- Are you being given the wrong advice by experts you trust?
- “40 treatments that won’t help you”, scream the mainstream media.
- Here’s why I find this story so annoying…
Did you see this in the news a few weeks ago?
It was all over the mainstream media, so it’s most likely you saw headlines like this:
Doctors reveal 40 treatments that bring ‘little or no benefit to patients’
The story goes like this…
In a study from 2015, 82% of doctors said they’d prescribed or carried out treatments which they knew weren’t necessary.
So this year, The Academy of Medical Royal Colleges came up with a list of forty treatments that bring little or no benefit to patients.
Things that “don’t help” include the following…
• Having a fluid drip while under the influence of alcohol
• Getting X-rayed for lower back pain
• Plaster casts on most small fractures in the ankles of adults and wrists of children
• Blood tests to diagnose the menopause, if women are over 45
• Imaging for minor head injuries
• Saline solution for cuts – quality tap water is just as effective
• Screening for prostate cancer due to family history (it doesn’t extend life)
• Medical treatment for children with chronic constipation – changes to diet should be tried first
• Coming into hospital the day before surgery
• Electronic monitoring of the baby’s heart in labour if there’s not a high risk of complication
There were a 30 more listed, but these were some of the ones that were most quoted in the press stories.
But why this campaign now?
According to The Academy of Medical Royal Colleges, there were two reasons.
The first being…
‘We all have a duty to look after resources in healthcare, especially when the NHS is under so much pressure”.
OK, so in the first instance this is about a struggling NHS. There’s politics involved here… because you could ask WHY the NHS is under pressure and all kinds of reasons might crop up that have nothing to do with nagging patients or over-cautious doctors.
The second reason the Academy of Medical Royal Colleges give is this:
“What’s much more important is that both doctors and patients really question whether the particular treatment is really necessary. Medicine or surgical interventions don’t need to be the only solution offered by a doctor and more certainly doesn’t always mean better.”
In other words…
Doctors need to stop offering treatments that aren’t the right solution for the problem…
And patients need to stop pressuring doctors for treatments without knowing all the facts.
Now, while I totally agree with this in principle, I found this whole campaign, and the sheep-like press response, totally infuriating.
And here’s why…
Alternative medical practitioners have been saying this same thing for years, to pretty much MOCKERY in the mainstream press, and by the medical establishment.
In media stories and government pamphlets people are constantly told to do what the doctor says above all else – to trust medicine. Trust the big companies who make the medicine. Trust the “machines that go ping” in the hospital.
We aren’t freely given advice and knowledge that empowers us to question the doctor or understand the alternatives.
Yet when people do seek information and alternative help they’re made to feel like they’re endangering themselves by falling into the clutches of flaky naturopaths, reckless quacks, non-expert opinions and unproven therapies.
Or they’re told “for heaven’s sake don’t Google a medical condition, self-diagnosis is a bad idea”.
So what do most people do instead?
At the first sign of a problem they go to their local surgery. They sit and listen to an expert tell them to take painkillers, go for an x-ray or scan or operation…
And why should they argue otherwise?
This is precisely why the People’s Doctor started up our service – not to challenge doctors or argue against science, but to empower you to question what they are doing, understand the many alternatives, and find ways to avoid going to the GP in the first place.
The problem is that a rushed, stressed doctor doesn’t have time to sit and talk to you about the other issues in your life that might be affecting your health.
It’s not in their remit to talk about exercises levels, diet, posture, sleep issues and emotional problems.
So in order to satisfy a worried patient, they reach for the nearest medical procedure. And patients, desperate for any solution, accept it willingly.
For instance, on Thursday I told you about my knee pain problem in my 30s . The doctor sent me for an x-ray and gave me painkillers, but it was only when I went to see a Pilates expert that I realised I had musculoskeletal problems that were responsible for the pain.
It also annoyed me to see the that “electronic monitoring of the baby’s heart in labour” is one of the unnecessary procedures.
When my wife was in labour, we were desperate to make the process as natural as possible, but because the baby was long overdue she was wired up to the monitor right away, even when there was no risk, and they refused to let her escape from the darned thing.
I don’t blame the staff, but they were obsessed with avoiding any possible problems at the expense of common sense.
But there’s a final reason the media’s reporting of this campaign annoyed me.
So what about statins then?
Most outlets covered the story by effectively reprinting the press release or repeating the claims on the Academy’s website.
But none pointed out that there’s been a huge argument lately about an “unnecessary procedures” with far bigger implications.
In Britain GPs are widely prescribing statins to any patient with a 20% risk or more of developing heart disease.
But reputable experts have cast serious doubt on this. In 2014, a GP and cholesterol expert Dr Malcolm Kendrick claimed that trials into statins were sponsored by biased drug companies who ignored the serious side effects.
Also, the deputy chairman of the British Medical Association, Dr Kailash Chand has claimed that the widespread prescription of statins is “a commercialisation device” and not in patients’ best interests.
This is just one big example. There are a lot more drugs and treatments that are dished out which might not have the benefits claimed… but when they’re part of a massively profitable and influential pharmaceutical industry they seem to drop off the radar somewhat, don’t they?
If you’re interested in finding out more, please read this: An urgent statement on the statins row
Anyway, I’d be interested to know what you think about this list of unnecessary treatments! Send me an email if you have any stories, feedback or opinions on it.