Green Party Health Policy

In the light of recent political discontent, many voters may be looking afresh at their choices. Science Punk and The Lay Scientist have blogged for the Guardian about the science policies of various political parties, and Gimpy has blogged about the implications of their policies for research: I was disappointed to see how the Greens came out. However, on seeing their current manifesto on health policy, the Green Party’s Green Party of England and Wales’ credibility quickly disappeared.

A number of aspects of the manifesto are strikingly flawed, to the point of being offensive. Many people rely on the NHS – and for a serious party to come up with a health policy this bad is frankly insulting.

The manifesto insists (HE103) that

Health services can create dependence on the part of users, which is itself unhealthy.

Absolutely, people can become dependent on services in unhealthy ways. However, while self-management of many conditions is desirable, it can be perfectly healthy and sensible for people to depend on health services for some aspects of their care. For example, Type 1 diabetics depend on access to a supply of insulin while many people depend on a supply of anti-retroviral medication.

It would be nice if more people could manage without any health services. However, for many of people, in the absence of miracle cures the alternative to reliance on particular interventions is understandably unappealing.

The Green Party argue (HE300) that “complementary and alternative medicine” should be one of the interventions that is

available without charge at the time of need.

If these ‘complementary’ interventions have good evidence of safety and efficacy – great. For example, there is a good argument for making it easier for people to speak to dietitians on the NHS to discuss nutritional inventions for a number of conditions. However, if interventions lack evidence of efficacy – or have been shown to be ineffective or harmful – this is not an appropriate use of public funds. I would also wonder how (given that the Greens hold that the NHS should be freed from market forces – HE104) they would deal with the demand for ‘complementary’ interventions such as massage.

We are told (HE308) that

The Green Party will set up within legislation the practice of patient empowerment, with the right of individuals who are to receive treatment to have full and detailed knowledge as to their condition and the range of treatments available, both conventional and complementary/alternative

There is a lot that is positive about this promise. However, the devil is in the detail. One important question is – when patients are given full information re ‘complementary’ treatments, will this include an accurate assessment of efficacy, risks etc? If a ‘complementary’ therapy carries non-trivial risks, and has been shown to be ineffective, will patients be told outright that it won’t work and could hurt them? I would also be concerned that – given that there is a dazzling array of dubious interventions for conditions such as autism – this approach could lead to patients being swamped with unhelpful information.

HE308 goes on to state that

Patient empowerment would eventually encompass choice of treatment backed by NHS funding for patients’ preferred treatment whether it be within the conventional framework of treating an illness and/or utilising alternative therapies.

Again, the key issue here is whether or not a treatment has been shown to be safe and effective. Patient choice is important, but these choices can literally be a matter of life and death.

I fully support the right of patients to make really bad health decisions – for example, to turn to outright quackery as an alternative to lifesaving medical treatments – but I think it is very sad when they do so. I do not think that the Government should be encouraging such bad decisions, or that we should all be funding them through our taxes.

Worryingly, the Green Party have stated elsewhere that they

oppose attempts to regulate complementary medicine, except by licensing and review boards made up of representatives of their respective alternative health care fields.

Inadequately regulated medical interventions are highly disempowering for patients – whether these interventions are drugs which were licensed based on flawed research or ‘complementary’ therapies.

The Green Party promises (HE312) to

encourage the development of a wider and more relevant range of research techniques, including methods appropriate to the assessment of complementary therapies.

This is an odd claim – approaches such as the randomised controlled trial (RCT) are appropriate for assessing a wide variety of medical interventions. They often show that ‘complementary’ approaches don’t work – but this no more indicates a problem with the RCT than an undesirable reading from my bathroom scales shows that I need to find a complementary way to assess my weight. While those working in ‘complementary’ health – including Patrick Holford – often criticise the use of RCTs, their arguments are rather unconvincing.

I was rather surprised by the Green Party’s focus on mercury fillings (HE331):

All mercury amalgam fillings are subject to constant erosion and the mercury released can accumulate in the body, potentially causing or aggravating a wide range of serious illnesses.

