Sunday, September 09, 2007

Left-wing cant and the indefensible

There's a special sort of piece that appears only in The Guardian (or The New York Times) that deserves to be recognised as a journalistic genre in its own right. They masquerade as balanced and judicious profiles of individuals. But in fact they are vigorous defences, or at least pleas in mitigation, for people who cannot be allowed to be seen as guilty of any great sin because they're On The Left.

We had two this weekend. We discovered last week that the playwright Arthur Miller, who abandoned his disabled son after the child was born because he was, in Miller's words, "a mongoloid", avoided all contact with the child until they met, to the playwright's surprise, at a meeting where Miller was championing a better deal for disabled people. This sort of behaviour is beyond satire. To seek applause for your stance on behalf of suffering in general, while being so indifferent to the fate of individual suffering, is the quintessence of canting left-wingery. But for The Guardian Miller was as much the victim as anyone.

But their treatment of Miller was positively caustic besides their lionising of one of Britain's most shameless intellectual apologists for evil. A fawning tribute to the Eric Hobsbawm, 90, made light of his championing of Soviet communism and his support for Stalin, the gulag and totalitarian tyranny. I'm happy to leave the old devil in peace to enjoy his dotage. But can we at least be spared any more laying of garlands at the feet of this man who supported mass murder?

Source





Another bad hair day for the NHS

One task this blog has undertaken is to challenge the illusions and myths of nationalized health care. Which is not to argue that the US system is the ideal alternative. That is a different issue. The main myth we try to address is the idea that there is universal health coverage under socialized medicine. Much like we know that socialism doesn’t feed everyone—witness the politically induced famines in the Ukraine in the Thirties and in China in the 50s — we know it doesn’t give medical care to all either.

Socialism has always relied upon the political allocation of scarce goods, meaning that some groups or classes of people are intentionally denied access. And since socialism has proven itself very poor at the creation of those goods and services, its allocations are, by necessity, made from a smaller pool. There is no “universal” coverage under “universal health insurance”.

It may be that everyone can get an aspirin if they want it, or a doctor’s appointment if they can wait long enough. But the serious medical requirements, the ones most people worry about, are not available to everyone by any stretch of the imagination. They are often denied in a calculated manner to bolster the second main claim of socialized health care -- that it is cheaper. Obviously if you refuse to give people care that is costly, you can have cheaper care. Deny all care and the cost is zero. “Cheaper” can be obtained in any system if you limit consumption intentionally. That is not necessarily a good thing.

To illustrate this point we take a snapshot look at the much praised (by the nationalizers) National Health Service in the United Kingdom. This service is often held up as a model for the world to emulate. The argument given by some is that it provides more service, better service and cheaper service. Nationalized care gives more of one kind of service, over small things, and lots less of other services for serious illnesses. Add it all together and there is a lot less health care. The service is better if you are worried about small issues but worse if you are concerned about serious ones. So “better” is determined by whether there is a minor problem with your health or something major. Cheaper it is, but the lower cost is induced by the denial of care on a routine basis for more costly problems.

What is wrong with a snapshot, using British news reports on the NHS over a few days, is that perhaps the NHS was having “a bad hair day”. There are just some days when even the super models look pretty awful. So regular snapshots are needed. In fact, a portfolio of photos is usually required to make a decent judgment.

Here are a few other snapshots taken from British news sources for the last few days. We are not accumulating random incidents over a long period of time, but numerous incidents over a very short period of time. These are in no particular order to this issues.

The National Health Service says that they will have a 983 million pound surplus (almost 2 billion dollars) this year. That is after a 547 million deficit last year. Twenty-two of the local trusts, which provide the actual care, are in debt and for 13 of them the debt is growing rapidly. This is not as bad as last year but still serious. Sounds good. Of course one way to get rid of a deficit, or lower it, is to spend less which in this case means to cut health care.

The general secretary of the Royal College of Nursing, Dr. Peter Carter, raised that issue. “We have to ask at what cost this has been achieved.” Carter says one way this was done was to increase workloads of doctors and nurses even more. The Telegraph for August 30 reports:
... Hamish Meldrum, chairman of the BMA GPs' committee, said the cuts were "thinly disguised forms of rationing" patient care. "At the end of last year we saw services to patients being cut, with operations delayed, outpatient clinics cancelled, and referral management schemes," he said. "There are still hospitals that are threatening to lay off hundreds of staff in order to break even." Only last week, plans to downgrade A & E services and maternity services in Greater Manchester sparked protests from the Tories. Maternity services will shut at four hospitals, the A & E at one hospital will be downgraded and intensive care for premature babies will move from another.

