Posts Tagged NHS

Can video gaming help save lives?

Gamers get a bad rep in society (no seriously, we did a panel on it at QED) but every year gamers of all kinds get together to do something brilliant: Extra Life. What is Extra Life? It’s a fundraising event started by gamers back in 2008 which has raised over $40 million for children’s hospitals. Each year from November 3rd people all over the world stream marathons of games of all kinds: from video games to Dungeons and Dragons. They do it not for prestige or fake internet points, but to fund lifesaving treatments for sick kids.

A blue background with a family (two parents, two kids, two grandparents) playing a board game. Over is white lettering saying "game day is November 3!" and the Extra Life logo with the tagline "play games, heal kids" plus the logo for the Children's Miracle Network Hospitals'"

MSS have never been involved with Extra Life before, but this year more than any other it’s something I feel strongly about so I reached out. Why?

On April 28th a little boy named Alfie Evans passed away from an untreatable, progressive neuro-degenerative disorder. If you’re a layman like me, translation: he was born with a rare genetic disorder that affected his brain and got worse over time. You may have heard of Alfie Evans, probably not for the excellent work of the doctors and nurses who treated him during his 18 month stay in the ICU at Alder Hey Children’s Hospital here in Liverpool, but for the extended legal case between Alfie’s parents and Alder Hey which dominated the news in the early part of this year.

You can read more about the case all over the internet, but it is an unfortunate example of where religious agenda, poor media reporting and pseudoscience can harm not only patients; but hospitals and scientific institutions who become embroiled in their controversy. It is estimated that Alder Hey Children’s Hospital spent over £145,000 in legal fees during the case which concluded that continued life support was ‘unkind and inhumane’, and with pediatric ICU beds costing the NHS around £2000 per day that could amount to an additional £250,000 during the time where Alfie was kept on ventilators against doctors advice.

However, people’s lives are worth more than money: and the most heartbreaking thing about this case was not the NHS funds that could have been used elsewhere but the unnecessary suffering endured by Alfie himself, the exploitation of Alfie’s parents grief and the abuse of Alder Hey staff at the hands of misinformed protesters dubbed ‘Alfies Army’. My thoughts go out to Alfie’s parents, the families of seriously ill children everywhere, and I stand in solidarity with the medical professionals who work bravely and tirelessly each day to do what is objectively best for their patients. Even in the face of hostility from media and misguided public opinion.

A photo of Alder Hey Children's Hospital - the hospital was recently redesigned and rebuilt using ideas from children. Two of the blocks of windows are surrounded by coloured tiling and the roof is curved and sloped.

Alder Hey Children’s Hospital

So this year for Extra Life MSS are kindly donating £250 to Alder Hey, thank you! November 3rd has come and gone, but it’s not too late to join in by donating yourself, or watching and supporting an Extra Life stream to see what all this gamer stuff is about.

A photo of Lana's face. Lana is white with blondish red, straight hair just past her shoulders. She's wearing a black top and smokey dark eye make up. She is looking at the camera and smiling.

Lana Donaghy

Lana Donaghy is a former games developer and professional video gamer: spending years questing through Azeroth, competing with some of the world’s top World of Warcraft players. These days Lana works in software development and is still a devoted gamer who loves esports. If you want to read more of her ramblings and obscure video game jargon or see pictures of her cat you should check out her twitter @lanadonaghy

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NHS Liverpool CCG ends funding for homeopathy

Today, NHS Liverpool CCG officially voted to decommission their homeopathy service, ending the annual spend of NHS funds in the area on the disproven remedies. The decision came about as a result of a review which was prompted by the legal challenge brought by our friends at the Good Thinking Society in February 2015.

The review involved a formal public consultation and an online survey to understand how much support existed for homeopathy in the public, and particularly within Liverpool. We asked for supporters of the Merseyside Skeptics Society to let the CCG know your feelings, and we really are delighted to say that you came through, with 64% of Liverpool residents responding to call for an end to homeopathy funding.

Today’s result is a great victory for evidence-based medicine and for skeptical activism. It also convinces us even further of the importance of skeptical voices being involved in these public consultations. Currently, NHS Wirral CCG is undergoing a similar consultation to that of Liverpool, and they also have an online survey seeking your feedback. We hope we can rely on your support there too, and together we can help ensure that limited NHS funds in the North West are reserved for treatments that actually work.

Finally, it’s important to reiterate that this decision came about as a direct result of the work done by the Good Thinking Society. Their statement on the decision is below, and if you appreciate their work you can show your support by making a small monthly or one-off donation to help keep them going.

 

NHS Liverpool CCG ends funding for homeopathy

3736069_1426544235.2609_funddescription-300x225The Good Thinking Society welcomed today’s decision by NHS Liverpool CCG to decommission homeopathy services. The decision comes after months of public consultation which showed overwhelming support from Liverpool residents for an end to funding.

