Tag Archives: uk

The health highlights of two years of Guardian data

In two years, the Guardian’s data blog has published more than 600 data sets. I know this because, thanks to their nifty summary post, I just browsed the full list. In addition to more than a few UK analogues to the sort of stuff we see from AHRQ and NCHS, such as UK life expectancy, birth rates and aging populations and public spending, they’ve also got the sort of global health stuff that any journalist or blogger could pull out and use in a post tomorrow. I’ve collected some of my favorites and tried to strike a good balance between unique stuff and broad-spectrum, widely available global health data.

And finally, for no particular reason, here’s the outcome of every freedom of information request ever filed by the BBC. Also in the category of “data for curious journalists/insiders”? Several years of UK libel cases.

UK’s Dartmouth-esque atlas yields familiar results

Writing for NPR’s health blog, Christopher Weaver looks at the NHS Atlas of Variation in Healthcare, which is similar to our Dartmouth Atlas. While they don’t have an interactive map up yet (they promise one will come next year), it has generous helpings of maps and graphs. The full PDF comes out to 100 pages and 19mb.

The most and least surprising thing about the NHS atlas? That, despite vastly different health care systems, it yields much the same results as the American version. I’ll let Weaver explain:

Before you blame … inconsistencies on America’s money-driven health system, take a look at Britain’s effort to anglicize the Dartmouth work: Doctors in some areas such as the college town of Oxford do one type of hip replacement at rates up to 16 times greater than in places like London, according to a November atlas by the National Health Service.

The British atlas is surprising because “doctors are not by and large paid on a fee for service basis in the NHS,” Angela Coulter, director of global initiatives for the Dartmouth Atlas-associated Foundation for Informed Medical Decision Making, said at a Salzburg Global Seminar session this week. “It illustrates the fact… that doctors tend to favor the treatments they’re trained to provide,” even when money isn’t a factor. Most British doctors get salaries rather than payments for each procedure like their American colleagues.


For more European health news, see AHCJ’s Covering Europe initiative.

BMJ exposes UK drugmaker’s astroturf attempt

Pharmalot blogger Ed Silverman reports that, had they not been exposed by BMJ, the UK pharmaceutical company Norgine probably would have gotten away with quietly organizing doctors and patient groups to submit a letter to The Times protesting a government plan to require substituting generic drugs for brand-name ones where applicable. Norgine’s name appeared nowhere on the letter, which was written by a PR firm they’d hired. Furthermore, several patient groups which signed the letter also received funding from pharmaceutical companies.

In the end though, Silverman writes, Norgine came away from the incident pretty well, considering the outcry over their stunt.

Norgine may have had the last laugh, however. Apart from being lambasted publicly for being a secretive and manipulative company, the drugmaker issued a celebratory press release earlier this month trumpeting the decision by the government to scrap the proposed automatic generic substitution plan.


For more European health news, see AHCJ’s Covering Europe initiative.

UK hospitals fail to comply with safety alerts

Following medical errors and patient safety issues, the United Kingdom’s National Patient Safety Agency issues national safety alerts so that hospitals can change their practices and avoid repeat occurrences. As The Daily Telegraph‘s Rebecca Smith reports, a patient advocacy group has found (28-page PDF) that two-thirds of UK hospitals have failed to meet the implementation deadline on at least one alert.

The group blames haphazard enforcement and monitoring for the lapses.

Action against Medical Accidents warned that despite repeated warnings that the alerts were not being complied with, there was no central policy or guidance on which organisation should be monitoring compliance and what action should be taken.

Smith focused on two particularly serious issues, the inappropriate administration of oxygen and injectable medicines. The report groups instances of noncompliance by hospital and by alert.

UK reporter gains ground in chiropractor libel suit

UK journalist Simon Singh has gained ground in his ongoing defense against a libel suit leveled by British chiropractors, with the reversal of a ruling that had said his words were (potentially libelous) fact instead of (protected) commentary. The words in question included the assertion that the British Chiropractic Associationhappily promotes bogus treatments.”

Photo by Dave McLean via Flickr

The dispute has been over whether or not his words imply that the BCA was being consciously dishonest and deceptive.

Covering Health has written about UK libel cases in the past, and this case has received a fair amount of attention, but those who haven’t been following the Singh case can find a competent primer on Wikipedia.

The BBC calls it a “landmark ruling,” then explains:

BBC News science correspondent Pallab Ghosh says that, had Justice Eady’s ruling stood, it would have made it difficult for any scientist or science journalist to question claims made by companies or organisations without opening themselves up to a libel action that would be hard to win.

The BBC reported that Singh praised the ruling and said the legal wind finally seemed to be at his back, but that he bemoaned the fact that it had cost £200,000 to get to that point.

“The Court of Appeal’s made a very wise decision, but it just shouldn’t be so horrendously expensive for a journalist or an academic journal or a scientist to defend what they mean.

“That’s why people back off from saying what they really mean.”

(Hat tip to Knight Science Journalism Tracker)