Tag Archives: France

Cancer patient pursued by Police

Orsay proton therapy dsc04460


Ashya King has been found in Spain


The headlines announced that a three- country police search for a little five-year-old boy with cancer had ended.  He had been discovered in Spain, and currently he is in hospital in Malaga.


The story is full of holes, but I can’t help feeling for the boy’s parents, who were accused of kidnaoping when they took their little boy from Southampton hospital, supposedly against the wishes of Continue reading

Ministers call for end to Medical Tourism

We can’t get ‘free’ hospital care when we go abroad

Fernandez Maternity Hospital

This could be my local A & E Reception

So why are we so generous to everyone here?

i’d ended up in an Austrian A & E.  Having fallen head first into a Holly Bush (as one does). Continue reading

New Zealand cancer patients benefit from tailored skincare

So why don’t we get similar help?

English: Fern flag of New Zealand Amongst countries whose cancer specialists help their patients, comes New Zealand. Like other countries, patients there can confidently buy – or be prescribed – skincare that tailored towards their needs, which really help with side effects of cancer drugs. So why is it that we can’t get same in UK?  We may think NHS is envy of world – but is it? Continue reading

What future is there for NHS?

Food for thought

~ for the Future

The current malaise in the NHS is dragging patients down.

They say they are fed up with nurses and doctors looking grey, over-worked and dispirited.

  • And even more fed up with longer waiting times,
  • being told the post-code lottery means they don’t get a drug,
  • or shuffled laboriously through the system to get what should be simple tests.

It is OUR NHS – isn’t it about time we said “enough is enough”?


Brave Soul

Dr Kailash Chand, a GP in the north of England, has started a government email petition.   If he gets 100,000 signatures, this automatically  forces a debate in Parliament on the Health and Social Care Bill.

No doubt his bosses won’t be pleased with him (the Dept. of Health doesn’t like those who speak up), but if you want to support him click through to



What else?

It is time to challenge the myth/mantra repeated time and again by NHS staff – French care may be better but it is more expensive.

When you compare like for like (i.e. if you take out of the equation all the private rooms, home care, massages etc. the French receive ) and work out who pays what – the French and ourselves are paying pretty much the same.

Perhaps we could go back to a report, written in 2008, for the think tank Reform.  What Prof.Nick Bosanquet, Andrew Haldenby, Laura Hurley, Flavia Jolly, Helen Rainbow and Prof. Karol Sikora wrote is worth re-reading, as a basis for patients to challenge just what is the NHS and La La doing with OUR  money?

The typical UK patient  pays around £2,250 per individual per year, so that everyone is covered by the National Health Service.

So the thoughtful report should be required reading for Cameron and Lansley;  instead of repeating “European healthcare is better”, and leave it at that – perhaps instead of devising all his time and money wasting plans, Lansley would take on board what the Reform Report says – and ACT on it.

So why change?
Over many years, Reform says academic studies have pointed to a gap in performance between the UK and other countries.

Health outcomes are difficult to measure, but the UK delivers a poor level of social equity despite having universal provision.  Other countries have systems that rely on part tax funding – part personal insurance funding for health care.

International options point to two key conclusions:

1.    Drawbacks of voluntary coverage concern both effectiveness – due to the problems of adverse selection – and equity. The only major developed country which operates voluntary health insurance is the USA, and that country is itself divided as to the wisdom of the policy. The NHS does provide cover to every UK citizen (although not for every condition), and that is a valuable strength.
2.    In recent years new insurance-based systems, in particular the Netherlands, have been created. Systems with strong insurance characteristics, such as France, Germany and Switzerland, are reforming in order to manage demand and continue to deliver a better standard of healthcare than the UK. The UK looks out of line with global developments.
The Prime Minister claimed that the NHS was “the best insurance system in the world” because, in systems with greater insurance elements, the costs of healthcare could bankrupt families on normal incomes.

Reform says people living in countries such as France, Germany, Switzerland or the Netherlands have the same kind of protection as the Prime Minister described, including cover against the very high costs of catastrophic illness. The task for the NHS is to combine its universal base with the focus on the patient evident in other countries.

