Wednesday, April 30, 2008


Dr Rant has drawn my attention to this excellent piece yesterday by George Monbiot in the Guardian. The government's policy regarding the establishment of polyclinics is not so much about privatisation - as GP practices are already private - but about corporatisation. And it certainly is not about giving the punter more local choice as local GP practices are forced to close and punters have to travel further to attend a polyclinic. And as polyclinics take over some of the services offered by local hospitals so thje government can close down valued local hospital services ... tomorrow is election day.

Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Boots again !

More quackery from our favourite High Street pharmacy is reported by Dr Crippen and the Guardian.

BBC iPlayer Overseas - Update

Today I have noticed a vast upsurge in hits to this blog. At first I put this down to Dr Crippen in his erratically-regular round up of the British medical blogosphere, BritMeds, which cited a recent post of mine on ubiquitous UK pharmacy Boots in Sunday's edition.

However, I am disillusioned.

Although Dr Crippen's citation generated a fair number of hits, he has been upstaged by overseas snooker fans who want to watch the World Snooker Championship at the Sheffield Crucible Theatre on the BBC.

A useful update to my original post on how to fool the BBC iPlayer was posted in the comments – Firefox now has a brilliant little add-on that controls your Tor connection and overrides the need to have Privoxy running. Even more impressive is its filtering capability in that you can specify which urls go through the Tor network and which don't.

Does the BBC domestic license payer finance this piece of software bullshit ? Of course.

I'll soon be having Watt Tyler, the Devil's Kitchen and the UK Taxpayers' Alliance (which I certainly won't link to – go google it) linking to me! Aaaagrh!


My friend Joan is involved in establishing a new support group for African and Afro-Caribbean adults who have been subjected to sexual abuse. At the moment only established in London, I wish it well and hope it grows. From their first handout ...

“Papillon is a new self help group for adult survivors of sexual abuse for persons of African and African Caribbean descent. With PAPILLON, you have the opportunity to share your experiences and uncover your healing path, within a safe and non-judgmental environment.”

Currently meeting fortnightly on Thursdays from 19:00 to 20:30. Meeting Place:

London Lighthouse
111 Lancaster Road
London W11 1QT

For more information call (00 44) (0) 789 690 6219 or email powelljv at

Friday, April 25, 2008

The Dumbing Down of Healthcare ...

... is not just a UK phenomenon but truly international as the Whites in New Zealand are discovering.

Saturday, April 19, 2008

Jaime's First Post

Hey my name is Jaime. Today I'm watching Doctor Who.

Kezia is my sister and she has got leukaemia.

Hair Retention Quackery

Break the Family Tradition

I'm beginning to get a little bit thin on top.

Nanda has been attempting to encourage me to buy some kind of hair product to stem or even reverse the loss. I have been dismissive.

But when buying some calamine lotion the other day, I noticed Boots Pharmacy promoting a Hair Retention Programme - "9 out of 10 men keep their hair with our Hair Retention Programme". Curious, I picked up a leaflet. Let us quote ...

"Although the medicine available on the programme will start working straight away, stopping hair loss and encouraging hair growth is a slow process. Despite this you could start to see results in as little as three months.

If you stop taking the medicine, the hair loss process begins again and any results achieved will gradually be lossed over 12 months.

If you keep taking the medicine, new hair growth may be achieved. In clinical studies, 2 out of 3 men showed increased hair growth after 2 years."

Do I need to analyse this for you? Shurely not ... could, may, uncited clinical studies ...

So how much will this cost me? 90 pounds for 12 weeks. But if I don't continue for two years it will be money wasted so I'll end up spending 720 pounds and I might still be one of the 33% who do not respond to the treatment.

Methinks I'll take the sensible approach of keeping my hair cut short.

But the government now wants me to trust Boots Pharmacy to conduct clinical diagnosis instead of going to my General Practitioner.

Friday, April 18, 2008

News from the Local

At Christmas Dennis and Babs, landlord and landlady of our local pub, informed me they were retiring and I expected them to be gone by now. However, it turned out this week was their last and I managed to catch them before their last night on Wednesday.

Prior to that I met up with some other drinking acquaintances and even made new ones. We all sat in the "smoking room" and I had to remain alert to not fall victim to the dry acerbic sarcastic wit typical around here - (wish I could record it for you).

Met a new acquantance, Kev and his wife. Her son joined the army and committed suicide a victim of bullying. She has learned nothing from the official enquiries and parliamentary lobbying.

John, who I knew was ill, confided to me that he has had epilepsy since birth. He keeps it under control with medication but his drinking doesn't help. He says he doesn't have the stereotypical convulsions but if we see him go quiet and blank in the pub, he's having a crisis.

Last night the temporary manager started - there were just three punters. They'll come back.

Form RP9

On 1 May the UK will be holding local government (municipal council) elections. I received my voter card last week stating that if I wanted a postal or proxy vote then I should give the local election office a ring which I duly did and the next day I received Form RP9 Application by Proxy to Vote by Post.

Not exactly what I wanted. I wanted to give my brother proxy voting rights to vote at the local poll station on the day. He has already done this for me once and so is registered as my proxy.

