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Private Eye

June 28, 2018

Private Eye Medicine Balls 1471 April 27, 2018
Filed under: Private Eye — Dr. Phil @ 3:16 pm

We’re Scamming

Many older people resent being called vulnerable, but to scammers they can be easy prey. Whilst car theft and house burglary have become harder due to improved technology and security, there has been a massive growth in relieving older people of their money, secure in the knowledge that they may be considered unreliable witnesses under fierce cross-examination. Professor Keith Brown from Bournemouth University leads research for the Chartered Trading Standards Institute in the field of financial fraud and scams prevention. He estimates that £10 billion a year may be taken from citizens without their full understanding and consent, and not always by criminals.

Brown cites clear evidence of legitimate companies targeting and repeat selling to vulnerable individuals. He highlights the gap in the protective measures offered by the current definition of mental capacity. People in the early stages of dementia have some form of cognitive impairment, but do not lack capacity as defined by the Mental Capacity Act. Yet they are clearly more vulnerable than the average citizen. Brown cites his own mother, who paid over £3000 for unnecessary vitamin D supplements, and £600 to have her front drive spray-cleaned with a pressure hose, leaving sand all

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Private Eye Medicine Balls 1470 April 13, 2018
Filed under: Private Eye — Dr. Phil @ 3:14 pm

Breast Screening – Is it worth it?

Choosing whether to have breast screening is a complex decision for any woman, balancing the risks of benefit and harm. The program was introduced 30 years ago for those aged 50-70, using 3 yearly mammograms, which use X-ray imaging to find breast cancer before a lump can be felt. However, it wasn’t until a review in 2012 that women were given proper information about the downside instead of the patronising ‘have screening, it’s good’ government line. The Marmot review found that for every 1,000 women screened over 20 years, about 5 breast cancer deaths are prevented at the expense of around 17 women being diagnosed and treated for a cancer that would never have caused them any problem. Furthermore, more than 200 women will experience significant psychological distress, anxiety and uncertainty because of false positive findings. And to make matters more confusing, the overall death rate from ‘all causes’ does not improve with screening. The lives saved from screening are balanced by the lives lost through overtreatment from X-ray exposure, surgery, chemotherapy and radiotherapy. In addition, screening doesn’t pick up all cancers and some women die at the same age of unrelated causes

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Private Eye Medicine Balls 1469 March 30, 2018
Filed under: Private Eye — Dr. Phil @ 3:11 pm

More Privates on Parade

The NHS has always had an awkward relationship with doctors who also practice privately. Unlike schools, where teachers choose state or private, consultants can serve two masters simultaneously thanks to the ‘stuff their mouths with gold’ compromise agreed by health secretary Nye Bevan in 1948, to try to win around the 85% of doctors who had voted against joining the NHS in a BMA plebiscite just 5 months before the new service was due to launch. Bevan – and the consultants – preferred option was to have NHS pay beds which allowed doctors to stay ‘on site’ and not bugger off to Harley Street leaving their junior staff to fly by the seat of their pants. And it also gave private patients the benefits of NHS facilities and emergency care if their treatment went badly awry.

In the event, the creation of the NHS and the provision of universal healthcare made private practice much less popular, with fewer than 100,000 people having private medical insurance in 1950. In the sixties, it made a comeback as a company perk for rewarding workers who couldn’t be paid in cash and by 1974, 2.3 million people were covered

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Private Eye Medicine Balls 1468 March 16, 2018
Filed under: Private Eye — Dr. Phil @ 3:08 pm

Whistleblowers Seldom Win

Do NHS whistleblowers have any meaningful legal protection if they take safety concerns to the media? In 2012, Edwin Jesudason –a highly regarded consultant paediatric surgeon and researcher – went to the media because he believed Alder Hey Children’s Hospital (AHCH) failed to address serious concerns about harm and risk to children, and the smearing of the mental health of a fellow surgeon-whistleblower, Mr Ahmed (Eyes passim). Jesudason hoped he would be protected by the Public Interest Disclosure Act (1998), which was introduced to protect whistleblowers after the appalling treatment of anaesthetist Steve Bolsin, who became unemployable in the NHS after exposing the Bristol heart scandal, and saving dozens of babies from brain damage and death (Eyes passim).

In July 2012, Jesudason won a temporary high court injunction with costs against AHCH, which was seeking his “no fault” dismissal after certain surgical colleagues refused to work with him. However, in trying to make the injunction permanent and to improve whistleblowing protection for other NHS staff, Jesudason lost at a second high court hearing after his union, the BMA, withdrew their legal support for him. The BMA often represents doctors on both sides in whistleblowing disputes, hardly an

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Private Eye Medicine Balls 1467 March 2, 2018
Filed under: Private Eye — Dr. Phil @ 3:06 pm

Fat Kids, Fat Profits

In 1946, poor children in the UK were on average 2kg lighter than rich children at the age of 11. Today, they are 2 kg heavier, according to an analysis in The Lancet Public Health. Then and now, poorer people struggle to eat sufficient nutritious food. But now they eat an excess of cheap, sugary, salty highly-processed crap, triggering an obesity epidemic that has become the commonest cause of preventable disease and premature death, and is bringing every health service to its knees. Nearly a third of UK children aged two to 15 are overweight or obese and younger generations are becoming obese at earlier ages and staying obese for longer. So who’s to blame?

The strategy for the last 40 years has been ‘to encourage individuals to make healthy choices’ whilst giving them the wrong information and allowing the food industry to run riot. But simply blaming the food industry is too simplistic. Egged on by the pharmaceutical industry, doctors have for decades focused on the aggressive lowering of low-density lipoprotein cholesterol to reduce heart disease risk by cutting out saturated fats in the diet and prescribing statins. This in turn encouraged the food

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