21 April 2002
I am not big on Days. Or Weeks for that matter. And particularly not Years. International Aids Day, Christian Aid Week, Breast Awareness Year. There seem to be a lot of them around just now, ensuring that we can feel guilty about our inaction all year round. To my mind, these are mostly just fundraising gimmicks, designed to catch the eye of bored news editors on slow days and then to lie forgotten for another 12 months.
But having said that, I should point out that today is MS Day, the culmination of MS Week, and that if you have a spare fiver left in your wallet this Sunday – despite Chancellor Brown's best efforts – then you could do a lot worse than to put it in an envelope and send it to the Multiple Sclerosis Society. You'll feel good. I may one day feel better, thanks to you.
Not least because MS is one area in which medical research is galloping ahead. So fast, in fact, that it could totally mess up the projections and assumptions of this week's Wanless Report, and the budget which followed. Even the Wanless Report's subtitle, "Taking a Long-Term View", implies that a seamless graph of NHS expenditure can be planned, with continued year-on-year boosts to the health budget. Not so. Mr Wanless recognises the potential problem. On page 127 of his report, he notes that: "The review recommends that further research is required in attempting to isolate the impact of technological change on health care spending." In other words: "I haven't got a clue what'll happen next."
On the day before Wanless was published, an American group of scientists
announced initial findings which suggest that stem cell transplantation
may well be helping some MS patients. If they're right, we're all going
to want it. All 85,000 MS patients in the UK. How much is that going to
cost, Derek? Medical breakthroughs tend to be both unpredictable and expensive.
However much cash we throw at the NHS, however many committees are asked
to look at future funding, these unpalatable prioritisations will have
to be made. By elected politicians.
Copyright 2002, Independent Newspapers