Thursday, August 25, 2016

A&E Closures:CCGs & FTs Fighting for Money!


I have written before that A&E is the one thing that upset planners, accountants and most importantly the new CCGs. There is a belief, rightly or wrongly that A&Es still have real DOCTORS, and not someone flown in from Germany or further east. Nor are they like OOH or NHS111 where the concern is about money than your survival. As I was drafting this post another hospital is being overwhelmed by high A&E attendances.

What is most worrying is that A&E will lead to more hospital admissions: perhaps unnecessary ones or god forbid, absolutely essential ones.

Now! It is quite simple really!!!                                                                                                                                   

It is very much like  giving children the mortgage and meal money and that they buy primarily from mother, food, washing and accommodation. But then, there is no restriction on buying food from AQPs: other mothers, fish & chip shops, supermarkets and even McDonalds. What if the children sleep over at friends: is rent deducted.

They just cannot see it, can they?

  ©Am Ang Zhang 2013
It is indeed very sad to see how modern perverse incentives that were used in other institutions were used in our NHS hospitals in one part of the United KingdomEngland.

The figures are there for all to see and it is hard to believe that the very smart people that are currently running the country did not know.

In the brave new world, English Hospitals (or their managers) need to perversely increase activity to survive (or collect a good bonus before moving on or going off sick). GP Commissioners (CCGs)need to reduce hospital referrals in order to achieve government imposed savings or if it is run by privateers to find profits for shareholders.

Hospitals will fail and be bought up and the privateers will be so smart that they will only run the profitable parts.

Government will be left still running the loss making services or they could be sold out to the likes of Southern Cross .


Attempts to cull hospitals are happening in various guises and sometimes such failed. Fortunately for the government, since Les Misérables, the people may march and wave banners but they don’t do revolutions anymore. So instead of culling and closing A&Es, they downgrade them. It s a bit like, we do stomach pain but not myocardial infarcts.                                                                                                                

In the unholy war between CCGs that hold the money and the Hospitals that needed the money patients may either be denied treatments that were needed or perversely given investigations and treatments that were not. 

But wait, they dream up something new: patient must get better or hospitals will not get paid. They called it:

Outcomes based commissioning

So plan B then, from now on admit only well patients. Or those we know that will get better. Just remember that Clinton picked the hospital with poor mortality for his bypassWhy?

So mother is now not going to be paid unless the kids get As.

But, hang on some patient will die; and not every child will get As unless we fine the schools too.

Perhaps that too.

Suddenly, there is going to be some killing and surprise, surprise; it is not what you think: no, not patients. 

That would be too simple.

From the BMJ:
Kill the QOF

The QOF simply hasn’t worked. It is a bureaucratic disaster, measuring the measurable but eroding the all important immeasurable, and squandering our time, effort, and money. It has made patients of us all and turned skilled clinicians into bean counters. Incentives and centralised targets are under scrutiny throughout the public sector because targets just lead to gaming. It’s time to look away from the screen and at the patient once again. Turn off the financial life support and let this failed intervention die.

What happened? £10bn


We are entering the 10th year of the world’s largest public health experiment in EBM—the target driven QOF (Quality and Outcomes Framework). It has cost £10bn in direct payments to general practitioners, but this is just the tip of an expensive iceberg.

From 2004 to 2011 prescriptions for statins doubled, for angiotensin converting enzyme inhibitors and diabetic drugs near doubled, for antidepressants rose 60%, and for steroid inhalers rose 30%.  Polypharmacy is the norm not the exception, and research evidence validates this approach.

Statins & others:
Yet statins, for instance, are supposed to reduce heart disease by 30% within a few years. The QOF has created three million new statin users, so why has there been no demonstrable effect on heart disease trends? Also we might reasonably expect within a decade to see a change in the trajectory of UK life expectancy, but we have not. Likewise the QOF was designed to improve chronic disease management in general practice, but instead outpatient referrals have risen 5% annually, with similar rates in acute hospital admissions.

This is leading to unsustainable pressure and costs throughout the NHS. Perhaps assessing the impact of QOF is impossible because there is no control group. But we can compare UK trends with other similar countries, and there is no evidence that UK healthcare is outpacing these countries.