The Green Party would therefore ban immediately the use of mercury in dental materials. In addition:
1.Patients should be given enough information about their treatment to enable them to give informed consent.
2.A range of non-mercury filling materials should be available to all patients, which should be biocompatibility tested for each individual.
3.Investment should be provided to train and equip all dentists to use alternative filling materials successfully.
4.Investment should be provided to continually improve safety and effectiveness of alternative dental materials and procedures.
5.Dental restorations and appliances containing mercury, nickel and Bisphenol-A should be banned immediately for children
under eighteen. Because minors have no right of self-determination, our society should take responsibility for applying the precautionary principle on their behalf.

We have no particular brief to defend mercury fillings. They may carry some risks. However, the amount of mercury released by the fillings seems too small to cause significant problems. Given that they are extremely widely used, and adverse affects are rare enough that large studies tend to fail to detect them, we are not likely to be talking about anything drastic. I struggle to see why so much attention – and detail – is given to this issue in the manifesto.

We would have more sympathy for this if the Manifesto addressed other significant issues in dentistry: for example, the serious shortage in NHS dentists – (which will not be helped if they are forced to spend a lot more time on processes such as biocompatibility testing – is addressed (HE329) in massively less deal than mercury filling. We would also have expected to see the Greens give some consideration to the costs of all these measures.

Especially worrying, though, is what the Green Party fails to discuss. For example, ‘disability’ is mentioned only three times in the context of health, very briefly*. While I would be sympathetic of attempts to over-medicalise disabilities, there is no getting away from the fact that the NHS does play a significant role in providing medical treatments for various impairments.

The Manifesto argues (DY301) that

The medical model will not be invoked with reference to ‘disability’ but will be utilised only in the assessment of impairments as part of the process of meeting an individual’s desired (or, in restricted cases, perceived) need to receive support etc. and for the purposes of defining the ‘disabling’ factors in society that are to be reconstructed.

I would sympathise with many aspects of this approach. However, it is important to acknowledge that the NHS has been – and will almost certainly continue to be – playing a major role in helping people to deal with various impairments: providing everything from artificial limbs to pain relief. These issues do need to be considered in the context of health provisions. It is disappointing that these important issues gets so little coverage, compared to much more minor concerns such as mercury fillings.

In a way, this manifesto is thus an excellent demonstration of the dangers of ‘alternative’ medicine. The Green Party apparently wants to waste some money on this, and wants to give patients support in making some bad decisions. More significant, though, is the opportunity cost of all this. The Green Party has some excellent policies but – by obsessing over issues such as mercury fillings and ‘alternative’ research modalities – they are left with a health policy with gaping holes.

This focus on ‘complementary’ health and an end to ‘dependence’ is actually rather out-of-place in what tends to be viewed as a left-wing party. As Ben Goldacre argues, ‘complementary’ health can turn into

a manifesto of rightwing individualism – you are what you eat, and people die young because they deserve it. They choose death, through ignorance and laziness, but you choose life, fresh fish, olive oil, and that’s why you’re healthy. You’re going to see 78. You deserve it. Not like them.

A sustainable society should support the health of all its members: including those who have been disadvantaged by socio-economic factors, or who have simply made bad decisions. This will often involve enabling people to manage their own health better – but it will also include providing people with the services and drugs that they rely on, and with the support that is needed in order to make good decisions. Anything else would not be worth calling sustainable.

* One of these references (H303) is to “learning disabilities”. There is currently debate as to whether this term is appropriate. For example, the advocacy group People First argue that

we believe that people labelled as having a learning difficulty are disabled by society. We choose to use the term ‘learning difficulty’ instead of ‘learning disability’ to get across the idea that our learning support needs change over time.

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43 Comments

Filed under Green Party, Green Party of England and Wales, mercury

43 responses to “Green Party Health Policy

  1. Oh dear oh dear.

    It all seems quite breathtakingly naive. I suspect it reflects their:

    (i) not having thought all that much about this;

    (ii) being influenced by a kind of visceral dislike of “technological solutions” in healthcare (as elsewhere); and

    (iii) having probably one or two people in their policy circle who are vocal CAM enthusiasts.

    I would be interested to know how much of this rather silly platform is shared with the Green Party in Germany, where they actually got into power. If you a real political force, like the German Greens, then you presumably need some sort of credible policy. If you just an activist pressure group then you can simply wave your hands in the air and strike attitudes.