Insurance incentives have the following advantages:

> they provide reasons for individuals and authorities to value the long term;
> they achieve greater value;
> they incentivise individuals to participate in their own healthcare;
> they remove unequal access to treatment; and
> they de-politicise healthcare.
Insurance-based systems are closely focused on individual patient outcomes as healthy patients cost less. This means a focus both on general well-being and on ensuring customers that do become ill recover in the shortest period of time.
In other words, an insurance-based health system encourages preventative medicine – something sadly lacking in the NHS.

Ending the postcode lottery
In insurance based systems patient entitlement is defined, and patients are aware of what drugs and treatments they have access to. This empowers patients and makes the system inherently patient centred, and would overcome the current difficulties in the NHS where some patients in one area have access to treatment while other do not.
The key elements of insurance success
We have seen the advantages of insurance incentives. However, there are a number of crucial elements that are required to make an insurance system work.

Firstly, it is important that a sufficient range of providers are able to operate in the market. Secondly, the core system of compulsory insurance needs to cover the vast majority of health problems to ensure that it is for only a minority of conditions that people are buying healthcare for through self-payment or supplementary insurance. Thirdly, people have to be incentivised to prevent abuse of the system. Finally, information and capability to use that information must be present.

Incentives to stop abuse of the system
People may have an incentive to abuse an over-generous system of provision.

In 2004 the average French GP prescribed drugs worth €260,000 a year and the French used three times as many antibiotics as the Germans.  The French have tried to tackle this problem of overtreatment by requiring co-payments for many drugs and GP visits.

One academic has estimated that between 20 and 30 per cent of healthcare funds in America go toward unnecessary treatments which can in fact have a detrimental effect on public health.

UK families already spend £1,600 per year on healthcare
Reform research shows that the average household invests significant amounts privately on their own health. At a conservative estimate the average household is spending £1,200 a year privately on core areas of healthcare, including private hospital treatment, dentistry, optometry and over the counter medicines.

Alongside this spending individuals are also spending a considerable amount a year on improving their own lifestyles through diet and exercise.The average family spends around £400 annually on areas such as gym and sports club membership as well as complementary therapies.

The basic healthcare package in France, which includes the cost of social security contributions and the cost of a basic supplementary insurance, is £2,021.46.

This is a comprehensive package which covers the cost of consultations, pharmacy, dental costs, surgical costs, hospital stay and ambulatory transport amongst others. Furthermore, the French state currently guarantees patients access to all cancer treatments, including experimental ones.

The option to top up for luxury services or rare drugs
Supplementary insurance would cover a wider range of health treatment and pharmaceuticals that are not available in the core package. Supplementary insurance could be purchased for an additional charge from the Health Protection Providers.

Based on supplementary insurance in other countries, examples of cover might include:
> Additional surgery e.g. additional eye surgery during a cataract operation to alleviate the need to wear glasses.
> Drugs not available in the core package.
> A higher standard of hospital accommodation, such as a private room.

An essential element of a system that acts as an insurer is competition. Competition drives efficiency and quality of services for patients.   However, competition has to be on a level playing field, and signs are that current plans for commissioning services won’t take into account all the factors.

Role of government
Now, this is where it gets interesting.  I can never understand how a politician, with no training whatsoever, can suddenly find themselves managing a health budget of billions.  No company would run this way.  Yet the NHS expects a rookie Minister to know how to commission health services.

Reform suggests the role of the Government would be considerably reduced.

It would have a regulatory function to ensure that all Health Protection Providers and service providers were of sufficient quality. Further tasks would include allocating contracts for emergency services and deciding the budget of the service on a five year cycle. The reduction of this role would eliminate the need for regional agencies i.e. Strategic Health Authorities.

This would depoliticise the running of the health service, and remove it from the political cycle.

The authors
Nick Bosanquet is Professor of Health Policy at Imperial College London and Consultant Director of Reform.
Andrew Haldenby is Reform’s Director.
Laura Hurley was an intern at Reform during the summer of 2008.
Flavia Jolly was an intern at Reform during the summer of 2008.
Helen Rainbow is Reform’s Senior Researcher specialising in health.
Professor Karol Sikora is Medical Director of CancerPartnersUK and a consultant in cancer medicine.

