An Art Exhibition inspired by the hallucinations of Charles Bonnet Syndrome
It was a pleasure to attend the first day of the Seeing Things interactive art exhibition, which is taking place at the lovely Forum in Norwich over the next two weeks.
Charles Bonnet Syndrome is a type of visual hallucination which people can experience after sight loss. In comparison with other types of hallucination, those who experience these know that they are just a creation of the brain as a reaction to visual loss.
Fascinating paintings depicting some of these hallucinations. Source: Own photo
The Art of Charles Bonnet
This art exhibition, set up by the NNAB, features art from people who suffer from the syndrome, as well as other visual artists who have been inspired from speaking to those who experience these vivid hallucinations, which have their own unique attributes in comparison with other types of hallucinations.
To the left – a bear statue in front of some upside-down cupcakes. Strange faces can also be a feature of the condition. Source: Own photo
Dominic Ffytche, a world expert in the condition, gave a fantastic lecture about the Syndrome, and it was indeed fascinating to listen to the experienced of sufferers from the condition. The audience comprised of people who suffered from the condition, people who had not previously heard of the syndrome and clinicians, such as myself, who are aware about the condition but want to understand more and gain perspective.
I was particularly intrigued by the number of people who experience hallucinations of old period clothing from different eras, which seems to be a consistent feature of the syndrome. Interestingly, even when the syndrome was first described 250 years ago — the literature describes sufferers talking about people wearing period dress of the time. Perhaps 18th century formal-wear has a hallucinatory quality to it?
Dr Dominic Ffytche, an expert in the condition, shows images of certain visual hallucinations that people experience. Source: own photo
Even though Charles Bonnet Syndrome was first described 250 years ago, by a Swiss philosopher who was writing about his grandfather’s experiences having lost his sight to cataracts, we still do not know why exactly it happens. Certainly, we suspect that the brain fills in the gaps generated from visual loss by producing new fantastic pictures or old images which it might have stored. For many people, these hallucinations are not a problem but for some they can, understandably, be distressing. Certainly, it helps to understand these hallucinations and it is useful for both sufferers, the public and clinicians (such as yours truly) to be aware and understand this fascinating condition.
An interesting hallucination — bear and inverse cupcakes. Source: own photo
To this end, it is fantastic to have an art exhibition which both raises awareness and bewitches us, humbling us as clinicians into realising there is still so much about the eyes and the brain that we don’t yet understand. Do you have any experience of this condition? Please feel free to comment below.
The Destruction of the NHS: A Dialogue at Breaking Point
by Nima Ghadiri
Is the NHS at breaking point?
Yes, it really is. As things stand, it will not exist in five to ten years time, and different elements of our Health Service will be apportioned as Dialysis-Plus East Coast, CrossCancer, Virgin Maternity, or whatever other word-pasticcio the “brand positioner” regorges.
With consecutive governments in seemingly total denial about the state of the NHS, the phrase “crisis point” is an understatement. We need to do something now, every month which passes brings the death sentence closer.
Ok, just…. just chill out there for a second. Are things really THAT BAD?
Chucking about numbers is often a precursor to a well-known Disraeli quote, paraphrased by Mark Twain. Nevertheless, sometimes they are needed so people can grasp what is happening.
Since 2011, there has been a 504% increase in the number of patients waiting over four hours in A&E Departments across the country, forcing Secretary of State for Health Jeremy Hunt to ditch the target. 23 hospitals were simultaneously on black alert earlier this year, which means that they “are unable to guarantee life-saving emergency care”. This included Jeremy Hunt’s own local hospital The Royal Surrey, which had 27 patients urgently needing a bed but no space.
Waiting times for surgery have been getting much longer, and 4093 urgent operations were cancelled in 2016, an increase of 27% in just two years. Knee and hip operations are now being rationed only for those who aren’t able to sleep because of agony, using bogus “pain tests” as a differentiator.
Cancer treatment targets have been missed for four consecutive years, and services are now failing. Mental health services are being rationed, so people who suffer are dying in their homes, unable to care for themselves.
These are frightening figures, it’s no wonder the Red Cross (who stepped in early in the year to help with a shortage of ambulances) has declared the NHS a humanitarian crisis, as people are dying needlessly in the world’s fifth-richest country…
Stop, I get the idea, things are looking gloomy all round. Surely, we have the MONEY to stop this?
Astonishingly, as demand has risen hugely, funding has been cut. Our spending on the NHS as a percentage of our GDP has plummeted below 10%. This is a lot less than France and Germany, and amongst the lowest in the developed world.
If our national health funding matched the average amount that Europe’s 10 leading economies spend on their healthcare, perhaps we could lose this uncoveted accolade:
Yes, we need more NURSES and DOCTORS!
And we are getting far less. Medical school applications have plummeted, the proportion of med school graduates who become first year doctors has gone down from 70% to 50%, with phrases such as “in droves” and “en masse” describing the number of junior doctors leaving the United Kingdom. Enormous rota gaps are now ubiquitous, GP vacancies have skyrocketed from 2% in 2011 to 12.2% now, and 84% of general practitioners now say that their workload is affecting patient care.
Nursing applications have fallen by 23% over the last year, and the removal of bursary funding for student nurses and midwives has sent one clear message “We don’t value you”, underlined by years of below-inflation 0% and 1% pay rises. By 2019, NHS workers will have seen their pay capped for nine consecutive years, and nurses will have seen their pay reduced by 12%.
To add salt into these raw and gaping wounds, the Secretary of State for Health massively over-estimated nurses’ average pay this month when he was asked why so many nurses are having to use food banks.
