Past Posts...


The Ultimate Quack Remedy

Top Prize in the recent busting homeopathy stakes undoubtedly goes to Simon Singh for his wonderfully effective puncturing and deflating of the pompous David Tredinnick MP on the Today programme. Tredders was wind-bagging on about how they do homeopathy better in France, but he hadn’t bargained on Singh doing his homework. The best selling homeopathic remedy in France, said Singh, is a ’flu remedy made from the mashed up entrails of a single Muscovy duck that generates a staggering $15 million of revenue. It was, said Singh brilliantly, ‘the ultimate quack remedy’. Tredders had more than his wings clipped: he was permanently grounded; while Humph was reduced to muttering something about getting his hands on ‘that duck’.

Happenstance Coincidence and Enemy Action

Readers who frequent the pages of the UK medical blogosphere cannot fail to have noticed the decline in blogging activity. Almost a year ago, Dr Rant posted ‘Farewell Lord Darzi’ which was a farewell post in more ways than one. Earlier this year, the sun set spectacularly on Dr Crippen, and more recently The Jobbing Doctor turned off his steady flow of posts in mid-stream. Many of those who are still posting are doing so at reduced frequency. Only L'Oréal Pal continues to post regularly, presumably because she thinks she’s worth it.

Bad News for Baby

‘The only function of public health,’ JK Galbraith might have said, ‘is to make cranial osteopathy look respectable.’

Such a thought occurred to Dr No as that tiresome quango, the National Institute for Health, Clinical and Anything Else Anybody Will Pay Us For Excellence dumped not one but two unwelcome coils of public health ‘guidance’ on an unsuspecting public this week. One was old hat – salt and saturated fat are bad for you, flogged into new life in NICE’s inimitable way (‘Tens of thousands of lives could be saved, and millions of people spared the suffering of living with the effects of heart disease and stroke, simply by producing healthier food says new NICE guidance’). The other was something altogether different. Pregnant women who smoke, NICE declared, can’t be trusted to tell the truth, and so the truth must be forced out of them, if necessary by coercion:

Howard's Way

Some time ago, the BBC ran a soap on the antics of ordinary yachting folk. Howards’ Way was, of course, pure video morphine, intended to induce coma and death in innocent Sunday evening viewers; and, in that strange way that fiction morphs into fact, we now have a new real-world version of Howard’s Way, where ordinary doctoring folk inject real morphine into real patients to induce real coma and death.

Dr No refers, of course, to the antics of one Dr Howard Martin, executioner-in-chief to those patients of his whom he deemed had failed his private Dignity Test. Fired up with ‘Christian Compassion’, the real Doc Martin shafted his patients with industrial volumes of lethal drugs in his zeal to assist their ‘passing over’. The fact that some of them were not terminally ill, and that others had not even been invited to consent, was neither here nor there. The Angel of the Lord had his work to do, and that was sufficient unto Doc Martin.

NICE but dim

Warning: post contains economics. Some readers may find themselves bored silly. In such cases, Dr No recommends taking a tea-break and returning to the post only when the sense of boredom has completely dissipated.

Economists are keen on a concept known as elasticity. There appear, from Dr No’s primitive researches on the matter, to be a disconcerting number of elasticities in economics. Naturally enough, economists dress all these elasticities up in hieroglyphics, but inspected through the lens of common-sense, economics stands revealed as a study of rubber bands, albeit rubber bands that drive economic activity, but rubber bands nonetheless.

NICE trip on the wagon

Another voice has been added to the hue and cry for a minimum price for alcohol. Within days of Rubber Duck stepping down from his CMO post, the better to quack his favourite message, NICE, the National Institute for Health, Clinical and Anything Else Anybody Will Pay Us For Excellence, has jumped on the wagon. Voluminous guidance, published earlier this week, recommends a raft of measures that, NICE says, will ‘significantly decrease alcohol consumption’ if implemented. A top tip for government is to make alcohol ‘less affordable by introducing a minimum price per unit’. There was much talk of growing tides of unassailable evidence. Dr No began to fear he was now King Canute, alone on the beach, his once half full glass now half empty. Until, that is, he heard an interview on the Today programme. Suddenly the glass was half full again.

The Mystery of the Toothless Bearded Hag

Flogging toothpaste may be a dull business, but for once eyes must surely have shone brighter than teeth in the marketing department at Colgate this week. A gift of a study, published in the BMJ last Thursday, linked poor toothbrushing to heart disease. The media predictably flipped the message, with headlines certain to fix a smile on even the most jaded of Colgate lips. Auntie exhorted us to ‘Brush teeth to halt heart disease’, while the Daily Mail directed ‘Clean your teeth twice a day to keep a heart attack at bay’. The ping was at last back in the Colgate ring of confidence, for who needs advertising, when sparkling headlines (351 of them, according to google) say it all?

Death Bandits

The Hospital Manager’s Association

Top Secret – Eyes Only

The Hospital Manager’s Guide to Massaging HSMRs

Members will be aggrieved to hear that the Doctor Foster Intelligence Unit and its lottery hospital standardised mortality ratios (HSMRs) are here to stay, despite several recent papers showing the methodology to be unsound.

Members will appreciate that they supply the raw data used by Dr Foster, thus providing opportunities to ‘cook’ the figures before they are passed to Dr Foster. The Association does not condone directly tampering with the data; however, faced with the intractable use of flawed statistics, the Association does believe members are entitled to ‘game’ the system to their advantage.

A Market Too Far

Jim Naughtie, interrupter-in-chief on Radio 4’s Today program, this morning scaled new heights of discourse interruptus, peppering a hapless Professor Dame Marilyn Strathern with tiresome ejaculations of febrile nuisance. One might presume that the Dame – who was until last year Mistress of Girton College, Cambridge - might be an expert in putting naughty boys in their place, but she was no match for Naughtie Jim.

The Dame was on air to talk about ‘incentivizing’ organ donors. The deal is that altruistic donation fails to produce enough organs, and that the time has come to consider what carrots might produce more kidneys. Some suggestions are out of sublime by way of ridiculous – souvenir T-shirts and mugs for example – but the bottom line is that this is about handing over lolly in return for the goods - or what the Dame coyly referred to as ‘bodily material’.

The Real Tomorrow’s Doctors

This week’s episode of Dr Who showed early promise, with khaki tea-making squaddie daleks, complete with Union Jack logos, but started to unravel the moment Ian McNeice started impersonating Robbie Coltrane, instead of playing Churchill, and descended into farce when the Lego-inspired bootylicious make-over daleks arrived. There was but one consolation: Bill Patterson, late of Sea of Souls, was finally revealed, as has long been suspected, as an alien.

The GMC, now that it has adopted dalek methodology to manufacture Tomorrow’s Doctors, has no doubt installed Pattersons in every medical school. The fruits of these alien endeavours are already abroad on our wards and in our surgeries; but in amongst the robodocs, there are some who lack dalek DNA, and who have retained their natural and human curiosity. One such doctor is a young GP, who blogs as the Pondering Practitioner.