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Should religion play a role in the NHS?

February 3, 2015

The society we live in is becoming increasingly diverse with a vast mix of religions and ethnicities. In the UK 2011 census approximately 56 million people identified as being religious and only 14.1 million claiming to have no religion. It stands to reason that this must have an enormous impact on all aspects of society but it must be questioned whether this should be taken into account in the NHS, an organisation founded on the principle of equality, and whether it is even possible to accommodate the wide variety of religions and belief systems held by its patients.

The NHS principles states that it “provides a comprehensive service available to all…irrespective of gender, race, disability, age, sexual orientation, religion, belief…It has a duty to each and every individual it serves and must protect their human rights”. The NHS here highlights the need to address patients’ Human Rights which states freedom to manifest one’s religion as “necessary in a democratic society on the interests of public safety, for the protection of public order, health and morals”. The fact that religion is embedded in the set of fundamental and basic human rights suggests that the role it plays in people’s lives is necessary for their very existence. The convention claims freedom of religion is essential for health but it must be questioned as to why this should be, whether the involvement of religion in the NHS can actually improve health outcomes and whether it should be encouraged or merely tolerated as a legal requirement.

Taking into account a person’s belief system can allow the doctor and patient to arrive at the best treatment option and therefore increase compliance and the chance of a better outcome for the patient. Religion can influence most aspects of Medicine, but in particular reproductive medicine and end of life care. An understanding of the patient’s views can help when providing necessary information. For example, a Jehovah’s Witness would be opposed to accepting a blood transfusion, including an autologous transfusion, using a Bible teaching from Leviticus 17:14 “You must not eat the blood of any sort of flesh, because the soul of every sort of flesh is its blood. Anyone eating it will be cut off”, even if life-threatening situations, deeming more complex surgeries unjustifiable due to the enormous increased risk. However, alternative treatment options rather than the standard surgery may be available, for example a patient with cancer may choose just to undergo chemotherapy without the accompanying surgery. The doctor’s acceptance of this decision, out of respect for patient autonomy can save time in the consultation and allow treatment to be commenced more quickly than by providing the patient with all information about a procedure they will not undergo, allowing the best chances of success of the alternative treatment.

Religion can be detrimental to the health of a patient by preventing them from undergoing a procedure that may greatly increase their health and quality of life. To continue to use the example of the Jehovah’s Witness, by the religion’s condemnation of blood transfusion a believer may choose not to undergo surgery with a high risk of blood loss or even may refuse a transfusion even though they will die without it. Although this is entirely the patient’s decision and their autonomy must be respected, the issue is complicated when the patient in question does not have autonomy and the decision rests with a relative. This is a particularly contentious issue in the UK where the law is inconsistent about the rights of a doctor to give transfusions or organ transplants to children of Jehovah Witness parents. Traditionally parents have the right to raise their children as they wish and have the right to religious freedom, which parents argue allows them to refuse consent for their children. Legally, except in an emergency, parental consent must be obtained for any medical procedure. This means that, unless the situation is life-threatening, a treatment, which may be in the child’s best interests, can be denied. This has dangerous implications for children who are not in imminent threat but will decline if a procedure is not carried out. Legislation, therefore, does not completely protect vulnerable members of society. In this case, religion can play a detrimental role in the NHS by denying doctors the ability to act always in the best interests of the patients, contradicting the principle of beneficence.

The role of religion in the NHS must be considered, not only for patients but also for healthcare workers, whether their religious beliefs should be allowed to influence the way they practice. The Improving Working Lives Standard in the NHS states that each healthcare worker is entitled to “work in an organisation which can demonstrate its commitment to more flexible working conditions and gives staff more control over their time”. This means that healthcare workers have the right to practice their religion as they need to. The flexible working conditions are particularly important when the worker is from a religion which requires a rigid schedule of prayer and meditation or to undertake ritual fasting. The NHS believes that, by providing workers the freedom to practice their religion, they will then be able to behave with compassion and understanding in providing care to the public. However, some believe that allowing religious believers with special consideration disadvantages non-believers; and this can provoke unrest in the workplace. Controversy also arises where religious beliefs directly contradict healthcare policies. The 2008 ‘bare below the elbow’ dress code policy was implemented to prevent the spread of MRSA and Clostrium difficile by promoting better washing of the hands and wrists in clinical areas. Muslim doctors and students in Liverpool Alder Hey strongly objected to this as it is considered immodest in Islam to expose anything other than the hands and face. It was considered a violation to be forced to expose their fore-arms even to decrease risks to patients. Advice from Muslim Spiritual Care Provision in the NHS (MSPC) works to ensure that policies can be sensitive to Muslims, such as providing disposable sleeves but many healthcare professionals quit in protest of what they believed to be a violation of their rights. In this case, religion was not allowed to jeopardise hygiene and so the health of patients, but was to the expense of respect for beliefs.

