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Sunday, 6 May 2007

Poor women with large tattooed breasts will have to do the best they can.

Nearly six million UK adults pay around £500 a year each for private health and fitness club services, generating an annual revenue of about £2.84bn. Many millions more pay for the less exclusive but no less calorie-burning municipal health and fitness services up and down the country. We spend another £350 million a year on health supplements. I can't easily find the figure for private elective surgery, but think it's around the £3bn a year mark. I'm ignoring the seven million of us who are covered by private medical insurance. My point is that as a nation we're quite prepared to put our hands in our pockets or purses to pay for personal health improvements at the margin; for anything life-threatening, we rely on the NHS.

The problem is, there's no half-ground between public and private medicine in the UK. This has sparked a debate that I first saw on Menssana's old blog, reappeared on a health professionals site and now is the subject of a discussion paper to be published by the BMA on Tuesday. Despite the slightly hysterical tone of the Observer's headline that 'NHS treatments must be rationed', the reality is that ALL public services are and always have been rationed. The debate is only about where one draws the line between services 'on ration' and services 'off ration'.

Whilst I also believe that funding decisions should be made at the local level by local bodies of health professionals and citizens, rather than from the State central health bureau, I think the NHS (or rather the NHS at its local level) should be allowed the power generally to ask for top-up fees for a whole range of medical procedures; a charge that is somewhere between free and the cost of a wholly private option.

Fertility treatments, breast enlargement or reduction, tattoo removal, elective caesarians for mums too-posh-to-push, varicose vein removal, cosmetic plastic surgery, piles reduction and many other minor procedures are now seen as a 'right'. This is never what the NHS was founded for. What next? Baldness treatment for men 'psychologically damaged' by being slapheads? Buttock implants for women who see a phat booty as a 'cultural necessity'?

Of course we're all happy to get something for nothing. But I'm sure if given the choice between spending money a year's gym membership or getting our piles sorted next week, we'll go for rectal comfort. 'Unfair to the poor' I hear some say; yes, perhaps. But not life threatening. And poor women with large tattooed breasts will just have to make out the best they can.

(NB Apols for being behind with my blogrolling - this is the next task for today)


Ed said...

Thanks for the blogroll!

Before we start with top-up charges in the NHS we could make the whole thing run much more efficiently and see how many elective and non-elective procedures we can manage. After all hasn't funding TRIPLED?

Anonymous said...

While I'm all for banning fertility treatments on the NHS, Viagra, hair replacement, tattoo removal, breast enlargement etc. I do think breast reduction should be allowed. This isn't a vanity procedure. Large breasts can be horrible things to live with, to the point of causing permanent back and neck damage, chronic pain, and skin problems. They're health problems, no?

I reckon all infertility investigation and treatment should be stopped until we don't have a 6mth min wait for radiotherapy. Infertility isn't an illness, if you can't breed then there's a reason, leave it at that. Because of this instant gratification culture people think they have a right to have kids, so we're pissing money up the wall on IVF to bring more genetically deficient, sick kids into the world, who cost loads of money to keep alive.

Anonymous said...

I have a M cup bra which means that one of my breasts is larger than my head. Most of that tissue is mammary gland and it is getting bigger as I get older -- I suspect some kind of hormonal issue, my breasts have put on one cup size in the past 3 years -- they get larger as they would when my period comes, but the volume doesn't go down afterwards like it used to. The resulting horrible lumps I have to carry about weigh nearly 6 kg now. The system for the lettering of bras is one inch difference between chest and breast size -- A = 1 inch, B = 2 inch and so on. (just to give you an idea of the magnitude of disfigurement.)

I cannot use my primary arm for many things anymore as the nerves are pinched from the weight of the bra strap, so lifting and stretching is not possible without pain and causing damage that hurts for days, I cannot dress myself without wincing. I have bedsore type injuries on my chest from the bra digging in as I have to wear a bra that is very tight in order to manage the weight by making the chest carry the weight to relieve the shoulders. I can't sleep on my back as my breathing is affected by the weight (and the mass of flesh also hurts when it just flops about) and sleeping on either side also hurts (I don't sleep very well as you can imagine, with all the rest of things that does to you) My upper spine and neck is affected by osteoarthritis and the weight is literally crushing it, I cannot leave the house because I have to lie down since I cannot stand or sit for longer than 10 minutes without this being very painful and I cannot hold my head up for very long either because my neck goes into spasms and hearing your tendons crackle with every move also isn't all that entertaining, crepitus is annoying. I also take 30mg codeine/500mg paracetamol pills and 2mg diazepam to deal with the pain and spasms when it gets too intense and I ration those carefully because I don't fancy an addiction problem on top of everything else. I asked to be referred to a pain clinic but the answer was no, and I should try and pull myself together. (my bra already does this crushingly well...)

My GPs (I tried a number of them) are not interested at all, one simply said to 'bind it up tightly. Another just looked at me like a offended frog when I suggested that perhaps if a 'beauty operation' is not the done thing on the NHS if a mastectomy would be possible -- the answer was no, since I do not have breastcancer and his brilliant idea was that, perhaps, could it be that I have a psychological issue about my breasts and could it be that I am depressed? (yes, i'm in constant pain of the eyewatering sort, I look like circus freak and I have not been able to socialise for 3 years now since I cannot go out, nor can I explain this to my friends either as socially, it's OK to suffer from (say) a broken leg, but to suffer from big breasts... talk about social suicide. SO yeah, one could claim that I am depressed, but mainly, I am angry), and yet another one said that I should try and lose weight. Yes, I'm fat. Not being able to do much is closely related to this, plus one does not lose mammary gland when dieting, what a stupid lazy quacktard. If I lost all the weight I'd may drop 2 cup sizes, making me a K cup, which is still way larger than normal.

Still think breast reduction is a beauty operation?

Have you seen how the result looks? Like a badly sown up purse and the woman loses the sensation in her nipples and the ability to breastfeed, so it is also akin to being partially neutered. Not something you want to wish for unless you have serious reasons! Even tho I wish I could have one, I'm not looking forward to it too much, if you know what I mean.

Btw, you might want to read this if you don't quite believe me:

In general, the attitude is that I caused the breasts myself (isnt' big tits what all woman want?), and the GP's I talked to were all embarrassed by the topic and tried to make out there is no problem. My official diagnosis is osteoarthritis, my boobs are not mentioned at all in the notes. I tried changing GP but in my inner city area choices are limited, so I'm stuck.