Health and the NHS

The hot topics in the health agenda this week are the NHS, unsurprisingly, but also the day to day health of Britons.

The Tories have vowed to outspend Labour on the NHS, but I thought that NHS standards were still falling even though New Labour have put more money into the NHS than ever before? In fact Gordon Brown has increased spending on the NHS overall by £40billion since 2002.

Surely the clever thing to pledge is to make existing money go further to economise and improve efficiency in the service.

According to the Telegraph some Tory right wingers agree with this view:

It risks angering Tory right-wingers who think Labour has wasted taxpayers’ money on public services and want David Cameron to fight the next election promising tax cuts. Source: http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/main.jhtml?xml=/news/2008/02/28/ntory428.xml

These tax cuts however, are looking less likely because shadow Health Secretary, Andrew Lansley, has said the Tories plan to increase NHS spending by £28billion a year.

One question of course, is where this money will magically come from, but according to Mr Lansley the funds will come from “tough” cuts in other government services, though the report doesn’t make it clear which services or what “tough” means.

Along with this announcement comes news that the NHS faces a £1.8billion surplus, a mere 2.8% of turnover, according to details released by the Department of Health.

The issue raised here, aside from why the Tories would want to put more money into a service already underspending, is why patients are being refused vital treatments on financial grounds if there is ‘money to burn’.

Though no one seems to have an answer, the Times reports the NHS has turned a £547million deficit in 2005/6 into a £515million surplus in only a year, and because increases in efficiency have been to effective the surplus has reached these recently announced unprecedented high levels. Source: http://www.timesonline.co.uk/tol/news/politics/article3479152.ece

Therefore the Tories proposals, which are likely to put David Cameron and his Shadow Chancellor George Osbourne under a lot of pressure from back-benchers, will most likely be re-thought since more money in a service in surplus makes no economic sense without a complex re-structuring of the distribution of funds.

The second issue in the press is the fact people are not going to the gym as much as they used to, partly because the celebrity mums on TV make women feel bad about themselves (http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/main.jhtml?xml=/news/2008/03/02/nyummy102.xml).

The golden age of the treadmill has passed, and the British public has turned to eating healthily as a replacement for working off those problem pounds.

The Times reports:

Five years ago, when gyms and health clubs were at the peak of their popularity, 8.7 million of us in Britain were members. But statistics from the accountancy firm Deloitte reveal that 54,000 fewer people took out gym membership during 2007 than they had 18 months previously.

The real question at the end of all this is: are people becoming less interested in their health and more in whether things are healthy or not? (regardless whether they are eating them or doing them)

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What’s up doc(s)?

Apparently doctors, nurses and dentists would rather chose private health care than that of their own organisation: the National Health Service.

There are two sides to this of course, since if a doctor is ill he won’t be able to treat anyone, it makes sense to get better as quickly as possible, and if you want speed you have to pay, which means private health care.

On the other hand if doctors don’t appear to have any faith in the care given by them and their colleagues then what should Jo Public think?

It might be unfair to say that medical staff don’t have faith in the NHS, but that’s the signal they are sending out with this latest set of findings, which say 5% of doctors and 2% of nurses use Bupa, Britain’s biggest private health insurer.

The results come as Bupa announces staff discounts for NHS workers of up to £636 a year. Senior doctors and interest groups were quick to criticise the move since it suggests doctors and nurses have no faith in the service they are providing.

Ben Ummat, a first year medical student at University College London, said:

“The private sector is still ahead of the public one, and even if the two were neck and neck I’d probably still pay rather than wait. It comes down to personal choice, but there’s no doubt the medical community is on shaky ground.”

Despite this apparent faith in private practice, the BBC reports this week that private clinics are not seeing as many patients as they should.

Many private institutions still carry out NHS care, but figures from the Department of Health suggest only four of the 25 centres opened are meeting standards.

The centres were set up to treat minor diagnostic tests and do minor surgeries in a bid to cut waiting times.

When it comes down to it the workers in the NHS have enough medical expertise to make up their own minds what’s best for them, and 5% of the whole doctor population of the UK is hardly an overwhelming majority, which might suggest it’s an overreaction to say workers are ‘losing faith’ in the health service.

For the public, the most important thing is that they get the treatment they want, and have access to it at all times, since it’s their taxes which pay for it, but if they do chose to go private to save some time then who are we to blame them?

Sources:
http://news.scotsman.com/uk/NHS-staff-flock-to-bargain.3786139.jp
http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/health/7240957.stm

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Now playing: Yellowcard – Five Becomes Four
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Cannabis: Drugs are bad, (m’kay)

Of all the drugs in all the world, illegal ones are by far the most ‘cool’.

