A lot of tabloid watchers have obviously been looking elsewhere today, but the Mail still manages to peddle its usual level of bullshit.
I was particularly drawn to this piece [istyosty link]. In it they examine recent Department of Health figures on the number of girls of sixteen or under who have an abortion.
The Mail line is predictable.
Campaigners warned that the alarming figures, revealed by the Department of Health, were representative of a society where abortion was ‘on demand’ – even for very young girls who legally should not be having sex.
But there’s another way of looking at this data.
Here’s the table that the Mail published.
Now I’m not saying for a second that this is an acceptable level of teen abortions. Obviously anyone would hope for those figures to be far smaller – zero even. But take a close look at the figures for the last four years.
The number of abortions carried out on girls of sixteen and under has fallen every year since 2007. In fact the figure is now 15% lower than it was at its peak.
Surely that has to be seen as a good thing. That’s a substantial fall over four years. But no. The Mail looked at these figures and decided to spin it as a comment on our over-sexed society rather than the success story that it undoubtedly is.
> The Mail’s story is mince. It does not show that 75% of disability claimants are fit to work. It shows that 75% of those who apply for the benefit under a new system of testing introduced by the Department of Work and Pensions under New Labour, wherein outsourced medical professionals are incentivised to reject patients, are either rejected or withdraw their applications, which means that the new system is designed to exclude the vast majority of those who apply. Whether or not this means those rejected by the assessors are actually fit for work is not clear. Even if those rejected were indeed fit for work, this would tell us nothing about those currrently on disability allowance.
>The Mail does not discuss the failings of Atos Origin – the private sector assessment contractors whom they mention in their article. It is their assessments that are resulting in the exclusion of hundreds of thousands of people from incapacity and disability benefits. Yet, as they have been hired to help the government meet its target of driving 1 million people of disability rolls, they have a vested interest in finding people to be fit for work. The Child Poverty Action Group has written to Chancellor Osbourne complaining about “the woeful inadequacies in the design of the Work Capability Assessment and shortcomings in quality of assessments undertaken by Atos”. The assessment quality is often a problem because the medical professional used by Atos to undertake medical examinations or review the evidence may not have the qualified experience necessary to make a judgment on complex medical problems that people can have. Just as often, it is a problem because the investigation is perfunctory, and unilluminating. (See this discussion). Because one has been deemed ‘fit to work’ by Atos does not mean that one has been properly examined, or that one is indeed fit to work.
> The Mail relies on the suggestion that people are ‘trying it on’, and that if the new testing system was applied, perhaps as many as 75% of those who receive the benefit would be rejected as workshy chancers. The evidence of past research shows that the vast majority of those claiming disability-related benefits are in fact disabled. Most such claimants are concentrated in former industrial areas where manufacturing and mining industries regularly produced crippling or disabling accidents. The research finds that at most the government could expect to remove half a million from disability allowance by introducing stricter definitions and procedures. That’s not a negligible sum, but a) it’s less than 20% of claimants, not 75%, and b) there’s no evidence that those who would be removed are deliberately evading work or have trivial complaints. Rather, they would find themselves compelled to undertake various forms of education and training that would make them apt for some forms of work, so that they could be reclassified as jobseekers and put on lower benefits. Surveys of disability benefit claimants find that there are about a million of them who would like to return to work if properly supported. But there isn’t such support in place, and there aren’t actually millions of jobs waiting to be filled by such people, nor has the government made any indication that it will seek to create those jobs – quite the contrary these days – so the changes introduced by the last government, with Tory support, are actually about reducing the income and consumption of the poorest and most vulnerable people in society.
