NHS: Another year, another £84 million up in smoke

by Chris Holmes

Update, 19/08/11: Check this out, from The British Medical Journal!  Could it finally be the admission we have been waiting for these last few years, that NHS Smoking Cessation services are an abject failure and those millions would be better used elsewhere within the NHS?

 

Question: What does the NHS mean by “success rate”?

Answer: If any smoker reports to the NHS Stop Smoking Services that they have not smoked for 4 weeks, they are counted as a “success”.

Yet the UK Department of Health have known since the results of the Borland report were published several years ago that the actual outcome of NHS Stop Smoking Services when the results are reviewed at one year is 6% – exactly the same as willpower alone, and well within the normal placebo range.  This means that the NHS Stop Smoking Services don’t increase smokers’ chances by any significant margin and are therefore a complete waste of valuable NHS resources.

The main aim of the Truth Will Out Campaign over the last three and a half years has been to warn smokers that they are being led a merry dance by the Department of Health, and it is still going on:

Metro News, Wednesday August 17 2011

MORE TRY TO STOP SMOKING ON NHS

“More smokers are trying to quit but success rates have fallen, figures show.  The number trying to kick the habit has trebled in the past ten years to 788,000 – but the success rate of 49 per cent in 2010/11 is down from 53% a decade earlier.”

Ah, but you see it never was 53%, or anything like that.  That doesn’t count as a success rate if the Department of Health already know – but aren’t telling smokers – that this dwindles away to only 6% at one year, which is exactly the same as willpower anyway.  And don’t you think that if all smokers were aware of that fact, it is extremely unlikely that 788,000 smokers would be wasting their time with those stupid, pointless methods in the first place – not to mention the collossal waste of money, as the Metro reports:

“In England, £84.3 million was spent on NHS Stop Smoking Services in 2010/11.”

I first denounced this as a criminal waste of precious NHS resources here on this site in March 2008, providing all the documentary evidence (see Evidence) necessary to prove that what I’m saying is true, and the response of the UK Department of Health has been to waste a further £250,000,000 on it since then.  Actually it is way more than that, because the above figure is for England alone.

How many extra surgeons, scanners or dialysis machines could be bought with that, Minister?  But no, you’d rather keep gifting it to drug companies for zero actual benefit, and we have to ask ourselves why the hell that is?  No, better still let’s ask you: “Why the hell are you doing that, Minister?”

The Usual Tripe

Whenever any spokesperson from the NHS, the BMA, N.I.C.E. or the DoH is obliged to comment on this, they simply refer to the Stock Answers For Radio/TV/Newspapers manual, which is getting a bit dog-eared now but they still hold onto it as it seems to have always done the trick in the past.  Firstly, they solemnly draw attention to how many people die from smoking in the U.K. every year.  This ploy is twofold: firstly it suggests that anyone objecting to what the government is doing about this must be highly irresponsible because clearly, something must be done, whilst the solemn tone suggests that “We, the sober authorities are surely the ones to fix this” – even though they plainly haven’t, despite funnelling vast sums of public money into the project for a whole decade.  As the report in the Metro notes:

“Some 22 per cent of men and 20 per cent of women are smokers, similar to previous years.”

Folks, this NHS Stop Smoking programme was started by the Blair government in 2001.  It has been running for ten years and fraudulently boasting upwards of 50% average success rates all along, with hundreds of thousands of smokers being duped into taking part with scandalous misinformation about actual outcomes, yet the percentage of smokers in the UK today is: “similar to previous years”!

£84 million is a lot of TAXPAYERS’ money – that’s just England, and only the cost of the last twelve months of this ten year farce.  53% was always a totally misleading suggestion as an outcome and so is 49%.  The real outcome is around 6%, and that cannot be called a ‘success’ rate when the smoker’s own willpower creates the same outcome.  There is no scientific justification for any of this expenditure, and the Department of Health knows this, so they are deliberately setting out to mislead the public about the real situation, and the government have been endorsing that for years now.

