Posts Tagged ‘health’

All power to the quacks

June 29, 2010

In Commons Health Questions this afternoon Tory MP David Tredinnick was disgusted by the suggestion of one of his Liberal Democrat colleagues that homeopathy should not receive NHS funding.

Tredinnick, who has a loony reputation in a most appropriate sense, decried the criticism of his beloved homeopathy as “illiberal”. Despite what the cynics claim there was plenty of annecdotal evidence that homeopathy works, he declared. In other words, damn those scientists and their pesky science!

The complementary-enthusiastic Conservative then pointed out that no-one was forcing anyone else to use homeopathic medicine so why not just leave it alone. But Tredinnick is of course in favour of forcing us taxpayers to pay for this nonsense as part of the NHS budget. As with hospital chaplains, I spy some sensible public expenditure cuts!

In a two fingered defiance to sanity and reason Conservative MPs recently put both Tredinnick and Nadine Dorries on the Health Select Committee. Yes, that’s the same Nadine Dorries who, as part of her anti-abortion crusade, allied herself to Andrea Williams of the Lawyers Christian Fellowship, an evangelical who believes that the world is only 4000 years old.

Would it not be more sensible to establish a harmless All Party Parliamentary Flat Earth Society and then let Tredinnick and Dorries help run that?


Summary of Thoughts 22/2/10

February 22, 2010
  • The Bully Brown story is a crazy mess. I’ve been keeping an eye on developments all day and it’s very hard to predict who’s going to come out worst. Gordo can clearly be a bit of a charmless grump, but the one time I met him he was perfectly pleasant. It was election night 2005 and I’d managed to get into the main Labour Party party. I was blocking Brown’s path to the drinks table or the toilet or something and so he said “Excuse me”. Very polite. No nonsense, uncompromising, but polite. The Pratt-by-name-prat-by-nature woman who squealed about her charity’s Downing Street clients has zilch credibility. How sadly predictable for Cameron to call for an inquiry – what happened to rising above the Punch and Judy politics? A more mature political culture would examine the Government’s success in prioritising anti-bullying efforts in schools.  
  • For once I agree with Nadine Dorries. Every MP should be made to undergo something like the Towerblock of Commons existence. Austin Mitchell was as disappointing as ever in this weeks episode – the final of the series. It was so frustrating to hear the manager of the threatened Youth Club say that she thought Mitchell could have done more to help her. I drew much satisfaction, however, from Dorries’ young host saying he still didn’t trust David Cameron even after meeting him and being subjected to the full ‘Call me Dave’ charm offensive. Dorries looked annoyed, but the young fella’s reaction seems to reflect what we’re seeing in the opinion polls.
  • Today in the Commons saw Oral Questions to MOD ministerial team. Lots of MPs – most of them Tories – were using the occasion to indulge in some enthusiastic saber-rattling. Concern was expressed with both Argentina continuing to lay claim to the Falklands and pirates in Somalia continuing to do piratey things. Tough Government responses were urged. Armed Forces Minister Bill Rammell promised to be tough on piracy, tough on the causes of piracy. Personally, I’m beginning to think the greatest threat to our nation would be posed by a Pirate-Argentinian alliance invading Gibraltar. 
  • Politicians are usually campaigning to save hospitals. Well, any politician who campaigns to close one particular hospital can count on my support. The Royal London Homeopathic Hospital treats people with water. Homeopathy is, in the opinion of myself and anyone who applies scientific tests to the ‘treatments’, a lot of tosh and it is a scandal that it receives any public funding. If expenditure cuts are needed anywhere please can we make sure that NHS homeopathy services suffer first!
  • 11 weeks before election o’clock! Argh!

Chavez, somewhat hypocritically, clamps down on counter revolutionary fat.

November 16, 2009

President Hugo Chavez is urging the people of Venezuela to stop being so fat.

Chavez recommended a diet similar to his own and insists that his fitness regime leaves him “ready to continue commanding the Bolivarian revolution”.

However, Chavez himself has some weight issues. This is a picture of the Big Man when he wasn’t so, well, big back in 1992:

But the President these days is a bit larger:

It’s something we all need to keep check on if we want to keep up the momentum of the Bolivarian revolution! Fatties slow down socialism!

Don’t bogart that drugs policy, PM, pass it over to me.

November 1, 2009

The situation with the government’s drugs advisers is a mess.

Obviously policy in a democratic state cannot be formulated by ‘experts’ alone. The views of scientists shouldn’t automatically trump the other influences acting upon elected politicians. Plus, if an adviser to the government is openly criticising that government, it seems reasonable enough for the government to give said adviser the boot.

