Thursday, May 31, 2007


Cardinal Keith O'Brien's comments have stirred up the abortion debate today. His comments about the number of children dying have been widely criticised, but I think it is useful to hear all sides and teh strength of convictions in a debate, especially one that stirs emotions as deeply as this one. The Green Party of England and Wales has a fairly middle of the road policy on abortion (shown below), but I feel certain that it doesn't sit easily with some.


The Green Party of England and Wales policy on abortion:


H320 The fact that the number of abortions carried out in England and Wales continues to rise should be of concern to all. Given the health risks associated with any medical and surgical procedure and many people's moral discomfort with induced terminations, it is entirely understandable that many wish to see this number significantly reduced.

H321 The Green Party recognises the problems caused by unwanted pregnancies and supports a multi-policy strategy to reduce them, including:

a)ensuring adequate sex education in all schools (see ED307). This should be done at a sufficiently early age that children should be fully aware of the potential consequences of sexual activity before they are likely to become sexually active. Schools should also teach life skills, including those relating to caring for and raising children, so that young people feel better prepared to become parents when the time is right for them (see ED305).

b)ensuring adequate financial and social support for parents, particularly lone parents and those with disabled children, so that women do not feel pressure to terminate a pregnancy purely because they would be unable to make financial ends meet (see EC730-733 and 'Social Welfare').

c)ensuring adequate provision of free family planning advice by properly trained health workers and counsellors (see H301) and the provision of free contraceptives. To ensure proper protection of their rights and wellbeing, children under the age of consent should feel fully able to seek such support and facilities without their parents necessarily having to be informed.

H322 The Green Party will not support any change to the current laws on abortions which would aim to make it more difficult for women to obtain them. Such a change in the law would do nothing to address the underlying factors which lead to women seeking abortions. Instead, it is likely to drive them into going elsewhere for the operations - either overseas or to illegal practitioners in this country - which will increase both the distress and the health risks for those involved.

H323 The Green Party recognises that the decision whether or not to continue with a pregnancy is never undertaken lightly. The Green Party believes that counselling should be offered to every woman considering an abortion. However, the ultimate decision about whether or not to terminate a pregnancy should always lie with the pregnant woman who has to deal with the consequences of that decision.

Wednesday, May 30, 2007

Choice, marketisation and Buddhism

"it can be seen that the free market system itself is ultimately based on a minumum of ethics..." PA Payutto - Buddhist Economics.

The marketisation of health care has created a system that is becoming increasing free, and is being driven to be free. Choice is the buzz word.

Free markets are driven by profit and greed, these have no place in health care. The US system has demonstrated that beyond all reasonable doubt.


Tuesday, May 29, 2007

Organic parkinsons?

Aberdeen researchers have found that exposure to pesticides increase the risk of parkison's disease (high expose by 39% and low level exposure by 9%).

The anti-organic lobby continue to claim that there is no evidence that organic food is better for us, and while this study looks at agricultural workers, it is clear that growing organic food would not have this detrimental effect on them.

How anyone can suggest that consuming poisons is no worse than not consuming poisons defies rational thought.


Monday, May 28, 2007

Managers wasted on drugs?

The Health Service Journal ran a piece on the money being wasted by GPs on overpriced prescriptions (i.e. prescribing expensive versions of drugs when cheaper generic are available). Apparently £200 million could be saved by better prescribing - the extra spending is mostly through GPs listening to the drug companies touting their wares rather than listening to NHS prescribing advisors. Apparently the drugs companies spend £850 million each year on marketing products to GPs.

Rather than comment on the madness of the market place in health care, as I am sure you are expecting me to, I thought I would share with you the conference that the HSJ is running on medicines management.

"Medicines Management Across NHS Interfaces - Maximising the contribution of medicines management to deliver cost-effect, patient centred care". Does anyone remember Gus Hedges? Drop the Dead Donkey's character Gus was famed for management gobbledygook - e.g. "I just wanted to watch the editorial unit synchromeshing with the production matrix...".


Saturday, May 26, 2007

Care costs

From the Torygraph: "Hundreds of thousands of elderly people are facing massive increases in the amount they pay for basic services such as washing and dressing which allow them to live independently in their own homes."

Caring for people is expensive and there is a disgusting lack of investment in it. I suspect the Torygraph would lambast any move to put more money into social and health care, so where does that leave the poor?

Financial pressures are blamed for these increases, but would the Telegraph back rises in taxes - I think not . Would they claim that millions are waste - I think so. Care has to be paid for, the poor can't afford to pay, so it comes down to the richer people to pay - which seems the only fair (and viable) option.