> The Mail relies on apparently shocking, but false, and irrelevant, claims to bolster its case. For example, the Mail thinks this is a right laugh: “Incredibly, 7,100 tried to claim because they had sexually transmitted diseases and nearly 10,000 because they were too fat.” The DWP breaks up initial self-assessment claims according to the categories of the International Classification of Diseases. The Mail has, shall we say, taken liberties in decoding the technical jargon used. Let’s start with the figure for being “too fat”, which corresponds with the category in the DWP report labelled “Endocrine, Nutritional and Metabolic Diseases”. This category includes all sorts of problems such pituitary, thyroid, and pancreatic disorders. These are not reducible to being “too fat”. As it happens, however, obesity-related disability is a genuine problem and is about more than fatty tissue. There is a strong relationship between obesity and health problems limiting one’s ability to work (see). Being obese is often a symptom of underlying problem – a sudden change in metabolism or rapidly diminished mobility. It can create severe functional impairments that prevent people from working. There’s nothing in this to laugh at – unless you’re a Daily Mail reader, or Top Gear fan. Now let’s consider the claim concerning STDs and disability. This figure corresponds to the DWP category “diseases of the genitourinary system”. This includes such problems as acute renal failure, renal tubular acidosis, bone and kidney diseases, breast hypertrophy, etc etc. These are not sexually transmitted diseases, but they can be serious disorders and highly painful and debilitating conditions. Again, the only humour available here is the comedy of the psychopath. The Mail’s claim is absurdly, flatly false – a downright lie.
> The Mail seeks to give the impression that even those who have been turned down for incapacity or disability benefits have grabbed millions from the system: “Even so, those who have failed or avoided the test since it was introduced have managed to claim as much as £500million in total before being screened out.” In fact, during the first three months in which the assessment takes place, claimants received £65 a week, exactly what they would receive on jobseekers’ allowance. They have not duped the system out of money to which they are not entitled. In fact, jobseekers’ allowance is a very small benefit that has been steadily declining in value since the 1980s, from about 16% of the average wage in 1987-8 to 10% in 2007-8.
> Last thing. I’ve picked on today’s Daily Mail front page. It’s actually the same as the Express front page from two weeks ago. And it’s almost identical in the nature of its claims and basic agenda to recent Daily Mail articles, and to numerous other front page shock exclusive reports made for the last few years by the right-wing tabloids, inspired by DWP press releases. It’s also identical to ignorant claims made by the former investment banker David Freud while he was working with the last government to ‘reform’ welfare. It is a propaganda line, constantly promoted by the state, business and the right-wing media. It fits in which the agenda of capital, but is rejected by trade unions, charities, and disability groups. The regularity of its appearance in widely read newspapers is more decisive as a factor in its acceptance than the reliability of its conclusions. Undoubtedly, this will have contributed to a situation in which most people, who lack access to the kinds of information that would expose the propaganda as a sham, will either endorse or acquiesce in cuts to such benefits. It is repeated far more often than any criticism of business, or of bankers, and certainly of the capitalist system which produces mass unemployment and incapacity. This is, in other words, a concrete example of the ideological power of capital.
National Institute of Clinical Excellence – evidence-based guidelines on various health topics, which go a long way to help the NHS what medicines and treatments should and shouldn’t be funded by the taxpayer;
How thoughtful of the Daily Male to let us know how we British women are doing in the International “Whose Chicks are the Hottest?” Olympics. Today’s line-by-line destruction will be of this dreadful piece by Sean Poulter entitled Why French Women beat Brits in the Beauty Stakes: They spend twice as much on products. And incidentally if you want to place a bet on the beauty stakes do call William Hill. My money is on Chile – they’ve taken the South American title twice recently and a lot of their national chicks compete with international clubs.
“The women of France may enjoy perfectly powdered and smooth faces, however they pay more than twice as much as their British counterparts to achieve this effect.”
So the women of France all enjoy perfectly smooth faces do they? Guess all those holiday postcards of wrinkly weathered old women sat on street kerbs in Provence are staged then or done with latex special effects make-up?
“Spending on creams and potions designed to hold back the ageing process runs at £1.85billion a year on the other side of the Channel, compared to £854 million here.”
Designed to hold back the ageing process or designed to rip women off? I’m calling this a victory for British women who have an extra £1bn a year to spend on enjoying themselves.
“Although Italian by birth, Carla Bruni, the wife of the French president, has come to epitomise the women of France for whom no price is too high to hold back the wrinkles.”
You said it Sean. She’s Italian. Italian. And she’s an Italian supermodel. If anyone thinks she represents the women of France they should try speaking to a French woman. A real one. And if no price really was too high for the women of France the country would be bankrupt in about a week and every woman’s bathroom cabinet full of royal jelly and placenta.
