• Date: 10 September 2012


Budding GPs might be interested in an opportunity to leave the rat race behind for more secluded climes. It’s been widely reported recently that the remote Scottish island of Jura in the Inner Hebrides has gone all-out in the search for a new permanent GP. Islanders desperate to attract a resident doctor have turned to social media, and set up a dedicated Facebook page (www.facebook.com/PerfectPracticeJura) to advertise what they describe as “a dream job for the right person”. Jura boasts picturesque beaches, an abundance of wildlife, next-to-no crime and a world famous whisky distillery, with a free bottle of malt on offer as a finder’s fee. Due to the island’s remoteness, however, the new GP would be permanently on call and would be expected to fulfil a wide range of duties. The first task for the last full-time GP was reportedly changing the tyre on the island’s ambulance.


A GP has hit the headlines for putting his medical skills to unorthodox use – by giving mouth-tomouth to his pet tortoise. Dr Ben Waterfall from Barnstaple told GP how he leapt into action after discovering eight-year-old Atlas submerged in his water container, having stopped breathing and blinking. Crediting his medical training for his quick reaction, Dr Waterfall said he spent six minutes breathing into the reptile’s nostrils before seeing signs of life. He said: “We were always told that with drowning you should give people a go. It kicked in without thinking about it.” Fortunately, Atlas has made a full recovery following a course of antibiotics, although Dr Waterfall admitted he was unable to tell if his pet had suffered any sort of brain damage.


Not long ago Diary came across a cartoon by Stephen Collins in the Guardian newspaper. A couple are lying on a hillside and a passenger jet flies high over head. The woman says: “You know Brad, sometimes I like to come up here and just watch the planes. I like to wonder where they’re going…New York…Paris…Cairo… maybe even Ulaanbaatar… And I like to think of the people on them, and how their lives might be changed by this journey, and how maybe, just maybe, one day it’ll be me, flying away from this dreary little town, with its dreary little dreams…Y’ know?” The man holds his smartphone up toward the plane – “Blip, blip” – and says: “It is going to Luton.” The final panel in the cartoon reads: “APPS: SPOILING THINGS SINCE 2008.”


Sticking with the hi-tech theme, US scientists have invented “electronic skin” patches that monitor patients’ vital signs and will ultimately be able to wirelessly transmit the data to a doctor. It could mean the end of patients being attached to machines for hours of treatment or monitoring. The patches can track brain, heart or muscle activity while the patient is at home. The patches are transferred to the skin like a temporary tattoo, with water and a backing that peels off, while a spray-on bandage keeps it waterproof.


And from hi-tech to extremely lo-tech… Eating body parts, the sweat of a dying man, ground-up remains of embalmed bodies and distilled brain pulp are just some of the treatments dreamed up by proponents of ‘corpse medicine’. Australian academic Louise Noble has researched a range of stomach-churning remedies on the practice which was popular from the 12th to 17th century. Practitioners thought a dying man’s sweat would cure haemorrhoids while distilled brain pulp of a violently killed man was used to cure cranial ills. Meanwhile, gladiators’ liver and blood was used to treat epilepsy. Source: Daily Mail.


Next time you reach for that Hob Nob in the practice biscuit tin, spare a thought for staff at the Department of Health. The Independent reports that an “urgent review” has been ordered after it was revealed the DoH had spent £109,017 in three months buying “tea and biscuits” for meetings with staff and visitors. Responding to the mild outrage, a DoH spokesman said the bill was actually a “marked improvement” compared to the first three months of last year when officials notched up £137,000 on light refreshments, and in 2010 when they spent £194,000. One suspects more biscuit down-sizing to come.


On the subject of snacks, an Australian study published in the BMJ revealed dark chocolate has antihypertensive, anti-inflammatory, antithrombotic and metabolic effects, which are attributed to its high polyphenol content. Research suggests regular consumption reduces systolic blood pressure and plasma cholesterol concentrations. The study explores the rather ludicrous prospect that eating dark chocolate could be cost effective in the primary prevention of cardiovascular events. While it isn’t as effective as statins or ACE inhibitors, this may be offset by better compliance and fewer adverse effects. Prescription for Bourneville, anyone?


Or to the non-Glaswegian – hand over my five dollar consultation fee, please. This is apparently how much an 87-year-old family doctor in Rushville, Illinois has been charging his patients per visit since the 1970s. Dr Russell Dohner has become something of a national hero in the US as the country awaits a Supreme Court decision on the Affordable Care Act and the future of healthcare costs. These can be crippling, with a family of four dependent on an employment-based insurance plan expected to pay $20,000 – or about 40 per cent of median household income – on medical expenses each year. That’s not to say Dr Dohner is completely immune to inflation: before the 1970s he charged two dollars a visit.


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