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  3. It is tricky to make the transition from a single issue group to a credible policy with the full raft of necessary policies – even so, it is surprising that the Green Party didn’t make a better fist of it.

    The anti-science stance of wanting to design ‘alternative’ trial methodologies is truly disappointing. Would they really want ‘alternative’ testing to assess the efficacy of sustainable energy solutions?

  4. I’m not that surprised at the woo that the Greens are embracing given that for many years concern for the environment was seemed to be only the lot of “nut eating hippies” so being pro renewable energy went hand in hand with traditional healing and lay lines for many.

    I am however disappointed that they are using the phrase “learning disabilities” as some one who has a specific learning difficulty myself (I’m dyslexic with aphasia for added fun) I do not consider myself to be particularly disabled by it, I’ve had good interventions, tips, strategies and time to help me overcome the worst of the problem and of course sweet sweet spell checkers are invaluable. I would have thought that they would have been far more sensitive as to how they used the language.

    • Gabriel Mills

      You may be “not that surprised at the woo that the Greens are embracing” given that “for many years” for (some) Greens “being pro renewable energy went hand in hand with traditional healing and lay [ley] lines for many”.

      However, if renewable energy is now worth taking seriously, so might be some of the “woo”.

      It’s been known for many years that leylines, for example, are geomagnetic anomalies which appear often to follow flows of underground water, and can be checked by gaussmeters if finely enough calibrated. They can readily be found by dowsers, and a few “sensitives” can even see them as light at the ground surface, though most people cannot.

      Because we lack ready explanations of how some people can dowse or see “auras”, doesn’t mean that these abilities don’t exist. I read a book by a dowser who’d been employed by water boards to find underground leaks, and by exploratory mining and oil companies, for locations and depths at which to drill. I see “auras” around lamp-posts, and treetrunks: they appear like shimmering barcodes — especially in the spring when the sap is rising, and following rain.

      Even the GMC has very recently sanctioned the use of acupuncture and manipulative treatments (including chiropractic) for patients with back pain for at least six weeks. A medical practitioner commented on Radio 4 that even though they might be of limited help, the analgesic and muscle relaxant drugs currently used are also of such limited help (and, from personal experience, made me feel nauseous and vertiginous) that patients should not be denied reasonable alternatives. Good news to me: with a twisted spine and in a lot of pain, I benefited a lot from chiropractic and massage, then from acupuncture, before my money ran out.

      Perhaps your comments on use of the terms learning “difficulty” or “disability” re dyslexia could helpfully be made to the Green Party, for its next annual consultation process on the manifesto. They would probably be interested and pleased to hear from you.

  5. Neil

    There’s more examples that worry me.

    In the animal rights policy, they ban all animal research and use of any animal derived material.

    “AR407 The Green Party is opposed, on scientific and ethical grounds, to the harmful use of animals in research and for medical purposes and would ban all research and medical practice which harms animals, including harmful procedures used to obtain animal derived materials.”

    You missed one in the health policy. They will follow in Holford’s footsteps and market homeopathy, vitamins and essential oils as medicine.

    “HE317 …… We are concerned to protect users from unanticipated adverse effects of novel pharmaceutical compounds, some of which may not be evident until the drug has been in use for many years. The Green Party proposes the founding of a regulatory agency with responsibility for natural medicines, including nutritional supplements, medicinal plants and herbal remedies, essential oils and homeopathic remedies.

    ……

    However when the drugs have been in use for many generations, as with many natural medicines, the need for statutory control is diminished. Measures will therefore be taken to protect the availability of established herbal and homeopathic remedies, subject to basic safeguards. ”

    Sounds to me like they’ll cripple medical research, scaremonger about drugs currently in use and promote homepathy and herbs instead.

    And buried deep in the pollution policy is this electro-sensitive little gem

    “PL414. The Green Party deplores the intransigent attitude of the United Kingdom government to the damaging biological effects to those living in close proximity to high voltage power cables, caused by the associated electromagnetic field. This constitutes an electrical pollution. Immediate action should be taken to ensure that no high voltage cables are sited near habitation and that those that are should be re-sited as soon as possible, recognising considerable urgency.”

    ಠ_ಠ

    • Seriously – they want to re-site all the high-voltage power cables near habitation? Anybody have the vaguest ball-park figure for that?

