£830m pay-off for NHS penpushers. . . and most of them will be rehired by the State
More than £830million is being spent paying off National Health Service penpushers – even though most will be handed new jobs. Thousands of managers and staff are being made redundant under reforms that will scrap primary care trusts and strategic health authorities and switch their work to GPs.
Ministers have admitted that seven in ten staff laid off are likely to be re-employed by the new GP purchasing groups.
Figures uncovered by Labour show that up to £750million is being spent on pay-offs for care trust staff and £84million on health authority workers. Hospitals and health trusts have been told to set aside more than £3billion of their budgets to cover the cost of bringing in the changes – stopping them spending it on patient care.
And figures also show that the number of administrative organisations in the NHS will more than treble under the changes, despite pledges by the Coalition to reduce bureaucracy. Currently there are 163 primary care trusts and strategic health authorities but under the changes there will be 521 organisations and quangos. These include clinical commissioning groups, health and well-being boards, clinical senates and the NHS Commissioning Board.
John Healey, Labour’s health spokesman, said: ‘We have had a wasted year of chaos and confusion in the NHS which is set to drag on as David Cameron forces the Health Service through the biggest reorganisation in its history. ‘£850million will be spent on redundancies, while 2 per cent of PCT budgets, almost £2billion, is being held back from patient care to cover the costs and risks of the Tories’ reckless reorganisation.’
Nearly 21,000 staff are expected to be made redundant under the changes. The Government claims that more than 3,000 managers have already gone. Some are likely to have received packages of as much as £130,000. But details buried in the Health and Social Care Bill published earlier this year show that as many as seven in ten of staff made redundant would be given jobs elsewhere.
Emma Boon, of the TaxPayers’ Alliance, said: ‘It’s very worrying that the proportion being spent paying people off is so high.’ ‘People should get what is legally entitled to them but careful planning would have meant less stress for those involved and would have made the whole process much quicker and cheaper for the taxpayer.’
The reform Bill, which is due to be debated in the House of Commons today, centres on putting GPs in charge of buying in treatment and services and encouraging private companies to play a greater role.
Initially ministers claimed it would cost £1.4billion – but this prediction is likely to be increased when fresh estimates are published over the next few weeks.
A spokesman for the Department of Health said: ‘We are passionate about the National Health Service and want to safeguard it for the future. ‘We are spending money on redundancy now so we can reduce back office administrative costs and save money in the longer term.’ ‘These savings will be reinvested into front-line services and improving patient care.’
Primary care trusts have been told to hold back 2.5 per cent of their annual spending – nearly £2billion – and hospitals to set aside the same 2.5 per cent, or £1.1billion.
Once again careless British doctors try to kill a healthy baby
They knew that the first scan could be wrong and should have done a second one but could not be bothered. Once again it was only mother’s intuition that saved a dear little boy who has given great happiness to his parents
Doctors told first-time-mother Amy-Lou Howard she should seek a termination because her son Edward didn’t show up on the screen. The scan appeared to show an empty sac in Amy-Lou’s womb, which lead them to diagnose an ectopic pregnancy.
This potentially fatal condition is where the foetus grows outside the womb and Amy-Lou was advised she would need an injection to flush out her fallopian tubes to remove the foetus.
But Amy Lou’s aunt, Louise Turner, who happened to be with her in hospital, insisted her niece should wait for a second scan. Louise realised Edward might actually be hiding as she had the same experience when she was pregnant with her first child. Ms Howard defied doctors’ advice and a week later a scan showed the baby was in fact there all along and growing normally. She went on to give birth to a healthy baby boy, Edward, now eight months old.
The 19-year-old from Norfolk said: ‘It was the tiniest dot you have ever seen. He must have been hiding, it was like he was playing peek-a-boo. ‘My aunt was having chemotherapy for breast cancer in the same hospital at the time and came to visit me for the first scan. ‘It was devastating when I saw the empty sac on the screen. ‘They told me an ectopic pregnancy could kill me because if the baby got any bigger my tubes could burst. It could also have left me infertile.
‘I’m so glad my aunt was there. If I’d been there by myself I would have gone along with the doctors’ advice. ‘It makes me feel so sick when I think about what could have happened.’
Sadly Amy-Lou’s aunt never got to meet Edward after she lost her battle with cancer in October last year shortly before he was born.
Amy-Lou said: ‘We were very close. She was like a second mum. She was desperate to see him but missed him by seven weeks. ‘If it wasn’t for her, Edward wouldn’t be here. ‘It shows doctors are not always right but mother’s intuition is.’