Report costs:  £20.00
Reform, 45 Great Peter Street, London, SW1P 3LT
T 020 7799 6699
ISBN number: 978-1-905730-12-4

Carol Smillie and using seaweed to zap spots


When spots make your life a misery, simple

seaweed can offer help

Undergoing cancer treatment, some people are incredibly lucky.  The drugs they take dry up their skin from inside – making spots shrivel up and disappear.

For others, the spots go on, and there seem to be a constant supply of new zits and blackheads making life a misery.  For some even unluckier people, they suddenly develop crops of spots, and can’t get rid of them.

There is hope

Scientists have discovered a new use for seaweed, and it is helping clear up skins that suffer from these nasties.

Recently Carol Smillie and her daughter Christie were showing off their skins after using the new seaweed-based Oxy products to help control spot outbreaks.

Oxy Tube with fresh looking packaging

Produced by the Mentholatum company, (makers of Deep Heat and Regenovex), their scientists have been harnessing seaweed off the shores of Brittany, as a basis for the Oxy range.

Now Oxy products are being sold in major chemists – alongside their topical gels  such as Deep Freeze and Regenovex.  These do a good job of helping relieve pain and help mega-precious footballers – and cancer patients with aching joints.  So the ‘stable’ is a good one.

Dealing with Spots

We all think acne is something we get in our teens, and hope to grow out of.  Now, this company own the OXY brand of topical skincare treatments, designed to tackle spots, blackheads and excess oil.

For those of us with cancer – spots can be a horrid reminder of our teens as the spots make their unwelcome appearance again.

Seaweed – is this the new miracle ingredient?

Scientists are now using new methods to combat spots, and and a lot of research has gone into using seaweed to combat these nasties.

As a plant, I have been watching seaweed for some time;  it is probably the latest ‘miracle’ ingredient, judging by the uses companies are finding for those long tendrils.  A friend living in Brighton gathers the squishy brown tendrils when she goes for shore walks, then brings them home to add to her bath.  Soaking in the warm, seaweed infused water certainly gives her a gorgeous skin.

This time it is the Laminar or Laminaire (below) variety of seaweed the scientists are using, and also a type of brown seaweed that is helpful – but to get the benefits you need to do a bit more with it than just soak in the bath.

Those clever people at Mentholatum have been working with this at a works by the seashore in Brittany, France, and have now come up with Oxy skincare products that have proven very successful in trials.

I suppose I am lucky – my skin just dried out from cancer drugs, but sitting next to me at the Oxy product launch was a friend who had had  horrendous spots as a result of cancer drugs, and she was saying what a benefit it had been.

Celebrity Trials

Another one who is keen on this product is Carol Smillie, and her very pretty teenage daughter Christie.

Carol says “the fact that some of its key ingredient properties come from seaweed ……. I much prefer the thought that as a mum, my daughter is using a product which uses ingredients from nature.  My daughter is a normal teenager ….. loves to wear make-up ……  Christie’s been using the new Revitalised Oxy ranged for several months now, and it really has the desired effect”.

Oxy skin preparations contain several active ingredients, including Phycosaccharide – harvested  from brown seaweed along with others from the coast of Brittany.  According to Dr. Carrie Ruxton, this is also a rich source of potassium, sodium, magnesium and iodine – plus also being a good source of anti–inflammatory omega-3 fatty acids.  She has been working on a double-blind randomised and placebo-controlled trial at the San Gallicano Institute and Acne Clinic in Rome.

As a result, Oxy has developed a brand new Oxy range, just launched in major chemists.  More info:  www.oxy.co.uk


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Elemis provides emergency rescue for rough skin patches

shower head

Image via Wikipedia

Elemis got big by bothering


~ about showering


Amongst the ‘big boys’ from USA and now France, the British skincare company Elemis is making great strides, particularly when providing creams that help with problem skin produced by drug side effects.  Once we had so many companies:  Cyclax, Yardley, etc., but now most seem to have been absorbed into other companies.  Instead, to take their place comes Elemis.

For some time I have been using their products to help with scaly skin, rough patches and itchy dry skin, and each time they have come up trumps.