      If they were explicitly concerned about leukaemia or such then they should have mentioned it – but, as written, it looks like a hand-waving, uncosted plan with huge financial implications for no clearly stated reason.

    • Thanks for all the suggestions – looks like we might need to return to this at some future point (there are a few other issues we also failed to cover). That was a 1,600 word post, though – and there are limits to how much can be practicably covered in a single post.

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  7. Related to Ben Goldacre’s point about ‘choosing death through ignorance and laziness’ – Cat and Girl Do Good.

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  9. Dunc

    They’re not the “Green Party”, they’re the “Green Party of England and Wales”. There is also a “Scottish Green Party”, which is a completely separate organisation, and hopefully somewhat less nutty.

    • Thanks. I should have made this clear. In my defence, though, the Party’s home page refers to “The Green Party”.

      • Dunc

        Yes, they do. We have asked them not to. It annoys us Scottish Greens no end, since we keep getting tarred with their lunacy. We’ve got enough lunacy of our own, thanks. ;)

        • Fair enough. I’ve corrected this post to (hopefully) make this clear. If the Scottish Greens would like to release a statement distancing themselves from the Green Party of England and Wales position, we’d be happy to run it.

          If the Scottish Greens are looking to distance themselves from the Green Party of England and Wales’ health and science policies, it might also be worth commenting on the Times’ coverage of this.

  10. Mojo

    “encourage the development of a wider and more relevant range of research techniques, including methods appropriate to the assessment of complementary therapies.”

    They can probably make climate change go away by using “appropriate” research methods there too.

    Hey, this wishful thinking’s good stuff, isn’t it?

  11. Adam

    Well that saves me some effort. No one’s getting my vote now All parties have at least one idiotic policy (eg PFI, etc.). A vote for any party is a vote for stupidity in one form or other.

  12. Outing myself as a Scottish and English Green from the very beginning, ask yourselves, how many parties have a democratic policy-making mechanism? How many parties have a publicly available body of policy that they refer to when making political decisions or constructing election manifestoes?

    This policy can occasionally be strange or out of date and that is one of the negative aspects of having policy decided by the membership at conference.

    But it’s far better than having politicians making up policy on the hoof.

    If we remove references to Homeopathy from our manifesto, our policy will be fixed. Any other party can change their policy back and forth as they please without consulting the membership.

    • Fair play. However, it wouldn’t just be references to homeopathy but also the notion of alternative standards of evidence for assessing CAM in general. And it would be useful for an electorate to have some rough ideas of costings if high-voltage power lines were to be re-sited – ditto for other policies. If whichever section of the Green Party is depending upon the Smallwood Report to argue that there would be cost-saving associated with the provision of CAM on the NHS then, again, it would be helpful if it stated this: ditto the justification for testing every individual for bio-compatibility before some dental conservation work.

    • I agree – there’s a lot to like about the Green Party’s mechanism for making decisions. However, if a fairer mechanism results in the party arriving on bad decisions, this may be worse than if they had been reached through an unfair mechanism.

      At least with – for example – the Labour Party, one can draw a little solace from the fact that government schemes like PPP in the NHS are unpopular among many members. If this Green health policy reflects the strongly held beliefs of party members, that does not inspire confidence in the Party.

      • Adam

        “At least with – for example – the Labour Party, one can draw a little solace from the fact that government schemes like PPP in the NHS are unpopular among many members.”

        That fact that the Labour party are able to ride roughshod over their members’ opinions to instigate ideological idiocy for over a decade doesn’t really give any solace. It just shows that the opinions count for little and the policies are hard to change.

        The Greens have a (relatively) small membership, the wacky views could easily be heavily diluted if a lot more pro-science people joined. At least change looks possible with them (& the Lib Dems, as pointed out elsewhere on this thread).

        It might be too soon to give them too much support, but if they know where their most unpopular policies are – in terms of a group of people most likely to switch support to them, it could be beneficial to getting policies updated in time for the next general election.

        It might be worth supporting the existing pro-science people within the party, as they have the best opportunity to get the ear of any elected representatives.

        Finally, working on the Greens makes sense to me, if only in relation to the Overton Window, if nothing else.

