February 2024
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Does Britain’s bungling bureaucrats’ mind-boggling bloody-mindedness kill?

(Tuesday blog)

Normally I like to base my blog on firm facts and figures – often facts and figures that media like the UK-hating BBC and C4 News never report. But today’s blog is purely based on speculation.

Public Health England (PHE) clowns not funny

Last week, we were told that Public Health England was failing abysmally to reach even 10,000 tests a day. In part, this was put down to PHE’s bureaucratic stranglehold on the process, and many private sector testing companies and Universities complained that they had offered their services weeks ago but had heard nothing back from PHE.  We also had the fiasco of PHE requesting to borrow a specific type of machine for their new “Mega Lab” in Milton Keynes – but the machine they were looking for was not widely used in the UK. In fact, one private lab in Oxford had 109 machines, but only one of the type PHE were requesting. One presumes other machines would have been usable if PHE had been prepared to RTFM!

This was the first sign that treatment of the Chinese Covid-19 plague was being hampered by useless, power-grabbing, incompetent, bureaucratic buffoons at PHE – buffoons more interested in their own careers, salaries and pensions than the health of anyone in England.

Testing, testing – oooppss, not testing

Then came the sorry story of the anti-body tests – the tests that are used to establish whether someone has had the Chinese plague and therefore has built up anti-body resistance that would allow them to return to work.

We’re told that these tests only work with the most serious cases of the Chinese plague and that (fortunately for us) the geniuses at PHE are working intensively to improve these tests. Given that these tests appear to come from the lying, filthy, corrupt, disease-ridden Chinese, one can well believe they’re total crap. But given the way PHE bureaucrats seem to reject anything that doesn’t come from their own useless £2bn-a-year bureaucracy, one could still have a lingering suspicion that doubts about the anti-body tests could also be due to PHE’s bureaucrats’ automatic blocking of any new idea or initiative.

Don’t give them medicine!

Then I came across this letter in the Sunday Telegraph from two days ago:

SIR – The chief medical officer, Professor Chris Whitty, has banned doctors from treating Covid-19 with anything other than paracetamol and, in severe cases, oxygen.

Colleagues have rightly condemned this response, which ignores the experience of doctors overseas. Professor Whitty’s position is that British doctors may not use therapies that have not undergone double blind controlled trials here. This could condemn many thousands to avoidable death through a failure to recognise that different rules should apply when patients are dying at such a rate.

The drug, hydroxychloroquine, is well-known, with a well-understood side-effect profile. It is safe. It also has a recognised mode of action in preventing replication of the virus. Comparison of the death rates in South Korea and Italy strongly suggests that it works to dramatically reduce the death rate. Evidence from India is similarly encouraging.

What sort of society do we live in when professors of rheumatology and consultants in respiratory medicine can only object anonymously? It is distressing that colleagues are too scared for their professional positions that they cannot advocate for their patients. Right or wrong, we have a duty to profess that which we believe to be true. To do otherwise brings into question our role in society. Are we doctors or are we civil servants?

Dr Steven R Hopkins


I don’t know if this letter is genuinely from a doctor or whether the claims it makes are accurate. But the claims in the letter do seem to fit a pattern of behaviour of Britain’s health bureaucrats – reject, reject, reject. Medical authorities in other countries have fast-tracked various existing drugs for approval for treating the Chinese Covid-19 plague. For example, the US FDA has fast-tracked hydroxychloroquine and, I think, several other treatments. But, from what little I understand, UK authorities will not authorise the use of existing drugs (Ivermectin? Remdesivir?) already approved for other conditions until full clinical trials have been completed.

This is a well known pathology among supposed ‘experts’ and professionals, called the Semmelweis Reflex – a ridiculous, close-minded response to having prevailing orthodoxy challenged:

The term derives from the name of a Hungarian physician, Ignaz Semmelweis, who discovered in 1847 that childbed fever mortality rates fell ten-fold when doctors disinfected their hands with a chlorine solution before moving from one patient to another, or, most particularly, after an autopsy. (At one of the two maternity wards at the university hospital where Semmelweis worked, physicians performed autopsies on every deceased patient.)