Latest in their line of helpful products are a range for baths, which have been helpful with zapping patches of dry skin.  Don’t know what it is, but every time the docs. put me on a different drug, my skin tries to burst out.  So rescue remedies are called for – and these have been very helpful whenever I shower:

Note:  all prices are regular prices, but currently Debenhams have an Elemis sale online.


Tranquil Touch Body Polish

Gentler than a body scrub, it still does the job of getting rid of rough patches.  Might be because apparently contains ‘a natural rice exfoliator’.  Well, you live and learn, but it is very helpful.  £16

Tranquil Touch Creamy Body Wash

Does just what it says on the label, and my bottle has lasted – so I don’t seem to need to much when I shower.  £18.40

Cellutox Active Body Oil

During what little summer we had, I became lazy and didn’t want to spend minutes massaging in body butters or lotions – so went for oils, and this Elemis one is a treat.  It has kept my skin moisturised, so when we had what little sun we got, I didn’t need to put on after-sun cream because my skin was soft enough.  £27.70

And finally, amongst one of my ‘goodie bags’, was a little bottle of their Quiet Mind Temple Balm. I take it into meetings, place it in front of me, and just looking at it soothes me.  Talk about mind over matter!!

Think Pink Beauty Kit

And Finally, every year Elemis produce a goodie bag exclusively for  Breast Cancer Awareness month in October.  The company are massive supporters, and pledge £10,000 to help continue their incredible work that offers support and information to anyone who is affected by breast cancer.   So look for the bright, brigh pink bags on beauty counters, and help the charity.


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Oils are nature's oldest beauty secret

Almond blossom

Almond Blossom Flickr

The problem~

that turned into a present!


It was a friend’s birthday, and I wanted to get her something Provencal, as that is her favourite part of France.

I had written about L’Occitane products in the past – so thought a box of their gorgeous ‘goodies’ was the right thing.

But nearly an hour later I was beginning to regret my decision, as their website just wouldn’t accept anything I inputted.  It was just behaving as websites can do – but IT guys swears never happens.

Worried that I might have inadvertently set all sorts of dire things in motion (such as multiple orders) I phoned them next morning.  Got through to Joelle, who was a genuine human being, not a call centre.  She was incredibly efficient, anxiously talked me through the process and assured me that they were very, very sorry.

Two days later, the postman delivered a lovely box of goodies from L’Occitane, with a delightful letter of apology from the ECommerce Manager (not an ‘executive’) Gaelle Debauge.   This was really old-fashioned service, and I only wish some of the other companies that have website problems would copy their kindness and efficiency.

Why can’t doctors help with our hair?

They say women’s hair is our crowning glory – well, after cancer this couldn’t be further from the truth.  Each Dermatologist I meet up with, I ask what can I do about my ‘druggie hair?’  They all look bored.  I even found out this week that some of the drugs we are put on actually leach out our hair colour.  I couldn’t work out why my mousey-blonde hair was colourless;  thought it had gone white, but realised it was just a faded version of my normal colour.

Reading an information sheet included in a Sanofi-Aventis drug, this said that one of side effects was loss of hair colour.  How French !  Of course being a French drug company, where the medical profession cares much more about women, they included this vital piece of information – why do French pharma companies bother about women – yet the British  couldn’t care less? I still smart when I remember the patronising NHS dermatologist who told me, “try a conditioner”;  this was the only suggestion he could make,  as if I might never have thought of this.

Now the good news – Oils can help

L'Occitane Shower Oil

Amongst the goodies L’Occitane sent me was a lovely Almond Shower Oil.  I had to wash my hair, so tried my current trick of rubbing some oil in first before shampooing;  my ‘straw hair’ feels better already.  Although the oil was supposed to be for showering – it did the trick!  Since then I have used the Oil as a a shampoo, and my hair is much softer.

Now I know that worked, I am off to their shop near me to check out their range of oils.

Next time I will rub their oil in before I go to bed (it doesn’t stain my pillow provided I just rub in a little);  then, when I shampoo my hair the next morning, it’s much softer.  If I really want to make it shine, or am going to be out in the sun, I pour a little oil on the palms of my hands, and smooth this over my hair, and it glistens!