Sadly this doesn’t amount to the level of street cred films and American TV shows give it, since generally drug users which every day people come into contact are frowned upon, just as cigarette smokers are beginning to be more and more.

Today campaigners for mental health called for warnings on the dangers of cannabis use to be printed on hand-rolled cigarette papers. The company in question, Imperial tobacco, which owns Rizla; the best selling brand of cigarette papers in the UK.

The campaign has been launched by Rethink, a national mental health charity, to call attention to how the company is ‘being irresponsible’ over it’s marketing and representation, claiming more members of the public associate the product with cannabis than tobacco.

It’s true Risla’s are popular among the cannabis smoking festival crowd at least, since year after year the grass at Reading Festival the floor is littered with empty packets, but there are many other negative associations which haven’t had attention called to them to the extent of a campaign.

In many ways it isn’t the company’s fault, the product they sell just happens to have a use which is outside the realms of the law, but how far can that defence hold? Are Limewire, Morpheus and other p2p programs innocent of the piracy going on within them?

Whether the company intended it to be used that way or not, what is true is that warnings do have an impact, and cannabis is a rising concern for police, particularly in young people, since it was down classified to a class C drug in 2004, which led to many young people now believing it to be ‘basically legal’.

The head of campaigns at Rethink, Jane Harris, said:

‘Health warnings work: 12% of people quit smoking as a result of warnings on
cigarette packets. Our research shows that young people want this information –
we think they should receive it as a right.’

Source: http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/health/7226058.stm

Despite the negative press and public scepticism the company remains adamant, a spokesman said:

‘We don’t endorse the illegal use of cannabis using any of our products, and we
meet all the legal requirements with regard to packaging’.

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Now playing: The Vapors – Turning Japanese
via FoxyTunes

A life in film: Heath Ledger

The death of Heath Ledger on January 22 came as one of the biggest shocks to the film industry in recent years. The news travelled quickly, with candlelit shrines being erected, tears being shed and mournful tributes held.

To most he will be remembered for his Oscar Nominated performance as quiet Ennis Del Mar from Brookeback Mountain or perhaps the sadistic psychopath the Joker in the upcoming sequel to Batman Begins: The Dark Knight, but for every admirer there is another person who has never heard of him.

This mixed reaction has been echoed amongst students: “I barely knew who he was until he died.” Said second year Cheryl Pennant-Jones, “As someone who’s only ever seen him in 10 Things I Hate About You, I didn’t know too much about him before.

“It’s a tragic incident though, and I especially feel sorry for his daughter Matilda [2].”

Keen fan Elizabeth Norman, a first year Philosophy and Media student added: “He was someone with great talent, who loved his daughter and will never get to see her grow up which is tragic. He wasn’t afraid to show his emotions and express how much he loved her…in fact it was his unfailing power of emotion that made his name.

“Whatever the film it is clear Heath could both feel and express what he feels deeply on screen.”

Born in Perth, Australia, on April 4 1979, Ledger was only 28 when he was found dead in his Manhattan apartment by his housekeeper. Police Commissioner of the New York Police Paul Browne said “there were pills within the vicinity of the bed” and there was a possibility of drugs being related, but they had no suspicion of ‘foul play’ in his death.

The latest reports suggest Ledger may have suffered a heart attack, since the level of drugs in his system was apparently too low to cause an overdose.

Ledger’s family described the traumatic event as “accidental”, his father Kim said: “We, Heath’s family, can confirm the very tragic, untimely and accidental passing of our dearly loved son.

“Heath has touched so many people on so many different levels during his short life that few had the pleasure of truly knowing him”

Ledger’s impressively vibrant career began on Australian television in 1992 as an extra, but his first breakthrough was on 1996 TV series Sweat, which saw a group of athletically gifted youngsters training in an academy tackled their personal problems.

The first well-known show for Ledger to come into contact with was down under take on Baywatch: Home and Away, when he joined as Scott Irwin. This performance gave him the credibility he needed to play a part in the US-financed series Roar, a medieval drama inspired by Braveheart which earned him a cult following in the US, despite quickly being axed by its US distributor.

Ledger also met the first of his older female partners Lisa Zane, 14 years his senior, who he shared a relationship with in 1997 and followed across the Pacific Ocean to Los Angeles in an attempt to find work.

Unfortunately the now 18 year old actor was less successful in Hollywood than in his native country and was saved when he made his name in the film industry through the Australian film Two Hands in 1999.

Shortly after came one of Ledger’s most well known roles, as Patrick Verona in 10 Things I Hate About You, a modern take on Shakespeare’s Taming of the Shrew alongside teenage heartthrob of the day Julia Stiles.

With this first wave of international success came a downside, Heath felt he was at risk of being typecast into shallow teen-movie roles, and turned down numerous scripts over the next year, his increasingly low finances forcing him to live on noodles and water.