Semmelweis’s procedure saved many lives by stopping the ongoing contamination of patients (mostly pregnant women) with what he termed “cadaverous particles”, twenty years before germ theory was discovered.

Though I guess most of us would see the Semmelweis Reflex as being the same as the “not invented here syndrome”.

If Britain’s healthcare bureaucrats are (as the Sunday Telegraph letter suggests) blocking possible treatments, this would be a failure to put patient outcome at the centre of decision making (what good those drug trials for people suffocating to death in an ICU right now?) – give them whatever it might take to stop them dying FFS – and therefore constitutes a form of abuse and a disgraceful and cowardly failure to live by the hippocratic oath.

14 comments to Does Britain’s bungling bureaucrats’ mind-boggling bloody-mindedness kill?

  • david brown

    A few days ago Germany has aprox 85.000 confirmed cases and 1,100 deaths at the same time we had 33,700 cases and 2,920 deaths. So Germany had more than double the cases yet we had three times the number of deaths.

  • David Craig

    I believe that comparing the figures for number of cases is meaningless as the UK is only testing people who go to hospital whereas Germany is conducting drive-in testing in the population at large. Thus the cases picked up by the UK testing will be more serious than those identified in Germany. However, the figures for number of deaths are revealing and suggest a different approach to treatment in Germany.

  • denis

    In fact David, the Hippocratic oath was dropped years ago, which is partly why 8 million unborn babies have been killed by abortionists since “Lord” David Steel’s Abortion Bill in 1967.

    Nevertheless, a great article, thank you Sir.

  • Paul A

    If someone is going to die what is the point of refusing to use ANY form of treatment which might help, especially when it has shown to be beneficial elsewhere? It’s not as if they are going to get any worse is it?

  • A Thorpe

    I wonder whether we have arrived at a point where our expectations are beyond our ability to deal with them because of lack of knowledge and the complexity of situations. This is shown by the differences in infection rates and deaths in each country, as mentioned above. We know that three years ago the NHS failed to pass Exercise Cygnus which tested its ability to deal with a pandemic and nothing was done about it. Why is this not being exposed by the media? Protect the NHS, should be Protect us from the NHS.

    Organisations and people naturally try to cover up failures and state controlled organisations are always the worst. Recently we have the example of Boeing’s reaction to plane crashes. But surely, we have a right to be asked and agree to the use of experimental treatments. Here is a quote from The Telegraph about hydroxychloroquine: ““What do you have to lose?” Mr Trump said repeatedly when challenged about his enthusiasm for the drug, which has not yet been proved to be effective against Covid-19.” Who can we believe?

    It is just the same with testing. I have read for weeks that none of the tests are fit for purpose. It seems clear that the antibody test does not work. The test for people having the virus is a PCR test and that also seems to have issues. I have no expertise in this area but I can read and when there are differences of view we have to consider them. It is better that we know the truth than to believe treatments are working if they are not. Let’s not forget the number of drugs that have caused us problems, so perhaps Whitty is right. Let us also not forget the MMR scandal which advised not to use treatments. The medical profession is not one that I have confidence in, especially when big pharma is added to the picture.

  • Roy Hartwell

    This country had a very effective Public health Laboratory Service which provided well trained staff running specialist microbiological testing facilities both within hospitals (but administered separately from the NHS) and several nation-wide specialist centres which included research and development capabilities.
    In the late ’80’s the powers-that-be decided this needed to change and most of the hospital labs were subsumed into the hospital pathology service (loosing their independent but specialist function) and the larger reference labs were all lumped into the health protection Agency which included NRPB, and other non-microbiological specialisms, diluting the focus of the organisation!.
    In the early/mid 2000’s the same powers-that-be changed the organisation to the Public Health England. This became a bureaucratic, widely focused entity that seemed more interested in putting out ‘Public health Information’ than actually monitoring and researching possible health emergencies (and emerging diseases!). Thus we are were we are.