Liberal Democrat health spokesman, Norman Lamb, said “this year’s surplus” was created by “dreadful cuts in key services” last year. One such cost savings has been in the way junior doctors have been treated. Many are simply left unemployed as the NHS trusts try to cut costs by reducing the number of physicians they have to pay.

For instance, Dr. Kapil Lad was working at one hospital which blocks access to personal email during work hours. When he got home that evening he found an email which said he had a few hours to respond as to whether he wanted to take a one month job. Non-response during that time was considered a rejection. Yet the time limit had passed because he was actually in the hospital caring for patients. Now he finds himself unemployed as a physician. He is now considering employment options outside the UK and says that he feels that if takes a foreign job it is unlikely he’ll return to the UK.

Trainee doctors are easy for the NHS to dismiss or ignore so they have. The country has 33,000 of them but is offering only 22,000 training posts. The rest are left out in the cold. With about a third of all junior doctors getting screwed over it is no surprise that many of them took to the streets to protest as the accompanying photo shows.

Hip replacements under the NHS are notoriously slow. But 79-year-old Thembi Nobadula finally received the replacement she needed and then was sent home without the follow up care required. She ends up sleeping sitting up in a chair and has been unable to take a bath for months. All she needed was one piece of equipment that would allow her to get in and out of the tub but NHS wasn’t listening. Her condition was considered bad enough that the NHS sent her to hospital appointments by ambulance but no one would listen to her needs. Only after the local Islington newspaper got involved did they suddenly listen and promise she would get the equipment she needed in about a week’s time.

Thelma Nixon has a serious eye condition that will lead to blindness unless treated -- wet macular degeneration. Injections of Lucentis into the eye are needed. But the NHS told her she can’t have them. They were more expensive than guidelines allowed. Thelma remortgaged her home to cover the cost of injections herself through private care. The York Press campaigned on her behalf and so did the Royal National Institute for the Blind -- without the publicity it is unlikely she would have received the NHS treatment.

A local businessman funded some of her injections and two other readers of the original newspaper article also were donating funds toward further injections. But with the bad publicity in this case the local NHS trust relented. But Thelma was warned that if she sought any further private treatment it would jeopardize the funding she would received.

William Foreman, 66, of Suffolk, needed a hip replacement. The NHS told him he would have to wait. And when it comes to hip replacements the elderly wait, and wait, and wait. Foreman didn’t wait. He took 6,400 of his savings and flew to Poland. That covered his flight, the hip replacement, and three weeks or rehabilitation. From the time he was told he needed the hip replacement to the surgery itself was a total of two weeks. For this price he got a private room and twice daily sessions with a physiotherapist.

Foreman is just one of thousands of people from the UK who become “medical tourists”. Medical tourism is a booming business that helps individuals who can’t get timely treatment, or treatment at all, from the NHS obtain the same treatment overseas. One study indicates that 50,000 people leave the UK every year for medical treatment elsewhere. If they didn't the waiting lists would be even longer. And the money these people spend to get the care they aren't receiving from the NHS is not counted toward health care costs for the NHS.

Russ Jones needs the drug Sutent because he has a gastrointestinal stromal tumor. The NHS has refused to supply it because it is too costly and they question whether it is effective. Jones is now depleting his savings to pay for the drugs himself. The problem Jones has is very rare which is why there is little research on the drug which would prove whether it is effective or not. But in some parts of the UK Sutent is available while in others it is routinely denied. This has lead to what some are calling a “postcode lottery”. People who live in certain favored areas receive treatment that is routinely denied to everyone else.

Cancer patients in Northern Ireland, part of the UK and under the NHS, are unhappy. Those suffering from asbestos cancer have been told they will have to wait until 2009 at the earliest before they can receive the drug Alimta. This form of lung cancer is incurable and Belfast is one of the UK hotspots for the disease. While Alimta does not cure the disease it relieves symptoms and increases life expectancy. Waiting two years for treatment is a death sentence since most patients with the disease die within one year. The drug is available in other parts of the UK by the NHS just not to people in the “hotspot” of Northern Ireland.

Brigitte Stankovic has worked her entire life as a hair dresser. Now 42 she runs a busy hair salon. She has kidney problems and high blood pressure and needs regular medical attention. But to seek that treatment means taking hours off of work at a loss of personal income -- and lost income is not counted in health care costs. Brigitte explained her problem:
With the NHS I just couldn’t get an appointment to suit me or the phone was constantly engaged and when I did get an appointment you would be sitting for ages in cramped conditions and then rarely see the same doctor. I have worked all my life, since I was 15-years-old and running a hairdressing salon is a job where time is money and I couldn’t afford to go on like that.