The problem with the NHS Reform is the NHS itself. Because it is still to be funded by Taxpayers, there is much money to be made.

It would be different if we separate out Private Health Care and State provided one.

That the management consultants found out a long time ago.

No! No! No! Let Private Providers make money from the so called NHS.

Soon the government will discover that money would drain from the state to Privateers with no improvement in the actual care delivered.

The master plan is simple: a fixed amount of money is now given to CCGs who will be responsible for the delivery of health care.


Well, from now on blame the CCGsHa Ha Ha.


Hospitals are now in a risky position and that means 5% of you who might be seriously ill are too. CCGs may not want to fund the treatment you need or within the time frame that you will need. A once wonderful training ground for doctors may no longer be so wonderful. There will probably be fewer functioning hospitals and soon the once prestigious world famous hospitals will just be bitter sweet memories of a few of us.

KILLED.

Now can you see it?

 ©Am Ang Zhang 2013

Tuesday, August 23, 2016

Best Health Care: NHS! NHS! NHS!

Friends moved to France after their retirement and lived in one of the wine growing districts.

 ©2008 Am Ang Zhang
They were extremely pleased with the Health Care they received from their doctor locally. After all, not long ago, French Health Care topped the WHO ranking.

Then our lady friend had some gynaecological condition. She consulted the local doctor who referred her to the regional hospital: a beautiful new hospital with the best in modern equipment. In no time, arrangement was made for her to be admitted and a key-hole procedure performed. The French government paid for 70% and the rest was covered by insurance they took out.

They were thrilled.

We did not see them for a while and then they came to visit us in one of our holiday places in a warm country.

They have moved back to England.

What happened?

Four months after the operation they were back visiting family in England. She was constipated and then developed severe abdominal pain. She was in London so went to A & E (ER) at one of the major teaching hospitals.

“I was seen by a young doctor, a lady doctor who took a detail history and examined me. I thought I was going to be given some laxative, pain killer and sent home.”

“No, she called her consultant and I was admitted straight away.”

To cut the long story short, she had acute abdomen due to gangrenous colon from the previous procedure.

She was saved but she has lost a section of her intestine.

They sold their place in the beautiful wine region and moved back to England.

The best health care in the world. 

Now we know.

Let us keep it that way.


NHS & Private Medicine: Best Health Care & Porsche

Do we judge how good a doctor is by the car he drives? I remember medical school friends preferred to seek advice from Ferrari driving surgeons than from Rover driving psychiatrists.

My friend was amazed that I gave up Private Health Care when my wife retired.

“I know you worked for the NHS but there is no guarantee, is there?”

Well, in life you do have to believe in something. The truth is simpler in that after five years from her retirement, the co-payment is 90%.

He worked for one of the major utility companies and had the top-notch coverage.

“The laser treatment for my cataract was amazing and the surgeon drives a Porsche 911.”

Porsche official Website

He was very happy with the results.

“He has to be good, he drives a Porsche.”

Then he started feeling dizzy and having some strange noise problems in one of his ears.

“I saw a wonderful ENT specialist within a week at the same private hospital whereas I would have to wait much longer in the NHS.”

What could one say! We are losing the funny game.

What does he drive?

A Carrera.

Another Porsche.

We are OK then.

Or are we.

He was not any better. And after eight months of fortnightly appointments, the Carrera doctor suggested a mastoidectomy.

Perhaps you should get a second opinion from an NHS consultant. Perhaps see a neurologist.

“I could not believe you said that, his two children are doctors. And he has private health care!” I was told off by my wife.

He took my advice though and he got an appointment within two weeks at one of the famous neurological units at a teaching hospital.

To cut the long story short, he has DAVF.

I asked my ENT colleague if it was difficult to diagnose DAVF.

“Not these days!”

He had a range of treatments and is now much better.

All in the NHS hospital.

“I don’t know what car he drives, but he is good. One of the procedures took 6 hours.”

Best health care.

I always knew: Porsche or otherwise.


Best Health Care: NHS GP & NHS Specialist


Does having a good hunch make you a good doctor or are we all so tick-box trained that we have lost that art. Why is it then that House MD is so popular when the story line is around the “hunch” of Doctor House?

