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Showing posts from December, 2014

It is a catastrophe

Here we go. It is winter and it is getting cold, freezing cold, shiver your timbers cold. It  is winter. That is what I expect in winter.  But when I read the newspapers or watch television you would not think so. Now is the time for headlines. Winter is no longer sufficient. It has to be 'record low temperatures', 'lowest since records began', 'the big freeze'. It isn't of course. It is winter, and when I look at the story under the headline we find that it is the lowest temperature recorded in some obscure part of the Britain.

Headlines. We live by them. There is that phrase I hear used often 'the headline figure'. Beware of them is what I say.  It is all designed to make us feel that something awful is happening, when it is simply winter.

Now this isn't to say I don't believe it when we are told that environmental change is causing changes in weather patterns - more stormy weather, more floods, more heat waves, more...snow. Winter. Since …

Doctors under stress

A recent survey conducted by Pulse magazine found that four in 10 GPs have taken or expect to take time off from work as a result of increased workloads. 12 per cent had taken time off in the past 12 months, with 29 per cent reporting that they thought they would probably need time off in the next 12 months. 
Today the General Medical Council publishes a report on Doctors who commit suicide while under GMC fitness to practice investigations. 
Responding to today’s [Friday] report from the General Medical Council (GMC), BMA council chair, Dr Mark Porter, said:
“Doctors’ first priority is their patients' care, but we must not forget that they can face the same physical and mental health issues as everyone else, and it is vital that vulnerable doctors undergoing fitness for practice investigations are fully supported."
Previous GMC research revealed doctors’ views of the investigation process and it is clear that more needs to be done to understand the wider implications on doc…

Cameron's democratic conundrum.

I am not at all impressed by the simplicity of 'English votes for English laws'.  Introducing a rule in parliament that says only MPs representing English Constituencies can vote on matters affecting the English doesn't solve the problem of how we move forward with the United Kingdom. On the contrary it hammers yet another nail into its coffin. But my main argument against it is that it denies, yes denies, the same level of democracy that voters in Scotland or Wales etc would have. Far from solving a problem it creates a new anomaly.  If I were then to be a voter in Scotland I would have the opportunity to split my vote - I might for example vote SNP (well I wouldn't but that is a different matter) for the Scotland Parliament but would vote Tory (certainly wouldn't but then this is an example) in the UK wide vote.  If I lived in England I would not have these opportunities. I would have to choose the same party to represent me in England as UK wide.

Now you might …

BMA support banning smoking in cars with children

Responding to the regulations laid before Parliament today that propose banning smoking in cars containing children under 18, Professor Sheila Hollins, BMA board of science chair, said:

“The BMA strongly supports a ban on smoking in cars when children are present, as it is an important step in reducing tobacco harm by restricting the prevalence of second hand smoke in private vehicles.

“Children are still developing physically and biologically and compared to adults they breathe more rapidly, absorb more pollutants and have less developed immune systems. As a result, they are more susceptible to the harmful effects of second hand smoke and are less likely to be able to choose to move away from it.

“Adults who smoke in the presence of children are not acting in the children’s best interest; therefore it is encouraging that the government has brought forward these regulations in order to protect them.”

Brand shows a new brand of politics

I am no great fan of Russell Brand. His brand (no pun intended) of humour doesn't appeal to me. But his appearance on BBC Question Time last night demonstrated one salient lesson. There is everything to be gained by confronting UKIP directly rather then pandering to the fears they stoke up about migration.  The Tory, Labour and Liberal Democrat strategy of trying to outpace UKIP on this key issue simply tells voters that UKIP have got it right. Russell Brand demonstrated how to challenge UKIP on their own turf.  The audience responded. Yes, it was a divided audience but I had the impression of a sense of release that UKIP had finally been challenged and found wanting.

Brand's style cuts through the usual heavily nuanced political debate around a centre ground that is the size of a pin head.  One of the reasons why voters are turned off politics is that there are few people out there who now make a bold statement that might represent their views, and there are precious few who …

NHS Crisis, Crisis, Crisis!

