Thursday, December 10, 2009

Britain has some of the worst health outcomes in Europe

Heart and cancer survival rates among worst in developed world

British health care is little better than that of former Communist countries, which spend a fraction of the billions poured into the NHS. A survey published yesterday by the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development sees Britain languishing with the Czech Republic and Poland in international league tables on health.

The OECD - which represents developed Western countries, some former Soviet nations, Mexico, Japan and South Korea - compared healthcare standards among its 30 members and found that we lag even further behind the wealthiest nations, such as France, Sweden and Germany. The figures showed:

* British cancer and heart attack victims are more likely to die than almost anywhere in the developed world;

* Asthma and diabetes patients are more than three times as likely to end up in hospital as their neighbours in Germany;

* Life expectancy in Britain - 79 years and six months for a man - is far worse than in France, where men expect to live until 81. The deficit is similar for women.

Britain performed only marginally better than former Communist states whose governments spend only half as much on healthcare.

Last night critics seized on the league table as an indictment of Labour's failure to improve the Health Service over 12 years - despite tripling NHS spending to more than £100billion a year. But ministers insisted the figures were out of date and that significant improvements have occurred since.

Among the OECD's most worrying findings were Britain's five-year survival rates for cancer between 2002 and 2007. A shortage of cancer specialists and the lack of access to life-saving drugs is thought to be behind our poor showing.

On the positive side, the survey shows British healthcare is much more equitable than most other countries. Just 9 per cent of low income homes say they have unmet care needs, compared to 52 per cent in the U.S. and 24 per cent in Germany.

Britain also has more nurses than many countries. There are ten nurses for every 1,000 people here. That's higher than the OECD average of 9.6 and the French figure of 7.7.

But the picture of cancer survival in this country remains bleak. The survey found that in Britain, a woman diagnosed with breast cancer had a 78.5 per cent likelihood of being alive five years later. But in France, the figure was 82.6 per cent, in Sweden 86.1 per cent and in the U.S., 90.5 per cent.

The situation is even worse for those with bowel cancer. In these cases, Britain was the second worst country of the 30 member states.

Much of the blame for Britain's poor showing is attributed to the fact that patients and GPs fail to spot cancer signs early enough. A lack of access to life-saving cancer drugs, a shortage of specialists, and a lack of MRI scanners are also factors. The report found that in Britain there are 8.2 scanners per million people: much lower than the OECD average of 11. There are also far fewer doctors in Britain: 2.5 per 1,000 population, compared to 3.4 in France.

The survey also found that British heart attack patients were more likely to die in hospital than others in the Western world. In 2007, 6.3 per cent had died within 30 days of admission - compared to 4.9 per cent across the OECD, and 2.9 per cent in Denmark. Britain also performed poorly on keeping asthma and diabetes sufferers out of hospital - reflecting badly on the quality of GPs.

In Britain, 75 out of 100,000 people ended up in hospital with asthma in 2007. In France the figure was 43 and in Germany, just 21.

The report found that Britain spends more than the average OECD nation on healthcare: just short of $3,000 (£1,850) per head of population. This compares to $1,626 (£1,000) in the Czech Republic, where cancer survival rates are almost as good. However, the OECD acknowledged that healthcare had improved over the past decade.

Last night Health Secretary Andy Burnham said the data showed 'the enormous progress' that had been made.


Uncaring British health bureaucrats kill nurse

A midwife was found hanged after a hospital failed to tell her she was not to blame for a baby's death, an inquest heard yesterday. Theresa Naish, 28, feared she would be struck off because she had failed to tell doctors that the premature baby had had a balloon placed in his throat during his mother's pregnancy to help his lungs develop.

A colleague had been in charge of the baby boy but had gone to lunch leaving Miss Naish, who had just started her shift, to provide cover. The balloon would have prevented the child from breathing. But the baby's health was so poor he would not have survived anyway, Croydon Coroner's Court heard.

Following the incident, distraught Miss Naish went on two weeks' leave, which had been booked previously. During her time off the hospital cancelled two overtime shifts she had been scheduled to work.

The inquest heard she received a series of voicemails asking her to come in to meet hospital managers, but they failed to say she was not facing suspension and was not responsible for the death of the boy.

Her father Thomas Naish criticised the hospital during the hearing for not giving her any reassurance. 'Theresa was just sent home and her shifts were cancelled,' he said. 'There is no umbrella of care within the NHS for the people who work within it - the people who do the caring.'

Miss Naish's sister Cherry, 25, told the inquest: 'The effect this whole thing had on her was that she went home thinking, "They are going to disbar me".'

