Opinion: NHS "care.data": You Are Not a Patient, You Are a Commodity

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Danfox Davies – PPUK Contributor, Student, Hackerspace Leader

Well, what do you know. The government saw fit to send us a message about the NHS and all the wonderful things they are doing for us with it. The Guardian tells us a bit about it here.

I suppose we should be happy. A comprehensive database will help medical researchers stop epidemics before they start. It will help identify side-effects of drugs that didn't show up in testing... Brilliant, that's joined-up thinking, we should praise the technological awakening of our state healthcare system – the time it saves could even be enough to start reversing the fortunes of some of the hospitals the health secretary seems so eager to close. Big Data, it seems at a glance, may just have saved our NHS. Not that we should be proud of it. No, in fact the government seems to have done its level best to ensure we don't even notice the change has happened, whilst still just about claiming they are fulfilling their legal obligations to inform of these changes to our health service.

Loz Kaye : Drug Prices are Harming Patients

Right across the continent health budgets are under pressure due to austerity programmes. In the UK, a leading group of cancer experts has spoken out saying huge drug prices charged by pharmaceutical companies are putting patients at risk. The message is stark. Over 100 physicians have warned reasonable prices are “a necessity to save the lives of patients who cannot afford them”.  

But in Jeremy Hunt's National Health Service there is no fight for reasonable prices. For example, there's no arguing that the costs of the latest Leukaemia drugs are eye watering. As reported in the Independent, Pfizer's Bosulif costs £76,000 a year. The price tags increase, Ariad's 90 grand a year for Iclusig, Teva's 100 thousand for Synribo. 

What price can you put on someone's life? Quite rightly, we would fight tooth and nail to give our loved ones any chance to survive. But the real question is why these drugs should cost that much at all. The pharmaceutical industry depends on the patent system, which grants years of monopoly for each new product.

t's supposed to be about making new molecules. But what the patent system has ended up doing in healthcare is carving out areas of illness real estate that no-one else can come on to. This keeps prices high. Each area is fiercely protected and marketed. Science writer Ben Goldacre has estimated that about a quarter of what we pay for pharmaceuticals goes on marketing. This system makes perverse incentives to suppress unfavourable trial results, to spend R and D money on drugs similar existing ones to extend patents and to stop successful cheaper drugs being available.

The argument has always been that companies are given exclusive power over life giving drugs because it  allows them to get back their investment.  

Thousands Take to Streets Over Health Cuts

"A New Movement Is Forging"

One of Britain's biggest cities has been witnessing its largest-ever protest - as health cuts draw tens of thousands onto the streets. It's timed to catch members of the governing Conservative Party, who're descending on Manchester for their annual conference. We talked to one of Sunday's protesters to ask what has got the crowds fired up.

Sunday, 29 September, 2013 - 01:00

An evidence based approach to alcohol education

Our current alcohol education methods create the negative response to drinking alcohol. An evidence based approach to educating young people about alcohol and the impact it would both improve education and make it more likely for those who find that alcohol has a negative impact on their lives to seek help.

Equality in blood donation

Restrictions on blood donations from men who have sex with men should be lifted. The focus must be on individual screening and making sure as many people as possible can donate blood and save lives.

Address LGBT health challenges

LGBT people face multiple serious health challenges. The Pirate Party aims to follow the lead of countries like Norway that have comprehensive LGBT public health plans with clear goals. We also need to end the stigma around HIV/AIDS and initiate a national campaign to normalise HIV testing as a routine part of caring for our health.   

Bring appropriate support services back into the NHS

The general public broadly trusts the NHS to deliver services. We all trust the NHS with our lives. In return for that trust, the NHS should ensure that it is using the funds apportioned to it as effectively as possible, even when an effective service isn't the cheapest option.

All the skills to deliver healthcare from start to finish, from cleaning to surgery and from transport to transplants, should be available within the NHS.

Administration by administrators, medicine from medical staff

Given the complexity of running a hospital and the amount of time involved in administration, administrative staff, must be seen as important to ensuring that doctors, nurses and other medical staff can focus on patient care, rather than being seen as a burden. Although NHS resources and spending must be scrutinised and transparent, it is important not to harm services by removing administrative staff and shifting the administrative burden to front-line staff.

Securing the NHS for now and the future

The Pirate Party will require that any legislative, administrative or other changes to the NHS do not have a negative impact on the NHS's primary principles: that it meet the needs of everyone; that it be free at the point of delivery; and that it be based on clinical need, not ability to pay.

Changes to the NHS should be based upon evidence, not ideology. Changes should come from within the health establishment and the NHS wherever possible, with evolutionary change driven by a continuous, democratic and open discussion within the service.


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