“Indeed, some of the 42-year-old’s treatments, thought to include laser skin peels and botox, have produced some startling and bizarre results.”
Startling and bizarre – no price is too high for me to achieve THAT look.
“By contrast, Samantha Cameron, who is three years younger, apparently enjoys a more natural – English Rose – beauty regime.”
Samantha Cameron is also NOT a super-model. She’s a part-time accessory designer. And comparing one English part-time bag designer with one Italian model and then drawing conclusions about all British and all French women is just weird. There is real news out there you know Sean? Try visiting Congo, I think some women have been raped. Let us know if that helps to “hold back the wrinkles”, won’t you?
“New reseach looking at the body hang-ups of the women of Europe identifies some surprising differences.”
Surprising? So like German women wish they had two heads while the Latvians long for lustrous feathered wings? Something tells me I am going to be less surprised than I was when there wasn’t a fiver in that novelty birthday card last year.
“Certaintly, the women of France are content with their enviably flat stomachs.”
Ah, enlightenment… That’s probably also why Shakira looks so smug. And like Carla Bruni – she’s not French!
“Just 27per cent list their stomach as a problem area, which is a fraction of the 44per cent of British women who are worried about their flabby midriff.”
The question of course is what percentage are actually dangerously overweight and what percentage have merely been convinced they are by the beauty industry? But that would be journalism wouldn’t it Sean? And your speciality is copying out corporate press releases. Sidenote though: I don’t believe doubling your creams and lotions budget is going to shrink your midriff – it might be a better idea to halve your dessert budget.
“However, British women are far more content with their breasts and thighs than their counterparts across the Channel.”
I can’t wait to hear what percentage prefer not to rate their bodies like cuts of meat.
“Just 31per cent of women here are worried about having chunky thighs, compared to 43per cent of the French. Similarly, 30per cent of women in this country are concerned about their breasts, versus 38per cent of the French.”
The real issue is right across Europe women have been convinced to hate some part of their anatomy that is perfectly healthy.
“Looking at other nations, Italian women have a problem with their bottoms with some 47per cent listing this as a concern, far more than any other nation.”
If you have “a problem with your bottom” you should see a doctor. [Se hai un problema con il fondo si dovrebbe vedere un medico.]
“Rather alarmingly, some 57per cent of Spanish women have a worry about their entire face. Again a higher percentage than other nations.”
Well spotted Sean, that is certainly alarming. Can’t wait for your in depth research to discover what is behind these numbers, why we allow the beauty industry to bully women into feeling this way…
“Among German women, 46per cent are worried about their bigger bellies.”
…or you could just carry on cut and pasting that press release. Stick to what you’re good at eh?
“The research was conducted by retail analysts at Mintel for a report investigating the sales patterns of beauty creams and potions.”
It’s like I’m psychic isn’t it?
“It found that for British women, concerns about ageing are focused on the eyes and the dark circles, bags and wrinkles that give their age away.”
I find for me what gives my age away is that I just tell people because I don’t think getting older is shameful.
“Some 48per cent said the eye area is a worry, while 35per cent were concerned about a sagging jaw line.”
I still want to know what percentage told the interviewer to go f*ck themselves.
“Sixty-two per cent were worried about fine lines and wrinkles and 49per cent wanted to do away with the dark circles they have.”
What percentage were worried about all this rubbish BEFORE the market researcher started asking stupid intrusive questions?
“Nica Lewis, head consultant Mintel Beauty Innovation, said there is enormous money to be made by beauty companies that find a way to hold back the ageing process.”
Indeed. So much so that it might seem like even some of the companies who haven’t managed it will claim they have. If only there was a journalist around to investigate, but there’s only you eh, Sean?
“‘Ageing skin is no longer only a worry for older consumers. Younger women are now paying more attention to preventing wrinkles while they can rather than trying to cure them at a later stage,’ she said.”
So now they’re selling wrinkle cream to women who don’t even have wrinkles. Shouldn’t you be exposing the lies, pseudo-science and creepy advertising tricks that make women believe they should spend a lot of money on products that don’t even work? Sorry – almost forgot you’re working for the Mail…
“‘Educating these younger women about the benefits of a good facial skincare regime is an important way to ensure product take-up.”