A couple of days before Miss Naish was due back to work at King's College Hospital in South London colleagues became concerned that they had not heard from her. Senior midwife Linda Sherratt had arranged to have a meeting with her. But Miss Naish did not turn up and suddenly stopped answering her phone. Police forced their way into her flat in Upper Norwood, South London, in the early hours of January 28 where they found her hanging in the bathroom.

The final two internet searches on her laptop had been for 'disbarred midwives' and 'ten ways to commit suicide'. Pathologists believe she probably died three or four days earlier.

Miss Naish had been registered as a midwife for a year and had graduated a few weeks before her death.

In cases where unborn babies' lungs are not developing properly, a technique has been developed where a small balloon is inserted into the throat. Since the placenta provides the oxygen for the foetus in the womb, the balloon does not interfere with foetal breathing. But before birth the balloon must be removed in order for the baby to be able to breathe after birth.

Mrs Sherratt told the court: 'She did amazingly well to get the mother to the labour ward as quickly as she did. 'We discovered that the baby would have stood a very, very minute chance of survival anyway because his condition was so bad, even if the balloon had been taken out. 'Theresa may have felt she contributed to his death by not passing on crucial information. 'I was in charge of the investigation into the incident. My first concern was for Theresa. 'There were all sorts of rumours going around but it was never the case that she would be suspended. 'The really very sad thing about this whole business is that I never got a chance to speak to her.'

At the time of her death, Miss Naish was one and a half times the drink drive limit. Coroner Dr Roy Palmer found that this was enough to give him 'a tiny bit of doubt' about whether Miss Naish intended to kill herself. He recorded an open verdict.

Outside court Miss Naish's father said: 'I have spoken to lots of women Theresa cared for and delivered babies for, and they have all said she was incredible. 'She joined the St John's Ambulance when she was 14. All she ever wanted to do was look after people.'


How can breast surgeon who botched 19 operation still work for the NHS?

A breast cancer surgeon is still allowed to work for the NHS despite botching operations which led to £700,000 in compensation being paid to 19 women. Many of the patients have suffered agony, disfigurement, trauma and been haunted by flashbacks of surgery. One cancer victim who has had three additional operations because of complications said the surgeon had ruined her life and another was shocked when she sold her bras during an examination 'like a dodgy market trader'.

Consultant surgeon Puvaneswary Markandoo was suspended on full pay after 35 women, aged between 30 and 65, came forward to complain about problems after operations. In total, 29 proceeded with compensation claims against the surgeon's employer, the Barnsley Hospital NHS Foundation Trust. The trust has paid out £678,245 to 19 women, at an average settlement of £35,697 each. Health chiefs admitted negligence in a vast majority of the payout cases. Six claims are outstanding.

But much to the astonishment of her patients, the 62-year-old surgeon has been allowed by the General Medical Council to continue to work for the NHS, although she is banned from private work. Last year the GMC found her to be deficient in 11 areas of her job including basic surgery and working within laws and regulations.

The authorities decided she could work for an NHS hospital under conditions including supervision and retraining. Miss Markandoo had been suspended from her £122,000 job for three years and has now left Barnsley Hospital. The Malaysian-born surgeon, who qualified as a doctor 32 years ago, has moved to London. She has done unpaid 'administrative' work at one London hospital but it is not known if she has been carrying out any clinical work.

One patient to receive compensation was Mary Jolly, 57, a grandmother from Barnsley. She had a mastectomy after getting breast cancer which was followed by reconstructive surgery and an implant. Her problems began after a breast reduction on the healthy breast carried out by Miss Markandoo. She suffered constant pain and 'oozing' from the wound. Several further operations followed but she still has pain. The mother-of-three said: 'Like all those other women I put 100 per cent trust in her and she betrayed that trust.

'I wish I had never set eyes on her and I find it unbelievable that she can still work in the health service after what she has done.' 'I realised at some point that there was something odd about her. 'Once when I went for an examination she brought two bras out of her drawer and asked if I wanted to buy them. Doctors just don't do that. She seemed then like some dodgy market trader. 'The doctors won't to do any more surgery on me any more to try and put things right because I am diabetic and I don't heal well so I just have to live the situation as it is.'

A spokesman for the hospital trust said: 'Once the trust identified a problem with treatment provided by Miss Markandoo to patients in the Barnsley breast clinic it took the proactive step of setting up an advice line for all those patients possibly affected. 'The trust has worked hard with its insurers and legal advisers to ensure that these matters have been dealt with as quickly and reasonably as possible.'