Form RP9 is not addressed to me. It is addressed to my proxy. My proxy has to complete it to vote by post for me. He is allowed to tick a box allowing him to vote for me by proxy and by post in all future elections, both national and local, and referendums. RP9 does not require my signature. For my registered proxy to ask for an RP9 does not require my permission. And my proxy can oviously vote any which way he wants in my name.

Is this open to fraud?

Monday, April 14, 2008

Saturday, April 12, 2008


Back with Jaime, Kezia and Nanda - a wonderful day today in Hebden Bridge the highlight of which was fish and chips cooked in dripping! We all enjoyed!

Wednesday, April 9, 2008

Dream Time

Last night I went to bed (early, as we do here) and dreamt. I woke up convinced it was early morning, dragged myself out of bed to look at the clock to find I had only been asleep half an hour.

Different time dimensions between sleeping and waking .. a dream can be a whole 23 hours and take place in 20 minutes of sleep.

I can´t even remember the dream.

Perhaps my favourite activity in the world is sleeping ... somewhere my awake life does not know. There is a nocturnal life in my head. As a child, the border between these worlds was much more fuzzy.

Tuesday, April 8, 2008

Dexamethasone Diary

Rob has just posted on what a week on Dexamethasone is like - I couldn't express it better.

My Nephew

I´ve written about my ¨step-nephew¨ S. before - a really good guy with a heart of gold and somewhat eccentric. If you are a regular reader of this blog, I think you will realise that the Gascoigne family is not quite run-of-the-mill, and as like attracts like, my sister-in-law Paula´s family is also somewhat ¨non-conformist¨.

Paula and S. have recently got back from a fortnight´s holiday in Australia.

It was free.

When S. was teenage, he became obsessed with entering consumer competitions. You know the kind of thing - ¨Answer these 4 simple questions and create a witty phrase to promote our product¨. Free advertising copy for the manufacturer - the cost of a consumer competition must be much less than contracting an advertising agency to come up with a witty byline. Dr Crippen has just posted on Durex´s (the condom manufacturer) very successful online competition to get free publicity material ... I can imagine the Top Twenty will be used all over the UK ... they are witty and smart.

And, of course the vendor/manufacturer, now with you postal address which it could sell on, could spam you with junkmail.

The postman would deliver half a sack of mail to their house. The hall was flooded. The postman would deliver an entire sack of mail, patiently pushing it through the door. They couldn´t get through the front door. The Post Office had to send a van to deliver all S.´s junkmail.

It was clearly a cry for help that his mother and step-father did not understand at the time ... but that is another post.

But he has since got rather good at it - he has won a car (promptly sold), a trip to the World Cup, had a recipe used in advertising by a multinational food manufacturer and numerous smaller prizes. He has become more selective in the competitions he enters. He reads magazines dedicated to the Competition Culture.

A free holiday for two in Australia was the first prize in a recent competition held by Fosters´ Lager. He won.

And kindly offered to take Mum. Apparently, they had a wonderful time but it almost ended in disaster ...

On the return trip a change of flights at Bangkok. Paula suddenly collapsed.

They feared a broken pelvis or hip but she continued back to the UK in a wheelchair.

She underwent radiotherapy to treat cervical cancer a couple of years ago - apparently the collapse was due to muscle-wastage brought on by the radiotherapy.

Oh fuck!

Wednesday, April 2, 2008


I seem to have a bit of writer´s block at the moment ... but here´s some miscellaneous updates.

Highlight is that a week on Thursday I´m off to the UK for two weeks. Kezia´s birthday is 14 April. Easter hols will have passed but I want to see Jaime and Kezia´s teachers anyway - also it might give me and Nanda some time together which we haven´t had since October. I bought my coach ticket from Heathrow to Manchester today and arrive in Manchester at 07:20 on Friday 11 April. No flights to Manchester when I arrive and no time to cross London and catch the last train. A 1 1/2 hour wait at Birmingham coach station at 3 o´clock in the morning. At least I can fill myself up with nicotine.

Downside to this - I will use up all my Annual Leave and unless we can afford a trip on leave without pay I might not see them until October (the beginning of my employer´s financial year. That is what happened last year and it was a tough one.

Tomorrow Kezia has Intrathecal Methotrexate - there was some kind of mix up in scheduling at the beginning of February and I´ve not got it straight since. Whilst I´m in the UK.

There´s not been any major NHS news - Drs Crippen and Rant continue to call our attention to what I would term rather small, although real, niggles. I guess we are all awaiting with tredipdation Lord Darzi´s report in June.

However, some minor NHS developments today:

1. NHS Wales has abolished car-parking fees at all but ten of its 130 hospitals.

2. NHS Scotland has reduced its prescription medicine fees with a view to phasing them out all together by 2011. NHS Wales started free presciptions last year.

3. NHS Northern Ireland has frozen prescription charges.

4. NHS England has just increased its prescription charges.

The first is welcome. Imagine turning up at hospital in your own car for your regular chemotherapy only to be told you have to stay as you are severely neutropenic and it certainly won´t do to cross most of Wales or Scotland to pick up 5 days of supplies.

Our NHS England Royal Manchester Children´s Hospital prescriptions are free ... but I wonder what the rules are.