Monday, October 20, 2014

NHS & Best Health Care: Private Medicine & Porsche!

Do we judge how good a doctor is by the car he drives? I remember medical school friends preferred to seek advice from Ferrari driving surgeons than from Rover driving psychiatrists.

My friend was amazed that I gave up Private Health Care when my wife retired.

“I know you worked for the NHS but there is no guarantee, is there?”

Well, in life you do have to believe in something. The truth is simpler in that after five years from her retirement, the co-payment is 90%.

He worked for one of the major utility companies and had the top-notch coverage.

“The laser treatment for my cataract was amazing and the surgeon drives a Porsche 911.”

Porsche official Website

He was very happy with the results.

“He has to be good, he drives a Porsche.”

Then he started feeling dizzy and having some strange noise problems in one of his ears.

“I saw a wonderful ENT specialist within a week at the same private hospital whereas I would have to wait much longer in the NHS.”

What could one say! We are losing the funny game.

What does he drive?

A Carrera.

Another Porsche.

We are OK then.

Or are we.

He was not any better. And after eight months of fortnightly appointments, the Carrera doctor suggested a mastoidectomy.

Perhaps you should get a second opinion from an NHS consultant. Perhaps see a neurologist.

“I could not believe you said that, his two children are doctors. And he has private health care!” I was told off by my wife.

He took my advice though and he got an appointment within two weeks at one of the famous neurological units at a teaching hospital.

To cut the long story short, he has DAVF.

I asked my ENT colleague if it was difficult to diagnose DAVF.

“Not these days!”

He had a range of treatments and is now much better.

All in the NHS hospital.

“I don’t know what car he drives, but he is good. One of the procedures took 6 hours.”

Best health care.

I always knew: Porsche or otherwise.


Best Health Care: France & The NHS

Friends moved to France after their retirement and lived in one of the wine growing districts.
 ©2008 Am Ang Zhang
They were extremely pleased with the Health Care they received from their doctor locally. After all, not long ago, French Health Care topped the WHO ranking.

Then our lady friend had some gynaecological condition. She consulted the local doctor who referred her to the regional hospital: a beautiful new hospital with the best in modern equipment. In no time, arrangement was made for her to be admitted and a key-hole procedure performed. The French government paid for 70% and the rest was covered by insurance they took out.

They were thrilled.

We did not see them for a while and then they came to visit us in one of our holiday places in a warm country.

They have moved back to England.

What happened?

Four months after the operation they were back visiting family in England. She was constipated and then developed severe abdominal pain. She was in London so went to A & E (ER) at one of the major teaching hospitals.

“I was seen by a young doctor, a lady doctor who took a detail history and examined me. I thought I was going to be given some laxative, pain killer and sent home.”

“No, she called her consultant and I was admitted straight away.”

To cut the long story short, she had acute abdomen due to gangrenous colon from the previous procedure.

She was saved but she has lost a section of her intestine.

They sold their place in the beautiful wine region and moved back to England.

The best health care in the world. 

Now we know.

Let us keep it that way.

Best Health Care: NHS GP & NHS Specialist

Does having a good hunch make you a good doctor or are we all so tick-box trained that we have lost that art. Why is it then that House MD is so popular when the story line is around the “hunch” of Doctor House?

Fortunately for my friend, her GP (family physician) has managed to keep that ability.

My friend was blessed with good health all her life.  She seldom sees her GP so just before last Christmas she turned up because she has been having this funny headache that the usual OTC pain killers would not shift.

She would not have gone to the doctor except the extended family was going on a skiing holiday.

She managed to get to the surgery before they close. The receptionist told her that the doctor was about to leave. She was about to get an appointment for after Christmas when her doctor came out and was surprised to see my friend.

I have always told my juniors to be on the look out for situations like this. Life is strange. Such last minute situations always seem to bring in surprises. One should always be on the look out for what patient reveal to you as a “perhaps it is not important”.

Also any patient that you have not seen for a long time deserves a thorough examination.

She was seen immediately.