The company has several outlets in Britain, or you can order online (Joelle promises it was only a temporary glitch!)

You can order on QVC, or go to www.loccitane.com/uk





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Kylie bursts in to tears

Image created of Kylie Minogue during the Show...

Image via Wikipedia

Her brave face falters

It gets to us all in the end.  Brave Kylie Minogue finally burst into tears and ran off during a TV interview as she spoke about her battle with cancer.

Diagnosed with breast cancer in 2005, she has finally reached the magic ‘five years’ milestone, but during a TV interview, she was overcome as she was describing an incident that happened to her during her struggle to beat the disease.

Interviewed by close friend ‘Molly’ Meldrum on Australia’s Channel Seven Sunday Night show, she had to leave the set, and compose herself away from the cameras.

But well done her for not succumbing to the usual ‘celeb’ creed of  ‘let it all hang out’.


Haven’t we all cringed as someone has cried on camera – but Kylie refused.  Eventally she came back on set, according to those watching the Australian television programme Sunday Night.

She had been talking about an incident during a visit to a children’s ward, when she had been cheering up a young cancer patient.  The parents then asked her “how are you?”, and whilst reporting this, Australian press said that she became upset and struggled to speak.  The visit to a hospital in Melbourne that she was describing had made such an impression on her.


With any other pop star, cynical thoughts would be around.  Kylie has just started a mega-tour event, Aphrodite – Les Folies Tour 2011, and it might have been thought that this was put on for publicity.

When Kylie returned, she said: “The greatest part of my job and what I do is the humanity of it and there’s certain moments where that really cuts through…  I’m so ‘go, go, go’.  “I hadn’t really had time to give a thought about that until I was telling you.

“It just stops me in my tracks. I hadn’t thought about that since then.”

She paid tribute to her family, saying that they had helped her through the “really rotten, dark moments”.  Recently she has also done a lot to say thank you to the team in France that treated her.

Breast Screening

However, it has been thanks to the ‘Kylie effect’ that many younger breast cancer patients have now been listened to when they try to tell their doctors they think they have breast cancer.  Many under 40s will confirm that their doctors pooh-poohed their fears, telling them “you are too young to have breast cancer,” until Kylie’s diagnosis showed that it wasn’t always only older women who got the disease.

Even Kylie herself said that at first she hadn’t been listened to – it was only when she went for a second opinion that her fears were confirmed.  But thanks to her, untold numbers of younger women have been listened to – and hopefully had a better prognosis.

So she is now touring with what looks to be a fantastic tour, so if you want tickets in your country, go on to Google and grab them quickly – they are bound to be a sell-out!

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New book explains breast cancer treatment

BREAST CANCER NURSING – Care and Management

This is a text book, written for nurses, full of medical jargon – but if you are interested in what happens to you as a person with breast cancer, I can thoroughly recommend it for reference.

This is the type of book it would be helpful to have at hand, when the expert medics start discussing you as though you weren’t there;  the helpful index at the back would show you what they are talking about, and you might even be able to contribute to the discussion!

I met Victoria when I went to St. Mary’s, Paddington (where Alexander Flemming developed penincillin), and it always gives me a thrill when I walk under the blue plaque that records where he worked.  Vickki is one of those people whom you warm to immediately, and not surprisingly she has managed to gather together a very interesting and informative collection of colleagues to contribute chapters.  Each one is writing about their specialist subject, to be read by their peers, so the language can be very technical.  However, you know you are getting the truth, which can be extremely interesting when you work your way through to it!  I found several answers to things that had been puzzling me.

Anyone bewildered or unable to find answers to questions could well find the solution in this book.  I turned first to the chapter on Endocrine treatment, and it says “logical answers aren’t always the correct ones and assumptions cannot be made…”.   Hurrah – someone knows we don’t all respond in the textbook manner to those drugs.

If you have problems with side effects, the book has examples of many that are brushed aside by medics,  One is that women aged over 80 can have had hot flushes from Tamoxifen;  showing this book to sceptical medics might make them believe what we tell them.