    • At the risk of sounding un-democratic, there are some areas of policy that should be grounded in the strength of the evidence rather than the feelings/impressions/ideological biases of those who draft that policy… But this is the point at which Holmes et al would pipe up with their accusations of evidence being equivalent to micro-fascism (and here).

  13. Robert Estrada

    I wonder if any of the folks who are so concerned about mercury in fillings have ever looked at the stuff in the resin based alternatives? There are some nasty chemicals in there, however, like amalgam the exposure levels are low. Oh yeah, I forgot. They have no concept of dose.

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  15. Tom

    Even though I’m a member of the Green Party I agree with this article.. I’m frustrated by policies like these but am nonetheless convinced that they will be ditched as our influence in politics increases (although maybe because the latter won’t happen otherwise).

    I’d only be worried about this if we were on course to win a the next general election but we’re not. A stronger Green party is desirable because of how we could influence decision-making on things like climate change and other areas where our policy can appeal beyond the party (e.g. anything that isn’t stupid).

    From my experience the policies discussed in this article are at odds with an increasingly large number of people in the party.

    I’m only guessing here but I imagine these policies are lingering from some conference decision a couple of decades ago and have yet to be ‘cleaned up’. I can assure you I will vote to this effect at every chance I get (which we do get to do!)

    In short, whether the Greens do well or poorly in future, this is nothing to worry about right now. It’s certainly not worth abandoning what could be one of the best ways to put pressure on government to act on climate change, and that is to vote Green (sorry about that hacky bit there).

    • Thanks Tom. Depressingly, the PDF of the health policy says it was updated in 2009. It might be interesting to look at how it evolved over time, though – are past versions of these documents available?

      I’ve got no particular axe to grind with the Greens. However, Green MEPs, councillors and (potentially) MPs will be expected to engage with issues around health and science – even if they don’t get into government (although I don’t think it’s entirely implausible that there might be a Green presence on a coalition government, in a hung parliament). With these policies, that prospect rather worries me.

      • Tom

        I appreciate your concern, and from my experience the sorts of Green candidates who get elected to positions of power will not push these sorts of policies. Although a separate party, the Scottish Greens are an example of this (the fact that they don’t share many of these policies is most likely down to having been represented at Holyrood for almost a decade and subjected to Parliamentary scrutiny).

        • If this is true, ” the sorts of Green candidates who get elected to positions of power will not push these sorts of policies”, wouldn’t it help the average punter if there were a little footnote to that effect?

          Footnote 308. We included the policies marked with an asterisk because it seemed to be the easiest way to placate the shouty people at conference but the people who are most likely to be elected know that these are impractical, infeasibly expensive or frankly anti-science, so there is no danger that we would actually support any other elements who are in favour of such policies.

  16. It is sad to see this blog misrepresenting Green Party policy through quoting selectively and therefore quoting out of context.

    For example:

    The article quotes “Health services can create dependence on the part of users, which is itself unhealthy.” The article doesn’t quote the next sentence in our policy qualifies this with “Individuals can through properly informed choice, and when adequately supported, acquire much greater responsibility for their own health, and the health of their families.”. Therefore we are not suggesting that it is wrong for people to have any dependence on health care and we simply advocate that, for example and to use your example, people on insulin are encouraged towards greater self management of their condition.

    The article states: “The Green Party argue (HE300) that “complementary and alternative medicine” should be one of the interventions that is available without charge at the time of need.”. Our policy actually says: “health services will deploy a broad range of interventions, operative at many levels: pharmaceuticals, surgery, psychological therapies, complementary and alternative medicine, and community and social interventions will be used where appropriate. All services will be available without charge at the time of need.” . The key is ‘where appropriate’ which the article ignores. Our policy states later on that we will only fund effective interventions.

    The article then questions whether full information would be given to patients on complementary therapies that are offered. This is frankly bizarre given that in the preceding paragraphs of the article you quote us as wanting full information on treatments to be given.

    On deciding the efficacy of treatments, and therefore whether they should be funded by the NHS, our policy describes a system similar to NICE. The policy states that we would want to involve experts in the field of that treatment in the assessment process, not to simply rely on those experts to make a decision as was stated in your article.

    While it is sad that you have chosen to misrepresent our policy in your article, I thank you for pointing out the use of the term ‘learning disability’. I am sorry that this term was in the policy and that it was not changed sometime ago to ‘learning difficulty’. This was an oversight and will be amended.