The report on the consultation, which came about after Good Thinking’s legal challenge to the CCG in February 2015, concluded that 64% of Liverpool residents consulted and 73% of overall respondents wanted to stop homeopathy funding immediately.

Interestingly, the report also found that many respondents did not understand the true nature of homeopathy, suggesting that the number of people calling to an end to the treatment may have been higher if it had been clearer that homeopathic remedies are not the same as ‘herbal’ or ‘natural’ remedies, and in particular that homeopathic remedies typically contain no active ingredient at all.

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Have your say on NHS Homeopathy funding in the Wirral

3736069_1426544235.2609_funddescription-300x225Last year, skeptical charity the Good Thinking Society successfully challenged NHS Liverpool CCG over their decision to spend over £30,000 per year on homeopathic remedies. Given that homeopathy has proven to be nothing other than placebo, they argued that spending any money at all on this treatment was unjustifiable and possibly unlawful, and we at the Merseyside Skeptics Society supported them full. We’re expecting the results of the consultation soon, but meanwhile some of the few remaining CCGs to still fund homeopathy are beginning to conduct their own consultations, with NHS Wirral CCG next to seek the opinions of the public on the funding of homeopathy.

Please take a moment to share your thoughts with the CCG via their online survey, which is open to everyone, even if you are not a resident of the Wirral: https://www.surveymonkey.co.uk/r/WHDHW3X

This is a rare chance for us to make our opinions known. Liverpool CCG’s online consultation doubtlessly received responses from a great deal of homeopathy supporters, which we were hopefully able to balance out with the views of members of the general public, including scientists and rationalists. It is almost certain that this consultation by Wirral CCG will receive just as much attention from supporters of homeopathy. If supporters of evidence based medicine don’t speak up, the consultation will be swamped with homeopathy fans and funding may continue.

It takes less than 5 minutes for you to do your part to ensure the reputation of the NHS is not used to lend credibility to a system of alternative medicine that can offer no benefits to patients. Take the survey now >>

If you’d like to understand more about the consultation, the accompanying pages offer some insights into the issues surrounding homeopathy in the Wirral.

Once you’ve taken the survey, be sure to share it with friends and colleagues – the more support NHS Wirral CCG gets for ending homeopathy funding, the better chance we have of helping them make this decision happen.

You can also support the work the Good Thinking Society is doing to challenge NHS homeopathy by making a small monthly or one-off donation. It was their legal challenge which pressured Liverpool CCG to consult on homeopathy and which contributed to the pressure to consult in the Wirral, and it was their legal challenge which resulted in the current nationwide consultation on banning homeopathy prescriptions on the NHS. If you think that’s worth a fiver or a tenner, you can donate now.

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Merseyside Skeptics Society welcomes NHS Liverpool CCG’s Decision To Re-Think Homeopathy Funding

3736069_1426544235.2609_funddescription-300x225As reported in the Liverpool Echo today, NHS Liverpool CCG recently decided to reverse their decision to continue funding homeopathy after a successful legal challenge by our friends at the Good Thinking Society. As a result of the challenge, Liverpool CCG has elected to re-consult on the matter – a decision we at the Merseyside Skeptics Society wholeheartedly support.

As a Merseyside-based critical thinking group with a large number of members who live within the jurisdiction of Liverpool CCG, we believe it is time that our local NHS services were no longer burdened with the need to provide ineffective sugar pills to the unwell – not least at a time when NHS budgets are under great pressure. Since our inception in 2009 we have campaigned to spread awareness about the pseudoscientific nature of homeopathy and the clear failure of any homeopath to find credible evidence that homeopathic remedies are of any benefit at all, and we sincerely believe it is unacceptable for taxpayer funds to be wasted on treatments that have been comprehensively shown to be ineffective.

Liverpool CCG’s decision is a step in the right direction, and we look forward to the upcoming consultation with hope that a fair and sensible decision will be made, reflecting the lack of evidence for homeopathy and the need to offer the people of Liverpool quality healthcare founded on good evidence-based practices.

MSS President Mike Hall said of the decision: “Homeopaths have claimed that skeptics reject homeopathy because we don’t understand how it works. While the proposed mechanism of homeopathy is indeed nonsensical, we do not reject it for this reason. We reject it because in 200 years it has never been shown to have a reliable effect on the course of any medical condition. With an ageing and expanding population, it is right and proper to insist that our NHS funds only those treatments with a proven benefit for patients.”

Donate with JustGivingWe urge our supporters – and indeed anyone who wants to see NHS allocate their limited resources to treatments that have any hope of helping patients – to support Good Thinking’s campaign against wasting taxpayer funds on these ineffective and disproven treatments. Good Thinking are currently crowdfunding in order to mount further legal challenges similar to this successful one in Liverpool, and supporters can donate to the campaign online.

