In its newest hospitals our beloved NHS is moving away from wards to patients in single rooms. There is a deep attraction about having your own room when feeling unwell rather than the exposure that comes with being on a ward. But this individualization of care comes with a danger. Shut in my own room I am lulled into believing that the nurse and doctor and there to look after me where as on the ward it is easier for me to see that the reason that the doctor or nurse cannot immediately attend to my need is because I can see them attending to my neighbours’ needs. The uncomfortable truth is that when the doctor or nurse is attending to me they are not attending to someone else’s need. The tough part of being in hospital is understanding how my need fits in amongst everyone else’s need.
In the same way NICE have the difficult task of deciding which medicines should be made available. If there is a drug that will help me I want my doctor to be able to prescribe it for me. But NICE understand that paying for the drug that may help me may mean someone else will miss out on medication. The tough part of being NICE is knowing that sometimes the few may have to go without to benefit the many.
Much as I may love the freedoms that come with the growing individualization of society, in the end there can be no escaping that we are still part of the herd and that sometimes the needs to the herd trump my individual needs.