Fortunately for my friend, her GP (family physician) has managed to keep that ability.

My friend was blessed with good health all her life.  She seldom sees her GP so just before last Christmas she turned up because she has been having this funny headache that the usual OTC pain killers would not shift.

She would not have gone to the doctor except the extended family was going on a skiing holiday.

She managed to get to the surgery before they close. The receptionist told her that the doctor was about to leave. She was about to get an appointment for after Christmas when her doctor came out and was surprised to see my friend.

I have always told my juniors to be on the look out for situations like this. Life is strange. Such last minute situations always seem to bring in surprises. One should always be on the look out for what patient reveal to you as a “perhaps it is not important”.

Also any patient that you have not seen for a long time deserves a thorough examination.

She was seen immediately.

So no quick prescription of a stronger pain killer and no “have a nice holiday” then.

She took a careful history and did a quick examination including a thorough neurological examination.

Nothing.

Then something strange happened. Looking back now, I did wonder if she had spent sometime at a Neurological Unit.

She asked my friend to count backwards from 100.

My friend could not manage at 67.

She was admitted to a regional neurological unit. A scan showed that she had a left parietal glioma. She still remembered being seen by the neurosurgeon after her scan at 11 at night:

“We are taking it out in the morning!”

The skiing was cancelled but what a story.

Best GP

Best Specialist

NHS


Anorexia Nervosa: Chirac & Faustian Pact

Wednesday, August 17, 2016

Anorexia Nervosa & Mountains: Misguided Belief in Psychiatric Diagnosis!



 ©2016 Am Ang Zhang 

Thirty years ago, I saw mountains as mountains, and waters as waters.

When I arrived at a more intimate knowledge, I came to the point
where I saw that mountains are not mountains,
and waters are not waters.
Thirty years on,
I see mountains once again as mountains, and waters once again as waters.

                                                                                                   Adapted from Ching-yuan (1067-1120)

There is a misguided belief that Psychiatry is like other branches of medicine, that we make diagnosis as if we know the definitive cause, course of treatment and prognosis.

I accept that even in other branches of medicine, what we used to know sometimes can be turned upside down overnight. We only need to look at the evolution of the understanding and treatment of Leprosy and Tuberculosis over time, and in the modern era, that of HIV/AIDS.
I was brought up to understand that “scientific truth is nothing more than what the top scientists believe in at the time.” In this modern era of “biotech” approach to medicine, new understanding is yet to be found for many conditions. In these cases, are we content to continue with empirical and symptomatic approaches?

Anorexia Nervosa comes to mind and this is one of the conditions that have for want of a better word captured the imagination of sufferers and public alike. I have already posted an earlier blog on its brief history.

Sometimes a diagnosis as powerful as Anorexia Nervosa can be a hindrance to the improvement of “sufferers”. Over my years of practice, I found that those who did well were cases where we indeed moved away from the medical/conventional psychiatric model to a somewhat paradoxical approach.

When I took over the adolescent unit as its consultant in charge there were six Anorexia Nervosa patients in varying stages of emaciation or weight gain depending on from which side you want to look at it.  It is not always wise to have so many anorectic patients together as they do share tricks with each other and it is often more difficult to customise treatment.



         What needed my urgent attention was of course Sammy. Sammy had a very feminine name but preferred the nickname Sammy. Sammy’s Section was due to expire in less than 14 days and I had to compile a report for the Tribunal which would be sitting to decide on her fate.

         It was perhaps a sign of our failure as psychiatrists to effectively treat Anorexia Nervosa that eventually case law was established to regard food in Anorexia Nervosa as medicine. Therefore food may be used forcibly to treat Anorexia Nervosa when the condition becomes life threatening. 

         The usual test of mental capacity no longer applies. Instead the law is used forcibly to feed a generally bright and intelligent person “over-doing” what most consider to be “good”.  They try to eat less and eat healthily by avoiding fat and the like and wham we have the law on them.

         I have to admit that I have not liked this aspect of Sectioning. Unfortunately it is used often, judging by the high numbers of tube fed patients.

         On the other hand not everybody is able to treat Anorexia Nervosa patients or, in reality, do battle with them. It requires experience, energy, time, wit, charisma and often impeccable timing. However, sometimes I do wonder if we are indeed doing a disservice when we take things out of parents’ hands by agreeing to take over.