She said that with the NHS it was impossible to get treatment without losing work time and income. Brigitte now uses the first private GP practice to open in Wales. Dr. Jo Longstaffe sent up Independent General Practice three years ago and now has three offices with a fourth opening shortly. She has six doctors working for her and three more on the way.

Our final snapshot of the NHS for the last few days covers the phenomenon of “hidden” waiting lists. It is widely known that socialized health care often results in very long waiting lists. These lists prove a constant embarrassment to the advocates of the system. One way of addressing the problem is to cut the lists. This doesn’t mean that people receive treatment. It just means they are removed from the official waiting list and put on a waiting list for the waiting list. This means they no longer have “guaranteed” treatment within a specific period of time.

The Scotsman reports that “5000 Lothian patients have been switched from main waiting lists on to the ‘availability status code’ list” instead. And while these secondary waiting lists had seen some reductions in recent years they are growing once again. The reason for the growth is that fewer surgeries than needed are provided.
Separately, NHS Lothian was also unable to secure all the surgery time it wanted for patients with coronary heart disease - one of the biggest killers in the region. Local health chiefs asked the Golden Jubilee for four weekly sessions, but were only granted two, later increased to three. Another issue in tackling the level of ASC codes in the Lothians is the need to provide more orthopaedic surgery, such as hip and knee operations. More than 300 plastic surgery and orthopaedic patients have now been sent to the private Murrayfield Hospital instead.

In Scotland alone the “hidden” waiting list has 25,000 people on it who are merely waiting to be moved to the official waiting list. Public Health Minister Shona Robison promises that no one will wait “more than 16 weeks for treatment” and that they will get “rid of hidden waiting lists” -- next year. Apparently it’s another bad hair day for the NHS.

Source







U.K.: Many degrees not worth it

The expansion of university education has reduced the value of some degrees to zero, as more young people join the workforce as graduates, research suggests. Recent male graduates in arts and humanities are earning no more than those who left education after A levels High School], a study from the Institute of Education has found. The results will add to pressure from universities to be allowed to set student tuition fees according to how much a degree subject is valued by employers. At present the majority of universities charge 3,000 pounds a year, the maximum permitted by the Government. Research universities have pressed for a minimum of 6,000.

The research also calls into question the Government’s long-term aim of increasing university participation to 50 per cent of the adult population, up from 43 per cent at present. Anna Vignoles, Reader in Economics of Education in the department of economic, social and human development at the Institute of Education, who led the study, said that a university degree still had a high value in the labour market. However, a surplus of graduates in some nonscientific subjects could mean that those with degrees in the arts or humanities may soon find that they are not able to earn enough to compensate for the amount that they paid for their university education.

“New graduates in these subject areas are earning similar amounts to those with just A levels High school diploma],” she said. “Some graduates in highly valued subjects, such as accountancy, will continue to profit from the amount they spent on their degrees. But others may gain only a small, or even a nil, return to their investment in higher education.” She added that graduates in arts and humanities subjects, such as history, art, French or English literature, had among the lowest earnings.

Accountancy graduates were earning at least 40 per cent more than them over the course of a lifetime. Dr Vignoles, who will present her findings to the annual conference of the British Educational Research Association in London today, suggested that tuition fees should vary according to subject and institution in order to make students realise what different subjects are worth.

The study draws together a number of research papers into the subject, notably a study of graduate earnings by Professor Peter Sloane and Dr Nigel O’Leary at Swansea University. Dr Vignoles’s findings follow earlier research by PricewaterhouseCoopers (PWC), the consultant, which found that the average university leaver can expect to make 160,000 more between the age of 21 and 60 than those who enter the job market with only A levels. Those with degrees in medicine have the highest earnings premium at 340,315, engineering graduates can expect to make 243,730 more, while those with degrees in geography or history make 51,549 more.

But the PWC report also found that with government grants, bursaries, low interest rates and long repayments, graduates could still expect an average financial return on their investment in their degree of 13.2 per cent a year. Bill Rammell, the Minister for Higher Education, said that despite the expansion of higher education, the financial returns to graduates were high by international standards. “Independent analysis suggests the average premium over a working life remains comfortably over 100,000 (before tax) in today’s valuation,” he said. “I’m glad that potential students are increasingly aware of their likely earnings when choosing a course, but it’s also right that they consider the wider nonfinancial benefits like job satisfaction.”

Source

1 comment:

Kim said...

Thanks for the information.