Tuesday, 28 February 2012

Polly Toynbee - Enjoyable, Rational and Wrong

I found this piece by Polly Toynbee in the Guardian's 'Comment is Free', surprisingly enjoyable to read, completely rational but unfortunately utterly wrong.
It is clear that Polly has little knowledge of what NICE (National Institute for health and Clinical Excellence) actually does. Just like big Pharma on her polar opposite she thinks that NICE is or should be  an instrument to ensure equity - according to the left the most important or only function of the National Health Service. Like many doctors in the land & all over the globe, I use NICE frequently. NICE gathers evidence of effectiveness of different treatments from studies carried out all over the world - in countries both rich and poor and most of which do not have a comprehensive state funded and state provided service such as the NHS. NICE then makes suggestions for use of these treatments according to this evidence. It does its job very well.  The decision whether to pay for treatments is made by those with the money - i.e. commissioners - soon to be groups of GPs. NICE is indeed a extremely valuable resource and a gift to health workers all over the globe. In my opinion, it ranks up there with PubMed and the National library of Medicine, gifts  of the federal government of the US to the world. The article however raises an important issue about the REAL function of NICE- I suspect that the Labour government did plan for NICE to be an instrument of social engineering. It however evolved into something else -something far more useful. One does get the impression sometimes of a split personality at NICE when it tries to show off its 'Toynbeean/Toynbeeite' clothes - it should resist the urge to do so. It has become a global institution and should therefore behave like one and not as a political instrument of the British left!