Practicing a religion can be beneficial for the health of a patient. Research into Transcendental Meditation (TM) in 2012 showed a 48% reduction in rates of heart attacks, strokes and even mortality rates. The American Heart Association now accepts TM as a viable treatment option for patients with hypertension, in conjunction with drug therapies In particular, for patients with cardiovascular disease it can prove a vital tool in reducing stress and anxiety and improving health outcomes. Prayer can also be considered a form of meditation.


So, can religion change health outcomes? How does having a holistic approach and taking into account all aspects of patient improve outcome? For sure, the NHS provides a comprehensive service available to all. This principle applies irrespective of gender, race, disability, age, sexual orientation, religion, belief, gender reassignment, pregnancy and maternity or marital or civil partnership status. The service is designed to diagnose, treat and improve both physical and mental health. It has a duty to each and every individual that it serves and must respect their human rights. At the same time, it has a wider social duty to promote equality through the services it provides and to pay particular attention to groups or sections of society where improvements in health and life expectancy are not keeping pace with the rest of the population. Let’s pray the NHS continues to accommodate and promote equality for all.

 

Shalom

 

Q4 Review

January 3, 2015

 

Ade and Abigail proposal

 

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What can adults learn from children?

December 14, 2014

The best thing to learn from a child is how can we make our life less complicated.

Smile often for no reason

Remember when you were a child you used to smile a lot, mostly for no specific reasons. Where has that smile gone now? It has been lost in pursuit of becoming a sensible adult. That innocent smile that won a million hearts has disappeared behind a rational human being. Now we smile only for photographs or on special occasions.

Smiling is a very powerful and contagious act. If you smile often whatever be your mood, you will feel a sense of happiness. The people around you will also feel the same vibe. I have been using this technique for quite some time now. I smile when when I go pass a stranger. Most of the times the stranger smiles back. If you are smiling for a reason that reason can be take back from you any time. You do not need a reason to smile.

Remain focussed on the work at hand

In this advanced age of smartphones and self driving cars, we think that we can do multi tasking as well as a computer. We can talk to our friends while  looking at our facebook updates. We can enjoy the beach while constantly checking for emails. We can  attend a lecture while playing candy crush saga. Human brains do not have the capacity to handle a lot of  tasks at the same time.

When you were a child, you did not think about office files while building a castle on the beach. You were so engrossed in the work at hand that you did not care about any other task. If you are able to remove unnecessary distractions from your life and focus on a single task, you would make your life much simpler.

Don’t care much about other people

Children tend to do what they feel like doing. They do not worry much about the consequences or what others will think. But as we grow we start practicing extreme social caution. We start caring about how others might be judging us. How am I looking in these clothes? What will my colleagues think if I speak up in the meeting? Will people appreciate my answers on Quora?

The fact that most people do not understand is that no one really cares about you. People are so much engrossed in their own lives that they do not have time to think about you.Once you realize this it will be a big step towards freedom. You have a great idea and want to start a company. Go ahead with it. You are willing to travel the world and have saved enough for it. Start traveling now.You should only care about people who really love you a lot and who will be there with you during the worst of times. These are your family and close friends.

Enjoy the little things

“Enjoy the little things, for one day you may look back and realize they were the big things.” – Robert Brault

All through our lives we keep looking for a purpose. We remain in a mindless pursuit for meaningless success. In that pursuit we keep on ignoring the small things in life that can give us a lot of happiness.

A child gives a lot of importance to these little things. That is the secret of their happiness. They do not complicate their lives with a number of goals. They dance in the first rains of the season, sing when they hear their favorite song and laugh when they are cuddled.

There are so many lessons a child can teach us that can make our lives so much simpler. We just have to observe and follow them.

Q3 Review

October 28, 2014

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At least its meant to be

October 14, 2014

A crush is a story you tell yourself about the other person. They have no input to that story, they aren’t aware of it. It’s entirely in your head. Being in love is a story you and another person are creating, together.

Or at least its meant to be

Question assumptions

October 8, 2014
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Shortcuts are fun. Shortcuts are easy. That’s fine for walking to work, but not for thinking. Intellectual shortcuts mean that you’re not thinking about the brass tacks. You’re not thinking about the foundation of your ideas and theories. It’s intellectual laziness, pure and simple.

Think about why you and other people think a certain way. Consider what factors contribute to conventional wisdom. Do these factors apply to your case? For example, it’s conventional wisdom to buy a house when you have money. But does it really suit your life? What if you’re the nomad type and you want the freedom to pack up your bags and go at a drop of a hat? A house purchase is a great idea if you’re planning to stay somewhere for years.

Analyze the brass tacks yourself. Don’t rely on others to think for you.

