Unhealthy Reporting

MortalityBritain is failing to keep pace with improvements in public health in other Western countries despite NHS spending tripling over the past 20 years.

So says The Telegraph following the publication of a report in the Lancet on life expectancy in the UK and it really does annoy me. Not that we can expect to slip off this mortal coil a few years early, but the way that journos and those with a drum to bang link things that aren’t necessarily connected.

In this instance the three link connection is NHS spending, ill health and life expectancy.

So let’s start at the beginning, why should higher spending on health services improve health? Apart from the relatively small amounts that the NHS spends on health education, the vast majority of the budget goes on treating the problems after they occur. If anything, higher spending can be seen as a response to more ill health, not the other way round.

Which leads us to sickness itself. The authors of the study tell us that the big risk factors are tobacco, obesity, alcohol, lack of exercise and poor diet, none of which the NHS can influence directly.

Then life expectancy. The NHS does have a role play in providing treatments that put right the health problems after they happen, or at least in prolonging life, but again social and attitude factors play a part.

We know that people living in poorer areas are likely to turn up at their doctor’s surgery with a problem than those in more affluent areas and the later you present, the less successful the outcome.

But my fundamental point is – don’t blame the NHS if you’re ill. It isn’t their fault.

Nobody’s prefect. If you find any spelling mistakes or other errors in this post, please let me know by highlighting the text and pressing Ctrl+Enter.

4 comments… Add yours
  • John g 17th March 2013

    Alcohol seems to be a huge factor in the admissions I see to hospital
    V sad

    • Mr Parrot 18th March 2013

      Very true John. I know a nurse who works on a ward for people who have destroyed themselves with alcohol. It is tragic.

  • National Health Pudding 18th March 2013

    So many privileged right wing journalists arrive at conclusions about the NHS without rationally addressing the “evidence”. From my own frontline user observations, the service that the NHS provides has become more slick and professional over the past thirty years. It would be beneficial to the health of ordinary fellow citizens if Cameron, Osborne and Clegg were found floating in the Thames with their guts bloated like dead farm animals and if northern revolutionaries in scarlet bandanas torched the offices of “The Telegraph”. I’m just saying…. (nod to RWP)


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