Amy-Lou, a full time mother from Norfolk, went on to give birth to a healthy baby boy, Edward, now eight months old.
Amazingly, Ms Howard fell pregnant after being fitted with a contraceptive implant. It is understood hormone levels in her body stopped the implant from working.
In April last year, Amy-Lou developed stomach cramps so her worried partner Dan Mulligan, 20, took her to Norfolk and Norwich Hospital. Doctors ruled out pregnancy after a test came back negative and thought it could be irritable bowel syndrome.
Three days later, Amy-Lou returned to hospital in excruciating pain. This time, she was told it was appendicitis and doctors prepared to operate. But Amy-Lou’s mother, Carol Taylor-Bird, who was sure her daughter was pregnant asked for another pregnancy test. This time the test was positive.
Amy-Lou said: ‘Dan and I are childhood sweethearts and we’ve been together for six years but we weren’t ready to start a family. We didn’t even live together at the time. ‘I’d had the implant fitted but somehow I was pregnant. It was a real shock. I was so confused.
‘But I knew straight away I wanted to keep the baby. Dan struggled a little bit at first but he was really supportive. He’s a brilliant dad.’
Plant technician Dan added: ‘I was at work when Amy rang to say they thought it was an ectopic pregnancy. ‘Immediately I drove to the hospital. She was in tears. She thought she was going to lose the baby until her auntie told the doctors to wait.
‘We call him our little miracle. He was clearly meant to be here. I couldn’t imagine my life without him.’
A spokesman for Norfolk and Norwich hospital said: ‘Ectopic pregnancies are where the embryo develops in the fallopian tube rather than the womb.
‘It can take some weeks following a positive pregnancy test before ultrasound scans can reliably confirm the whereabouts and/or viability of a pregnancy. ‘So it is common to find that scans are unhelpful in the very early weeks of pregnancy. In these circumstances, we often rely on serial measurements of the pregnancy-related hormone, HCG, in the patient’s circulation.
‘It is common to find an empty uterus when women are scanned in the very early weeks of pregnancy, only to finds that the foetus “shows up” on a later scan. ‘In this case, we are pleased to say that the despite the initial difficulties, Amy-Lou went on to have a successful pregnancy.’
Another triumph of British multiculturalism
Five members of a gang [below] who stripped a 16-year-old girl in a park then posted the pictures on Facebook have been jailed for a total of 18 and a half years.
The nude photographs were taken by Victoria Beckford, 27, and Siobhan Vaughan, 29, who added them to the teenager’s profile page on the social networking website.
The shocking images, taken in Crystal Palace park, south London, were spotted by friends and family who contacted the girl’s mother.
As the thugs were sentenced it emerged the girl had tried to kill herself two days after she was abducted and subjected to the ‘humiliating and degrading’ ordeal. Inner London Crown Court heard she then spent two months recovering in the Maudsley Hospital in Camberwell, south-east London.
Victoria Beckford, 27, and Siobhan Vaughan, 29, who took the shocking images, were both jailed for four years. Fellow gang members Daniello Johnson and Antonio Williams, both 19, were also sentenced to four years each while Sian Roberts, 24, was caged for two and a half years.
Judge Usha Karu said: ‘A vulnerable 16-year-old girl was subjected by each of you to a terrifying ordeal which culminated in her humiliation and degradation. ‘This was then distributed on the internet for everyone to see – and unfortunately for you, it was that last act which led to the discovery of what had happened.
‘Her humiliation, fear and reluctance must have been obvious to you, yet you persisted, determined to achieve some kind of revenge for a sum of money that amounts to about £50.’
The five defendants had denied the attack but were convicted of false imprisonment in July after a three-week trial.
The victim, who cannot be named, had been taken hostage by the gang as punishment for an unpaid £50 debt. She was locked in a cupboard, punched and whipped with a leather belt during the ordeal on August 14 last year, before being taken to the park and stripped.
The girl had been lured to Brixton, south-west London, believing that a friend was going to remove braids from her hair. Williams and Johnson were waiting for her there. Johnson tied her wrists with a dressing gown cord and demanded her phone and PIN number, then locked her in a cupboard for more than an hour
During that time he slid the blade of a knife through the gap between the doors, before letting her out and beating her with a leather belt.
Roberts, who was owed the cash, then arrived with Beckford. Roberts ‘dragged’ the 16-year-old to her car and drove her around south London before collecting Vaughan.
