Thursday, 23 February 2012

Health Scare Stories Du Jour

1. From The Daily Mail:

Mothers who are struggling to get their babies to sleep should consider how much caffeine they are consuming, according to a breast feeding expert. Drinking coffee, tea and soft drinks and even eating chocolate increases the level of the stimulant in the blood. Babies can become restless, awake and irritable, when it is passed on through a mother's milk.

Dr Ruth Lawrence, editor of the journal Breastfeeding Medicine, said that babies have difficulties in breaking down and removing the drug from their bodies especially in their first two weeks of life. This can lead it to accumulate causing adverse symptoms...

The "first two weeks of life"? They'll get over it.

2. While tracking that one down, I stumbled across another coffee/breast related shocker from 2008:

Drinking more than three cups of coffee a day can apparently reduce the size of women's breasts. But it also reduces the risk of cancer, researchers say.

Swedish oncologist Dr Helena Jernstroem said a gene - which half of women have - could react and cause them to a drop a bra size. But she added: "Coffee-drinking women do not have to worry their breasts will shrink to nothing overnight. They will get smaller but the breasts aren't just going to disappear."

Hmm, small boobs or cancer? Not a tough choice, is it?

3. Finally, our GPs are so incompetent, they can't tell whether a patient is alive or dead:

Doctors were receiving money for more than 95,000 people who should have been removed from practice lists in England and Wales, investigators found. Some payments were made for patients who died more 40 years ago.

But many more ghosts may yet be uncovered; there are 52.5 million people in England but 55 million names registered with GPs. With doctors being paid £65 for each patient on their lists, it could mean as much as £162million a year is lost to the NHS...

However, the British Medical Association warned there were reports of ‘over-zealous list cleaners’ removing valid – often vulnerable – patients.

They calculated the £162 million as 2.5 million duplicate/non-existent patients x £65 a year. That's probably woefully understated, as there must be some people who aren't registered with a GP at all.

Interesting use of the word 'vulnerable'. If they come in for regular treatment, then clearly they are valid patients and are not being neglected; if they don't, then why don't the GPs try and track them down to find out why not?


Steven_L said...

Interestingly, the key case on dishonesty - R v Ghosh [1982] - also involved a doctor on the fiddle.

Claiming money for dead patients, hmmm.

I guess you can make a section 2 fraud out of that. You'd need to prove that they knew that the patients in question may have been dead.

Mark Wadsworth said...

SL, good point re the Ghosh test.

Now, there is also a general rule in English law that if you receive money to which you have no reason to believe you are entitled, then you have to hold it on trust, you cannot bank it as income. If a doctor hasn't seen a patient for x years, then a reasonable person would assume that that person has moved away or is dead, or at least, so robustly healthy that the GP is not deserving of any payment for merely holding a card on a file - it's cheaper keeping old cards than it is to laboriously sift through them all regularly and chuck out the dormant ones and do the corresponding report to the NHS.

Kj said...

I've wondered about why GPs get payments per person on their list. Am I wrong to assume it's a deal between GPs and the NHS as a quid pro quo for lower reimbursement for actual spent hours in consultation -> thereby reducing the incentive for the doctor to induce more appointments than necessary?

Bayard said...

"Mothers who are struggling to get their babies to sleep should consider how much caffeine they are consuming"

Or drink more alcohol, apparently, it comes out in the milk, too.

Mark Wadsworth said...

Kj, no, it's a quid pro quo whereby the GP's get more money and the taxpayer gets... er.

B, 'xactly. Mums need the coffee to keep them awake because they don't get enough sleep because the kids are awake all night etc etc.