    Finally, we always welcome constructive debate and are always happy to engage with people on how we can improve our policies.

    Stuart Jeffery
    Health spokesperson for the Green Party

    • It is sad to see this blog misrepresenting Green Party policy through quoting selectively and therefore quoting out of context.

      Thanks for the response. I should say that this is a long (1,500 words +) blog post which contains some long quotes from Green Policy. I also link the original text. I appreciate that quoting will always lose some information – unless one quotes the entire text – but I’m not aware of a better alternative.

      The article quotes “Health services can create dependence on the part of users, which is itself unhealthy.” The article doesn’t quote the next sentence in our policy qualifies this with “Individuals can through properly informed choice, and when adequately supported, acquire much greater responsibility for their own health, and the health of their families.”. Therefore we are not suggesting that it is wrong for people to have any dependence on health care and we simply advocate that, for example and to use your example, people on insulin are encouraged towards greater self management of their condition.

      If that’s what you mean, I’d have no particular objection. However, in that case I think the policy is badly written: it reads (to me) like you are objecting to dependence on health services per se.

      The article states: “The Green Party argue (HE300) that “complementary and alternative medicine” should be one of the interventions that is available without charge at the time of need.”. Our policy actually says: “health services will deploy a broad range of interventions, operative at many levels: pharmaceuticals, surgery, psychological therapies, complementary and alternative medicine, and community and social interventions will be used where appropriate. All services will be available without charge at the time of need.” . The key is ‘where appropriate’ which the article ignores. Our policy states later on that we will only fund effective interventions.

      Absolutely, I focused on complementary therapies – a particular interest of this blog. There’s more in the Green health policy than can be addressed in a single post – I’ll look to return to this in future in order to cover other aspects of your policy. I should note that I make clear that

      If these ‘complementary’ interventions have good evidence of safety and efficacy – great.

      If the Greens are only planning to fund evidence-based interventions, that’s great news. However, some of the writing in your manifesto suggests otherwise. For example, the focus on mercury fillings seems to go well beyond the evidence and – as made clear above – I would be concerned about plans to

      encourage the development of a wider and more relevant range of research techniques, including methods appropriate to the assessment of complementary therapies.

      I’ll cut my reply short there for now – I’m busy this morning – and deal with the other points raised later… If you’re looking to respond in the meantime, I’d be very interested to know the thinking behind things like the focus on mercury fillings and the problematic approach to regulating ‘complementary’ therapies.

    • Doesn’t quoting nearly always involve reproducing a smaller part of the whole? And, to be fair to the author of this piece, there was not only a link but a section number. [ETA: as Jon observed but I didn’t see because it posted while I was still replying.]

      People who rely on insulin (say Diabetes Type 1) always have to self-manage their condition, it is very unlikely that they would benefit from ‘encouragement towards greater self management’.

      It is a little odd that you are criticising some skilled readers for making obvious inferences from a document that has been poorly written. Jon did provide some nuance in his discussion, eg, easier access to registered dietitians. This looks like an accurate summary: “The Green Party argue (HE300) that “complementary and alternative medicine” should be one of the interventions that is available without charge at the time of need”. Had you written with emphais, where appropriate or where there is a good standard of clinical evidence or where such modalities offer adjunctive support to people, then your criticism might have had some grounding, but you didn’t, so it doesn’t. Oddly enough, in the context of the discussion elsewhere about wanting different standards of evidence for assessing the efficacy or merits of CAM, then your argument here does not stand up.

      ‘Similar to NICE’ is not NICE so please don’t attempt to borrow their clothes to cover any inadequacies. I’m failing to see the references that you imply here:

      The policy states that we would want to involve experts in the field of that treatment in the assessment process, not to simply rely on those experts to make a decision as was stated in your article.

      Unless you mean this which seems to apply to “pharmaceuticals and natural medicines” rather than other interventions:

      Appropriate methods of assessment will be developed for both synthetic pharmaceuticals and natural medicines, involving practitioners expert in their respective uses.

      I don’t think that the author misrepresented your policy. As far as I can tell, you have not addressed the substantive points in this piece.