“Ensuring product take-up”? Honestly – I know you didn’t write this, some PR puppy did – but really Sean – don’t put your name on articles this humiliating. It’s … well … humiliating.
“‘Brands could use mobile phone apps to remind young girls when to cleanse and moisturise on a morning and at night…”
Mmm how helpful of my phone to tell me when morning and night come round. What if I run out of battery though – if only some giant glowing orb would appear and disappear from the sky…
“…and notify them of new products or competitions and offers they could take advantage of.”
Wouldn’t that be ace? Having companies send junk mail direct to your actual phone so you don’t have to go downstairs and find it on the hall floor.
“A clear link between teen lines and ranges aimed at women in their early to mid-20s could also help brands retain customers…”
Sean, really, I understand that besuited twerps doing “brand management” graduate internships say this sort of thing but you are a journalist. Or at least you probably think you are.
“…as they progress through their age-related skincare needs.”
Oh gosh yes so here’s a quick run down of your age-related skincare NEEDS…
Age 0-5: soap and water
Age 5-10: soap and water
Age 10-15: soap and water
Age 15-20: soap and water
Age 20-25: soap and water
Age 25-30: soap and water
Age 30-35: soap and water
Age 35-40: soap and water
Age 40-45: soap and water
Age 45-50: soap and water
Age 50-55: soap and water
Age 55-60: soap and water
Age 60-65: soap and water
Age 65-70: soap and water
Age 70-75: soap and water
Age 75+: soap and water
Oh sorry Sean, I thought you said NEEDS. No-one needs expensive anti-aging products and treatments. In any case the treatments you suggest Carla Bruni has had are medical procedures like Botox. She’s not having those because she got a text about brand loyalty.
And worse still there is a real story hidden in here about body image – the rise in Body Dysmorphic Disorder and Eating Disorders and the irresponsible attitude of the beauty industry pushing expensive products that don’t actually work on women across Europe. Instead we’ve got a male journalist regurgitating a press release that reads like an advert for these products.
Sunshine can give you wrinkles ‘even through a window’
By SEAN POULTER
It’s a well-known fact that shunning the sunscreen and basking in direct sun leads to wrinkles.
But those who thought their skin was shielded while driving, or sitting in a conservatory, could be in for a nasty surprise
Yes that’s right readers. We all knew that sunshine gave you wrinkles but what we didn’t know is that it can pass EVEN THROUGH A WINDOW!
Look, the Mail even has a picture to demonstrate just what sunlight coming through a window looks like:
And I know it must be a nasty surprise, particularly if you have been confusing those glassy type wall things with those other more bricky type wall ones.
But this isn’t just a scaremongering puff piece. No there’s real sciencey stuff behind it:
Professor John Hawk, an Emeritus Professor of dermatological photobiology and UVA expert, said: ‘We believe up to 90 per cent of the visible signs of ageing are due to the sun’s ultraviolet radiation and more than 95 per cent of these are known to be UVA rays.
‘What’s needed is a step-change in awareness of the damaging effects all year round, not just during summer holiday season.”
And of course nobody needs that step change more than the company who is paying for it:
The research is published by Boots, which is introducing UVA sun protection into a line of No 7 moisturisers.
Which is terribly nice of the Daily Mail to mention of course, because otherwise I’d just assume they were wasting our time.
How are you doing? Is everything ok? Work going all right, family life good?
Good. That’s nice to hear. We, at Mailwatch, love our readers and wouldn’t want anything bad happening to you. We don’t want you getting all stressed at work, sat at that desk all day.
After a hard day at the office it’s nice to just sit down of an evening with your loved ones and unwind in front of the telly, isn’t it? You could even sit at your computer and catch up with friends on Facebook or, oh, hang on. Facebook causes cancer doesn’t it? And what’s this?
Quick! Stand up! What ever you do, don’t turn the telly on. Keep moving!
A lie, by definition, is something you say which you know is untrue. (The Iraq Inquiry may provide the right label for Tony Blair’s misleading statements.)
The vaguer category of ‘dishonest’ applies to all sorts of official statistics, as presented by the Government, in policing, immigration etc.
But how do you classify claims that are obviously false but are being provided by those who are apparently too stupid to understand them?