With dusk approaching, the group is then said to have headed to a ‘poorly lit’ corner of Crystal Palace Park, where Beckford ordered the girl to strip, telling her: ‘This should teach you a lesson.’
The girl was also offered the alternative punishment of immersing her hands in boiling water, which she said she would prefer. But her tormentors decided they did not want to ‘leave visible marks’ and forced her to undress.
Mr Polnay said: ‘She removed the entire top half of her clothes, but this was not enough for the defendants – and both Victoria Beckford and Siobhan Vaughan demanded that she remove the entire bottom half. ‘She was now completely naked, and Victoria Beckford and Siobhan Vaughan then took out their mobile phones and took photographs.’
Giving evidence, the girl said at one point during her ordeal, Johnson handed a penknife to his one-year-old son and told him to ‘get’ her.
Asked how he handed the blade to the baby she replied: ‘He just gave it to him, handle first, and he walked towards me holding the knife.’ Mobile phone experts subsequently recovered a deleted copy of the nude photograph on Williams’ handset, which had been saved at 8.58pm on August 14, the court heard.
Williams and Johnson were arrested on August 17 and Roberts and Beckford were arrested six days later. Vaughan was arrested on September 20.
Johnson, of no fixed address; Williams, of Thornton Heath, south London; Roberts, of Bromley, Kent; Beckford, of Gypsy Hill, south London and Vaughan, of Croydon, and the 17-year-old, of West Norwood, south London, were convicted of false imprisonment.
Beckford and Vaughan were also found guilty of one count of making an indecent image of a child.
Speaking after the case Police Constable Andrew Birks, from the Lambeth police CID said: ‘This is a horrific case where the victim was subjected to hours of abuse, assault and humiliation by five defendants who when arrested told police a string of lies to try and conceal their involvement.
‘Through the bravery of that child, the jury has been able to recognise the truth behind the events of that day and to reach the verdicts that they have.
‘The events themselves left a traumatic mark on her life, made worse by having to appear in court and relive them because these defendants continued their trail of deceit.’
Huge police presence needed for British kids to get to and from school safely
As a grade-school kid in the ’50s I walked a mile to school in bare feet every day under NO supervision at all. And I never once had trouble. But there were no Muslims or Africans around then
Thousands of children returned to school yesterday under police guard. Scotland Yard is deploying 1,000 officers to stand at school gates and escort pupils on to buses to deter robbers.
The move follows a 20 per cent rise in street robberies in London to 13,254 this year, with a third of the victims aged ten to 19. Youngsters carrying expensive smartphones and MP3 players are increasingly being targeted, even though robbery rates overall are down since 2006. Blood-stained necklaces have been offered to pawnbrokers as jewellery theft has risen, driven by the high price of gold.
Assistant Met Commissioner Ian McPherson said: `Smartphones and media players are becoming must-have items for many people. Young people, especially secondary school-aged children, are targeted – usually after school by other young people.’
Hundreds of police and community support officers are taking part in the crackdown until half-term starts on October 21, a period when thefts from pupils surge.
Figures show 10 per cent of muggings take place around transport hubs and the Met is stationing officers outside schools, Tube stations and on buses.
Met Commander Maxine de Brunner said the end of the school day between 3pm and 6pm was when many thefts take place. She said: `It is a really busy time for us, especially at the start of the school term.
`Ten years ago the figures were much higher. But we have seen a spike in robbery in recent months which is down to the upward trend in the availability of really expensive phones and iPads.
`It is unprecedented to focus this amount of officers on just the journey to and from school and around transport hubs.’ But she added: `I think it makes young people feel safe that we are there.’
Bring back danger: Councils should build old-fashioned playground as British children have been softened up
Old-fashioned playground equipment like climbing frames, sand pits and paddling pools are set to be re-introduced after research found a degree of risk helps children to develop.
For years councils have felt forced to remove older attractions from their sites fearing any potential injuries could result in costly legal battles.
But recent research has shown that children actually benefit from risk when they play as it helps them develop the judgement skills they need in later life.
In an article for the scientific Journal Evolutionary Psychology, Ellen Sandseter a professor at Queen Maud University in Norway said: ‘Children must encounter risks and overcome playground fears – monkey bars and tall slides are great. ‘They approach thrills and risks in a progressive manner. ‘Let them encounter these challenges from an early age and they will master them through play over the years.’
