Could Ozempic bankrupt the NHS?

The NHS spends around £6.5 billion every year treating obesity. People who are overweight cost the health service twice as much as those who maintain a healthy weight. Half of all cancer cases are linked to obesity and being severely overweight significantly increases the risk of other conditions, such as diabetes, strokes and heart attacks. No public health campaign or intervention has ever worked. Obesity rates have nearly doubled in the UK since the 1990s. More than 60 per cent of adults are overweight. It’s hoped that weight-loss injections, known as GLP-1 agonists – semaglutide (also known as Wegovy or Ozempic) and the more recent market entry tirzepatide (Mounjaro) –

Infected blood scandal was ‘no accident’, says report

17 min listen

The Infected Blood Inquiry has finally concluded after a five-year investigation. This lunchtime, the inquiry’s chair Sir Brian Langstaff said thousands of deaths could have been prevented and the ‘worst ever’ NHS scandal, which saw thousands of Britons between 1970 and 1998 become infected by contaminated blood, could ‘largely, though not entirely, have been avoided’. Will the NHS change after change after this latest scandal?  James Heale speaks to Katy Balls and Isabel Hardman. 

The Spectator’s letters page is hazardous 

Question time Sir: Your leading article ‘Sense prevails’ (13 April) is a valuable précis of the Cass Review into NHS gender treatment. However, it also raises several questions. How are the actions of these individuals, groups and organisations different from those of others who have been found to have acted unprofessionally, causing harm to patients who were entitled to place trust for their health in them? Where was the ethical and executive management oversight within the NHS? What other unproven ‘treatments’ are being carried out under the ever-growing demands for more money to be allocated to the NHS? Finally, what sanctions are to be meted out – or will we

Has Rishi Sunak failed on the NHS?

13 min listen

One of Prime Minister Rishi Sunak’s five promises is to cut NHS waiting lists. However, even he’s admitted progress is slow, with new data showing key targets on waiting lists have been missed. Can Sunak ever solve the NHS problem?  Elsewhere, Lee Anderson has been telling us about the price of friendship, revealing he won’t be campaigning in certain constituencies where his old Conservative pals are running…  Katy Balls speaks to Isabel Hardman and Kate Andrews. Produced by Megan McElroy. 

I want to see a doctor – not do another NHS survey

Nye Bevan did not make old bones, and perhaps that’s just as well. According to a recent British Social Attitudes survey, 52 per cent of those polled are dissatisfied with the NHS, in particular with the difficulties in getting a GP appointment, with long A&E trolley waits and with huge delays for hospital appointments. All this, in spite of ever more money being chucked into its maw. If invited, I could immediately save the NHS a packet by dialling down the thermostat that has turned hospitals into Hotel Tropicana for bacteria, and by asking, wherever possible, patients’ relatives to provide food, thereby reducing the amount of unappetising slop that goes

Will I ever get my HRT?

The novelty of living in a place where a policeman called Ambrose lives in a house whose door you can knock on if you need him will never wear off on me. I’ve asked around and no one here can remember any crime, aside from years ago they seem to recall there was a murder. But except for the odd murder, policing in West Cork usually consists of an old person having a broken oil burner and Ambrose taking them a portable heater. The doctor reminded me of Dr Meade from Gone With the Wind when he’s about to start amputating limbs It’s rather like an episode of Heartbeat, and

Common sense prevails in the gender debate

The publication this week of the Cass Review into gender-identity services for young people marks a welcome return to reason in an area of medicine which for the past few years has been driven by identity politics. No one is denying that there are those who deserve psychological – and in some cases physical – help to cope with their condition. But the explosion in the number of children treated on the NHS for gender-identity issues (and in many cases being given powerful drugs with severe side effects) should have set alarm bells ringing long before it did. The NHS first set up its Gender Identity Development Service (GIDS) at

Are conspiracy theories just conspiracy therapy?

At the Centre for Rare Diseases, the car park was full and lots of people were milling about. I pulled into a private space I wasn’t meant to be in so that I could let my mother out of the car by the front door. I then sat in the car waiting, watching the rare people come and go. On further inspection of the website, it turns out that a rare disease is not necessarily something that happens rarely. A rare disease is a condition affecting less than one in 2,000 people. However, ‘with more than 7,000 individual rare diseases, their collective prevalence is about one in 17 of the

Portrait of the week: Lee Anderson defects, Ireland rejects and Kate photoshops

Home Rishi Sunak, the Prime Minister, said that Britain needed to build new gas-fired power stations to ensure energy security. GDP grew by 0.2 per cent in January. The number of people of working age classed as economically inactive rose to 9.25 million, compared with 8.55 million in February 2020, according to the Office for National Statistics. Among those aged 16 to 34, economic inactivity was rising; among those aged 35 to 64 it had fallen. Long-term sickness accounted for 2.7 million people not in work, 600,000 more than four years ago. The National Health Service employed more than two million for the first time, more than a third of public-sector workers.