So no quick prescription of a stronger pain killer and no “have a nice holiday” then.

She took a careful history and did a quick examination including a thorough neurological examination.


Then something strange happened. Looking back now, I did wonder if she had spent sometime at a Neuroligical Unit.

She asked my friend to count backwards from 100.

My friend could not manage at 67.

She was admitted to a regional neurological unit. A scan showed that she had a left parietal glioma. She still remembered being seen by the neurosurgeon after her scan at 11 at night:

“We are taking it out in the morning!”

The skiing was cancelled but what a story.

Anorexia Nervosa: Chirac & Faustian Pact

Best Health Care: France & The NHS

Saturday, October 18, 2014

Hospital Consultants: Who needs them?

In Bad Medicine, Dr No caused a heated debate about General Practice:

Today’s GPs tend to be shy of their trade roots, not to mention more than a little miffed at the general presumption that they are country cousins to the hospital’s specialists. And so, over recent decades, they have followed the classical route to professionalisation, or, as our friends in the sociology line call it, ‘occupational closure’: defining a unique core body of knowledge gained by training (the vocational training scheme for general practice), the establishment of entry qualifications and lists of accredited registered practitioners (the MRCGP, and the GMC’s GP Register and locally held ‘Performers Lists’) – prior to these developments, any doctor could work as a GP – and the setting up of a professional association – the Royal College of GPs. By these steps, a line in the medical sand has been drawn, demarcating general practitioners from other medical practitioners.

Dr No is not persuaded that an extra year (or two) of training will produce better GPs. Despite assertions to the contrary, general practice is not some form of medical rocket science; it is instead the agreeably specialised but none the less generic practice of medicine which simply does not need extended years of training. Bolting on more years of training will simply increase the divide between those who are fully qualified, and those as yet excluded. There will, if training is extended, be more GPs in training grades, and less in career grades. More seriously, the real learning – which starts with unsupervised practice – will be delayed.

Attempts to change our beloved NHS may indeed be met with the same failure experienced by some other well known brands, sometimes at great cost.

Perhaps politicians can learn from this: you can say all the bad things about the NHS and you can quote how badly we are doing but we still love our NHS for all its short comings.

Just look at the faith we have in our A&E departments to the point that Roy Lilly suggested:

inner city solution; close P'care and put GPs in A&E just like Detroit

There is even argument that GPs cannot do A&E work and A&E doctors cannot do GP work. What has gone wrong with medical training?

There is a very discrete attempt to change the name of A&E to ED.

Wow! Do people never learn from history?

No!!! NHS and A&E. Original please   

So if politicians have not been so interfering and allow us doctors, nurses and patients to make things work together we may indeed have a better NHS. All the analysis on the reform is clear about one thing: someone is going to make money and that means less money for actual health care.

I have maintained for some time that:

Most people in well paid jobs (including those at the GMC) have health insurance. GPs have traditionally been gatekeepers and asked for specialist help when needed. If we are honest about private insurance it is not about Primary Care, that most of us have quick access to; it is about Specialist Care, from IVF to Caesarian Section ( and there are no Nurse Specialists doing that yet), from Appendectomy to Colonic Cancer treatment (and Bare Foot doctors in the Mao era cannot do the latter either), from keyhole knee work for Cricketers to full hip-replacements, from Stents to Heart Transplants, from Anorexia Nervosa to Schizophrenia, from Trigeminal Neuralgia to Multifocal Glioma, from prostate cancer to kidney transplant and I could go on and on. China realised in 1986 you need well trained Specialists to do those. We do not seem to learn from the mistakes of others.

So do you really think that hospitals are not necessary, or not necessary for the average citizen of England. Soon they will be sold and it will be costly to buy them back.

What about medical training? If these hospitals are sold, who pays?

And watch out, someone, your parent, your spouse, your child and even your MP may need a Hospital Consultant one day. 