In July, High Court judge Mr Justice Mackay ruled the National Trust could not be held responsible for the death of an 11-year-old boy who was killed when a branch fell from a tree at Felbrigg Hall in Norfolk in 2007. He told the court that the Trust’s tree inspectors had exercised a reasonable amount of caution saying ‘even the most careful risk assessment can be proved wrong by events.’
This landmark ruling is believed to greatly reduce the prospect of legal action in the event of injuries in play areas.
Last year David Cameron commissioned the report Common Sense, Common Safety, to look into the problem of unnecessarily strict health and safety regulations being enforced.
Outlining the problem he wrote: ‘A damaging compensation culture has arisen, as if people can absolve themselves from any personal responsibility for their own actions, with the spectre of lawyers only too willing to pounce with a claim for damages on the slightest pretext.’
The report, written by Lord Young concluded: ‘There is a widely held belief within the play sector that misinterpretations of the [Health and Safety] Act are leading to the creation of uninspiring play spaces that do not enable children to experience risk.
‘Such play is vital for a child’s development and should not be sacrificed to the cause of overzealous and disproportionate risk assessments. ‘I believe that with regard to children’s play we should shift from a system of risk assessment to a system of risk-benefit assessment, where potential positive impacts are weighed against potential risk.’
South Somerset Council has recently spent œ50,000 re-fitting two playgrounds in Chard and Yeovil, building sand pits, climbing equipment stepping logs and net swings.
Playlink, a national advisory body on outdoor activity, helped draw up the plans for the new playgrounds.
Chairman Bernard Spiegal told the Sunday Times he believed Britain had been obsessed with risk assessment which was having a negative effect on children. He said: ‘We were crippling their confidence by not letting them learn through experience. ‘We don’t want children losing fingers in badly designed swings or getting their heads trapped under a roundabout. But there’s nothing wrong with a bump, bruise and graze.’
British green energy reforms ‘to put £300 on household energy bills’
Green energy policies are set to add more than £300 a year to the average household energy bill, according to Downing Street calculations. David Cameron has been warned that there will be a 30 per cent rise in consumer bills by 2020 as a direct result of the Coalition’s policies.
The note from the Prime Minister’s senior policy adviser Ben Moxham also labels as ‘unconvincing’ Energy Secretary Chris Huhne’s claims that price increases would be offset by lower consumption due to energy efficiency measures.
The projected rise of nearly a third in the average household energy bill of £1,059 is blamed on policies designed to promote the use of renewables and nuclear power sources.
New obligations on energy firms to use increasing amounts of electricity from renewable sources and to help low-income homes become energy-efficient are also major factors.
Worryingly, the 30 per cent rise is not described as a worst-case scenario, merely a ‘mid-case’ projection.
‘Over time it is clear that the impact of our policies on consumer bills will become significantly greater,’ Mr Moxham states.
He adds: ‘DECC’s (Department of Energy and Climate Change) mid-case gas price scenario sees policies adding 30 per cent to consumer energy bills by 2020 compared to a world without policies.’
The note is dated July 29, 2011, and is copied to senior Downing Street advisers including Mr Cameron’s chief of staff Ed Llewellyn, permanent secretary Jeremy Heywood and policy chief Steve Hilton.
Mr Moxham also warns: ‘We find the scale of household energy consumption savings calculated by DECC to be unconvincing’.
The projected rise in energy bills is a major headache for Mr Cameron, who promised before last year’s general election to tackle soaring prices by giving regulators more powers.
Mr Huhne has repeatedly dismissed claims that fuel bills will rise by hundreds of pounds as ‘absolute nonsense’ and ‘rubbish calculations’.
The rise projected by No 10 is still far lower than that made by independent experts.
Earlier this year, experts at Unicredit banks said that a raft of green measures could mean energy bills double within just four years. Their report said: ‘According to our analysis, a typical UK energy bill could rise from the current level of £1,000 per year to over £2,000 per year by 2015. ‘As investment occurs, bills could double every five years until 2020, in our view.’
BAD SCIENCE by Ben Goldacre (Harper Perennial 2009) £12.99
Book Review by Dr. Alick Dowling.
This book is unknown to many MedChi members despite being hugely popular – it has entered the best-seller list recently. I, by chance, received a copy at Christmas from a nephew, who with his wife were fellow medical students with Goldacre in Oxford, qualifying in 1995.
