.
The NHS has many different goals. Among these goals are ones related to the staff members involved. The NHS seeks to both support and value its staff members, continuing to recognize, reward, as well as invest in both individuals and organizations. The NHS presents opportunities for individual staff members to progress in their careers through encouragement of education, personal development, and training.
Other goals the NHS has involve both funding and patients.
Where funding is concerned, the NHS has the goal of keeping public funds for healthcare devoted entirely to NHS patients. Where the patients themselves are concerned, the NHS has several goals. These goals include working with others to ensure a seamless service for patients, as well as a health and social care system shaped around the needs of patients. The NHS desires to create partnerships and cooperation between persons involved at every level of care.
Keeping people healthy and reducing health inequalities are goals of the NHS, as well as prevention and treatment of ill health.
The NHS believes that recognition of good health involves social, economic, and environmental factors such as housing, deprivation, nutrition and education. The NHS is dedicated to working with other public services to intervene not just after, but before ill-health occurs. The NHS is also dedicated to respecting the confidentiality of individuals and providing open-access to information concerning not only services, but treatment and performance as well.
The NHS seeks to continue using information as a means of improving the quality of services it provides for everyone, as well as to generate new knowledge concerning future benefits. Developments in science; genetics, for example - offer important possibilities for disease prevention and treatment in the future. The NHS is a national service and as such it is well-placed to take advantage of opportunities offered by scientific advances. The NHS has a goal of ensuring that new technologies are both harnessed and developed in the interests of society as a whole, as well as being made available to everyone on the basis of need.