Past Posts...


The Gene Genie

In an explosive display of attention deficit hyperbolicity disorder, the Mirror didn’t so much let the genie out of the bottle, as plaster it all over the ceiling. ‘Kids inherit ADHD from mum & dad’ screamed the recent headline, followed by:

‘Fizzy pop and bad parenting have been cleared of any blame for children being hyperactive and fidgety.

Attention deficit hyperactivity disorder is an inherited brain disorder, scientists at Cardiff University found.’

Dr No does not expect the sharpest Fleet Street pencils in the Mirror box, but this is misreporting on an epic scale. On even the most cursory examination, the research, reported in the Lancet, clears neither pop nor parent from blame.

Make It Atomic For Me

Two old stories by a curious but telling coincidence made it into the top news last week. One re-ignited the ADHD isn’t bad parenting or poor diet, it’s an illness (and genetic to boot) debate; the other reminded us just how determined Big Pharma can be when it comes, as they say in financial circles, to helping us grow our GDP. The theme which unites these two stories is medicalisation – that tendency to transform the vagaries of human nature into ‘real’ illnesses.

The Intelligent Plank: Deep Analysis 2

Two out of three NEDs clueless, report shows.

Dial-a-death-rate pollsters Dr Foster and pals, the ‘UK’s market-leading provider of information, analysis and targeted communications to health and social care organisations’ has published its 2010 Intelligent Board report.

‘The Intelligent Board 2010: Patient Experience’ challenges NHS boards and NEDs to ‘wake up and smell the coffee’ over patient experience.

The report found that only one in three non-executive directors feel ‘very well informed’ or ‘well informed’ about patient experience at their trust. Over half of all NEDs surveyed admitted spending less than 10% of their time considering patient experience.

GP Who Wants To Be A Commissionaire?

Chris Tarrant (to camera): Welcome back to GP Who Wants To Be A Commissionaire? – our new show in which your GP competes to see how big a budget he or she can win with which to buy your healthcare. In the chair tonight is Professor Stevie Paddock, hot from the Royal College.

(audience cheers from the RCGP camp; Tarrant turns to Paddock)

Tarrant: How are you feeling, Stevie?

(music swells as camera zooms in to Paddock who looks hot and sweaty)

Tarrant: Take your time, Stevie, before answering.

Franchising the NHS

It has started, not so much with a bang, as with a whisper.

Buried yesterday in Basildon’s tragically named Yellow Advertiser was an apparently run-of-the-mill story about a new hospital opening. Hidden between other shocking stories - ‘Body found in cemetery’ (‘man pronounced dead’) and ‘Bikers hit the road’ (luckily no one was hurt) - ‘Community hospital officially opens’ told a gentle tale of local gardening legend Ray Stephens unveiling a plaque to commemorate the opening of Braintree’s new state-of-the-art Community Hospital.

The Heart of the NHS

Who, or even what, we might ask, lies at the heart of the NHS?

The short Ester Rantzen answer is of course the patient.

But this is the glib answer. It ignores, for example ‘why’ questions: why, for example, is the patient in the NHS at all?

The answer of course is to avail him or herself of what we now call ‘healthcare’, which is in fact medical care, and medical care is provided by medics – doctors. The doctor is as central to the NHS as the patient. Like a ship and her captain at sail on a sea of sickness, patient and doctor sit together at the heart of the NHS; for a ship without a captain is apt to founder; and nothing is bleaker than a captain on the beach.

MMR Killed My Hamster

The Daily Mail, truncheon bearer to the lunching classes, has once again been trying to hit the MMR-Autism nail on the head. Softened, perhaps, by the indolence of a quiet August Bank Holiday, The Truncheon last weekend let slip a dossier of drivel that managed to combine monumental insult to an honest story about a vaccine damage payout with a level of disingenuity that would have even the Prince of Darkness blush.

The bare facts of the story are straight-forward. Some years ago, a Master Robert Fletcher developed severe brain damage shortly after receiving the MMR vaccine. The family alleged causation, and now, after a 13 year appeal, a medico-legal panel has decided, by a two to one majority, to allow the claim, on the grounds of temporal association. Robert and his family have been awarded £90,000 compensation.

God Will See You Now

It being August, and so the Silly Season, TweedleNaughtie and TweedleWebb presented the Today program on Radio 4 this morning. Both are science-lite, but this morning TweedleWebb surpassed even himself. In an attempt to force a bun-fight between a medical sociologist and a doctor – normally as easy as torching petrol – about a study looking at the effect of religion on a doctor’s end of life practice, he declared he didn’t want to ‘get bogged down in a discussion about the representativeness of this study’. So absurd was this remark that it quite fused all combativeness out of the two contestants. The doctor emitted a curt ‘sure’ and dried up like a prune, while the sociologist started a bizarre love-in with the doctor.

Keir Cooks Goose but No Burton For Barton

So – The Goose is to be roasted in the oven of the courts. The CPS has decided that Ray ‘I did it wiv t’pillah’ Gosling has led the police on one big, err, goose chase, and that he should be charged with, err, leading the police on a wild goose chase.

Meanwhile, the very same CPS has decided that Gosport’s Diamorphine Queen, Dr Jane Barton, should not go for a Burton, despite a sea of inquest findings suggesting Barton’s overzealous opiate prescribing contributed to a number of deaths.

The Gatekeeper and the Gotcha

Nobody, least of all doctors, seems to know whether doctors themselves have an addiction problem. Smart-arse wise-cracking punters may define an alcoholic as someone who drinks more than their doctor, but, as with most smart-arsed wise-cracks, real evidence is hard to come by. What is more certain is that most doctors have problems with crack heads and cotton shooters. Substance misuse – to give the subject its sanitised, politically correct name - remains very much a Cinderella specialty, while many GPs – despite touting themselves as generalists happy to take on all-comers – refuse to admit drug addicts to their lists.