The book proved an enjoyable read. Abounding with common sense as well as much combative material from his Bad Science weekly column in the Guardian, Goldacre’s aim is to correct much nonsense written by ‘scientific’ or ‘medical’ journalists that is wrong, frightens many readers and yet escapes editorial correction. His column has a large and devoted following, many of whom were at the Bath Literary Festival when Ben Goldacre spoke on March 1st 2009. Three hours earlier I had heard James Le Fanu introducing his Why Us? to his audience that Spring morning in the splendid Guildhall Banqueting Room. The review of Why Us? appeared last month on the MedChi website.
I had no thought then of doing the same for Ben Goldacre’s book. It had already reached a wide public; my only criticism would have been that it lacked an index. There are many reasons not to review a book – for example in the Spectator (May 2nd 2009) Nigel Lawson wrote: “As a general rule, I do not believe in reviewing bad books. Review space is limited, and the many good books that are published deserve first claim on it.”1
My reason for not reviewing Goldacre’s book was the opposite. It is a good book and needed no more praise. When we were told the astonishing reason why a new (actually the original) version was now available I changed my mind. This includes the pivotal Chapter 10 The Doctor Will Sue You Now, omitted from the version published last year. Goldacre’s account of how this came about is lucid, revealing and gives an example of his style:
Ben Goldacre‘s website April 9th, 2009
Chapter 10 in the original book – The Doctor Will Sue You Now, on Matthias Rath was removed, together with the index, from the first published version in Sep 08.
This is the “missing chapter” about vitamin pill salesman Matthias Rath. Sadly I was unable to write about him at the time that book was initially published, as he was suing my ass in the High Court. The chapter is now available in the new paperback edition, and I’ve posted it here for free so that nobody loses out.
Although the publishers make a slightly melodramatic fuss about this in the promo material, it is a very serious story about the dangers of pseudoscience, as I hope you’ll see, and it was also a pretty unpleasant episode, not just for me, but also for the many other people he’s tried to sue, including Medecins Sans Frontieres and more. If you’re ever looking for a warning sign that you’re on the wrong side of an argument, suing Medecins Sans Frontieres is probably a pretty good clue.
Anyway, here it is, please steal it, print it, repost it, whatever, it’s free under a Creative Commons license, details at the end. If you prefer it is available as a PDF, or as a word document. Happy Easter!
You are free to copy it, paste it, bake it, reprint it, read it aloud, as long as you don’t change it – including this bit – so that people know that they can find more ideas for free at http://www.badscience.net
This chapter did not appear in the original edition of this book, because for fifteen months leading up to September 2008 the vitamin-pill entrepreneur Matthias Rath was suing me personally, and the Guardian, for libel. This strategy brought only mixed success.
For all that nutritionists may fantasise in public that any critic is somehow a pawn of big pharma, in private they would do well to remember that, like many my age who work in the public sector, I don’t own a flat. The Guardian generously paid for the lawyers, and in September 2008 Rath dropped his case, which had cost in excess of £500,000 to defend. Rath has paid £220,000 already, and the rest will hopefully follow. Nobody will ever repay me for the endless meetings, the time off work, or the days spent poring over tables filled with endlessly cross-referenced court documents.
On this last point there is, however, one small consolation, and I will spell it out as a cautionary tale: I now know more about Matthias Rath than almost any other person alive. My notes, references and witness statements, boxed up in the room where I am sitting right now, make a pile as tall as the man himself, and what I will write here is only a tiny fraction of the fuller story that is waiting to be told about him. This chapter, I should also mention, is available free online for anyone who wishes to see it.
The missing index is explained. This is also available on the internet for owners of the original paperback, but unless it is completely rewritten it will only be valid for the first 9 chapters. Read the missing chapter free, and then decide whether to buy the new paperback.
The Chapter Bad Stats and its precursor Why Clever People Believe Stupid Things is of particular interest to doctors – not because they can be assumed to be Clever People, but because many do not realize how easily promoters of dubious theories manipulate us to accept ‘facts’ that are cleverly presented. Older doctors, never taught statistics, are more vulnerable than our younger colleagues. Goldacre uses clarity and simple terms to elucidate the subject. Malcolm Kendrick wrote a similar account about statistics in his book The Great Cholesterol Con (also reviewed on the MedChi website). For a comparison see below.
Goldacre’s aim to make ‘science’ accessible to ordinary readers is difficult to achieve, but he has the knack of doing so. He repeats the mantra: “I think you’ll find it’s a bit more complicated than that” when exasperated by the simplistic ‘explanations’ by ‘science’ journalists and even suggests it as a T-shirt slogan for the whole book.
