Thursday, August 24, 2006

Fattening Up The Figures

"If you're going to tell a lie, tell a fat one."

It's almost as if kindly old Doc Goebbels foresaw exactly New Labour's approach to "public service information".

Take their latest campaign against fatties. Fit Minister Caroline Flint says:

"Obesity costs the NHS £1bn a year, and the country £7bn a year."

Now clearly, when hospitals are being "forced to spend tens of thousands of pounds buying reinforced beds and strengthening mortuary slabs" to cope with obese punters, something ain't quite right. But £1bn pa? That's an awful lot of slabs. And where did that £7bn pa figure for economic damage come from?

When the National Audit office looked at this in 2001, they did some detailed calculations on the costs of obesity (see their Report here, Appendix 6). Their conclusion was that it cost the NHS about £0.5bn pa, and the wider economy just over £2bn pa. Which gave them an all-in cost- including direct medical treatment of obesity, treatment of medical consequences like Type 2 diabetes and hypertension, and economic losses due to sickness and early death- of £2.6bn. Scaling that up pro rata to GDP gives a 2006 figure of about £3.5bn.

Which means that Cara's £7bn figure has been fattened by a factor of two.

But that's nothing compared to the extreme obesity of her boss's figures. Just before he schlepped off to Sir Cliff's villa, the Beloved Leader told us:

"Ten per cent of NHS resources today are used to treat diabetes. By 2010 the estimate is that this could double. That's 20 per cent of the entire resources of the NHS - and it's avoidable. Three quarters of diabetics are Type 2 diabetics, and two thirds of them have a disease which could be preventable with exercise, diet and more healthy choices."

OK right... now let me see... two-thirds of three-quarters of ten per cent equals 5%. He's telling us that 5% of the NHS budget is going on treating fatties who've stuffed themselves so much they've got T2 diabetes. Given that the NHS budget is currently £80bn, that means we're spending £4bn pa on treating self-inflicted T2 diabetes.

Set aside the ludicrous inconsistency with Cara's £1bn figure (which supposedly includes all fatty conditions plus those mortuary slabs as well as the costs of T2 diabetes treatment). How on earth did Tone come up with £4bn? The NAO's detailed cost estimate for treating T2 diabetes was- wait for it- £123.5m. A mere 3% of Tone's figure!

"Plucked out of the air" doesn't really cover this kind of lie. Doc G would have been proud.

PS Why's Tone lying about this? First and foremost so he can shift the blame for his NHS non-delivery onto all those fat chavs who are stuffing themselves to death at our expense. But he also wants to justify Labour's constant attempts to nanny us. The reality is that his last half-baked scheme of "obesity education" and persuasion was a complete flop. That involved five government departments, dozens of quangos, and hundreds of local bodies, and took eighteen months just to produce "a working definition" of obesity. And it cost us a billion friggin' quid (see this blog for more details).


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