Soon rationing of health care will start. Only the view of flowers will be free!  Or at least of my photos:
©2013 Am Ang Zhang
©2013 Am Ang Zhang
©2013 Am Ang Zhang
Latest from Colin Leys

Decisions being made on the ground, however, suggest that the policy is being pushed ahead without public debate. In July NHS London explained its thinking on the reconfiguration of hospitals in the capital. Eight of London’s A&E units were to close. In their place ‘minor injury’ and ‘urgent care’ units would be opened, but located ‘away from hospitals to prevent people entering A&E unnecessarily’. Some of the eight targeted A&E departments have already been closed or are scheduled to close, and Lewisham’s would have been until Mr Hunt’s decision to close it was ruled unlawful. So it seems fair to suppose that concentrating A&E and maternity services – and the necessary depth of other supporting services – in a few very large hospitals, and in effect closing many of the rest, is one half of the model that NHS England are pursuing.


Quality premium will be paid to CCGs that achieve targets set by the board, including reducing avoidable emergency admissions, rolling out the friends and family test, reducing incidence of healthcare associated infections and reducing potential years of lives lost through amenable mortality.

A new game will start: Hospital Avoidance!!!

The part of Health Care  delivered by Hospital Consultants will be severely rationed. Many so called Foundation Trust Hospitals would be in severe financial difficulties as the new CCGs will be rationing Hospital based work from A & E to Stent procedures so that the FT Hospitals will be forced to make money from private work and mainly from overseas as most citizens are still paying for the collapse of the likes of RBS, Northern Rock & HBOS.

Just look at A & E, Urgent Care Centres are set up by the new CCGs to avoid paying hospitals and if you use OOH or A & E too often, you might by removed from their list. There will be other life style excuses to exclude even Type 2 Diabetes.

Waiting time may once again be used as an excuse for rationing and this may be because of the 49% private work load. Who knows, would many consultant still be with the State side of NHS? My dentist went totally private years ago and never looked back. Do we really have such short memories?

If you do not believe the plot, the tactics are already in place to separate Primary and Secondary Health Care: 

Care pathways
Case management
Demand management
Clinical and financial alignment
Risk stratification

Inappropriate referrals
Referral protocols 

Rules-based medicine
Referral management systems 

Admission avoidance

Doctors will not be involved to avoid problems with the GMC!!!

Thursday, October 16, 2014

NHS: Sunset & Endgame!

©Am Ang Zhang 2013 

It is like a game of chess! We must predict the next move by Clinical Commissioning Groups (CCGs). Or was it really the DoH?  Looks like endgame though.                            
Enter CCGs.

Soon, they may stop or refuse to pay for A&E attendances or their resultant admissions. Hospitals depend on that income. Other hospital referrals could be rationed.

Why are privateers so keen on GPs and CCGs. It is about controlling the flow to the hospital. Private patients need the specialist times and there is no better way than to control the flow.

If that takes time, help might be there: close some hospitals or what they are allowed to do. An excuse could be found easily.

In the new world order, they will fail and be closed or be bought by private companies. We have the regulator called Monitor that will see to it.

Is it really that difficult to grasp!

When there are not enough specialists to go round in any country money is used to ration care.

Rationing of Health Care is unpopular at the best of times and different ways have been tried by the previous governments first through Fund Holding and later PCTs.  

It would have been very unpopular for PCTs to continue to ration health. They have been doing it one way or another and it has been a costly exercise for some PCTs. 

It has even caused unnecessary deaths.

Like private companies, when one fails change the name, same staff, slight changes in titles. Same with regulators too. Just look around.

The current concern for the NHS Reform is perhaps too focused on privatisation. We ignore what CCGs could do at our own peril.

The main aim by some very clever people in government is that somehow there must be a way to limit health spending.

Integration of Health Care now carries a new meaning: integrated as long as it is all within the remit of Primary Care and not between Primary and Secondary Care. Yet there is only so much that Primary Care can do unless they started employing their own consultants and running there specialist hospitals. That is one way of saving money.

The other way is to refer to Any Qualified Provider, the new NHS speak for Private Providers. Better still if these are owned by the same organisations that own some of the GP practices. Believe me, it is already happening and it will spread.

