New threat to healthcare revealed


The Good Life Letter 
8th August 2010

  • Why we are not allowed choice in how we are treated
  • When a placebo is the best course of action
  • How did the NHS waste £1.2 billion?
  • The way forward

I like a well rounded debate about healthcare.

I don't like to see an established way of treating people
attacked by the medical profession without reason.

The last few weeks has seen the British Medical
Association (BMA) pursue a campaign against homeopathy
in the UK. At the end of June the BMA held their annual
conference, during which they voted that the NHS should
no longer pay for homeopathic remedies. Dr Tom Dolphin
of the BMA's junior doctors committee said that such
remedies were "nonsense on stilts".

Oh come on chaps, don't beat around the bush - tell us
what you think!

I really am at a loss as to why they should want to take
such a strong position against a complementary practice
which has been part of the NHS since it was launched in

This really does seem like a case of the establishment
leaning on the little guy - a bit like Goliath responding to
David's slingshot with a nuclear bomb!

It is becoming all to common for the BMA to accuse
anyone who calls themselves an alternative or
complementary practitioner of failing to provide 'proper'
medicine and advice.

This is despite the fact that complementary medicine is
used favourably by a significant proportion of the population
(recent surveys have estimated that around 1 in 5 Britons
use it at some point or other).

These treatments offer a wide range of options to those in
need of help.
I agree with this approach. As do many GPs, who offer
alternative therapies in combination with drug treatments.

And who also suggest that alternative therapies can be
good for maintaining a healthy body and mind, helping
you prevent disease.
The range of complementary, natural and alternative
medicines are so wide and complex, it's ridiculous to
tarnish them all with the same brush. 
And besides...
You can't stamp out ideas.
These ideas have been around for millennia. A lot longer
than western science has been around. Whether we like it
or not, millions of people use alternative therapies. They
rely on them and benefit from them.
So why shouldn't we have access to all the information
that's available? Why shouldn't we look into these ideas,
find out about them and think about why so many people
use them? 
Whatever the scientists think, alternative health practises
and practitioners exist. You can't pretend they're not
there, or declaim everything they ever say as wrong. 
It would be terrible if, in the process of denouncing an
entire field of therapy, we ignored an avenue of
investigation that really could save lives and transform our
understanding of medicine.
We could end up throwing out the baby with the

Why placebos work

But rather than accept this, and open up a dialogue about
alternative therapies, the BMA would rather try to stamp
them out altogether.

Many of these professions have become properly
regulated, and have their practices endorsed by acts of
parliament - just like GP's do.

I know there are unscrupulous people out there, offering
new age snake oil, but they are becoming a minority.

Acupuncturists, chiropractors and osteopaths all have
requirements for continuing their education and research
after they graduate from 4, 5 or 7 year degrees. These
are not simpletons....... many of them have a better
knowledge of the body than your own doctor.

What they don't do is try to prescribe a drug at the first
chance they get.

They try to work with you to establish a holistic approach.
A good homeopath does the same thing.

At worst they might be only offering a 'placebo', but that
isn't really a big issue is it? Surely engendering a sense of
optimism is no bad thing.

Besides, if the patient feels better and can get on with
their lives why do we need to analyse beyond that?

Don't we just want to feel better?

How the NHS wasted £1.2billion on unnecessary drugs

A conventional, drug led approach doesn't always make
sense either though.

For example, look at the way the Department of Health
and the NHS managed the recent swine flu outbreak.

In the Daily Mail on Monday last week there was an
incredible report published which showed that the NHS
spent £1.2billion on drugs that weren't needed for what
we were told was a pandemic that would 'bring the
country to its knees'.

The panic that swept through government and the NHS
was fed by the large pharmaceutical companies. These
companies were pushing their products hard, despite
there being very limited evidence of the risk from the
disease or efficacy of their drugs against it.

The article quotes the Department of Health as saying 'It
is important that we learn lessons from the experience of
responding to swine flu. We will take all the findings of the
review into account when reviewing our future plans for
responding to an influenza pandemic.'

Setting aside the poor phrasing of this statement, I don't
think they WILL learn from this.

Even more so, why didn't this topic make it onto the
agenda of the BMA? I think we can reasonably expect the
doctors at the centre of the NHS to question the validity of
the drugs they prescribe.

I would certainly like to see an open debate about it.

What do we need?

Surely, it is not unreasonable to expect modern health
considerations to build upon the experience of the past.....
ALL the experiences of the past not just the drug led ones.

I've said it before, and I'll say it again - no-one benefits
from this continual bickering about complementary
medicine. The BMA looks petty, the therapists look
defensive and the patient gets denied options.

Let us have the method of treatment we believe in and
we'll get along just fine. Just make sure we keep the
discussion open.

Science doesn't know everything, and it is worse when
money comes into it - that's why the drugs become the
focus isn't it? Big pharmaceutical companies like to have
GP's prescribing their products, rather than thinking about
the alternatives.

The BMA should get its own house in order first, then
engage with the other professions to see how they can be
integrated to everyone's benefit.



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