His chapters on other individuals (including the new extraordinary account of Rath) are riveting. Professor Patrick Holford, the academic lynchpin at the centre of the British nutritionism movement, is dealt with in Chapter 9. It is not surprising that the ‘nutritionist’ Gillian McKeith took exception to Goldacre’s exposure in Chapter 7, but someone who has survived a legal encounter with Rath can easily dismiss her threats of legal action.
Goldacre’s introduction mentions the 50th anniversary of C.P. Snow’s lecture on the ‘Two Cultures’ of science and the humanities. Then arts graduates simply ignored science. No progress apparent since, but he is perceptive in seeing there has been a positive regression: “Today, scientists and doctors find themselves outnumbered and outgunned by vast armies of individuals who feel entitled to pass judgment on matters of evidence – an admirable aspiration – without troubling themselves to obtain a basic understanding of the issues.”
The structure of the book is sensible and cleverly laid out – a steady crescendo from a gentle introduction in how science should be taught, through an increasingly serious range of how we should view what we are told by ‘experts’ with suspicion, then through the milder and less dangerous forms of foolishness – homeopathy makes its appearance here – through the placebo effect, onwards to the bigger fish such as Nutritionists, the way the pharmaceutical industry pulls the wool over the eyes of doctors and patients, the misuse of statistics already mentioned and culminating in what Goldacre finds most worrying, how people in positions of great power still commit basic errors when dealing with health scares. If we disagree with him he tells us that we’ll still be wrong but with a lot more panache and flair that we could possibly manage right now.
Received from the author. The chapter about Rath — who claimed to cure AIDS by vitamins — is here
Two examples of statistical jiggery pokery:
Newspapers like big numbers and eye-catching headlines. They need miracle cures and hidden scares, and small percentage shifts in risks will never be enough for them to sell readers to advertisers (because that is the business model). To this end they pick the single most melodramatic and misleading way of describing any statistical increase in risk, which is called the ‘relative risk increase’.
Let’s say the risk of having a heart attack in your 50’s is 50% higher if you have high cholesterol. That sounds pretty bad. Let‘s say the extra risk of having a heart attack if you have high cholesterol is only 2%. That sounds OK to me. But they’re the same (hypothetical) figures. Let’s try this. Out of a hundred men in their fifties with normal cholesterol, four will be expected to have a heart attack. That’s two extra heart attacks per hundred. Those are called ‘natural’ frequencies.
Natural frequencies are readily understandable, because instead of using probabilities, or percentages, or anything even slightly technical or difficult, they use concrete numbers, just like the ones you use every day to check if you’ve lost a kid on a coach trip, or got the right change in a shop. Lots of people have argued that we evolved to reason and do maths with concrete numbers like these, and not with probabilities, so we find them more intuitive. Simple numbers are simple.
The other methods of describing the increase have names too. From our example above, with high cholesterol, you could have a 50% increase in risk (the ‘relative risk increase’); or a 2% increase in risk (‘the absolute risk increase’); or, let me ram it home, the easy one, the informative one, an extra two heart attacks for every hundred men, the natural frequency.
(p 192) quoting the Heart Protection Study (HPS) press release: If now, as a result, an extra 10 million high-risk people were to go onto statin treatment, this would save about 50,000 lives a year, that’s a thousand each week. Leaving aside the point that this 50,000 figure actually equates to one life ‘saved’ for every 200 taking the statin – ten million is an awful lot of people to use as your denominator – the concept of saving lives, suggesting as it does, that each of the 50,000 whose lives have been saved will go on to live a healthy life, is not best chosen.
In reality, taking a statin can only delay death, not prevent it. By how much? Well, if one in two hundred more people are alive after one year of taking statins, this means that if you wait another two-hundreths of a year (plus another little bit) the statin group will have caught up on the ‘placebo’ group in total number of deaths.
This represents an increased life expectancy of slightly under two days. So rather than stating that fifty thousand lives would be saved every year by taking statins, it would be considerably more accurate to state that if ten million people (at very high risk of heart disease) took a statin for a year they would live – on average – two days longer.
And if all ten million took a statin for two hundred years, they would all live – on average – an extra year. If we assume that most people would take a statin for thirty years maximum, this would lead to an average increase in lifespan of approximately two months.
Which doesn’t sound quite as dramatic as saving fifty thousand lives a year, or a thousand a week – or however you choose to hype up your figures. But there you go, it happens to be considerably more accurate.
Also remember that this benefit would only be seen in men with pre-existing heart disease. Women and men without pre-existing heart disease would not live a day longer. They would just have the dubious pleasure of thirty years of paying for drugs, worry and side effects.