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Monday, 30 May 2011

The OECD Better Life Index: statics and dynamics

An article by Alice Miles in this week's New Statesman led me to the OECD Better Life Index, which is quite fun to study:

Quality of Life indexes as an alternative or supplement to GDP/GNP figures are all the rage. The trend-setter was Bhutan which tries to measure Gross National Happiness. (When the King imposed Democracy, GNH went down - people preferred the King to rule. Popular chap).

I think there is a further way of approaching Better Life issues and that is to put them in a dynamic framework: What changes would improve your Quality of Life?

Even more restrictively, What changes that only the Government could bring about would improve your personal Quality of Life?

And since we live in an Age of Austerity, What low cost changes (but which only the Government could bring about) would improve your personal Quality of Life?

Let me give one example of my own answers to the last question. In the past 18 months, there were three occasions when because of a health problem (now resolved) I had to access Accident and Emergency or Out of Hours services. On one of those occasions, I was probably inappropriately treated: given antibiotics when I didn't have an infection but a side-effect of surgery. Had I been able to access my own GP practice, I would probably have received more appropriate treatment: in fact, nothing more than the advice to rest and drink only water would have been enough.

Most GP practices now employ ten or twenty staff in total, and I don't see why they can't open on more days - Saturdays, Sundays and Public Holidays -using a rota system, just like any shop or restaurant.

Since A and E services and Out of Hours services are very expensive, it puzzles me why the Government hasn't demanded GP contracts which keep GP surgeries open on significantly more days than at present. It would be a Quality of Life gain for very many people, I am sure.

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