      You are arguing for the provision of CAM on the NHS – you say “where appropriate”. In what circumstances would (say) radionics, crystal healing etc. be appropriate? How about the commercial companies that are attempting to have their ‘food intolerance’ diagnostic tests made available on the NHS although these have been explicitly deprecated by several expert enquiries and learned organisations? Nonetheless, you could probably find some GPs to dispense them – this begs the question as to why the NHS should be funding such tests or its associated therapeutic follow-up and interventions.

      It would be helpful if you were to engage in a discussion here, and please share any costing figures that you have for the provision of CAM (and any projected savings or equivalent in productivity gains through health improvements), and the likely cost of (say) providing bio-compatability tests for NHS dental restoration.

    • OK, to continue to respond to Stuart:

      The article then questions whether full information would be given to patients on complementary therapies that are offered. This is frankly bizarre given that in the preceding paragraphs of the article you quote us as wanting full information on treatments to be given.

      ‘Full information’ or ‘full knowledge’ can mean different things. As argued in the post, I would be concerned that patients might be swamped with unhelpful information about useless ‘complementary’ therapies. As I’ve already discussed, the Greens’ call for the development of ‘alternative’ research methodologies and arguments for – for example – having ‘review boards’ for complementary therapies made up of representatives of those fields does not fill me with confidence as to the type of information that would be made available. I would be delighted to be proved wrong, though. Perhaps you could let me know, for example, what information you think it would be helpful to give patients re homoeopathic treatments for asthma?

      On deciding the efficacy of treatments, and therefore whether they should be funded by the NHS, our policy describes a system similar to NICE. The policy states that we would want to involve experts in the field of that treatment in the assessment process, not to simply rely on those experts to make a decision as was stated in your article.

      I didn’t intend to say that in the article – let me know if a particular part gives that impression, and I will clarify. It’s clear that the Greens would involve a range of people in assessing treatment. However, the policy does not read as if what is suggested would achieve the standards of an organisation such as NICE: as I have mentioned, developing ‘alternative’ research methodologies for complementary therapies does not sound promising. I would also be worried about a party that aims to ‘protect the availability’ of traditional homoeopathic and herbal remedies.

      I thank you for pointing out the use of the term ‘learning disability’. I am sorry that this term was in the policy and that it was not changed sometime ago to ‘learning difficulty’. This was an oversight and will be amended.

      Thanks for amending this. If the Greens haven’t already done so, you may find that involving the appropriate advocacy groups in the policy-making process is a useful way to avoid this type of problem.

      As I’ve said, I’d very much welcome engagements with more substantive aspects of the post.

      • Sir Peter Medawar:

        Exaggerated claims for the efficacy of a medicament are very seldom the consequence of any intention to deceive; they are usually the outcome of a kindly conspiracy in which everybody has the very best intentions. The patient wants to get well, his physician wants to have made him better, and the pharmaceutical company would have liked to have put it into the physician’s power to have made him so. The controlled clinical trial is an attempt to avoid being taken in by this conspiracy of good will. (Advice to a Young Scientist)

        The same comment about “controlled clinical trials” may be applied to other interventions than pharmaceuticals. It also indicates the need for rigour in assessing the quality of evidence and its relevance.

    • Major kudos for entering into a debate about this. I can’t see any of the other parties doing that, or even bothering to delegate someone to do it.

      • I’m really pleased to see some proper scrutiny of Green Party policy. It seems to me that the Green Party are almost beyond criticism. This is not a healthy relationship for the electorate to have with any political party. I have just started a blog called green party grief where I intend to closely examine Green Party policy. I would be delighted to see some informed comment on this blog so feel free to visit!

        • Green Goddess – just visited your blog and wanted to comment, but having to signup/login to leave a comment put me off – your concerns about where their leaflet is printed seem a bit ridiculous. Have you not considered that printing all of the leaflets for all regions in one place reduces costs and waste and also improves efficiency? Hoping your future ‘closer examinations’ will be a little less trivial!

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  18. Pingback: If this is democracy then I’m Robert Kilroy Silk « Left Outside

  19. Pingback: Green Party: the supplement suggestions don’t work « Holford Watch: Patrick Holford, nutritionism and bad science

  20. Pingback: Liberal Conspiracy » Is the Green Party anti-science?

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