Another chapter speaks of ‘Time spent with a patient, listening to her story is very valuable’, etc. etc.   I would dearly love to have this printed out and put it in every nurse’s locker.  Today, almost all the time we get with a nurse can be her asking what medication we are on (which they should have  gleaned from out notes – if they read them).  So we waste valuable time, which is often the only allocation we get – no time to tell staff of our fears or ask questions.

The only subject I would have liked to have had more cover is Hormone Therapy, and in particular dealing with side effects from the drugs.  Vickki works at St. Mary’s, Paddington, and I know that they have had contact with France and some of the solutions French doctors have for dealing with these – so next time I would like to see a chapter dealing with how the French treat these.

But there is so much of use to anyone who has problems – most patients would probably be like me:   looking  for the aspects that interest them, and I don’t want to know about the rest.  But what is there has been written by a team of experts, ably edited by Vickki, and this will certainly be on my desk and surely well thumbed.

Published by Wiley-Blackwell £29.99

www.wiley.com.wiley-blackwell ISBN   978-1-4051-9866-0

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Treatment in France

Map of France (wp-EN), with names in French
Image via Wikipedia


www.fnclcc.fr is the website for the Federation Nationale des Centres de Lutte contre le Cancer.   It incorporates a page in English which details the work of the Federation and names the 20 cancer centres.
Frances Wilkinson, Secretary of Cancer Support France, says they “will always support English-speaking people affected by cancer in France and you will have seen from the CSF website that we have branches of our organisation in many parts of France where there is a significant population of Anglophones.
Incidentally, although I do speak French, and so do the people I mention in the case study below, a large proportion of French medical staff speak excellent English.  One darling doctor just grunted as he examined my skin lesions from Tamoxifen – and kept on grunting.  So no interpreter needed there, but he set in motion the treatment I had which cured my skin lesions;  lesions that had stumped doctors at the Royal Marsden in London.
CASE STUDY : Medicine and treatment in France

You may decide to hxxll with trying to get the NHS top pay – you are going anyway and will pay.

Two friends who live down the street were surprised and pleased at how easy it is to get treatment in Europe. They knew I had been there to get help with cancer side effects, and were impressed.   So here, straight from the horse’s mouth, is what it’s like to go off abroad for treatment. Both had been passed around from one NHS pillar to another medical post, were fed up with years of waiting and wrong diagnosis, and just wanted to get things done. Now, they almost automatically book to go to France when they need treatment.

“When I wanted to find a prostate specialist when I had to go to Lyon, I merely googled :”Prostate specialists in Lyon” and up came various names, one of whom I called , got on to her secretary, and booked myself in. The cost was less than in London for seeing someone of comparable quality, I was seen immediately and laboratory tests were done on the same day, also at less cost, with the results coming through quite quickly.

When Robin had a problem with ingrowing toenails some years ago, we saw a French doctor within 10 minutes and the antibiotics were produced immediately, all at much less cost than here ( the doctor was in Paris ).

When needing a scan in Lyon, we booked up the appointment to coincide with our holiday in the South of France. No waiting, the scan cost £80 instead of £800 over here, and a doctor explained the results immediately afterwards in very good English. This was not on the EHIC (European Health Insurance Card) as it was pre-booked. However, further tests were done by my friend Dr Degraix, one of the leading ENT specialists in Lyon, and drops were duly administered for the infection which cured it in 7 days, whereas it had taken months of footling around in the U.K and we didn’t get anywhere.

When in France, we are always falling off rocks, pulling muscles diving into swimming pools, getting appalling stomach upsets after yet another 5 course Michelin meal, and always having to see a doctor or go to hospital to get cured. The results are always much better than in the U.K, cheaper and more effective.

It is also definitely worth comparing medical costs on a pre booked basis between here and France, and I haven’t seen or heard much about MRSA or whatever the latest bug is, but the French seem to have that under control”.

Warning! The French, like us, are getting fed up with medical tourism.  But they have the will to do something about this, so don’t imagine you can go there and present yourself at a hospital, claiming to have suddenly got cancer – it won’t work.

You will be treated well, then presented with a bill at the end – and there won’t be any way you can get out of paying.

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