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Wednesday, 20 August 2014

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Nice should save its incentives to care for the sick

So, the four-day girlie weekend went well, then. Too much wine, too much food, too much gossip and raspberry gin... can’t say fairer than that.

In fact just about everything we did involved all of the above. Jane wanted Lakeland. We lunched at Inn on the Lake, Glenridding – and narrowly escaped gate-crashing a wedding.

Alyson wanted an early Sunday start with coffee stop. We did Cumberland sausage and cappuccino breakfasts at Lanercost.

Jane fancied shopping in Carlisle – panini and wine at Hoopers. We are women accustomed to excess – but only the indulgent kind.

And in our defence, we did use the stairs, not the lift.

It’s surprising how easily indulgence can be disguised as healthy living. Or do I actually mean that it isn’t at all surprising how adept women are at fooling themselves?

According to our end-of-day checklists, we’d been as virtuous as Mother Teresa in detox.

Pulling up to gush over a pair of oystercatchers, perched jauntily on rocks bordering Rheged’s car park, we fancied ourselves the very epitome of outdoor twitcher types – tea and cakes having been quickly forgotten.

Ponderous debate about why oystercatchers should be sunbathing – cocky as you like – so far from the seaside, had us borrowing Bill Oddie’s persona for a while. And we all know how healthy he is.

Aly looked up the birds on her fancy phone and read the script out loud. Not a wasted day at all, see? Positively studious.

Strolling by sun-glinted Ullswater earned us fresh air and exercise points – in spite of chips with lunch. Bowls of spicy chilli con carne, washed down with a bottle (maybe two) of good Chianti later, prompted no sense of gluttonous guilt – even though we’d groaned painfully after follow-up ice cream, feeling like over-stuffed sofas.

Aly had her body and soul reasoning to hand, which she shared with missionary zeal.

“We must eat whenever we can – can’t be too careful. Anorexia could strike us down at any minute.”

In the cold light of the girls having gone home and our party being over, I confess to a touch of shame at having overdone the greedy consumption thing. But suspicion is shame won’t last long – it rarely does – and I doubt I could be persuaded out of repeating the fun-fest, should the occasion present itself again soon.

Next weekend is already shaping up as a heavy one.

Apparently moves are afoot to offer cash incentives to the over-indulgent.

We’re to be paid to dump the fun out of our lives, clean up our dietary acts and sign a Christmas chart-topper recording contract with Simon Cowell, as winner of the Dull Factor.

Hard-cash incentives, voucher persuasions – bribes in fact – are being mooted by the National Institute for Clinical Excellence, known as Nice, even though it’s anything but.

Nice is the appointed body of people charged with telling poorly people what drugs and treatments they can’t have from the NHS because they’re too expensive.

It now wants the NHS to give healthy people money they don’t need. It’s what’s known in some quarters as creative thinking, in others as losing the plot.

So, if you promise to quit smoking, cut down on the wine and stop eating heartily for fear of anorexia like Alyson, you’ll be given NHS-funded vouchers or money as incentive to live without pleasure.

If you’ve already quit smoking and Cumberland sausage, now’s the time quickly to take up bulk consumption again to qualify for your bonus when you quit anew to meet Nice’s spending spree – er, health incentive plan.

Strikes me there’s a chance Nice’s board members must be women, since they’re so good at kidding themselves that such a delusional plan will reap benefits.

We women on the razzle – or what passes for it in Cumbria – had all incentives known to man during our four-day weekend. But moderation eluded us anyway.

Good health, long life, high energy, flat tummies, great skin, skinny figures – we know how to get them without anyone paying us. Abstinence. No thanks.

Do we want a cash-strapped health service to pay us to give up Chianti, rosé, ice cream, cakes, cigarettes, chocolates and chips with money it could be spending – but won’t – on fixing my mum’s eyes?

Not likely. In fact, together we had a better idea for incentivising improved public health.

Scrap Nice and spend its wasted pots of money on helping people who are genuinely poorly to get well.

Or are we – as women – fooling ourselves that any of that makes sense?

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