The NHS we are told today is spending £440m on painkillers. As we all know, whether we have a headache, backache, toothache or a trapped nerve, pain relief is a god-send. But when we can buy paracetamol at 20p a packet and lemsip at a couple of pounds, why on earth are doctors still prescribing these cheaply available over-the-counter medicines? In our Our health, our money, our say report a couple of years ago we estimated that it cost the NHS about £56 for someone to go to the doctor, get a prescription, go to the chemist and have it dispensed. In these times of scarce resources, this has to be a waste.
Meanwhile Wales are about to publish a White Paper which will set out a timetable for the introduction of presumed consent for organ donation. It will mean that unless you take the step of opting out, organ donation will be the norm if you die while your organs are still functioning well. This is a seismic change in approach. It changes donation to compulsion; it moves us from a position of trust to suspicion and supply will fuel demand for surgery from those who are aging, not necessarily ill. It also won’t solve the ethnic issue: many of those waiting for transplants are from BME communities and for a good tissue match they require an organ from someone with similar ethnicity, but there are religious taboos which mean no one from their community will donate.
Whilst suffering from organ failure when young is a tragedy, and we should be looking at all means to encourage donation, presumed consent assumes too much, doesn’t solve all issues and creates new problems.