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OPINION

You can’t lump tattoos together with cataracts

  • 8 Comments

‘Treatments for tattoo removal, male pattern baldness or penile implants are no longer being funded on the NHS. Why they were in the first place is beyond me but there you go.’

What would you do if you were awarded a Nobel Prize?

Would you hold it aloft and scream “Yeeeeeeeees!” before dancing over to the runners up, waving it in their faces, pump the air like a drunk on a stag night, yell “Oooga oooga!”, run across the stage, slide on your knees with your jumper pulled up over your head, play a bit of air guitar then sprint for the bar?

Of course you wouldn’t. Unless you’re a midwife of course - they have different rules from the rest of us. That’s a joke by the way.

Anyway, I don’t think that is the way Nobel Prizes are accepted. FA Cups maybe, but not the Nobel Prize. It’s not like winning something really big like I’m A Celebrity… Get Me Out of Here, is it? I imagine Nobel Prize winners aren’t really in it for the rewards. They are probably surprised by the whole thing, so busy are they doing science or medicine or trying to cut back on war.

‘Treatments for tattoo removal, male pattern baldness or penile implants are no longer being funded on the NHS. Why they were in the first place is beyond me but there you go’

It was appropriate I felt that Professor Robert Edwards was awarded the Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine 2010 for his groundbreaking work on infertility. He has remained at the cutting edge of what is essentially a new branch of medicine, one that has brought hope and happiness to thousands of people.

I love this man even though I have never met him. By inventing IVF, he enabled my wife and I to have a child. So cheers, Bob.

IVF is a good thing. It is a remarkable thing. But should it be available for free on the NHS? I’m not sure it should.
I say this as someone who thinks the health service is best defended if it concentrates on the pursuit of health rather than that of happiness.

It appears that many trusts are restricting services to save money. Treatments for tattoo removal, male pattern baldness or penile implants are no longer being funded on the NHS. Why they were in the first place is beyond me but there you go. Other treatments being restricted include hip replacements, cataracts and IVF.

Is it me, or are those lists clinically random? Of course we can make a case for the psychological needs of people needing a tattoo removed, or some genitals reworked or, more significantly, a round of IVF - but these are not health “needs”. They are routes to happiness.

Hip replacements, knee replacements, cataract surgery - these are health needs and, by putting so many different treatments under review, we run the risk of creating confusion over the purpose of the NHS.

I think people who need IVF but can’t afford it should be supported. I think a separate fund should be available for them. But it should not come from an NHS budget that is under threat of restriction and manipulation.

Our first responsibility is to the unwell, not to the unhappy. With treatments that enable people to walk or see
being denied under a blanket of illogical clinical prioritisations, patients and services are at risk. If we lose sight of the prime purpose of the NHS, all patients will suffer.

  • 8 Comments

Readers' comments (8)

  • I completely agree with you. As to why we funded operations like tattoo removal etc in the first place is probably because we were not watching our budget. I s there a place for teaching children of say 12 plus that the consequence of getting drunk and having a tattoo means that you have it for ever ? We removed countless tatoos in my theatre in the eighties and I would say all of them had been done when the tatooee was inebriated, drink or drugs. As for penile implants and hair grafts....... great if you can pay for it but not on the NHS,,,,,,, and do these two operations make a difference ?

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  • I believe there should just be one single budget, and not individual local or trust ones to be spent at their own discretion, for all basic essential medical/surgical/emergency care so that adequate funding is available to everybody in the land, who qualifies for it through citizenship, residency, etc., to provide healthcare of the highest standards and equal levels to save lives and to improve the quality of lives of those who suffer illness, have had an accident or are in pain. It should be, comprehensive and according to need, from the cradle to the grave according to the original concept of the nhs. I think all of this would cost enough in terms of keeping up to date with comfortable facilities, the latest equipment and adequate staffing and medicines without the extra burden of the 'luxuries' mentioned above.

    The problem is where does one draw the fine dividing line between need and want, essential and extra luxury. What about psychotherapies or self inflicted illness or injury for example through MH disorders, smoking or alcohol related disorders and obesity. Do those who are substance abusers or are couch potatos count as individuals with self-inflicted illnesses, etc.?
    This argument and moral judgements could go on endlessly and become highly complex but I do certainly believe that nobody in need of treatment for illness and accidents should not be denied adequate diagnosis, treatment and comfort without the excuses of lack of funding as a reason where the resources have been used elsewhere. Someone in pain or with a life threatening condition on a waiting list should surely have prioritiy over couples who need free treatment to have a child.