 ©2016 Am Ang Zhang 
         With hindsight and upon reflecting on a number of cases I have dealt with, I often wonder: if hospitalisation had not been an option at all, would improvement rate and, more importantly, mortality rate have been any different.

         We do not section people for smoking, drinking, or doing drugs, which all endanger life. Nor do we stop people running the Marathon or eating raw oysters when these activities regularly lead to mortalities.

         Society is coming round to do something about over-eating in children but it will take some time before they apply the Mental Health Acts. 

         To me, the moment a psychiatrist turns to the law he is admitting that he has failed. 

         At least that is my view and if I perpetuated the Compulsory Order with Sammy, I too would be part of that failure.

         There had been no weight gain in Sammy despite the tube feeding and the debate was: shall we increase the feed or shall we wait? Everybody just assumed that she would stay on as a compulsory patient.

         Despite bed rests and even more embarrassingly the use of bedpans, many Anorexia Nervosa patients managed not to gain weight whatever we pumped into them. The balanced feeds were in fact quite expensive. There was no secret that they were aware of the exercises they could perform even on bed rest and the determination not to put on weight had to be seen to be believed. If such determination was applied elsewhere I was sure these young girls could be very successful.

         I had to find an answer, an answer for Sammy and an answer for myself.

         Being forced to eat by the State remained the treatment of choice for everybody except for one stubborn consultant.

         “At least we did all we could,” my staff constantly reminded me.
         “And she is the most determined of all the Anorectics we have right now.”
         More reason to show the others that this new psychiatrist had some other means than brute force, I thought to myself. 

         Yes, I could be as determined as they were.

         The hours of family therapy only brought about accusations and counter accusations with hardly any resolution. Middle class families have certain ways of dealing with things where some branches of family therapy are not particularly good at all.

         The modern trend is certainly moving away from blaming families.  Or that is the rhetoric of most who write publicly about it.

         Whatever the official line, families cannot help feeling blamed.

         “If we are not to blame, why do we need family therapy?”

         “There are so many other families like ours.  Why do they not have the same problem?”

         We may reassure them that there are and that is the truth, but the truth is that there are also Anorexia-free families.

         Yes, it might help if they do find a gene like they did with obesity.  Yet that cannot explain why there are more extremely obese people in say the U.S. which collects gene pools from across the globe.

         So Sammy’s family had the full benefit of eight sessions of family therapy by two very experienced therapists. In the end, there was just a lot of recrimination between all parties including the therapists and all agreed it would not be the way forward. That was when tube-feeding started.

         Minuchin[3] dealt with over-involvement, over-protectiveness and conflict avoidance in these families with no special apology on whether he blamed the family or not. He used to start with a meal session with the family. His success, like many such methods, probably had more to do with his charisma than his method and is thus difficult to replicate.

         For Sammy and her family the message was simple and clear enough, no matter how hard we lied.

         The family had failed and the hospital had to take over.

         That was the blunt truth. 

         But the hospital had failed too and we had to resort to the Mental Health Act on one of society’s most sensible and decent and safest citizens. 

         I decided enough was enough. I could no longer perpetuate the no-blame approach. I could no longer continue to hide behind the power conferred onto me by the law. 

         In short, I had to reverse just about everything that had gone on before, and more.

         Just two weeks before the tribunal sat we had the big review meeting. To most at the unit, the review was fairly routine as there was hardly any choice – a full Section for Hospital Treatment primarily intended for difficult to treat Schizophrenics and difficult to control Bipolars in the acute manic phase. Sammy would be “detained at Her Majesty’s pleasure”, and classed with the likes of the few psychotics who had committed the most heinous murders. To save Sammy’s life, it would be natural to continue with the Mental Health Act.

         Yes there would be weeks of tube feeding and bed rest, but the State had to take over the complete care of this bright young thing for her own sake.

         I could not see any other way either.

         Unless …….I could reverse everything that had gone on before.  

         If our work is to be therapeutic then a sort of therapeutic alliance is important, even if tentative.  Some people do not realise that you can fight with your patient and still have a sort of therapeutic alliance.

