Stoptober – just make it stop

Encouraging people to look after their health is a good thing. Eat less fat and sugar, take more exercise, don’t drink too much alcohol and don’t smoke – all good, solid advice dished out in large helpings by doctors the length and breadth of the country.

In the UK, the NHS is running a month-long ‘stop smoking’ campaign in October. It’s called Stoptober.

While making my way through the centre of Reading on Sunday 21 September, I witnessed the local launch of Stoptober.

It was dismal. And that’s the kindest word I can find for it.

The town’s two MPs were there, as were five or six journalists and photographers, and at maybe 10 organisers/helpers. At 11am there were kick-off speeches from one of the organisers and the two MPs. What else happens at 11am on Sunday in Reading? The shops open. If you want to experience the centre of one of the UK’s largest towns at its absolute quietest, get there around 11am on a Sunday. Parking’s a breeze and shopping’s an absolute joy because there’s hardly anyone there.

What’s that, there’s hardly anyone there? Yes, hardly anyone there.

Just to recap then – two MPs, a marquee, a PA system, loads of balloons, a dozen or so people handing out balloons and leaflets, all being paid for via the public purse, but hardly anyone there.

I saw (nay, I *counted*) three members of the public standing and listening to the launch of Stoptober in Reading.

Dismal.

Why on earth coincide a launch of a month-long, publicly-funded anti-smoking campaign with one of the quietest times in the shopping week?

I can only presume the answer to that is something like “because you don’t know what you’re doing.”

If that sounds harsh, it’s meant to be harsh.

Smoking and related illnesses are a blight on the UK. In addition to the misery they cause, there’s also the cost to the health service to consider. To squander the opportunity to make a big and positive launch for such a campaign, and thereby waste the money being spent on that launch, demonstrates a lack of professionalism and accountability.

After the lacklustre speeches had finished I went on my way, only to be stopped by one of the leaflet ‘n’ balloon folk. “Do you know anyone who smokes?” she asked me, almost apologetically. I just shook my head and kept walking.

Targetting is also beyond the grasp of the gang of spend thrifts who decided on this launch, it would appear.

I don’t doubt the supine local press will find positive things to say about the launch, grateful as they are for real events to cover. But they shouldn’t. They should ignore the MPs’ speeches and the colourful balloons and they question the manner in which the money was spent on this event and how its effectiveness will be measured.

You could argue, and many people do, that if people want to smoke let them smoke, plus taxes on tobacco raise huge sums of money for the government.

I might or indeed I might not agree with that viewpoint. That’s not my point here. Once the decision has been taken to embark on a publicly-funded anti-smoking campaign paid for by smokers and non-smokers alike there is a responsibility to ensure that money is spent properly.

Not wasted, which it clearly was this morning.

Stoptober
Stoptober: make it stop

 

If you want information on stopping smoking, click here for the Stoptober website.

 

Why the UK health service is not America’s concern

Following the opening ceremony of the 2012 Olympics, the world’s media was awash with reaction and opinion. Not all of it glowing. A fair few overseas commentators seemed to find the NHS section of the evening somewhat troubling.

For those that don’t know, the NHS is our National Health Service, set up in the wake of WWII, state-owned and funded by taxes.
Many US Republicans (and some Democrats too) point at our NHS when arguing against many of President Obama’s planned health reforms. A lot of what I read today was woefully inaccurate at best, and rantingly offensive at worst.
Our health service *is* free at the point of delivery. There is no ‘gaming’ it. We do have a private health sector, which is thriving. So, if you have the money you can choose to pay rather than use the NHS. You get treated by the same doctors, sometimes in the same hospitals. But you get treated sooner.
All emergency treatment is via the NHS – from heart attacks through to car accidents, shootings, stabbings etc.
The use by people in the US of the term “socialized” health care means nothing to us. That simply is not what it is, not what it feels like.  It is a hollow ideologue’s term to defend their distaste for providing health care for all members of society.
It is my belief that the true test of a society is how it regards the less fortunate and those in need of help. But I keep that opinion to myself. I would never stoop so low as to lecture people in the US, for example, on what their health system lacks – because I don’t live there.
The UK’s NHS is far from perfect. The waiting lists are too long. There is too much emphasis on measuring the wrong aspects of patient treatment and not enough on actual patient care. Some hospital governing bodies (it’s done regionally) have run out of money. The quality of care you get is often due to how much the people you are treated by actually care about what they are doing.
My father died in early 2011 and was treated very badly in hospital during the last week of his life. My mother’s cancer wasn’t diagnosed, despite many warning signs, until it had advanced to the point where it was declared inoperable. My oldest son was left with a ruptured appendix for almost two weeks before one particular doctor realised what was going on – he dodged a one-in-a-thousand bullet.
Most people in the UK know someone that’s had a bad experience at the hands of the NHS.
Most of us also know someone who received life-saving treatment, or life-changing care at the hands of the NHS.
It’s always fascinating to read what people overseas think of our country. But, mostly, you are all speaking from positions of varying ignorance. The opinions I value most are from those who caveat their comments by declaring themselves onlookers, not behaving like experts.