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The scandal of pensioner poverty

A significant achievement of the last Labour government was a reduction in pensioner poverty.

In 1996/97, 42% of single female pensioners were in poverty while the high point for single male pensioner poverty was 34% in 1997/98.  By 2009 these had fallen to 18% and 14% respectively.

Since 2010, single pensioner poverty has seen once again a systematic rise to 24% for females and 20% for males, and the rise looks set to continue.

Along with rising child poverty, it is a scandal of a decade of austerity.




According to analysis by the Rowntree Trust, a significant cause of rising pensioner poverty is housing costs.  For those in social housing, the poverty rate peaked at 54% in 1996/97, fell to 20% in 2012/13, and has risen back to 31% in 2016/17. For those renting from private landlords, the peak was 46% in 1997/98, and the low point was 27% in 2007/08, before rising back up to 36% in 2016/17.

With so many people set to retire with inadequate pensions, we are likely to see a continuing…

No absence of compassion in the NHS

A week ago I was taken seriously ill. I was in excruciating pain. I had been ill all day. I had been in pain all day but fighting it because I had work to do. I was performing in the afternoon with the Oxford Trobadors. By the time I got home that evening I realised this pain was not going to go away. I could not sleep. I could not sit. I could not find comfort. I paced up and down feeling nauseous and dizzy. I knew I was in trouble. This was serious. I knew also that I had for so long ignored the early signs. At 5 am I couldn't stand the pain any longer. We called an ambulance.

The ambulance arrived it seemed within seconds and soon I was being driven at speed to hospital. The paramedics were wonderful, skilful and with compassion they reassured me. My blood pressure was very high, but my ECG looked normal. My daughter followed behind in her car. The ambulance crew told me she was with us, calming and reassuring.

There is something surreal about a ride in an ambulance it is as if it is the world that moves while you remain stationary. Soon we arrived at the hospital and it was not too long before I was given something to ease the pain.

The young doctor examined me with skill, respect and...yes...compassion. The nursing staff treated me with respect and...yes...compassion. I was allowed home but to return the following morning for a scan and more tests whilst they examined my blood and urine. With the pain relief I had a comfortable night. But the scan showed it was more serious than had been thought. I was admitted.

It is not necessary for me to give every detail. As a medical ethicist for the first time in a long while I experienced being a patient.

There are many things we could change in the NHS, but my experience taught me one lesson. It is wrong to generalise about an absence of compassion in nursing. The majority of those who cared for me in hospital did just that, they cared.  But there was also skill and dedication. There was no shortage of compassion.

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