Of course millions are wasted though... however millions are wasted because of the marketisation of social care - driven in by the Tories.


N.B. I take the line that it is important to read papers and journals that you have fundamental and ideological problems with, after all we need to know what they are saying.

Thursday, May 24, 2007


This is from Green MEP, Jean Lambert:


‘Our national health service is at risk from creeping liberalisation and legal uncertainty’ UK Green Euro MP Jean Lambert has warned following the European Parliament vote on a report examining the implications excluding health services from the Services Directive would have.

Although Jean Lambert has welcomed the European Parliament’s move to maintain its position, excluding health services from the scope of the Services Directive, she has slammed the failure to guarantee patients rights and the sustainability of healthcare systems.

Speaking after the vote Jean commented; “The Services Directive continues to pose more questions than it answers leaving the health service extremely vulnerable.

“We are now apparently refusing to set boundaries on the role of the market in relation to the right of member states to decide on the method, financing and scope of the health services they provide. Unless the European Parliament adopts a clear legislative framework we are actively encouraging the Court of Justice to decide what is, or is not, a medical treatment and whether or not it should be reimbursed or require prior authorisation.”

As the Rapporteur on regulations concerning social security co-ordination between EU countries, Jean Lambert continued; “The reimbursement situation is not a new system; it has been in place for over 30 years and has proved invaluable to thousands of citizens. Its scope and workings should not be put in the hands of the Courts – but must be determined by the Parliament and Governments.”


Monday, May 14, 2007

Big Pharma rules UK?

From the BBC: "Cancer doctors have told the BBC they fear the NHS will not be able to afford the new generation of cancer drugs."

The cost of drugs has been rising at about 7% every year compared with the rest of the costs of the NHS at about 3%. Big pharma has the NHS over a barrel and spend a great deal of time selling its wares through talking to patient groups, doctors and the media. Headlines such as 'NHS refuses to treat alzheimers patients' are a clear example - perhaps it is because the new drug is unproven, unreliable, ineffective , and therefore pointless.

Big pharma have been running away with this and there are no easy solutions. For greedy corporate capitalists it must be heaven to work in a sector with a guarenteed 7% year on year increase.

The Green Party policy is clear on medicines:

H318 Novel compounds will not be introduced into general use unless they can be shown to have significant advantages over existing drugs. Limited list prescribing will be extended across the full range of pharmaceuticals. The direct advertising of prescription- only medicines to the medical profession will cease. Information to the medical profession will be the responsibility of medical schools and independent authorities with no vested interest in companies which manufacture or market pharmaceuticals.

H319 The Green Party recognises the huge profits made by the drug companies out of the NHS. This is often through a form of cartel pricing, and we do not believe it is right that the National Health Service as a public health service should have to pay unfair prices. Therefore we will set up an independent NHS Pharmaceutical Body with power to set the price of drugs provided to the NHS. The Body will be composed of doctors, healthcare professionals, economists, and a legally trained chairperson, which will look at the cost of research and development in drugs and their manufacture, and receive evidence from chemists, the pharmaceutical companies, and other countries' health services. The Body will then decide what is a fair price for a drug which is to be provided to the NHS by the manufacturer, and that will be the price which the NHS will pay for the drug.


Any hospital as long as it is the one next door

From the Guardian: " Labour's health policy giving people the right to choose between NHS hospitals in England is regarded by most patients as irrelevant, the government's health watchdog will disclose this week.

"The Healthcare Commission found the issues people regard as most important are whether they have confidence in a hospital's doctors and nurses, whether staff answer questions clearly and whether they wash their hands after contact with a patient before they touch another."

This is scary stuff, it appears that people are not interested in travelling 50 miles to get their operations at a slightly better hospital, they would rather the one next door was up to scratch...

Of course the whole choice agenda underpins the current NHS care marketisation. A similar report was removed from the DH website last year after they figured just how embarrasing it was for Labour's flagship policy.


Friday, May 11, 2007

NHS quangofied

I sent this to the Guardian a couple of days ago in response to the BMA's call for the NHS to be turned into a quango.

Sir: The call by the BMA for the NHS to be managed by an independent body free from political influence will simply reduce the accountability of our health service to an all time low. Instead we should follow the example of social care and move control of health care to local government.

Only when people have a say in how the NHS is run will they be truly engaged; health care requires difficult choices - choice that should be made by users, not by unelected unaccountable bureaucrats. The NHS is a flagship service of this country and should not be turned into a quango.

Stuart Jeffery
Health spokesperson for the Green Party