         I had a plan.

         These meetings were attended by just about everybody who had anything to do with the patient.  They were held at school times so that most of the teaching staff could be present as well. These meetings also had a tendency to drag on as everybody seemed to have a lot to say about very little, a trait not just limited to psychiatrists but also seen in social workers, therapists, nurses, junior grade doctors, teachers and visiting professionals. People always seemed to have a lot to say on cases where there was the least progress. 

 ©2016 Am Ang Zhang 
         My personal view is that this was a sure sign of anarchy which had unfortunately drifted into our Health Service, encouraged in part by the numerous re-organisations that had gradually eroded the authority of the doctor. 

         Saul Wurman[4], an architect by training but also an author of business and tour books, famously wrote that meetings really do not always need to be an hour long. Why can it not be ten or twenty minutes?

         Could I achieve that?

         After briefly explaining to all the purpose of the meeting, I turned to Sammy, who still had the nasal feeding tube “Micropore’d[5]” securely and said, “What do you think?”

         “It is so unfair.  Now I shall not be able to go to Harvard.”

         It is generally perceived as a given that a U.K. citizen who has been Sectioned will not be able to use the Visa Waiver to visit the U.S. If that person then has to apply for a Visa, having been detained under the Mental Health Act must be a major hindrance, although I have never seen this applied in practice. One of my patients did have to cancel a horse trial trip to Kentucky because she was sectioned at the height of a manic episode.

         I did not know she had aspirations to get to Harvard but I was not surprised given what I already knew about mother.

         “Before I say anything else, can I ask you a few things?”
         “What? Sure!”
         “Do you smoke, drink, take Ecstasy or go out clubbing?”
         “No.  Why?”
         “Do you have piercings and tattoos on you?”
         “Tattoos—yuk!  Yes, I having my ears pierced. That is all.”
         “Do you like Pop music?”
         “No way. I play the violin and I like Bach and Bartok!”
         Everybody was attentive now.
         “Do you shoot heroin or smoke Cannabis?”
         “No way!”
         She was getting annoyed.
         “What about boys and sex?” I felt bad even to ask especially in front of her mother, who I thought would faint if we knew something she did not.
         “How can you even ask and in front of my parents? You know I don’t do things like that!”

         I can remember my own adolescence. I did not do any of those things either and I did not even have pierced ears.

         I then turned to the parents.  Mother was a history teacher at a famous private school in one of England’s most middle class town. She also spent a year at Harvard, hence Sammy’s ambition to follow her. Father was a prominent city lawyer.

         “You have always provided well for her, a good education, European and U.S. holidays, a comfortable home and expensive music lessons.”

         “We are fortunate enough to be able to do that. She is our only child.” Mother replied in a tone implying, “what’s wrong with that?”

         “And she has always been a bright child, strong willed and single minded. She passed her Grade 8 violin with distinction at 14 and could have become a musician. But she wanted to do International Studies.” Mother added.

         “So she always had her way.”
         “She has always got on with everything, studying and practising the violin. And she keeps a tidy bedroom!”
         A tidy bedroom! My goodness, everything was falling into place.
         “Sammy……”
         “Yes……”

         “You know what? You are the first adolescent I know that keeps a tidy bedroom, do not do drugs, do not drink, do not smoke and you do not do a load of other things I asked you about. You are by modern standards a FAILED adolescent!”
         Then I turned to the parents.
         “And you, FAILED parents!”
         “And we FAILED you. We failed you because we had to hide behind the law and force fed you.”
         Sammy said, “I can’t do all those things even if you make me.”
         Ah, the turning point.
         “No, don’t get me wrong. I don’t want you to either.”
         I then told her that I would like to take the tube off her despite lack of progress, or because of it.
         It simply had not worked.
         I wanted her to take over, do what she needed to do and I would decide in about ten days if I had to extend the Treatment Order.
         Forty five minutes. The meeting took forty five minutes as people had to present summaries of different reports, the details of which were irrelevant here.
         The battle was over. Sammy looked relaxed. Nobody was fighting her now. She was back in control.
         I took her off the Section as she started to put on weight and before long she was discharged. 

         We forget how easy it is to entrench. To entrench is a sure way to perpetuate a problem.