The BMA has issued its starkest warning yet on the 'crisis' facing the NHS.

Commenting on the publication of NHS England’s 'winter health check' which shows record numbers of patients waiting longer for treatment in emergency departments, and emergency admissions at the highest they've been since records began over a decade ago, Dr Mark Porter, BMA council chair said:

“Patients should be treated on the basis of clinical need rather than an arbitrary target, but these figures point to a system cracking under extreme pressure, leading to unacceptable delays in care.

“While the NHS is used to seeing a spike in demand during winter months, this year it’s experienced a spring, summer and autumn crisis as well, leaving no spare capacity in hospitals as we hit winter.

“This is not just a crisis in emergency care – bed shortages and high numbers of patients inappropriately in hospital beds are now major stress factors on the system, leading to unacceptable delays in treati…

They are all 'cutting the deficit' now — but do they make any sense?

There is nothing more annoying than hearing politicians of all parties telling us 'we must cut the deficit'.  It is annoying because they never explain what they mean by it, let alone how they would do it.  It should come with a health warning, or some kind of caveat that tells you they are talking nonsense. There is no 'must' about cutting he deficit.  It is not in itself a 'must'. It is only a 'must' in the right economic context. Mr Osborne says he has cut the deficit by a third. Mr Cameron often repeats this. What they mean by cutting the deficit varies depending on what message they really want to get across.

Are they talking about the current account deficit, or are they talking about the underlying, or structural deficit? They don't tell you. They simply say 'deficit'. By doing so they give the impression that all kinds of deficit are equally problematic. They are not. You might think the deficit is 'the deficit'. Some politi…

BMA finds creeping privatisation of NHS

Figures released by the BMA today show the extent of creeping privatisation in NHS under Health and Social Care Act

The investigation by the BMJ found that a third of NHS contracts have been awarded to private sector providers since the Health and Social Care Act came into force.

Responding to the findings the BMA council chair, Dr Mark Porter, said:

“These figures show the extent of creeping privatisation in the NHS since the Health and Social Care Act was introduced. The Government flatly denied the Act would lead to more privatisation, but it has done exactly that.

"Enforcing competition in the NHS has not only led to services being fragmented, making the delivery of high-quality, joined-up care more difficult, but it has also diverted vital funding away from front-line services to costly, complicated tendering processes.

"What's worse is that there isn't even a level playing field as private firms often have an unfair advantage over smaller, less well-resourced c…

The politics of poverty

How can we sleep at night when all around us are vulnerable people going hungry? What kind of greedy people are we that would not wish to stop this madness of food shortage amidst food plenty? How can we approach Christmas with 'goodwill to all' whilst we give little goodwill to those who have born the brunt of cuts. Our greed, or at least the bankers greed, brought this about, and yet the government is busy stoking up the same uncontrolled, housing led boom that became unsustainable.

We need a social contract that says that people should not be forced to work for poverty wages. We need a living wage. We need education policies that give realistic opportuities to our children and young people to acquire the skills they need for skilled jobs. We need a housing strategy that provides decent homes for people at affordable rents. We need a decent transport system that enables hard working people to get to work without spending thousand in fares. We need a government that will be b…

Don't believe a word of it - cuts are cuts

Jobs, that is what it comes down to, and wages, and taxes. The reason for the coalition, the coming together of the Liberal Democrats and the Tories was to clear the deficit — so they said. They are failing, and failing miserably. Why? The answer was always there.  The best way to clear the deficit is to get people working for decent wages. The reason the deficit is not shifting is not because of profligate government spending. It is because of falling revenue. The premise that simply cutting spending will cut the deficit is what it is — simple.

Now you could go on cutting and cutting spending in the hope that the deficit will turn around. But the more you cut the more likely it is that you impact on revenue. Surely that is the lesson to be learned. But it isn't a new lesson. It is what several economist warned four years ago.

The problem with cuts is that it  begs the question of what to cut and that produces conflict about political priorities. The Tories will say they couldn…