The BMJ Today: The NHS, freedom to smoke, statistical refreshment, and the etymology of coughing

New today on

NHS signageWhat should the NHS look like after the election?
The views of an eminent group of clinicians, policymakers, managers, and others can be heard in a recording of The BMJ breakfast roundtable, held at the Nuffield Trust’s annual health policy summit.

Leading their wish list for policies after the election are calls for a focus on quality improvement, less waste, better data, and—perhaps inevitably—more money. Thorny issues include how to improve morale and leadership within the NHS, and how or whether politics can be left at the hospital door.

smoking_parkPersonal freedom vs public health?
The head to head debate on banning smoking in parks continues to prompt impassioned responses, both pro, for health and “message” reasons, and anti, from those who favour personal freedoms and call for evidence of harms.

Brush up your statistics
For those who need a little statistical refresher when considering the evidence for or against a particular intervention, Philip Sedgwick offers two articles. First, a gentle guide to stratified randomisation in clinical trials, which aims to help remove some of the confounders encountered when simple randomisation is used. And second, a guide to confidence intervals, P values, and statistical significance, to help differentiate efficacy from chance effects.

When did a cough become cough?
Jeffrey Aronson’s fascinating romp through the history of northern European languages might help lighten the day for those, like me, suffering from hemming, huffing, hawking, and otherwise throat clearing as the first days of spring (in the Northern hemisphere) bring an outbreak of colds.

Theodora Bloom, executive editor, The BMJ.