  • A Thorpe

    With reference to Paul A, what is the point of wasting resources on somebody who is going to die? This is the use of the precautionary principle, when we need rational, science based decisions. And linking to Denis, why is the medical profession so opposed to euthanasia if it is the choice of a patient, when they don’t give the unborn any choice. The virus is revealing daily the failures of the health profession.

  • William Boreham

    I see a report by Matthew Lesh of the Adam Smith Institute think tank, finds Britain’s response to the coronavirus crisis has been seriously impaired by Public Health England (PHE), which has proved itself to be “dangerously slow, excessively bureaucratic, and hostile to outsiders and innovation”.

    And a comment in the Telegraph highlights the problems facing us when this lock-down ends – whenever that happens!

    Matt Hancock, Health Secretary – degree in Politics, Philosophy and Economics. In the last parliament 26 out of 650 MPs held science or engineering related degrees. 120 were lawyers. Any idiot can see the difference between two graph curves, understanding what they mean is a different game.
    Lockdowns reduce the RATE of infection, hopefully to below a level at which the health services can cope. But what happens when they end? Does the SARS-cov-2 virus remain in it’s infection reservoirs or does it emerge to start again?
    The only societal defences we have against viruses are immunisation and herd immunity. A vaccine is at least a year away.
    Perversely, stringent lockdowns reduce the levels of herd immunity by limiting the numbers of infected/recovered/immune ( and , before the doom mongers start, there is NO evidence of flu like antigen variability in SARS-cov-2 and people infected with SARS1 in 2003 still have antibodies in their bloodstream against it ).
    When a second wave arrives Matt Hancock may well be wishing more of us were infected in the first wave.

  • Paul A

    With reference to A Thorpe. Other countries have used hydroxychloroquine (and other drugs) with some successes and saved lives. If it does prove to be efficacious it isn’t a waste. There clearly is no point in having a resource if it isn’t utilised.

  • chris

    I have read that pharmaceutical companies make very little profit from Hydroxychloroguine because it is a generic drug without patent protection. On the other hand, vaccines are stupendously profitable. Perhaps PHE is ‘in the pocket’ of the pharmaceutical companies.

  • A Thorpe

    Paul, we cannot rely on any of the information because nobody understands why there are difference between countries. It is impossible to know if a drug is effective when there hasn’t been any testing. Claims are being made without evidence, and this is why the virus is being compared with unverified claims about CO2 changing the climate. Science must be evidence based. Grasping at straws is not the way to treat disease. I also believe that there is some truth in the point made by Chris. Big pharma has a huge influence over the care we receive.

    There was a point I forgot to include in my first post. My understanding is that the virus itself is not killing people. It is the pneumonia that results from having the virus. So why after knowing about pneumonia for over a 100 year is there no cure? I had a vaccination for pneumonia a few year ago. I understand that was for bacterial pneumonia, not viral pneumonia, but I have no idea what the difference is. It is a vaccine or treatment for pneumonia we seem to need.

  • david brown

    A Degree of topic but why did the Wuhan Institute of Virology seek out a virus from a type of Bat? It would have no commercial or medical value. Nobody wanted it released at present. Any more than we want to launch a trident missile.
    Did China want it as a biological weapon to be held for some future conflict where it could not be traced to its source but would cause havoc in an enemy country.
    I am unable to think of any other reason why anyone would want to store a weapon of mass disruption or destruction.

  • Co

    Some year ago I had a horrendous experience at Brighton and Sussex NHS Trust whereby a department there spent twice as much on a technology half as good as others. The bureaucrats closed down any arguments and the CEO was not interested. The CEO was a non-medical bureaucrat Duncan Selbie, then the highest paid NHS CEO on £230k/year who let the trust run up one of the worst deficits. In 2013 he was moved to PHE even though he confessed he knew nothing about public health. PHE has gone the same way as B&S under his hands off approach

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