After an intro like that, whatever you say afterwards needs to be bulletproof. Unfortunately it doesn’t start well for Andrew Alexander. The first bit of gobbledegook is…
Smoking is an interesting area because the figures – intended to make your flesh creep – must be, by definition, false.
We are told that smoking ‘costs’ the National Health Service £1.7bn, or maybe £5bn. They are not just guesswork, they are patently contrary to common sense.
What definition of the figures? Why must they be false? They could be, but why ‘must’ they be? What are the real figures, then?
Andrew doesn’t say. The only figures Andrew quotes are the two numbers are in the above quote. He doesn’t say how much tax is raised from tobacco or anything mention any other numbers apart from the number 12 – the number of years he once gave up for.
We are told that smoking is a cause of lung cancer and heart disease and other potentially lethal disorders.
That may well be so.
But if smoking leads to premature deaths, it obviously saves the NHS money, since it is in old age that the cost of medical attention soars.
If we could all arrange to die at retirement age, the NHS would save an awful lot of money.
The whole article is written like this. I can just picture this guy sat tapping out this article in a dark room with his tinfoil hat on, curtains closed so ‘they’ can’t see what he’s up to. A cigarette with a long ash burning down in an ashtray filling the room with it’s blue smoke.
The problem is that not everyone just drops down dead. for many smokers, the unlucky ones that don’t die all of a sudden, death is a slow lingering one, full of respirators and pills and pain and pacemakers and amputations and transplants and regular visits to hospital and the gentle decline into a physical state that belies a persons real age.
All that care costs money. Money that is being prematurely spent on someones health.
Moreover, smoking is an appetite suppressant and may therefore reduce obesity, which is certainly a cause of heart disease, and other disorders, costing the health service an awful lot of money.
Smoking is not an appetite suppressant. If it was, you’d never see a fat person with a fag, would you? Obesity may be a cause of heart disease, but smoking causes lots of diseases too and also makes you lethargic, contributing to, yes obesity.
An outright lie is also included in the anti-smoking campaign.
Tobacco manufacturers have to warn purchasers that, among other things, ’smoking kills’.
If one said that prussic acid kills, it would be true. A more honest statement would be that tobacco can kill. Only the illiterate or mentally idle will fail to see the difference.
Only a pedantic denialist would bring it up.
Alas, there is something about smoking which damages the mind – of anti-smokers. Normal as they may be in other respects, they rave and rant about tobacco.
Anti-smokers, the ones that rant and rave, are generally ex-smokers. The reason they are so passionate is because i) in the back of their mind they are still addicted and the best form of defence for their will power is attack, or ii) they know first hand what being a smoker, the nasty side of smoking, is all about or iii) reasons i & ii together.
[Duncan] Bannatyne apparently had great trouble giving up many years ago. So he wants others to suffer, too.
Poor chap! I am sorry he found it so hard.
Andrew Alexander gave up too, for 12 years, but found it so easy, and had so much free cash and didn’t mind the smell or the panicky feeling of nearly running out of baccy in the middle of the night, that he went back to it. Oh, my mistake. he blames writers block.
I would watch a fellow pipe smoker as he sat down to do the same, slowly and thoughtfully filling his pipe (an art you have to master), finally lighting up and allowing that slow upward drift of the curling smoke.
Nice bit of romanticising there, eh?
Sensibly, I returned to the habit. Pipe-smoking is a very ruminative process. It creates the right spaces and pauses for a writer.
Smoking creates the spaces and pauses because the smoker is thinking about smoking, not writing. A non-smoker, goes for a walk or makes a cup of tea.
But we have not finished with the statistics yet. Second-hand smoke is claimed to cause many deaths and is the basis for tyrannical curbs on offices and pubs.
Finished with the statistics? I didn’t realise we had started with them.
This figure is arrived at by guesswork, inspired by hysteria, and masquerades as scientific ‘proof’ – a process which characterises our age.
If smoking isn’t as bad as Andrew says, and it is all assertion and opinion in this piece, then I would like to know if Andrew encourages and approves of his children, or if he doesn’t have any, his young relatives, smoking. If his son started smoking at, say, sixteen, would he slap him on the back and say ‘good decision, lad, you’ll really enjoy smoking. It’s great’.
