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UK Quackery PDF Print E-mail
Swift
Written by James Randi   

Please, so that you can get some idea of just how miserably-managed the government health services are in the UK, go to http://dcscience.net/?p=454 and read Prof. David Colquhoun’s account. His “Improbable Science” entries have been railing against stupidity in medical science for years now, and you will see just how ignorant, inept, and recalcitrant these “quangos” are.

(No, I didn’t recognize that word, either, nor did Phil Plait, Jeff Wagg, or anyone else in my office – though Mike Hutchinson, in the UK, did. FYI, a “quango” is a quasi-government agency that operates independently. I’d pictured it as a large lizard with nasty breath, or an aboriginal settlement in New Zealand…)

But go to David’s site and read the rather long account. You’ll see just how tedious and uphill his battle has been, and how valiant his struggle. Our kudos to him…

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written by redwench, December 01, 2008
unfortunately, I could only get about half way through the article before my mind started swimming from the gibberish. Kudos to Colquhoun for having the patience to deal with all those entities' regurgitations.
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written by Kyran Wray, December 02, 2008
An aboriginal settlement in New Zealand?
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written by ofet, December 02, 2008
A quango seems to be a kind of job creation for the otherwise unemployable 'educated '( degree in alternative navel contemplation ) middle classes who can't be expected to do anything useful like cleaning latines ( the only other thing they seem qualified for ). I really hate to think of my taxes paying for this codswollop.
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written by Random, December 02, 2008
Quango = Quasi-Autonomous Non-Governmental Organisation
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Quackery in UK schools
written by Colquhoun, December 02, 2008
Thanks for the link -hit rate is going through the roof as usual.

The post is about UK High schools, rather health services. 16 year old kids who are being taught about Reiki and reflexology as business, not as medicine. So it isn't really about how "miserably-managed the government health services are in the UK". It's true that similar ineffective forms of regulation do exist in the National Health Service, but nonetheless the penetration of woo into the NHS is relatively small, and thanks to the efforts of folks like your readers, it is decreasing slowly.

In spite of some bad bureaucracy, and a superfluity of managers, the NHS works rather well most of the time. I spent over two hours in an MRI machine today and it didn't cost me a penny.

The irony is that the more regulation we get, the less effective it seems to be. At one time the proposal for lessons on reiki would have been shown to any competent science teacher, who would have said "you must be joking" and binned it. Now it gets endorsed by a maze of committees who tick boxes but seem to have little capacity for thought. I'm all for regulation of crackpot medicine (and banks) but what we are getting is all the appearance of regulation and none of the reality.
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CAM in the UK
written by Christine, December 02, 2008
Like the first responder, I got about half-way through the article before a headache set in. It is a miserable task to try and teach children how to be critical thinkers when the school system seems to do all it can to teach them otherwise. Maybe if the Brits could get their heir apparent to think critically and renounce his belief in CAM, it would help the public as a whole.

The biggest problem we have here in the US seems to be the
religious right trying to infiltrate our schools. All adults, especially parents and grandparents have to do all we can to make sure our children are very well versed in critical thinking since it is difficult to monitor each and every thing they are taught in schools.
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written by sfdyoung, December 02, 2008
The description of Unit 23 is right about one thing (and only one thing, as far as I could tell): "a local homeopathic hospital" WOULD be an "interesting place to visit.” I find a certain sick fascination in watching fools being parted from their money. Or the British taxpayer's money, to be more accurate. The rest of what the Edexcel people had to say sounded like crap to me (at least the part I could get through before I had to give up).
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written by BillyJoe, December 03, 2008
Random,

Quango = Quasi-Autonomous Non-Governmental Organisation

Long version:

The origin of the acronym, Quango, is as follows. At some point in time, there existed only Government Organisations and Non-Goverment Organisations (NGO). However, some of these NGOs developed close ties to government and therefore came to be referred to as Quasi Non-Goverment Organisations or Quangos.

Later the acronym, Quango, was used by reformers in both England and Australia to stand for Quasi Autonomous Governmental Organisations. Unfortunately the letter 'N' missed out. Therefore they added the word "National" but, again, this didn't quite fit, because, in England, the term was redundant and, in Australia, it was incorrect because these orgainisations were actually state controlled.
The alternative, Quasi Autonomous Non-Governmental Organisation, was also not correct, because they were, in fact, Government Orgainisations that had become quasi-autonomous.



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QUANGO
written by Ricsuth, December 03, 2008
On the issue of what a QUANGO really is, in some cases it seems to be an excuse for
Governmsnt to put issues at arms length, so as to be able to say, "Don't complain
here, go to the QUANGO." Well, of course the QUANGOs are un-elected and so can
put up bureaucratic blocks to freedom of information, and accountability.

In experience they will tend to do just that, and become self-appointing money
sinks. They foster a jobs for the boys appearance and like any empire seem to want
to grow exponentially.

They are anti-democratic institutions.
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Duke's Research
written by danieljref, December 03, 2008
I'm just curious. Does anyone has any comments on this http://www.dukehealth.org/Heal...medication
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Acupuncture at Duke
written by Colquhoun, December 03, 2008
The original paper by Sun and Gan (Anesth Analg. 2008 Dec;107(6):2038-47) isn't available from UCL though a rather similar one is (Y. Sun, T. J. Gan, J. W. Dubose and A. S. Habib, Acupuncture and related techniques for postoperative pain: a systematic review of randomized controlled trials, British Journal of Anaesthesia 2008 101(2):151-160smilies/wink.gif

If you ignore the spin in the press release you see that there is a trivial and unconvincing difference between 'real' acupuncture a sham acupuncture. Many good trials have recently come to the same conclusion. There is a beautiful account of them in Barker Bausell's recent book, Snake Oil Science [http://dcscience.net/?p=239#bausell]. The obvious conclusion is that all the stuff about meridians and "Qi" is so much mumbo jumbo, and that acupuncture is no more than a particularly theatrical placebo.

It is true than both sham and 'real' acupuncture often come out better than a non-blinded control group without acupuncture. So you then have to decide whether it is worth lying to the patientin order to elicit a good placebo effect. That is one of the dilemmas of CAM [http://dcscience.net/?page_id=10]
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written by Fontwell, December 03, 2008
David Colquhoun deserves a medal.
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written by BillyJoe, December 03, 2008
Ricsuth,

Your definition is not the definition of the original Quango.
(see my post above for that definition - first paragraph)

However, it is a good discription of the it's second coming - where the acronym doesn't quite fit no matter what word you substitute for 'N'.
(see again my post above - second paragraph)

BJ
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written by dr pepper, December 03, 2008
In the britcom Yes Minister, quangos are presented as channels for kickbacks. In that episode the minister is trying to get a banker to back off some major project by offering him a quango membership. They go through the various categories available for which the banker is only qualified by serious stretching. For instance he eats steak, how about beef quality oversight? When the minister's idealistic political advisor raises a fuss, they quiet him with the creation of a quango to monitor the abuse of quangos.
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