How could this be done? Simple, NHS Foundation Hospitals will not stand a chance if they have to continue with the expensive and unprofitable conditions or expensive dialysis and Intensive Care that many private insurers will not touch. 

The new structure of HSCB is perfectly geared towards failing FT Hospitals. Some will survive through high levels of private work for those from wealthy countries. There is only a limited number of specialists to go round in England and in fact in most countries.

Which means that there will be a long waiting list for NHS patients!!!

Rationing by any other name.

Latest view from Hosptal Dr:
Do we really believe that CCGs, which this month ‘go live’, are going to be able to drive this? I keep hearing that hospital directors sit down with CCG representatives and agree all sorts of things for more progressive services; the CCG representative goes away, then makes contact a couple of days later saying they don’t have the authority to agree any of those issues they discussed. The hospital director shrugs their shoulders and gets back to the daily ‘fire fighting’.

The CCGs don’t have the authority, and the hospitals don’t have the resources.

So, that leaves the NHS Commissioning Board? Well, as far as I’m aware, they’re keen to offer support for reconfiguration as long as that support doesn’t actually cost them anything.

If you needed an example of how difficult reconfiguration is to broker in the NHS, just look at what a mess the national paediatric heart surgery review has become.

It leaves me to conclude that the government and the NHS can have all the policy in the world about how it is going to change, but unless it is significantly incentivised (and I’m not including ‘hospital failure’ as an incentive) then not much is going to change.


A big portion of the NHS money will now be spent in the counting houses of the new Commissioning Offices. Gradually more and more of that money will be re-distributed to Privateers.

Those who could afford to will now get their own Health Insurance and when the Insurers refuse to cover some conditions you may have to return to the NHS. But who knows, it might just be too late then as those hospitals may no longer be there

In Health Care, death is irreversible.

Soon the sun will set!

In the new NHS, everything will be about payment by results, because this is all the private contractors are interested in. All “clinical encounters” have to have an easily definable, objectively measurable end point.

But what about chronic conditions? Or treatments where the chances of success are low and complications high?

This is what saddens me: what were once the NHS’s strengths – resources, expertise and the united focus on the patient – are being replaced by a fragmented and atomised service, bound not by a duty of care but by a contract and driven, not by what is best for the patient, but by the cost of the encounter. It will be a slow, insidious creep but it’s coming. Be prepared. This is the way the NHS ends: not with a bang but a whimper.

Best Health Care: France & The NHS


Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Winter's Tale & NHS: Death of Leader's Child

The RSC predicted the demise of the NHS when they last performed the Winter's Tale. The Cockroach Catcher was there!

Yet there  is so much we can learn from Shakespeare! The King offended Apollo and his heir was dead!!
Hansard fell on stage at Winter's Tale
Tristram Kenton Guardian

O sir, I shall be hated to report it!
The prince your son, with mere conceit and fear
Of the queen's speed, is gone.
How! gone!
Is dead.
Apollo's angry; and the heavens themselves
Do strike at my injustice.

(Act 3, Scene II). The Winter’s Tale.
 .........Apollo chose to kill King Leontes' heir brought him to his senses but by then it was all too late. As he left the stage the two giant bookcases that we barely noticed started to collapse towards the middle of the stage with all the “books” falling onto different parts of the stage. It was real and scary. Civilisation must indeed be coming to an end!

Our party was sitting by the stage and so we all tried to pick up some of the torn pages: WOW!

All the books were indeed hard cover bound Hansards. (Hansard: The Official Report of the proceedings of the main Chamber of the House of Commons, United Kingdom.) How topical. One page was Hansard 1950 with questions on the new NHS. We duly put the pages back on stage for re-reuse.
Most if not all reviewers missed this powerful metaphor.

Hermione's blood stained post partum garment

RSC Website.
Hermione: "You pay a great deal too dear for what's given freely". -

(Act I, Scene I). The Winter’s Tale.