The following is a copy of a post made by Dr. Alienfromzog (an NHS Doctor) debunking Richard Littlejohn’s recent misinformed and frankly pathetic swipe at the NHS. The orignial article can be found at Angry Mob. We republish with kind permission.
Was this because I agreed with what RLJ had to say?
Was this because RLJ extensive research had led to a well thought-out argument that I found interesting?
Was it because his column contained some facts for a change?
So why wasn’t I angry?
Simply because it was RLJ being RLJ and I’m told you shouldn’t shoot a duck for quaking.
Normally this kind of thing makes me really very very angry. I have a small confession to make at this point. I am an unrepentant apologist for the NHS. I work in it, I am aware of its limitations and issues and I could write long articles on what’s wrong with it. I don’t for three reasons. Firstly, the NHS is much – and unfairly – maligned. Two, the problems of it are almost always different to the issues raised in the press. And thirdly, and much more importantly, the NHS is an amazing thing and whilst it does have issues they are, in the real world, a price well worth paying for comprehensive healthcare. I am proud of the healthcare the vast majority of patients receive and the work we do in the NHS. It is hugely frustrating to see this constant abuse in the press. And it’s not just about the shear insult of this but every week I have to deal with the anxiety created in patients before they even make it to the hospital door. Of course, it is not surprising that anyone who reads our papers is scared of being admitted to hospital.
So, let’s summarise RLJ argument;
1.His mother was involved in a traffic accident and was well looked after in a hospital in the states.
2. The NHS might have killed her because all British hospitals are dirty and you will pick up a deadly disease in you are unfortunate enough to be admitted one.
3. American Healthcare is great and insurance works while the billions we spend on the NHS are a waste as there’s no good outcomes or accountability.
If I only I knew where to begin with this. I must warn any brave readers that in order to write this I have done some actual research and have provided references at the bottom so that all the facts can be checked. That’s right – this article ought to come with a health warning to anyone who reads RLJ regularly; WARNING, the following contains actual facts and not RLJ delusions.
I think I want to begin by talking about MRSA. To be fair to Littlejohn, almost no one in the press gets this right. My own personal rant is that MRSA is NOT a superbug. (E.coli 0157 now that’s another matter…. sorry, getting of the point). MRSA stands for Methicillin resistant Staphlococcus aureus. Staph. auerus is an extremely common bacteria, it is on the skin of at least a third of the people who read this article. It can be treated with various antibiotics including penicillins. Methicillin is not used in the UK – it is most closely related to Flucloxicillin (a type of penicillin). MRSA is Staph aureus that is resistant to flucloxcillin. This is not a major problem, as the vast majority of strains of MRSA are fairly weedy and are sensitive to multiple antibiotics and are fairly easy to treat. It is quite misleading to say that someone died of MRSA – they died of Staph. aureus infection and the MR bit or otherwise is usually irrelevant. Hospital-acquired infections are common and in general have nothing to do with hospital cleanliness. I know, what a ridiculous thing to say! Well, firstly the majority of infections that patients get come from their own skin. The main reason why people get infections in hospital is not because they’re in hospital but because they’re ill. By definition the people in hospitals are those that will be most vulnerable to picking up infections. This is why hospital cleanliness matters because it is about minimising the risk to vulnerable people. However, and this is the key, even if the hospital walls, floors, ceilings and beds were entirely sterile it would not stop people getting infections.
So what’s all this fuss about MRSA? The answer to that is multifactorial. I think there are two important reasons. Staphlococcus aureus is a very clever bug and can infect multiple sites in the body; it can cause skin infections, urinary infections, pneumonia, septicaemia (blood infection) to name but a few. The other reason is that the methicillin-resistant strains of Staph aureus are only found in hospitals or other institutions. Places where antibiotics have been used. And hence there is an assumption that MRSA has been acquired in hospital. MRSA infection can certainly be reduced by increasing cleanliness but to some extent that’s irrelevant, remember that most infections come from skin (and it’s impossible to ever fully sterilize a patient’s own skin). Do you really care whether you have a MRSA or an MSSA (common-or-garden Staph. auerus) infection, if I can treat it for you either way? There is no evidence that MRSA strains are more deadly that non-resistant strains.
