That Glorious, Brilliant, Marvelous, Utterly Wonderful, Spectacular, Terrific National Health Service

by Pejman Yousefzadeh on November 4, 2009

It’s time to point out anew that it is not all that Paul Krugman thought it was:

Alarming research is showing that elderly cancer patients are missing out on the breakthroughs in chemotherapy and surgery that have dramatically improved the outcome of younger patients.

In fact, up to 15,000 elderly people with cancer in the UK are dying prematurely every year when compared to the rest of Europe and the U.S., according to a report published by the North West Cancer Intelligence Service (NWCIS) which compiles cancer statistics.

What’s causing alarm is the extent to which an age-related double standard for breast cancer treatment has crept into hospital protocols.

‘Older people are far more likely to be turned down for expensive new treatments,’ says Kate Spall, founder of the Pamela Northcott Fund, set up in 2007 to campaign to help thousands of cancer patients gain access to new drugs. ‘We always have a fight on our hands to get treatment for someone over 65,’ she says.

A major concern is that the NHS Cancer Plan, introduced in 2000 to improve cancer survival in the UK, has a cut-off point at 70. This results in hospitals having less interest in the elderly. ‘Yet half of all those diagnosed with cancer are over 70,’ says Dr Tony Moran, NWCIS research director. ‘It’s an area that has been grossly neglected.

‘These days, most 75-year-olds can expect to live for at least another ten years and they should be benefiting from improvements in treatment.’

It would be appropriate for the Times ombudsman to inform Krugman that he has an obligation to explain why it was that he thought the NHS was so great in the first place, especially given all of the evidence to the contrary. Clearly, Krugman won’t address critiques of his pro-NHS position on his own volition, so evidently, someone at the Times has to prod him.

Why hasn’t anyone prodded him? And what does it say about Krugman that he sweeps this bad news under the rug and pretends that it just does not exist?

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