Update:  Liverpool CCG has been in touch to ask us to make clear that homeopathy services are not being immediately withdrawn. Rather, they intent to return the decision to continue funding homeopathy to the consultation stage. Homeopathy will still be available during the consultation.

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Homeopathy in the Wirral: RIP

As I’ve covered previously, the position of homeopathy on the NHS in the Wirral region has been under review, with the Professional Executive Committee evaluating the future continuation of the 200-year-old non-science in the wake of dwindling patient interest.

Following the open meeting of March 10th to discuss proposals to cut homeopathy from the budget, the PEC collected their thoughts and formally presented them to the Wirral NHS Board. This meeting took place on the 22 March 2011, and unsurprisingly attracted the attention of the North West ‘Friends’ of Homeopathy, whose very vocal envoy John Cook persuaded the board to allow him to present his objections to their proposal. Readers of the previous blog or listeners to Skeptics with a K will know John well, and his forthright advocacy style.

Fortunately, a local councillor is a supporter and friend of the MSS, and he was able to equally persuade the board to allow an external voice of support into the meeting to counter the objections of the homeopathic lobby – which is why I found myself called upon to give a 5-minute speech in favour of disposing with the sugar pills once and for all.

The exact text of the speech is presented below, and my opportunity to present it came immediately after 5 minutes from the homeopaths, in which the main thrust of their argument was:

  • The consultation process had not been as robust as one would hope (essentially attempting to get off on a technicality)
  • Homeopathy does indeed work and there is science to prove it
  • Homeopathy is used by 10% of the population (a somewhat spurious figure brilliantly put into context by the board, who pointed out that the 60 affected patients in the Wirral each year are in fact just 0.02% of the population)
  • Those who seek to end funding for homeopathy are in fact attempting to ban it, with similar zeal to the calls to rid the world from smallpox.

I’ve no doubt that John will be able to offer a fuller clarification of these points below, and I welcome him doing so if he so wishes. Following this argument, I took to the rather official-looking table with it’s little microphone, the eyes of the board upon me, and began: Read the rest of this entry »

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NHS Wirral and The North West Friends Of Homeopathy: A Typical Wednesday Evening Out

I’ve had a rather interesting evening. Last week, MSS member and local councillor Darren Dodds alerted me to the fact that Wirral NHS were holding an open meeting to discuss whether to continue funding homeopathy in the region, with the recommendation being very much ‘No, we absolutely shouldn’t’. Needless to say, I agree with this recommendation, and wanted to go along to let them know that I – and by extension the hundred or more local MSS members – applaud their step in the right direction. Interested parties should read the report they came up with, it’s really pretty good. Some highlights:

The paper concludes that the lack of evidence on efficacy and cost-effectiveness of homeopathic therapies means that it should not be a high priority for the PCT at this time. It is recommended that NHS Wirral does not commission homeopathictherapies.

The key risk is that NHS Wirral fails to maintain its reputation as an evidence-based commissioning PCT.

Excellent stuff. Still, it seems we weren’t the only ones made aware of the open meeting – also invited were patients currently or formerly using homeopathy, and the ‘North West Friends of Homeopathy‘. This latter group are most interesting, and I’ll come back to them a little later in more detail, but first it’s worth pointing out that I appeared on local radio with a member of the group on Monday morning, in an exchange that might amuse, and will certainly give a far better impression of who John Cook is than I could ever do justice with words. UK-based readers can listen here, it starts around the 2hour 13minute mark and lasts about 10 minutes. I’ll wait.

For those not able, willing or interested in listening, what we have from John is a charming ability to hog a conversation, and the maniacal insistence that the date of the meeting was aired. Clearly, John wanted his supporters to arrive mob-handed. Fair enough, he probably feels he has a strong case. As it was, when I arrived with a couple of other MSS members there were maybe 40 or so people present, a number which I presume to be in excess of the general norm for these meetings.

John, having lobbied for inclusion, was amongst the speakers, joined by Dr. Hugh Neilsen BA MA BM BCh MRCP FFHom (it’s worth pointing out that his name is actually Hugh Nielsen, and the NWFoH’s own website, while painstaking in it’s detail of Hugh’s many qualifications, mispells the name of their own president), and the panel was completed by two local GPs who were involved in making the recommendation, and who spent the evening ranging between bemused, compassionate and at times startled. Startled, not least, by the quite spectacular opening by John, the homeopath’s friend (which I imagine is rather like a Fisherman’s Friend, but lacking in clout), in which he directed a quite flattering string of insults at me directly, and at the Merseyside Skeptics Society. Read the rest of this entry »

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