Here’s some facts you’ll never hear in the press:
1. MRSA is a worldwide problem. (Probably the greatest problem is in Japan for various historic reasons).
2. MRSA became endemic in UK hospitals in the early 1990s.
3. MRSA-related deaths are falling.(1)
4. MRSA is a major problem in the USA. This is a quote from a CDC report. (The CDC is the Centre for Disease Control and Prevention – one of the world’s leading authorities on infectious diseases).(2)
“Hospital-acquired infections from all causes are estimated to cause >90,000 deaths per year in the United States and are the sixth leading cause of death nationally. Nosocomial infections increase patient illness and the length of hospital stays. The direct cost has been estimated to be >$6 billion (inflation adjusted) costs of longer inpatient visits are shared by hospitals.”
So, please, can we move on from the myth that NHS hospitals are uniquely dangerous because only we have MRSA and it’s a superbug?
The US Healthcare system and its costs
So let us look at the US healthcare system. The top hospitals in the USA are amazing and provide amazing healthcare, many of them are world centres. However there are a few minor points worth noting. Healthcare in the US is astoundingly expensive.
Here are some interesting statistics;
46.3 million(3) – that’s the number of Americans with NO healthcare coverage. (15% of the population). In the event of an emergency they do indeed get treatment – but it is strictly emergency only. So cancer surgery is not covered, on-going asthma care is not covered. People with bad asthma need on-going treatment to control their disease. Without this hospital admissions are common. Emergency cover will patch them up (usually) and chuck them out to come straight back in again the next time. The frequency and severity (i.e. whether it is life-threatening or not) of attacks can be reduced with good on-going treatment. Not available to 46.3 million Americans unless of course they pay for it themselves.
The leading cause of bankruptcy is the US is healthcare costs(4) – even people with healthcare insurance struggle – limitations on cover, the deductible (i.e. how much you have to pay yourself). Imagine recovering from a serious illness to then lose your home.
£92.5bn – the cost of the entire NHS for the financial year 2008-9(5)
$596.6bn – the combined cost of the US Medicare and Medicaid programs(6). That’s £360bn. Medicare provides healthcare coverage for the elderly and Medicaid for the poorest. The majority of uninsured people are too well off for Medicaid but can’t afford insurance or their employer doesn’t provide it. Both of these programs still involve premiums and co-payments in addition to the government £360bn. Medicare has about 45 million people enrolled and Medicaid 50 million. So, in summary; the inefficient, expensive NHS covers 60 million people entirely for £92.5bn, whilst Medicare/Medicaid provides basic coverage (but not without co-payments) for 95 million people for £360bn. In fact, the US spends more per population on a basic healthcare system that only covers the oldest and poorest than the UK government spends on a healthcare system that looks after everyone. In UK terms that would equate to the government spending around £120bn for basic (so-called safety-net) coverage of less than 20 million of the UK population.
And here’s the real shock; for all the money they spend, the US life-expectancy is less than that of the UK.(7)
I am seriously impressed by anyone who’s still reading at this point. And this is part of the problem, the sort of trash that the Daily Mail puts out is much easier to read than the complex facts that actually reflect the truth of healthcare. There is so much more I can write – about unnecessary and invasive tests, about the benefits of preventative medicine but I think I should stop now.
The NHS is far from perfect but it is very very good. It is also unbelievably cheap for what we get for our money – worryingly to those who work in it, it is the most efficient healthcare system in the world. The problem is that for ideological reasons (i.e. Government=bad) The Daily Mail and those like it want to force us to take on a US-like model of healthcare. They’ll get their 5* hotel room hospital beds and everyone else will suffer. We will see the poor and the elderly left to die quietly or to live with their debilitating disease as the insurance companies make a fortune. And if the American example is anything to go by, ultimately we all end up paying more for sub-standard healthcare coverage for the most vulnerable.
I want to apologise for the length of this article but someone has to stand up to the constant lies of the Daily Mail. The NHS is an amazing thing and whilst it does have issues they are, in the real world, a price well worth paying for comprehensive healthcare. I am proud of the healthcare the vast majority of patients receive.