However, Professor Nutt’s complaints about the government seem justified and his frustration is understandable. The basis of drugs policy should surely be harm reduction, yet he has become convinced that the government is more concerned with short-term political maneuvering. The resignation of two other members of the Advisory Council suggests that the entire body feels poorly treated.

All in all this reeks of bad leadership from the government and appears to be yet another self-inflicted wound.

But I’m pretty proud of the post title.


Reactionaries are working to prevent health care reforms at all levels

August 7, 2009

The United States is in a ridiculous situation where it spends more of its GDP on health care than any other country but around 45 million Americans have no health coverage. The Obama administration hasn’t yet decided what exactly it will do to try to change this situation, but it is surely obvious to fair-minded people that some sort of improvement must be possible.

Remarkably, there are some Americans who apparently think that the country’s health care system is running at a pareto efficient level where any attempt at reform is going to bring about disaster. Whilst there are indeed serious arguments to be had over whether a more efficient and equitable system will require tax increases (and the politicians must not shy away from these), the sort of populist anti-reform campaign that has emerged is not contributing to sensible political discussion. It is instead pandering to crude fears and prejudices.

healthcareisfascismTake this scene captured in a photograph. It was taken at a protest outside a Town Hall meeting on health care reform. Someone has cleverly (sic) made a sign for their children suggesting that government attempts to reform health care are akin to a fascist takeover.

Then there are the accounts of citizens revealing themselves to be mightily confused about how the present health system works. Anti-reform zealots have been crying out “Keep your government hands off my Medicare!”, apparently wholly ignorant of the fact that Medicare is one of the few examples of government-funded health care provision in the US. 

Many of these anti-reform rants make no sense. Quite literally so in the case of the protesters who deliberately disrupt Town Hall meetings with their incomprehensible yelling (speaking in tongues?). 

Paul Krugman has written a piece in the New York Times on what he calls the Town Hall mobs. As Krugman and others note, anti-reform efforts are being spearheaded by lobbyists, Republican politicians, and right-wing figures in the media but it is undeniable that there is also substantial and very passionate opposition to government intervention in health care at a grassroots level.

I can only hope that campaigning organisations in favour of reform will maintain momentum and that the Obama administration will not capitulate in the face of this reactionary onslaught.

Making me iller: an open letter to Daniel Hannan

April 6, 2009

Dear Daniel,

As I said yesterday, you and the other fundamentalist libertarians in the Tory Party pose a real threat to the Cameron project.

I say this not because I want the Cameron project to succeed – quite the contrary. But if it does succeed in winning the election with you and your like as cuckoos in the nest, the consequences could be devastating for the majority of people who do not share your narrow set of values.

I want to take you up on your comments about the NHS. Quite simply, you are completely wrong.

The NHS does not make us iller. Life expectancy is, in fact, higher in the UK than in the US. In fact, for most chronic, debilitating and life-threatening illnesses, care in the NHS is as good as that which one would receive in the US, and we have broadly similar healthcare outcomes.

We get all of this for less than half the cost, per capita, of healthcare in America. Put simply, Americans pay more – far more – for a service that is the same if you are covered, and substantially worse if you’re not.

This is because – contrary to what you think – markets don’t function well in healthcare. I’m not saying this because I’m some kind of paleo-Marxist with an exe to grind: the nature of health as a good which we consume is very different to everything else.

I don’t need an expensively educated, qualified professional to run expensive tests to tell me how much brie I want to buy, or how many pairs of cufflinks I want, or when I want to buy a new lawnmower. I do, however, need a large and expensive medical infrastructure to tell me if I need to take certain pills, or emark on a programme of surgery or treatment.

The market deals with this badly: costs soar, and needless overprovision results in massive waste and price inflation. Insurance based systems are little better: adverse selection problems are endemic, and the insured must also bear some costs even for the rudimentary treatments handed out in Emergency Rooms to the uninsured, if they cannot pay.

Of course, there is another very good reason why we have an NHS: because, by and large, people do care if other people get sick and die of preventable illnesses. But, as a socialist and democrat, I can see why you – a headbanging, right-wing libertarian fundamentalist – might not agree.

Fair enough. But I don’t see why you fail to acknowledge why a publicly provided system is actually economically efficient, as well as arguably morally required.

Best wishes,

Vote Red Go Green

I will edit this post later this evening, when I’ve had a chance to dig out some long-since-forgotten links to academic articles about the economics of health care.

EDIT: I’ve put a couple of links in: apologies if some of them are slightly frustrating, but it appears that you can’t read a lot of academic journals unless you’re within a university network. Which I’m not, unfortunately.