Despite the hard work by a few bloggers, most of the NHS reform are in place one way or another and some say that to kill it now would mean that there will be none of the old NHS left anyway.

Modern day government way ignore the public and even Parliament. If the NHS is dismantled long before any legislation, how can one save it.

In my work I have seen great injustice of parents wrongly accused of abuse and children removed from them. After eventually proving themselves the courts decided that it would be too disruptive to return the children to them. 
Looks like the same tactic is being used in this the biggest shake up of the NHS.

The NHS have many faults and most of them due to government policies. Mid Saff. happened because of central policy.

The government's mistakes started with GPs and OOH, then MTSA and now the reform that will totally dismantle this great institution. The government did not know that they had the specialists on the cheap for years and like the cheap OOH care from GPs, they are giving it up.

But why should they care, private health insurance will take care of that.

Please do not forget, many will not cover dialysis or intensive care. So be careful Prime Minister when you eat in Germany as it will not be any good catching one of those E. Coli food poisoning.

The NHS does its best to deal with the consequences but it is the politicians who have to frame society and its response in terms law and policy who have failed. Who pays for the elderly mentally frail, who makes the laws to change our diets and lifestyle? They have no idea what to do to make us thin and care for us humanely and cost effectively as we get older.

Demanding headroom and cuts to NHS budgets as an excuse to deal with problems politicians are too timid to address is not the answer.  

Shoving the NHS into the arms of the private sector will not solve the problem it simply passes the buck.

The editorial prompted a discussion on Radio Four’s Today programme, featuring Dr Godlee and a Dr Charles Alessi. Dr Godlee remained firmly un-updated. Dr Alessi, on the other hand, appeared either to have tuned in or plugged in, for he was fully updated.

As well he might be, as Chair of the National Association of Primary Care, a pro-reform outfit not only aligned with the equally pro-reform NHS Alliance, but also partnered with a lugubrious assembly of drug companies, management stooges and American connected vultures hovering in the hope of rich NHS pickings.

How one would save money by allowing private providers to take profits from us is beyond my comprehension and a few other bloggers.

Personally, there is too much vested interest by a few GPs and Hospital Consultants in the reform as they are going to make a lot of money out of this. 

So would private providers. Many hospitals are in prime sites for property development. Billions to be made by someone.

England will again return to its old class system, those with and those without: Private Insurance.

Abandon the NHS internal market:
“……So the internal market has failed because it does not consider the health of the nation as a whole, merely the finances of a single hospital department, a local hospital or GP practice…….”

Here is the advice:

“……Let us go back to the old discipline of the NHS. Let the professionals manage medicine, empower the professionals, the doctors and nurses and shove the internal market in the bin and screw down the lid…….”

Abandon PPP/PFI:

PFI makes me particularly angry. It is a guaranteed loan to property investors, where high-rate mortgage payments are kept off-balance to reduce the country’s declared debt. In other words, it’s the Enron of the NHS. This is money the NHS has committed to leave frontline healthcare for the next 35 years.

"In other countries this would be called looting, here it is called the PPP."                                       Boris Johnson: Mayor of London.
Private Finance Initiatives are intended to harness private funding for public building projects, such as schools and hospitals.
Under the schemes, introduced in the 1990s and expanded under Labour, private firms pay for work on buildings, then lease them back to local authorities on a contract of up to 25 years.
PFI: £23 Billion in 30 years                                                 More>>>>

If we are not careful, the NHS will move towards the same model of NHS Trusts and PCTs with highly paid CEOs and their management staff. Below them a number of highly dispensable doctors, nurses and other workers. Firing of staff is the norm to balance the books in the NHS.

Look at what happened to Out Of Hours service and hospital weekend and holiday manpower levels and you will know what I am talking about.

Unfortunately, it may be too late to try and bring back the good will that has kept the OLD NHS going for so many years. The good will that was slowly destroyed by modern management ways and silly Pavlovian bonus culture.  

"The fault, dear Brutus, is not in our stars,

But in ourselves."
Julius Caesar (I, ii, 140-141)