Wednesday, 2 June 2010

Not NICE Again!

Swansea city centre last Friday night. NICE!
Another one of these pejorative, interventionist (socialist) medical reports has just been released by one of the UK's many health scare professional quangos, this time calling for enforced national temperance. I have several bones to pick not just with this particular, latest piece of medical meddling in people's lives, but with these kinds of moralising "experts" and this sort of lifestyle intervention nonsense period. They seem to think that if something "costs the NHS" x-billions of pounds, they have the right to launch into moral crusade mode, as if the NHS is some sort of precious thing with a life of its own that must be protected as an institution over and above the people who pay a fortune for it and whom it is bloody well meant to serve, doubleplusungood lifestyle or not. These are the same clowns who helped give us the pub smoking ban, with no discernible impact on smoking rates anywhere seen so far as a result of it, but the destruction of the entire pub industry imminent thanks directly to it. Hewitt's and Labour's masterpiece.

I'm not going to rant too much about this latest here - haven't got the time this morning - but I will say two further things. NICE is the same quango that regularly fails to take on big pharmaceutical corporations to get the price of, for example, life saving cancer drugs down so they are affordable. Instead it simply rations them, but never objects when the NHS iniquitously refuses further free treatment to patients who opt to buy the drugs for thousands of pounds privately. Why does NICE behave like this? Well, I was unsurprised to find out from Private Eye not that long ago (no links, sorry) that a suspicious number of "experts" who work for NICE also have strong connections with big Pharma. Surprise surprise. So it is hardly surprising that I do not trust them when they start pontificating about how people should live their lives. Sure, drink related illnesses kill 10,000 people a year (so they say). But you know what? About 500,000 people died last year, many after prolonged periods of treatment for things like heart disease and cancer and most of those diseases were the product of old age rather than any specific, chronic lifestyle problem.

Of the 500,000 dead, most were over the age of 75 (some 66% of all deaths for 2009, says the ONS). So the real "problem" for the NHS is that better diets, hygiene, sanitation, inoculation, peace, affluence, antibiotics and yes, medical technology, means that Britain's annual death rate is plummeting. And that means the NHS is having to cope with tens of thousands more elderly and infirm bods each year - and guess what, it can't. But it can't talk about that so it allows one of its quangos to go into displacement activity overdrive by talking about binge drinking which, let's face it, is far more a social ("Broken Britain") issue than it is a health issue. Ask anyone who lives in any town centre anywhere in the UK.

That's the general point. The second point is that while there are lots of good reasons to encourage people to live healthier lifestyles, especially if they are drinking too much, smoking, not getting enough exercise and/or taking drugs, you have to give them a reason why. Attempting to force people to drink less by hammering them in the pocket and saying that a) it's for their own good, and b) it's for the good of the NHS (as if some patients are somehow more 'deserving' than others) has never worked, won't work today and will never work in the future. All it will do is hammer the poorest and those millions in Labour heartlands up and down the country living on benefits while annoying the hell out of the middle classes who have done nothing wrong generally speaking (although NICE or that moron Liam Donaldson will doubtless come up with another spurious, anecdotal study on middle class binging), but who will be forced to stump up another chunk of money to fund the biggest bottomless pit the world has ever seen - the NHS.

But that's what this is really all about, isn't it? The National-bloody-Health Service. Well, at least Andrew Lansley, the new health minister, has seen some sort of sense.
"Regarding Nice's recommendations... it is not clear that the research examines specifically the regressive effect on low income families, or proves conclusively that it is the best way to impact price in order to impact demand."
He went on: "The root causes of social problems lie not just in Government policies - although 24-hour drinking legislation has severely undermined clinician and police efforts to get to grips with this problem - but in social norms and peer influence.
"We must work across Government, society, communities and families to challenge negative social norms and promote the positives."
Between the sociology-speak lines, this is more or less a comprehensive rubbishing of the report and a libertarian reading of the causes of the binge culture. A cause for hope, then, if not for celebration. We finally have a health minister with a brain. Next thing he can do is use that brain again to save his department, and us, about, oh, potentially £70 million in 2011 by abolishing Labour's drug-rationing, talkative, 1999 brainchild altogether.
the Institute [has grown since 1999] from an organisation with no staff, premises, or bank account and a nominal budget of £8.5 million a year, to a body now employing over 270 people, with offices in London and Manchester, and an annual budget of £35 million which is set to more than double over the next few years.
...said one of its talking heads last year. Well, there's been an election since then and there will be no need for a shadow, unelected Department of Health, inventing work for itself and expanding its remit daily, from now on thanks all the same. Abolition should be imminent. Well, you decide. Here's its website. It looks suspiciously like another Department of Health to me. So, and I say this with unabashed relish, this report should be that particular expensive quango's swan song.

'NICE' to have known you as they say.


  1. Couldn't agree more. In fact, I even wondered whether NICE knew their demise was imminent and decided to kick the government while they still could.

    Well, I can hope!

  2. Enjoyed your post on the subject, too, Adam. Seems this could well be the beginnings of a little campaign to rid ourselves of this particular expensive talking shop with more power than sense. The first of many shadow/duplicate, unelected government Labour quangos to bite the dust.

    As you say, we can hope!

  3. Hey Denverthen.

    Good post. Luckily we don’t have NICE in Scotland, but we do have something... and it’s loads better. As for the freedom part, I guess we may be more or less in agreement.....

    I truly believe that people should be allowed to drink as much as they want. The way that tax is levied on drink (and cigarettes) in the UK those who are killing themselves with it (and I've known and watched several, including some very very close) pay taxes enough to pay for the pain killers and what have you, and the hospital space they take up in the last couple of years of their lives. They owe us nothing.

    I would however respectfully beg of them that they do it in their own homes, and quietly with the bloody windows shut, if when they are drunk they have a penchant for LOUD music.

    I'm fed up being wary when I'm out in case I look sideways at some drunk or his tart, when they are so slaughtered that they thing that my look of disgust is some sort of lustful glance. [Incidentally fr their information, I'd rather have my foot for dinner than have sex with a drunken cow who didn't manage to sort her knickers the last time she went to the bog, and who isn't quite sure how to form proper words... in English, or Scots, or French or for that matter Latin and has sick on her chin.]

    Freedom is very important to me and I get incandescent when I’m bossed around by some bloody knob-head civil servant. So, as I say, people should be allowed to drink, smoke, eat, go swimming in dangerous water, climb Scottish mountains with just a pair of trackies and some Primark trainers if they want. It’s nothing to do with me or the government or even Mrs McTunshie at number 27 who pokes her bloody nose into everything.

    If they absolutely have to be drink outside, could they please get up early and wash out my close. I’m sick of their piss and vomit in it. They have freedom to drink till they vomit, but I have freedom to leave my house at 8 am without having to pick my way over it (and worse) because they were out and didn’t have a clue where they were, who they were, what they were, or even IF they were.

    He he.... Hope that rant was ok. I believe in freedom of choice, but at the same time I realise that one man’s freedom is often another man’s prison...

  4. Tris: comment of the year! (Put my post in the shade - and made it worthwhile as a consequence ;)

  5. Denverthen: Ach stop it. Your post was superb. It's high time that people were allowed freedom to live their lives without little twerps who knoe jack sh*t butting in all the time. Coucil and government officials who think they know better, and can't deviate one time little bit from the line are an invitation to crime in and of themselves.

    But with freedom comes responsibility, and some people need to learn that (or they will get the benefit of my footwear helping them to get to their destination a wee bit faster <:¬))


Any thoughts?