Recently a new breakthrough has been made in medical science. Scientists at the Manchester University in collaboration with Cancer Research UK have made a breakthrough in breast cancer research. They discovered a protein called Lox that speeds up and advances cancerous cells allowing it to spread. The discovery will allow for the development of new drugs to help doctors beat the killer that claims so many lives. As a science geek I feel glad to see a new development such as this but what it does tell us is where funding priorities are necessary in healthcare.
Throughout the years that we have seen the NHS struggle to provide patient care and medicine I have often wondered if people really understand the value of money or medical knowledge. When it comes to public investment the first thing that springs to mind is money for the NHS, as if they are dependent on it to provide them with a lifeline to relieve them of the responsibility of saving their own lives. Well what annoys me about this is that people think of healthcare as nothing more than a free medical service. But healthcare isn’t just a service it’s a science.
Of all the great things that investment in public services has provided there are some more worthy than healthcare. Consider the money spent to build the Crossrail for London. I had a talk with a friend who told me that the £15 billion budget of the project should have been spared for the NHS. Well although that might be beneficial for hospitals, doctors and nurses what of the patient’s ability to travel to the hospital to see the doctors? Surely you don’t expect them to ride on an outdated overcrowded tube service where the ride would be uncomfortable. People need to stop obsessing about money for healthcare in this way. You as a patient might need medical attention, but the doctors need the scientists to make the drugs and operations to treat the patient.
Although the left and the socialists like to think of funding for healthcare as money for the provisional services, the capitalists and conservatives think of that situation as investment in developing medicines, practices and advancing medical science in fantastic ways. I have friends who can’t understand why we have so much money to fund other industries like the military and financial sector, but struggle to find money for the NHS. Well the reason behind that is because of the need to develop medical science and technology.
The NHS is a service that provides that care, but it doesn’t have research and development facilities. That research comes from private companies and higher education. The sanitation of hospital wards was founded by an army nurse in the Crimea during a war, the sterilization of medical operations was invented by a doctor from Upton, Essex who worked for a university, the first anti-biotic was invented in a lab accidently by a Scottish scientist and let it go into mass production to save allied troops from infection during the war. All of these discoveries and practices have no involvement in public funds in a healthcare service.
Here I can reveal some medical marvels where enterprise and scientific industries have created great wonders that make the NHS work.
Ultrasound technology is what makes seeing into the womb and chest possible. It allows pregnant woman to see their child develop before they bring them into the womb. What’s interesting about this connection is metallurgy and submarines. It was discovered in 1880 by Pierre Curie in the form of ultrasonic waves. In the 1940s it was first used by engineers to find structural defects in metal casings. In 1949 a physicist called John Wild tested ultrasound technology on a bowel tissue. This ushered in the use of medical ultrasound, which then became commonplace in hospitals in the 1960s.
Anyone who thinks spending money on weapons development is a waste of life might be astonished to hear that it actually helps save lives. In the trenches of the First World War, mustard gas was one of the world’s first chemical weapons. When an autopsy was conducted on the dead soldiers come over by the gas, they discovered that some of them had cancerous tumours that were destroyed by the gas. In the 1940s two American pharmacologists experimented with a derivation of the gas called mustard nitrogen. They used it to treat a lymphoma tumour and it made the tumour reduce in size. In 1953 a cancer researcher called Jane Wright started using a drug created by pathologist Sidney Farber called methotrexate to successfully treat breast cancer. Every scientific field has an application of technology for another purpose.
NASA also plays a part in the development of cancer drugs aboard the International Space Station. In order to test the treatment correctly cancerous cells need to retain their 3D shape, which is impossible to do in a petri dish in a lab on Earth lying flat as 2D structures. Conducting the test in space the cell retains it’s 3D shape in the micro gravity environment of space. Making the medicine much more effective. So you can get a much more accurate reading of their genetic changes affecting cell growth and development.
To settle the NHS crisis I think there needs to be more emphasis on gaining credit on scientific research to justify public spending. We can’t keep using the NHS as an excuse for irresponsible spending. As a publicly funded body it doesn’t have to try to be efficient and cost effective. Consider the state owned monopolies of the post war consensus. They ended up running the country into economic ruin because the unionised workforce and the bureaucratic management didn’t allow for creativity, innovation and making an effort to better itself. Resulting in producing bad quality products and services with staff who were often rude and dismissive to their customers.
In a way the health service needs to improve itself by learning to embrace new ideas in treatment, which is why I support the collaboration with private industry in the NHS. I think the best way to improve the NHS isn’t a constant stream of money, it should focus on developing new medicines and technology. Scientists need money just as much as services need it too.
What I want to see investment in for medical science is behavioural therapy and treatment for autism. As a person on the spectrum I have my criticisms of the treatment that I got and it’s not all down to money. Dr Matthew Goodwin of MIT has been developing new technology to monitor the stress patterns and physiological behaviour of autistic children using wearable electronic gadgets. His research might provide a useful tool for interventions by psychologists to teach interactive skills for children on the spectrum.