Gina Davidson: Dose of reality right for NHS

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WHEN my first son was a baby he suffered terribly from eczema, but as a mum who was caught up in the first-time frenzy of believing that jars of baby food were the work of the devil and that disposable nappies were killing the planet, the thought of using a steroid cream on this shiny new being, was 
laughable.

So I looked for an “alternative” and took him to a herbalist. A bag of chamomile flowers and some other dried plantlife later for sprinkling in his bath water, I thought I’d found a cure.

It didn’t work. So I went back and got some more. Then a tincture. By this time I’d forked out around £60 and his eczema was getting worse. So much so, that I ended up in near tears at the GP, who prescribed hydrocortisone cream while shaking his head at the very idea I’d been trying to clear up a skin complaint with the contents of a kitchen herb rack. Within days the eczema had gone.

Of course, not everyone who has used an alternative health process, or gone to see a homeopath to deal with their ailments, experiences the same failure as I did. The placebo effect can work wonders – especially when it’s costing you a fortune.

But that doesn’t mean such remedies should be offered by the cash-strapped NHS. Quite rightly NHS Lothian has decided to stop funding its £250,000 homeopathic service after a public consultation found that more than 70 per cent of people thought it should do so.

Rather ironically the decision was announced in the same week that the Scottish Medicines Consortium (the body that approves real drugs for use) said it would not allow the NHS to use a highly effective breast cancer drug, Afinitor – because of the price.

Afinitor is a drug which has undergone scrupulous tests and actually been proven to prolong the lives of women with metastatic breast cancer. The £250,000 that NHS Lothian will save from not financing homeopathy is probably a drop in the ocean of Afinitor costs, but it surely proves the argument that the NHS should not be funding alternative remedies which have never been scientifically proven (no matter what the mostly middle-class recipients might claim) while it can’t afford drugs which can save lives.

Then there’s also the concern that patients offered homeopathy might well ignore conventional medicine that can actually help them deal with their condition, with all the consequences that might bring. You only need to look at Apple’s Steve Jobs, who died two years ago from pancreatic cancer for an example of that. Rather than go through the surgery and chemotherapy his doctors, family and friends urged on him when he was diagnosed, he tried to cure himself through acupuncture sessions.

Of course homeopaths will say they’re there to complement conventional medicine rather than replace it, but the NHS isn’t for funding things that people quite like but which serve little medical use. Three years ago the Commons science and technology committee said the NHS should stop funding homeopathy, and the BMA has agreed.

Perhaps if it did, across Scotland, then drugs like Afinitor, or others, might become more affordable.

TRUE CHAMPION

ANDY Murray is a real champion – not just because he won Wimbledon, which was magnificent, but because the day after, he went back to Centre Court and wanted to thank the groundstaff. True class.

Hearty snack not so healthy

THE logo which supermarket Lidl is using to brand its Scottish produce is a heart-shaped Saltire. The logo for Healthier Scotland, the Scottish Government’s campaign to make us eat better, is a heart-shaped Saltire. As Harry Hill might say: “Fight!”

While I’m all for campaigns to improve the national diet – especially as obesity levels are rising in the Lothians, in particular in homes which contain no mirrors – you would surely have to be a strung out sugar-addicted shopper to think that Lidl’s millionaire shortcake slices are in any way sanctioned by the government as healthy.

No choice but to accept lack of one

IT’S the time of year when parents are tearing their hair out over school placement requests. The frustration that you can’t get your child into the school you want is rooted in a complete lack of control over the process. And it must feel even worse when a school has room in P1 but won’t take more kids in case it could affect class sizes when they get to P4.

Parents can rage as much as they like, nothing will change. Even if they go to court, they’ll fail. The only way to circumvent the process is to turn parents into liars about their home address.

So surely like the right to buy, parental school choice should now be consigned to history? Otherwise why bother with catchment areas at all?

Make every sun day a holiday

WE’RE not very good with weather are we? Last week summer was never coming, this week it’s been so hot that the railways were melting. Perhaps to alleviate the struggle to work in the heat, a political party – perhaps the Greens with their love of sandals – could move to have a bylaw passed that whenever there’s impromptu glorious sunshine, an Edinburgh holiday is declared?

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