The Depths of Demcare Demagoguery

by Michelle Malkin

How low can they go? The desperate Democratic peddlers of a government health care takeover have proclaimed an insurance "holocaust in America" (Fla. Democratic Rep. Alan Grayson), lambasted conservative health care town hall protesters as "political terrorists" (Indiana Democratic Rep. Baron Hill), sent SEIU thugs to demonstrate outside Democratic Sen. Joe Lieberman's private residence, and derided senior citizens questioning President Obama's fuzzy math savings claims (California Democratic Rep. Pete Stark: "I wouldn't dignify you by peeing on your leg. It wouldn't be worth wasting the urine.") Now, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid is leading them deeper into demagogic mire.

This week, Reid pummeled opponents with the worn-out race card. Following in the mucky footsteps of former President Jimmy Carter (who blamed GOP Rep. Joe Wilson's objections to Obama's policy deceptions on a "racism inclination") and Jesse Jackson ("You can't vote against health care and call yourself a black man"), Reid likened Republicans who object to socialized medicine to slave masters, enemies of women's suffrage and Bull Connor.

Reid's rhetorical aim was worse than the unhinged Minnesota protester who threw tomatoes at Sarah Palin during a book signing and hit a police officer instead. Splat.

Mustering up as much indignation as his taut face could exhibit, Reid lectured those standing in the way of Demcare: "When this country belatedly recognized the wrongs of slavery, there were those who dug in their heels and said, 'Slow down. It's too early. Things aren't bad enough.'

"When women spoke up for the right to speak up, they wanted to vote, some insisted, 'Slow down. There will be a better day to do that. Today isn't quite right.'

"When this body was on the verge of guaranteeing equal civil rights to everyone regardless of the color of their skin, some senators resorted to the same filibuster threats that we hear today."

It was the GOP that fought slavery and the Democratic Party that battled to preserve it. It was then-Democrat Strom Thurmond who led the civil rights filibuster that Reid tried to lay on Republicans. And it's the Democratic Party, not the GOP, that boasts ex-Klansman Sen. Robert Byrd among its senior leaders. But don't confuse Reid with history while he's chasing Republicans around with his "RAAAACISM!" stamp.

The more the American public learns about the choice-limiting, debt-exploding, bureaucracy-multiplying health care takeover, the more opposition increases. And the more unhinged the Democratic majority and its supporters get.

There is now a $200,000 "bounty" on the head of U.S Chamber of Commerce CEO Tom Donohue. Left-wing activist website "Velvet Revolution" published a want ad this week with Donohue's picture on it, soliciting information leading to "the arrest and conviction" of the business leader for "opposing progressive initiatives." The witch-hunt is targeting Donohue for his outspoken criticism of the costs and impact of the Dems' health care legislation on small businesses across the country.

Such reckless propaganda accusing opponents of "criminality" isn't limited to nutroots publications. In the august pages of The New York Times last week, Pulitzer Prize-winning columnist Nicholas Kristof titled his universal care manifesto, "Are We Going To Let John Die?" Kristof elevated unemployed Oregon sawmill worker John Brodniak, 23, as the Demcare poster child. Reportedly diagnosed as having a cavernous hemangioma, a neurological condition, Kristof bemoaned: "Without insurance, John has been unable to get surgery or even help managing the pain."

An emergency room asked Brodniak not to return without insurance, Kristof claims (a practice that is prohibited by federal law). No doctor would treat him, Kristof reported (get your grain of salt ready). Isn't it "monstrous," Kristof concludes (hanky alert), "for politicians to avert their eyes, make excuses and deny coverage to innumerable Americans just like John?"

Ready for the punch line? Brodniak not only has coverage through Oregon's Medicaid program, but has also been a patient at the prestigious Oregon Health and Science University in Portland (a safety-net institution that accepts all Medicaid patients) for the past three weeks -- a fact Kristof either deliberately ignored and suppressed from readers or didn't bother to find out before publishing his screed.

In other words, Brodniak was already being treated and cared for by a top-notch neurologist under our existing health care system when Kristof came along to scream at Congress for letting him die.

Kristof's tale follows on the heels of at least two dubious horror stories disseminated by President Obama. In September, Obama told of Illinois cancer patient Otto Raddatz, who supposedly died after he was dropped from his insurance plan when his insurer discovered an unreported gallstone the patient hadn't known about. The truth? He got the treatment he needed in 2005 and died just this year.

In another case, Obama claimed, a woman with breast cancer lost her insurance because "she forgot to declare a case of acne." In fact, she failed to disclose a previous heart condition and did not list her weight accurately, but her insurance was restored anyway after intense public lobbying.