    Obviously other treatments for conditions mentioned in the above article could be offered from separate funds but either privately, partially funded or fully funded from other state resources or private insurance which still need to be worked out. These should, however, be additional services and not offered or staffed to the detriment of the essential services.

    I do hope Britain will be able to maintain her NHS and welfare services, but of the highest quality, and not just piecemeal as currently appears to be the case, for which she used to be renowed and which was admired worldwide.

    Sorry this is rather written in a rush but I hope at least the thread of my argument is comprehensible.

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  • NHS was underfunded from the beginning - although the last government decided it was at last worth investing in they also thought they'd buy a few votes while they were at it.

    If people think the NHS of the 1970's and 1980's was admired the world over they are deluded or maybe talking about the third world.

    Try France or Sweden.

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  • A person chooses to have a tattoo. They regret having the tattoo as it’s having an adverse affect on their life. It causes them considerable stress and anxiety. Their health is in danger.

    A person chooses to smoke cigarettes. They regret smoking as it’s having an adverse affect on their life. They get chronic obstructive pulmonary disease which causes them considerable stress and anxiety. Their health is in danger.

    What’s the difference?

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  • Sadly many of the older people who suffer now from the consequences of smoking were not aware of all the problems when they started. The habit has probably become so deeply ingrained in the psych. and their physiology affecting the addiction centre, etc. in the brain and the production of neurotransmitters, etc. that it maybe impossible for some of them to give up, or it costs them so much energy or sacrifice that they do not wish to even try and give it up or they have tried several times and failed.

    The same may go for ancient tatoos that individuals were not aware of the dangers.

    There has been a rapid growth in recent years on information about unhealthy and dangerous habits but this was not so readily available before the IT era. Younger people indulge in these habits knowing the dangers, the elderly originally didn't although now they are better informed. I know many people in their 20s to 60s who continue to smoke and seem totally oblivious to all the information and the dangers.

    This is my hypothesis so please don't jump down my throat, although I'm open to further argument and debate on this.

    Straying off the point of the article, a fascinating read on marketing is 'Buy-ology' by Martin Lindstrom which talks about the largest worldwide neurological study conducted to date on smokers to determine why they smoke despite some of the most horrendous anti-smoking publicity and dire warnings on cigarette packets. They ignore these warnings as the benefits to them of smoking outweigh the dangers and fMRI studies show that the reward and addictive centre in the brain are one and the same. It appears that the only people who take note of these warnings are the non-smokers!

    the question remains what and who does the nhs cover for treatment and where should the line be drawn?

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  • Anonymous | 20-Nov-2010 4:16 pm

    Sadly it is usually the British themselves who say they have the best health service in the world. Other countries also like to boast that they have the best. the fact of the matter is that many of the health services in the western European countries are light years ahead of Britain, with so many antique hospitals, old fashioned practices and outdated facilities and equipment, in healthcare and the services they provide to their patients. training is often of a far higher standard for nurses, medicine and other associated professions and the patients are treated with greater respect and dignity.

    More money must be poured into the infrastructure of the healthservice here and now as well as adequate staffing instead of wasting resources by trying to patch up deficient resources in a piecemeal fashion otherwise the nhs will slip back into the middle ages or at least pre-Florence Nightingale.

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  • Quote "A person chooses to have a tattoo. They regret having the tattoo as it’s having an adverse affect on their life. It causes them considerable stress and anxiety. Their health is in danger.

    A person chooses to smoke cigarettes. They regret smoking as it’s having an adverse affect on their life. They get chronic obstructive pulmonary disease which causes them considerable stress and anxiety. Their health is in danger.

    What’s the difference?"

    I agree in principle. However,the difference is that leaving the tattoo on is unlikely to kill that person. And not treating smoking related illnesses may cost more in the long run.

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  • Why shouldn't the NHS play a role in increasing happiness? There is a mental health burden in managing diseases of unhappiness, low mood, depression and so on.

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