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Why don't we just cut the crap?

One day someone will explain NHS funding to me in a way that I can understand. I'm told that more money is being spent on healthcare “in real terms” than ever before and that the NHS underspent by hundreds of millions of pounds last year. Meanwhile GPs are still being punished for working too hard and outperforming our QOF targets.

One day someone will explain NHS funding to me in a way that I can understand. I'm told that more money is being spent on healthcare "in real terms" than ever before and that the NHS underspent by hundreds of millions of pounds last year. Meanwhile GPs are still being punished for working too hard and outperforming our QOF targets.

So why is it that in 2011 the NHS is predicted to run out of cash? Jobs will be under threat and "certain kinds of treatments" may lose their funding. As long as that includes homoeopathy that will at least go to show that every cloud has a proverbial silver lining.

Until then though it's business as usual, spraying money around like Zimbabwean dollars. As of now, until the money runs out or someone sees sense, my PCT is organising "patient centred" activities like communal walks, Tai-Chi classes and exercise classes for the chair bound elderly.

Now no-one is going to argue that advising patients to get off their idle butts and move around a bit now and again is a Bad Thing. It's probably second only to "Stop Smoking and Live Longer" in the league table of excellent advice. But there's precious little evidence to support the assertion that schemes like this make any difference to the clinical bottom line. Even the PCT's salesperson could only come up with glowing anecdotes and patient feedback along the lines of, "It was fun" and "I met some nice people."

If people want to go for walks or find romance that's all well and good, there are many and varied opportunities available to them. Butlin's holiday camps used to advertise themselves as, "The place to make new friends" and the walk to the Travel Agent to book a long weekend at Skegness will do them good too. Subsidising Lonely Hearts' clubs and ying-yang aerobics for a troupe of self-selecting crapulous placebo responders is neither a rational nor responsible use of my National Insurance contributions.

Allegedly (and in my view, astonishingly) nobody had ever arrived at this conclusion before. When it became clear that I for one wasn't buying what the PCT was selling their ambassador was forced to call on her line manager for advice. "Copperfield's not falling for the sales pitch, what do I do now?" It simply failed to occur to her that what she was promoting was anything other than the greatest step forward in medical science since the discovery of penicillin, heart transplantation and mapping the human genome.

The really worrying part of this story, of course, is that the PCT had presented this pile of steaming donkey crap to GP practices far and wide and received nothing but polite applause. And that bothers me. Are GP's really so uncritical? Do we really prescribe whatever the local Pharma reps tell them to? Do we collude with patients who demand referrals to snake oil salesmen?

Aren't we expected to help patients make informed choices about their care any more?

Copperfield blog Recent posts

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Cancel my holiday because of swine flu? When pigs fly...
Is this the most vacuous and pointless piece of NHS guff ever?
What's the worst that could happen? Let's just see...
My wife is a Placebo Responder
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Flat coke does the job for kids' diarrhoea, whatever NICE says
Rash mum is the one who's flaky, not her itchy son
Pharmacists' hypocrisy over internet drug sales

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