But why bother with troublesome facts? In the insatiable pursuit of government control, truth and rationality are the first casualties.


The American health system DOES need reform: Just not Obama's version

The comparison below is with the French system but Australia points the way better. There is NO employer coverage in Australia. Insurance is all between the individual and the insurer. And there are always plenty of insurers to choose from -- and billing is simple

By now I’m accustomed to being the only person in any given room with my particular set of cockamamie politics. But even within the more familiar confines of the libertarian movement, I am an awkward outlier on the topic of the day (and the topic of this issue of reason): health care.

To put it plainly, when free marketers warn that Democratic health care initiatives will make us more “like France,” a big part of me says, “I wish.” It’s not that I think it’s either feasible or advisable for the United States to adopt a single-payer, government-dominated system. But it’s instructive to confront the comparative advantages of one socialist system abroad to sharpen the arguments for more capitalism at home.

For a dozen years now I’ve led a dual life, spending more than 90 percent of my time and money in the U.S. while receiving 90 percent of my health care in my wife’s native France. On a personal level the comparison is no contest: I’ll take the French experience any day. ObamaCare opponents often warn that a new system will lead to long waiting times, mountains of paperwork, and less choice among doctors. Yet on all three of those counts the French system is significantly better, not worse, than what the U.S. has now.

Need a prescription for muscle relaxers, an anti-fungal cream, or a steroid inhaler for temporary lung trouble? In the U.S. you have to fight to get on the appointment schedule of a doctor within your health insurance network (I’ll conservatively put the average wait time at five days), then have him or her scrawl something unintelligible on a slip of paper, which you take to a drugstore to exchange for your medicine. You might pay the doc $40, but then his office sends you a separate bill for the visit, and for an examination, and those bills also go to your insurance company, which sends you an adjustment sheet weeks after the doctor’s office has sent its third payment notice. By the time it’s all sorted out, you’ve probably paid a few hundred dollars to three different entities, without having a clue about how or why any of the prices were set.

In France, by contrast, you walk to the corner pharmacist, get either a prescription or over-the-counter medication right away, shell out a dozen or so euros, and you’re done. If you need a doctor, it’s not hard to get an appointment within a day or three, you make payments for everything (including X-rays) on the spot, and the amounts are routinely less than the co-payments for U.S. doctor visits. I’ve had back X-rays, detailed ear examinations, even minor oral surgery, and never have I paid more than maybe €300 for any one procedure.

And it’s not like the medical professionals in France are chopped liver. In the U.S., my wife had some lumps in her breast dismissed as harmless by a hurried, indifferent doctor at Kaiser Permanente. Eight months later, during our annual Christmas visit in Lyon, one of the best breast surgeons in the country detected that the lumps were growing and removed them.

We know that the horrific amount of third-party gobbledygook in America, the cost insensitivity, and the price randomness are all products of bad policies that market reforms could significantly improve. We know, too, that France’s low retail costs are subsidized by punitively high tax rates that will have to increase unless benefits are cut. If you are rich and sick (or a healthy doctor), you’re likely better off here. But as long as the U.S. remains this ungainly public-private hybrid, with ever-tighter mandates producing ever-fewer consumer choices, the average consumer’s health care experience will probably be more pleasing in France.

What’s more, none of these anecdotes scratches the surface of France’s chief advantage, and the main reason socialized medicine remains a perennial temptation in this country: In France, you are covered, period. It doesn’t depend on your job, it doesn’t depend on a health maintenance organization, and it doesn’t depend on whether you filled out the paperwork right. Those who (like me) oppose ObamaCare, need to understand (also like me, unfortunately) what it’s like to be serially rejected by insurance companies even though you’re perfectly healthy. It’s an enraging, anxiety-inducing, indelible experience, one that both softens the intellectual ground for increased government intervention and produces active resentment toward anyone who argues that the U.S. has “the best health care in the world.”

Since 1986 I’ve missed exactly three days of work due to illness. I don’t smoke, I don’t (usually) do drugs or drink to excess, and I eat a pretty healthy diet. I have some back pain now and then from a protruding disc, but nothing too serious. And from 1998 to 2001, when I was a freelancer in the world’s capital of freelancers (Los Angeles), I couldn’t get health insurance.

Kaiser rejected me because I had visited the doctor too many times in the 12 months preceding my application (I filled in the “3-5 times” circle, to reflect the three routine and inexpensive check-ups I’d had in France). Blue Cross rejected me too. There weren’t many other options. Months later, an insurance broker told me I’d ruined my chances by failing to file a written appeal. “You’re basically done in California,” he said. “A rejection is like an arrest—if you don’t contest it, you’re guilty, and it’s on your permanent record.”