Source: British Medical Journal
So they want things to fail, is this all about PRIVATISATION?
We don’t need to speculate about this, it’s all there in numbers, contracts, even a book with Jeremy Hunt’s name on it, calling for the de-nationalisation of the NHS. There has been an increase in spending on “independent sector providers” of a third between 2014 and 2016, and an estimated 500% more contracts have gone private since 2012.
The plan for privatising the National Health Service isn’t exclusive to one party. The groundwork was done by the previous government, with poorly conceived “public service reforms” leading to unfettered introduction of private corporations into commissioning. It has accelerated over recent years, however.
So what are the POLITICIANS saying?
Absolutely the wrong things. For a National Health Service which is quite visibly starving, Jeremy Hunt said: “The NHS needs to go on a 10-year diet”.
Theresa May also didn’t like the Red Cross assessment of the NHS, calling them “irresponsible” and “overblown”.
The BMA has identified five key issues for the future of the NHS, and it would indeed be “irresponsible” if politicians did not address these:
Are you subtly telling me which way to VOTE?
No, it’s not for me to instruct you, and people don’t like being told what to do. Nevertheless, it’s currently very easy for the mainstream media and tabloid press to distract the general population and report on fake scandals rather than one which is very real, and affects all of us.
As long as you are aware of what is happening and can make up your own mind, then that’s already very important. If you can spread the word to others, even better. Over the next few months we will see an increase in grass-roots movements in social media and the streets, in support of the National Health Service. There will be a nurses’ summer of protest activity, a show of anger against pay-rise caps and maltreatment which has left 40,000 posts unfilled.
Battling a Murdoch and Dacre Press which has vested interests against the NHS will be challenging, and no doubt lies will be spun which confuse and subvert. Tabloid journalism had a pivotal role in the Junior Doctor contracts dispute, and may do so against the nurses too. It is crucial to appreciate that supporting our nurses means supporting our National Health Service.
This is a very important argument, and it is essential for healthcare professionals, journalists and politicians alike to make a concerted and aggressive effort to kick these sugar-peddling companies out of the sphere of academic influence.
The more overt “More Doctors smoke…” advertisements of yesteryear are thankfully a thing of the past, but the covert influence of sugar-saturated food companies is no less a threat to our health. Aaron and Siegel (1) report that from 2011 to 2015, the Coca-Cola Company and PepsiCo were found to sponsor 95 national health organizations, many medical and public health institutions amongst them. They also lobbied against 29 public health bills intended to reduce soda consumption or improve nutrition.
The British Nutrition Foundation, for example, lists amongst “Sustaining Members” Coca-Cola, PepsiCo, Kellogg, Nestle, Tate & Lyle and has “Corporate Members” British Sugar plc, Mars UK, KP Snacks, McDonalds, United Biscuits, Weetabix, Ocean Spray and many more. Although it is open to companies and corporations from a variety of backgrounds including healthcare and fitness, the actual members who have provided support read as a Who’s Who of Sugar Salesmen (2), making their promise of a “a focus on objective nutrition science interpretation and delivery” open to scrutiny. The American Society for Nutrition is no different, with an almost-identical list of names cropping up (3) for this group, which publishes the Journal of Nutrition.
Indeed, the editorial boards of top nutrition journals are littered by corporate affiliations with sweetie companies – The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, for example, lists the likes of Mars, Coca-Cola, PepsiCo, Nestle, McDonald’s and Ferrero amongst companies who have a relationship with members of their board (4). The ambassador’s reception may also be overflowing with hazelnut-and-wafer spherical treats at many other nutrition journals, who often home of the Journal of Nutrition Education and Behavior, who have eight “corporate patron friends” and four “corporate sustaining friends. (5)
It would be interesting to note how these journals consider submissions which report a detriment to health from these companies’ products, but when some of the largest nutrition journals display such a conflict of interest it must become clear to all that the Honey Pot relationship between “Big Food” and academia is poisonous and needs to be dealt with.
(1) Sponsorship of National Health Organizations by Two Major Soda Companies. Aaron, Daniel G. et al. American Journal of Preventive Medicine , Volume 52 , Issue 1 , 20 – 30
On 24 April 2017, the Daily Mail published an article with the title statement “Going to the loo ‘just in case’? Don’t – it could wreck your bladder”. With a daily print circulation of 1.5 million (December 2016) and 100 million unique online visitors per month, the newspaper dispenses alarming and dangerous advice which may encourage people to hold in their urine, thereby risking urinary tract infections and renal impairment.
The article itself, apart from a number of lurid stock photos, is less sensationalist in tone than the headline. However, the focus is so scattershot (bouncing from the volume of urine that a bladder can hold, to a brief differential diagnosis of polyuria, the use of earplugs, men exercising their pelvic floor, and even David Cameron’s Brexit negotiations) that the only “take home message” risks being the first line for the newspaper’s readers. With an average reader age of 58, many of the Daily Mail’s readers will suffer from nocturia and take such advice to heart.
Dismissing tabloid medical journalism as beneath scrutiny is done at our peril, as many patients rely on newspapers to build their knowledge base and engagement can be significantly affected by what is understood to be true. When this message is dangerously incorrect, it should be confronted and disputed.
Very detailed Anatomy Atlas (gets your textbook and transplants it into an interactive virtual reality cadaver). The detail is fantastic, which is probably why it costs quite a lot, but some of the structures are a bit too small and the user-friendliness of the application probably needs to evolve over time. My feeling is that most people will still stick to their Gray’s Anatomy in 2017 to see how the leg bone’s connected to the… hip bone, but it’s good to see things like this being developed as this may change in the near future!