The NHS says trans women should breastfeed babies. This is unforgivable

There are a fair few trans women – men who want to be seen as ladies – who long to breastfeed real babies, and some who actually give it a good go. A few years ago this would have seemed unthinkably surreal, but I’m afraid this is the new reality and you’ll just have to get used to it. A man who wants to breastfeed first takes hormones to grow breast tissue. Then he uses a technique adapted from something called the Newman-Goldfarb protocol, which was designed to help adoptive mothers breastfeed: he takes hormones and a hefty dose of an anti-nausea medication called domperidone and then begins an intense

In search of a second epiphany

When I go home to America next week for Christmas, I’ll go to church – the one my family and I used to attend every Sunday, a few towns over. I visit intermittently throughout the year when I’m back home, but I always go on Christmas Eve. The routine is the same: I sit quietly in the pews, sing along to the carols, and hope to have a second epiphany.   I had my first epiphany – that God exists – when I was a child. This, I’m sure, is the result of having two religious parents who raised me in the church. When I tell my British friends that I

Rishi’s smoking ban inspired me to light a cigarette

What has Rishi Sunak’s government achieved in its first year? The highlights include a renegotiated Brexit policy and setting more practical net-zero deadlines. But Sunak asked the country to judge him on his ability to deliver his pledges set out at the start of the year. If polls are to be believed, voters are preparing to do just that. Inflation is falling, but that’s largely due to interest rate hikes announced by the Bank of England. The economy is growing, but barely. The NHS waiting list keeps rising – 7.6 million now in England alone. On this last point, no doubt the six-figure salaried consultants who keep striking deserve part

How do I know I’m an adult? I’m given unsolicited feedback

Adulthood was once determined by age, but now we’ve extended childhood far beyond the teenage years. If the government gets its way, the next generation will never grow up: there are reportedly plans to ban cigarette sales to anyone born after 2009. This would mean that, come 2060, 50-year-olds could be begging their elders to pop into the local corner shop to buy them a pack of 20. We need a new metric of adulthood, and I have a proposal. The real mark is not an age or any particular milestone, it’s really when you receive your first piece of unsolicited feedback. It’s a grim but unavoidable rite of passage: having personal

Could I be pregnant?

At the age of 59 I thought it was time to get my body thoroughly examined. So last week I trotted off to a health clinic in west London. Not surprisingly, I got a mixed report. Mostly As and Bs, a couple of Ds, and several must-try-harders. The health check consisted of an hour with a man in green hospital scrubs, who I think was a nurse, followed by an hour with a female doctor. It was all trundling along nicely – my weight and BMI were both within the ‘healthy’ range – when something unexpected happened. After attaching electrodes to my body for the purposes of carrying out an

Letters: Stop talking, Rishi – and take action

Sick note Sir: Kate Andrews illuminates how, for us British, the successful diagnosis of a major medical condition is frequently a matter of chance and, even then, usually occurs later than it should (‘Why are the British so anti-doctor?’, 2 September). The near asymptomatic nature of many serious conditions combined with the cultural pressures of stoicism and reluctance to be the bearer of bad news allows many cancers, for example, to run free for years before discovery. In addition, while treatments from the NHS can be brilliant, they vary enormously across the country in terms of accessibility and availability. James Wilson  South Beddington, Sutton Spare the Rod Sir: I was

Why won’t my British friends see a GP?

Having lived in the United Kingdom for almost my whole adult life, I like to think I’m well assimilated. I stopped trying to make pleasantries with strangers a long time ago. I skip dinner to stand outside the pub in the dark. Apart from my accent (though Americans tell me that’s changed, too) I think I can just about pass as British. But never for long. At some point, someone starts talking about a health worry or new ailment, and I tell them to see the doctor. Suddenly, the jig is up, and I’m an outsider again. I’m now very familiar with the British aversion to seeking medical care. Still,

Letters: The Lucy Letby killings shouldn’t mean we lose trust in all NHS managers

Murder mystery Sir: I once made a diagnosis of a very rare condition too late to cure the patient. She was nevertheless grateful and thanked me, though my conceit evaporated when she asked: ‘What took you so long?’ I suspect the managers at the Countess of Chester Hospital must feel as I did (‘Hospital pass’, 26 August). Murder was not on the top of their differential diagnoses. Many senior clinicians who have had leadership roles in NHS hospitals bear the scars of conflicts with management, though perhaps not as deep as those of the Chester paediatricians.  We would nevertheless acknowledge that most managers are dedicated, conscientious professionals committed to the

Why can’t NHS managers spot a serial killer?

No one who has paid any attention to NHS scandals over the past few decades should be at all surprised by the way in which managers at Lucy Letby’s hospital repeatedly dismissed concerns about her. When worried consultants produced considerable evidence to show that the nurse was present at every single event where a baby had dramatically collapsed or suddenly died, they ended up being the ones in the firing line. Management even forced them to apologise to Letby personally at an HR meeting, to which, bizarrely, the nurse brought along her parents. Doctors are suspicious of the calibre of those managing them, and the managers are often on the

Will the NHS learn from Letby’s murders?

Will the fallout from the Lucy Letby case really lead to lasting change in the NHS? The most prolific killer of babies was able to continue even as doctors raised concerns about her – to the extent that the consultants themselves were forced to apologise to her face for a ‘campaign’ of bullying, rather than their concerns being taken seriously about her presence at the deaths or collapse of all the babies at the Countess of Chester hospital. Now, doctors’ union the British Medical Association has turned on NHS managers, saying the time has come for a reckoning for the ‘unaccountable’ bosses. NHS managers are often unfairly maligned: politicians like

Where were the longest A&E waits?

The bare platform A 112-space car park built to serve the railway station in the Cambridgeshire village of Manea was used by just three cars in its first week. — The station, formerly a ghost station with one train a week, has been revived but even so is only served by two trains every hour. — Yet had it not been for the Civil War, it could have been the capital of England. Charles I planned an English Versailles there, surrounded by a great city called Charlemont – all built on land reclaimed from the fens. Thanks to the war, however, nothing ever got built. — The name Charlemont lives on