His resolve paid off though when he was cast alongside Mel Gibson in millennium success The Patriot. Ledger played Gabriel Martin, the son of Gibson’s Benjamin Martin, which went a long way in shaking his ‘toy boy’ image and established him in Hollywood as a well-rounded actor.

Along with his latest step up the showbiz ladder came relationships. The first came during the filming of A Knight’s Tale in Prague when Heath met actress Heather Graham (Austin Powers 2) but it went on for only a few months.

In 2001 Ledger began a two year relationship with the star of The Ring Niomi Watts after they met on the set of Ned Kelly. The American, 10 years older than Mr Ledger, was unphased by the age gap: “I think it’s about life experience and not about age. I fell in love with a soul and a person, and his life experience was rich enough that it stimulated me.”

By 2004 Ledger had faded a little from the spotlight as The Sin Eater (a.k.a. The Order) floundered at the box office and he focused more on his private life. The filming of Brookeback Mountain the same year threw Ledger together with Michelle Williams, with whom he had a serious two year relationship and his daughter Matilda.

The film itself had been often dubbed ‘that gay cow boy movie’ in the industry since the story had been floating around for years before it was taken on by the director of Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon, Ang Lee.

Ledger teamed up with Jake Gyllenhaal, who’d previously auditioned for his part in The Patriot, in a story which earned him the Best Actor Oscar Nomination and Best Supporting Actor nominations for his co-stars Gyllenhaal and Williams. Unfortunately for the cast, the films only win was Best Director.

Soon after the media frenzy surrounding Brookeback Mountain died down, Ledger was approached and asked to portray one of the most iconic villains of all time: The Joker.

Seemingly epitomised by Jack Nicholson in Tim Burton’s original Batman film in 1989, Ledger made it clear he wasn’t going to try to ‘do a Jack’ and would play a far darker and more psychotic character, in line with director Christopher Nolan’s gritty re-vision of Gotham City in Batman Begins.

Internet servers went into meltdown when the first picture of how Ledger would look in the film found its way onto the internet in May 2007, and every trailer, poster and interview since has had fans and critics alike ripe with curiosity as to how it will turn out.

However history remembers him there is no doubt that the death of such a young actor is significant, particularly in such delicate times with the recent strikes and the annual Screen Actors Guild Awards.

To his fans in particular, Heath Ledger will remain a symbol of the achievements of the film industry in recent years and proof that the talent seen in glory days of Marlon Brando and Cary Grant’s Golden Age live on through the performances of young actors and actresses.

Introduction and Britain’s water supply

So, ‘blogs’, they tell me.

I was under the impression they were just something to update people about the latest Big Brother gossip or rant about things they don’t like, like a glorified letters section of a broadsheet or, heaven forbid, electronic agony aunt stories.

In fact there’s a code of conduct, a list of ethics by which we should all abide. Many are obvious such as don’t copy people without asking or clearly distinguish opinion from fact, but others are more cryptic, such as ‘recognise common standards of decency’, which raises the question what the definition of all those words is in this complex modern world.

I suppose in order to fill the aforementioned criteria I should point out that they came from an information pack for my Journalism module, for which this blog was created.

We have been split into groups of our own choosing and must each tackle a topic from the following four: Sport, Entertainment, Health and Politics. Since my group members (who’s blogs you can find in the links list on the right) chose politics and entertainment, I chose health, since I have no strong interest in sport whatsoever.

So, without further ado I must endeavour to educate about health, but first what is health? It could mean the National Health Service, which has had numerous trials and tribulations over the last decade to do with improvement of services and efficiency, or perhaps it refers to the day to day health of people and the onslaught of healthy eating and living, or even how new diets and new packaging on products in our supermarkets drive us towards ‘the healthy option’ in a move by government watchdogs to attempt to combat obesity.

Today health ministers have said they back plans to add fluoride to drinking water, because it strengthens children’s teeth. Fluoride itself, commonly found in and advertised on toothpaste tubes across the country, is found in around 10% of the country’s water supply, but only a couple of areas, namely Hartlepool in the North West and parts of Essex, have high enough level to benefit dental health. (source: http://www.dentalhealth.org.uk/faqs/leafletdetail.php?LeafletID=17)

This is what has led to the idea of intruducing it into the water supply as: “effective and relatively easy way” to reduce tooth decay among children in poorer areas. (source: http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/health/7224743.stm) Opponents to the idea claim there is risk of bone cancer from increased levels of the element, and it’s difficult to know how long-term exposure could effect children, since the 6 million people already benefiting from the increased levels in the North West are a minority of the total population, and many water companies are apprehensive to take the idea forward, despite MPs making the process easier in 2003.

Film, Music, Gaming, Technology and Cyberculture

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