Tuesday 20 March 2018

Rude health: Doctors top poll for trust

A trust rating of 91pc is pretty good for a 'shower of bums', writes Maurice Gueret, in a burst of truth-telling

Doctors scored highly in the Medical Council's recent poll on trust amongst patients. Picture posed.
Doctors scored highly in the Medical Council's recent poll on trust amongst patients. Picture posed.
Maurice Gueret.

Professors at medical school would warn us to be wary of opinion polls. First thing is to check who is asking the questions. Secondly you should consider why the poll is needed at all. The Medical Council has just released one that it commissioned itself.

One thousand Irish folk were polled and 91pc of them said that they trusted doctors to tell the truth. All very well says I, up 3pc since the same lads commissioned an identical poll five years ago. But the doctors didn't stop there. They rubbed it in a little and asked folk about

truth-telling in other professions. Teachers and judges came out well, but journalists who assembled to hear about the Medical Council's survey were told that only 39pc of people trust them to tell the truth, lower even than business leaders or bankers. And politicians in the audience must have been red-faced, with a disastrous 18pc truth rating for TDs. I'm sure doctors could get their rating up towards 100pc if they approached patients in a crouched position holding a loaded syringe with a wide bore needle, but we need to be careful not to take the trust of patients for granted. I am no Bible fiend but do recall one important line: 'Pride goeth before destruction and a haughty spirit before a fall.'

Which reminds me. It's exactly 20 years since the legend that is Nell McCafferty was invited down to Killarney by the Irish Medical Organisation for its annual meeting. As part of the event, some genius had organised a symposium entitled 'How Others See Us', inviting leading lights from other walks of life down to the Kingdom to discuss their personal views of the curing profession. And true to form, Nell called doctors a 'shower of bums'. Now that's one journalist who can speak nothing but the truth.

I was writing about things that adversely affect sleep a few weeks back and had an array of interesting correspondence on the topic. One gentleman told me a familiar story about his loud snoring and how it disturbed his wife's sleep for 12 long years. One night she made a recording of his nocturnal turbulence and then played it back at full volume. This really made an impression on him, along with the fact that they noticed that his breathing was actually stopping during the night, sometimes for up to 50 seconds. He was also waking up tired each morning as his body wasn't getting the proper amount of deep sleep it needs. With these facts the family doctor quickly diagnosed sleep apnoea and sent him off to a local respiratory specialist for tests. The diagnosis was confirmed. He now sleeps soundly and quietly, with a life- and marriage-saving CPAP machine, and wakes up each morning with his old energy restored. I am sure there are dozens of households around the country where the sleep apnoea diagnosis is just waiting to be made. After ear-syringing, it's one of the most rewarding interventions a family doctor can make. You can find out more from the Irish Sleep Apnoea Trust at isat.ie

If you are looking for a new business opportunity, electrical circulation boosters are all the rage. I have yet to come across any doctor who actually recommends them, but apparently sales are booming and up over 200pc year on year. In my book, the best way to stimulate your leg muscles is to put a lead on the dog. But for reasons that remain a clinical puzzle, many Irish folk prefer to spend a week's wages on plug-in boxes that deliver electrical impulses to the feet and legs as they loll on the sofa. The sales patter includes all the usual gems about ageing gracefully, relieving painful limbs, improvement of muscle weakness, alleviation of cramp, and the 'clinically proven' bit about improving circulation. If you do have weak legs, cramps or limb pains - get some medical advice and a diagnosis. If you have a spare e300 or e400 to spend on circulation boosters, the kennel club or any dog pound have much better machines that will be even happier to share your sofa after the circulation boost.

Bloom festival is on at the Phoenix Park this bank holiday weekend and it's a great day out when the weather permits. A recent health think tank report says that doctors should be doing a lot more to encourage patients to take up gardening. In parts of London, GPs are able to prescribe therapeutic gardening for the mental well-being of their patients. So-called 'social prescribing' is on the rise and a network of hospitals and GP surgeries are growing their own produce beside their clinics and encouraging patients to learn more and get involved. The value of gardening is particularly felt by patients with cancer, dementia, disabilities, spinal injuries and mental illness. American research confirms gardeners tend to be less obese and it has long been known that access to green space reduces mental health admissions. The last generation of my own family grew up in the Central Mental Hospital in Dundrum where gardening and farming were probably the most important occupations for patients, many of whom were long-term residents. If you are looking for that new prescription in your life, gardening could be a blooming great choice.

Now that the planning hurdles are over, I do hope everybody gets behind the new Children's Hospital at Rialto. The design looks absolutely stunning and it can only be a good thing that we are moving away from sprawling hospital campuses with footprints the size of airports. It's now 80 years gestating. Let's deliver it.

Dr Maurice Gueret is editor of the Irish Medical Directory


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