It wasn’t as if I wanted or needed to consume much health care then. I was in my early 30s, and I wanted to make sure a catastrophic illness or injury wouldn’t bankrupt my family. When I finally found a freelance-journalist collective that allowed me and my wife to pay $212 a month to hedge against a car accident, it a) refused to cover pregnancies or childbirths at any price and b) hiked the monthly rate up to $357 after a year. One of the main attractions of moving from freelance status to a full-time job was the ability to affix a stable price on my health insurance.

This is the exact opposite of the direction in which we should be traveling in a global just-in-time economy, with its ideal of entrepreneurial workers breaking free of corporate command and zipping creatively from project to project. Don’t even get me started on the Kafkaesque ordeal of switching jobs without taking any time off, yet going uncovered by anything except COBRA for nearly two months even though both employers used the same health insurance provider. That incident alone cost me thousands of dollars I wouldn’t have paid if I had controlled my own insurance policy.

I’ve now reached the age where I will better appreciate the premium skill level of American doctors and their high-quality equipment and techniques. And in a very real way my family has voted with its feet when it comes to choosing between the two countries. One of France’s worst problems is the rigidity and expense that comes with an extensive welfare state.

But as you look at the health care solutions discussed in this issue, ask yourself an honest question: Are we better off today, in terms of health policy, than we would have been had we acknowledged more loudly 15 years ago that the status quo is quite awful for a large number of Americans? Would we have been better off focusing less on waiting times in Britain, and more on waiting times in the USA? It’s a question I plan to ask my doctor this Christmas. In French.


Black Activists Condemn Senate Leader Harry Reid Playing the Race Card in Health Care Debate

Recent race-related comments made by Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) are highly offensive and historically inaccurate, say members of the Project 21 black leadership group.

"Harry Reid has resorted to the most shopworn trick in the liberal playbook. He deployed the race card in the ugliest way while debating health care reform," said Deroy Murdock, a Project 21 member and a media fellow with the Hoover Institution on War, Revolution and Peace at Stanford University. "It is astonishing and outrageous to equate those who seek the defeat of Reid's 2,074-page, $2.5 trillion legislative monstrosity with those who were happy to keep blacks in chains, unpaid for their back-breaking labor and traded back and forth like cattle. The fact that Reid would use such deplorable, insulting and insensitive rhetoric indicates that he is out of credible arguments to defend his own proposal."

On the floor of the Senate on December 7, Reid compared those who oppose his legislation to increase government control of medical care to those in the past who opposed slavery and civil rights. Reid said:

"Instead of joining us on the right side of history, all the Republicans can come up with is, 'slow down, stop everything, let's start over.' If you think you've heard these same excuses before, you're right. When this country belatedly recognized the wrongs of slavery, there were those who dug in their heels and said 'slow down, it's too early, things aren't bad enough' ...When women spoke up for the right to speak up, they wanted to vote, some insisted they simply, slow down, there will be a better day to do that, today isn't quite right... When this body was on the verge of guaranteeing equal civil rights to everyone regardless of the color of their skin, some senators resorted to the same filibuster threats that we hear today."

Project 21's Murdock added: "The Senate's top Democrat owes an immediate apology to Republicans on Capitol Hill, the 39 House Democrats who voted against Obamacare on November 7 and the 51 percent of Americans from coast to coast who a Rasmussen survey recently found are against Obamacare. If Reid believes these Americans who object to his high-cost, low-quality legislation also hold warm feelings for slavery, he is further removed from reality than anyone so far has feared. If he does not believe this, he should stop cynically firing rhetorical mortar shells at decent Americans who merely disagree with his spendthrift, Big Government approach to health care."

Reid's comments are also historically-inaccurate, as his own Democratic Party stood in the way of slavery abolition and civil rights legislation in the past.

"Why is history so confusing to Harry Reid? Six of the nine original planks of the Republican Party at its inception in 1856 were based on opposition to slavery and promoting civil rights," noted Project 21 Chairman Mychal Massie. "Did Reid also forget what party Lyndon Johnson worked with to get the Civil Rights Act of 1964 not only passed but to even get it through committee and onto the floor for a vote? One of the Democratic opponents - Senator Robert Byrd (D-WV), a former Klansman - is still serving today and is third in the presidential line of succession as the President pro tem. Reid's daring to brand opponents as racist is indicative of how far liberals are willing to go in order to control Americans from the cradle to the grave."


No comments: