False positives

I haven’t written anything for a long time. Months. Mainly because anything I thought of to write about has become so preposterous that I couldn’t think of any point in writing about it. Trade deals? Don’t make me laugh.

On top of the national suicide pact exit from Europe, we’ve also had the PM-induced compulsory suicide pact of the Corona virus. Today’s farce on Radio Four was about false positives. First Matt Hancock, the alleged Health Secretary, then a ‘crusading’ journalist totally misunderstood what they pretended they were talking about, which isn’t that reassuring.

A false positive is supposed to mean a test result that says you have something, a disease, a temperature, a virus, when in fact you don’t. Hancock was trying to pretend that actually his government hadn’t ballsed-up at all and all those people testing positive for Covid-19, with an infection-rate doubling every eight days, all that was actually just a misunderstanding and there was nothing to worry about, as the tests were false positive. Yes, most of them. Yes, despite the government’s own leader calling their testing regime world-beating. All false. Nothing wrong with most of these chaps after all. As you were. Carry on, that man.

Even for a government lead by a man sacked from his first job for lying, sacked from another job at the Spectator for lying about producing yet another illegitimate child, number unknown as he can’t or won’t say how many there are, that used to be a bit breath-taking. Now it’s just another day.

You or I may think the issue of illegitimacy went the same way as sideburns and Slade, but the Prime Minister certainly doesn’t. Or he didn’t when he wrote in the same magazine that the offspring of single-mothers were “ill-raised, ignorant and aggressive” as well as being illegitimate. After all, he’s fairly well-qualified to judge, having produced at least five.

And this is the problem. This is why I’m finding it so hard to write anything.

What does it matter? Nobody cares if the Prime Minister is a liar.

Nobody cares if he can’t or won’t say how many illegitimate children – a category of child he clearly despises – he does or doesn’t have.

People actually like all this. They gave him an eighty seat majority in Parliament to prove it. I’m finding it really difficult to be positive about any of this, falsely or not.

Fifteen years ago I very nearly died as a result of a series of doctors refusing to administer a blood-test that sometimes delivered false positive results.

It was called the D-dimer test. It looks for tiny protein fragments in the blood whose presence shows you’ve had a blood clot. Come on, you know all this. It cost about 80p.

The backstory:

Once upon a time I got stabbing pains in my groin for a few minutes at a time. They could be a month apart, a few weeks apart, six months apart, but when I got them they literally dropped me to my knees, vomiting. Five minutes later I was fine. The only evidence anything had happened was the pool of vomit. There was never any warning and a series of doctors, NHS and private, couldn’t find anything wrong.

I was freezing cold all the time, my foot sometimes hurt and I was depressed. But I’d been in luuuuuurve and she’d dumped me so I thought that was the reason. I thought I was dying of a broken heart. Thanks to a succession of rubbish GPs at Leiston Surgery, I very nearly ended-up just dying, either a Guinness Book of Records-sized blood clot or five different pretty huge ones.

I went to the doctor for nearly four years. Apparently there was nothing wrong with me if I could cycle twenty miles, which I could and often did. One morning I woke up with one leg nearly twice the size of the other and a fetching shade of raspberry, at which point even my rubbish GP felt there might be something wrong. Eight days in a high dependency unit. Thanks, doc. You only cost me three years of my life in limbo where I thought I was going insane. Which I suppose is better than the idiocy of not administering an 80p blood test and nearly costing me all of the rest of my life, not just three years of it.

False positives

The D-dimer test sometimes says someone has had a blood clot when they haven’t. My GP explained this after I got out of hospital alive, despite her best efforts.

I asked what would have happened if I’d had a D-dimer and it came back positive?

Oh, you’d have been booked into hospital for an ultrasound scan.

Which is exactly what I had when I presented at Emergency and didn’t go home. How bad would that have been?

Still. 80p. Matt Hancock’s said less than one percent of tests were false positives. Radio host without a calculator Julia Hartley-Brewer worked out from that that most Covid-19 tests were therefore bollocks using this logic:

If 0.8% of all tests carried out in the community (Hancock’s figure) were coming back as false positives, and 1,000 people were tested at random, (Hancock’s phrase) then eight of those thousand people would test positive but not actually have anything wrong with them. Or not have Covid-19, anyway.

But wait though…. random testing isn’t what is being done. And won’t be. We don’t random test. We haven’t got the resource to do it. It’s never been suggested we do this. And the Health Secretary, as so often in this Cabinet, is either stupid or a liar or both to suggest that’s what we do.

But that didn’t matter to Ms Hartley-Brewer. She reasoned that if only say, nine of those fictional totally hypothetical 1,000 testees came back positive then eight out of nine, 91%, would be false. So you see, children? It’s all just a bad dream after all. Unlike say, Brexit, which with such a firm grasp of fantasy statistics, you may not be surprised to find she supports.

The Honorable Toby Young, the son of a baron who didn’t get the A-Levels he needed to get into Oxford but got in anyway because Daddy made a few phone calls after writing a book about meritocracy in Britain, then accused the government of hiding the scale of the inaccuracy of the tests, despite the fact that all of these figures were totally made-up nonsense.

This is England. This is public debate. These are the leaders and their pile of Third Year logic. I really must be more positive. Soon, I promise. Just as soon as Sig. Other gets her Italian passport.

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