So, rather than admit the error and pull the plug – freeing up valuable resources for other vital areas of the NHS – the Official Solemn Spokesperson will firstly tell the readers/listeners/viewers how many smokers are dying every year, then boast about how much of our money they have wasted on those NHS services – a great deal of which goes straight into drug company coffers, like so much of the NHS’s resources.  (The NHS drugs bill is now over £10 billion a year.)   They never breathe a word about the Borland report’s findings of 94% failure at one year, but woffle on instead about “numerous scientific studies” which they claim have “demonstrated the effectiveness” of nicotine products, Zyban, Champix etc. BUT WITHOUT TELLING YOU that they are referring exclusively to SHORT TERM RESULTS.  It’s deception, pure and simple – and it’s a standard script, cropping up all over the place in newspapers, on radio and TV and on the internet.

Short-term results being hyped as “success rates” – it’s standard practice now, and it is not scientific at all, it is pure marketing but the creepy bit is that it is evidently being sustained with the blessing of medical authorities and the government.  We’ve already seen how politicians were afraid to take on Rupert Murdoch because he grew too powerful, and how his malign influence corrupted decision-making with regard to takeover bids and even criminal behaviour like bribery.  This is the same sort of thing, because drug companies having grown so powerful that no-one in government wants to upset them, and it has corrupted the BMA, NICE, the MHRA, the NHS and the DoH.   Did you know that Nicotine Replacement products were originally approved on the basis of their performance at just SIX WEEKS?  That’s not an accurate measure of real outcomes, in fact it proved very misleading!  How many smokers know about that?  How many DOCTORS know that?

Drug company products are usually referred to as “evidence-based” medicine, but all the evidence is that it doesn’t work any better than willpower in the long run, and the difference between 53% and 6% is so huge that this is a very clear case of the NHS and Department of Health seriously misleading the public about the effectiveness of those services.  Isn’t that illegal?

The “something must be done” suggestion is bogus: the NHS is strapped for cash – how much more could be done with those resources by other services within the NHS to prevent suffering and save lives if all this money wasn’t being wasted on a project which is a total failure in reality?

This is a massive fraud, and it is costing lives.  And if you, or anyone you know actually stopped smoking whilst using those services – believe me, the scientific evidence is, you did it with willpower really.  And that ain’t worth £84 million of anyone’s money, is it?

 

A Post Script

For years, the government used the Ferguson report to justify this expenditure, which arrived at a “success rate” of 15% at one year.  I have studied carefully all the reports the Department of Health quoted in response to my enquiries as to the scientific basis of this vast expenditure.  None of them justify it, and it turned out that the Ferguson report had to disqualify a whole bunch of the original sample of smokers to arrive at 15% “success”.  They were disqualified on the basis of socio-economic factors – i.e. they were the people the authors of the report pre-judged were least likely to stop smoking, so they eliminated them before assessing the outcomes!  That’s not science, Minister – that’s spin.

All along, I have said it was 94% failure, same as willpower alone.  The Borland report confirmed it – but incredibly, STILL concluded that this expenditure was worthwhile and should be continued!  A blatant case of the drug companies getting their own way REGARDLESS of what the actual evidence is.

Sometimes I have been dismissed as being a ‘conspiracy theorist’, but only by people who don’t like what I’m saying.  Do they challenge my evidence?  No, because it is entirely based on government reports.  Do they think that smokers should not be told that the science clearly shows that NRT doesn’t improve their chances and the rest is just marketing which cynically sticks to very short-term results, which are very poor anyway?  Do they really think the status quo should be carried on for another decade?  Why?  Who would be in favour of that, except those who profit from it?

That’s not a conspiracy theory.  It’s old-fashioned, dishonest-to-badness corruption – which any knucklehead can understand.  As straightforward and not-very-surprising as MPs fiddling their expenses and police officers being paid cash by a media tycoon for inside information.  Did anyone think THAT should go on for another ten years?  NO!

So – where’s MY parliamentary enquiry, Minister?

the book that blew the whistle on the nicotine scam