Pattern recognition requires high-level abstract thinking. It’s truly seeing forests, not obsessing over individual trees. There’s no one direct route to pattern recognition expertise, so I won’t even try to list them.

There are, however, some universal themes and rules — especially in writing and fiction. If you gather enough knowledge and insights, you may be able to recognize these themes when they arise. Over time, you’ll develop an instinct for pattern recognition. This is an art, not a science. For anyone to achieve pattern recognition skills, one must explore.

As others have said, learn about different viewpoints on a subject. That will help you think about possible angles. No problem has only one angle. It’s your job to find all possible distinctions that you may make.

The best way to test the boundaries of your ideas and issues is to ask what if? This will allow you to understand distinctions. Great thinkers can address ambiguities because they understand that details matter. Details can affect outcomes. it’s just a matter of figuring out which details are important. That’s why it’s important to ask “what if..?”

Labour shouldn’t increase National Insurance contributions to fund the NHS

August 28, 2014

Originally published at http://labourlist.org/2014/08/labour-shouldnt-increase-national-insurance-contributions-to-fund-the-nhs/

What’s safer, more appealing and more likely to guarantee electoral victory than the clinical and antiseptic interpretation of a ComRes survey? Expensive American politicos-for-hire might have a claim to the title. Still, the news that 49% of people would pay more [tax] if the money was going directly to the National Health Service (NHS) should be taken with a daily recommended amount of salt.

NHS_NNUH_entrance

People might say to a nice young surveyor, “Sure, I don’t mind paying a little more tax…” but then these people get into a polling booth and the first thing they feel for are their pockets; first for their wallets, then for a pen to strike against the party that makes their lives ‘easier’. People vote for the party who elicits the right feelings, not the party who presents the best arguments.

The public may be sceptical about a tax increase, even though it could have an immediate and significant role in reducing the NHS’ funding gap, and keep the NHS free at the point of need. It has been well documented that the NHS is facing a serious funding gap if demand continues to increase and budgets remain frozen – up to £30bn by 2021 according to NHS England. Surely, people chiefly need to feel like they are getting value for money from the nation’s beloved institution and that Labour can deal with its problems.

The shadow health secretary Andy Burnham has been working hard to demonstrate causation between problems in the NHS and the increasing use of the private sector. However, voters don’t really care about the politics of NHS funding. They want to be able to see a GP, get hospital appointments in reasonable times and have their operation(s) quickly and safely.

Just attacking the privatisation element of the NHS can paint future ministers into tight corners so perhaps the Labour message should shift away from the fiscal management side of things. The Mid-Staffs episode was a dark period in the history of the NHS, but rightfully, the Conservative propaganda has largely failed to have any imprint on the wider public. So, the NHS continues to be one of Labour’s trump cards, firmly standing as an area people regard the Labour party strong on. Tinkering with tax to keep the NHS going as it is, may not necessarily elicit the right feelings with the general public. Surely, there are other fronts worth fighting on.

Well, at least the Labour party is going out of its way to convince the electorate that they’re fiscally prudent and are not rushing into any spending decisions. However, we have a National Health Service not a National Hospital Service and entertaining NI tax talk threatens to deepen mistrust in politicians and undermine public confidence in the welfare state. Furthermore, what of all the other state services? If all that new NI revenue is just for NHS spending, then wouldn’t Labour still end up implementing the coalition’s plans to cut public services?

The Labour party should try not indulging ‘A penny on National Insurance for the NHS’, mainly because such taxes are unprincipled and unfair in an era of cuts and because frankly, National Insurance is one of the worst taxes with which to fund the NHS. Why focus on a tax that only hits wages, to the exclusion of other capital income streams like dividends and rent? Why would the Labour party, the party founded by the working-class, shift taxation more towards earned income rather than capital? Why suggest an increase in a tax paid by people aged under 65 (and employers) even though a majority of NHS spending goes to the elderly, the main users of the NHS? Oh yes, forgot, it’s because they vote right?

What’s more, NI incentivises the use of zero-hour contracts and will further incentivise employers to replace full time jobs with multiple part-time jobs. Which although will be of some benefit to some, may be of detriment and unsustainability to more. And again, does it elicit the right feelings when it comes to Labour’s overarching message?

Sure, the key concern is solving the NHS’ funding crises, but this needs to be done in a way that fits well with Labour’s 2015 narrative. Most people might prefer to pay £10 to see a GP than 1% extra NI that could cost an extra £500 per year. Disclaimer: That was a crude back of the envelope calculation, but not too dissimilar to the one people might do in the pooling booth were they voting tomorrow.

In any event, an ‘NHS Tax’ would never last long really, as a Labour government might not be able to resist taking the money into the central pot for over things. On one hand, it pays for Labour to confront the issue now rather than deal with something unexpected if and when it party forms a government. On the other, people vote for the party who elicits the right feelings, not the party who presents the best arguments.

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