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Showing posts from January, 2015

Oil price fall not so good

What is good news for the consumer is bad news for the environment. The fall in the price of oil is probably bad news for the market in renewable energy.  Higher crude prices make biofuels more viable, then the converse is true, lower crude prices make biofuels less viable. Most biofuels are produced from crops that can also be used for food production. Biofuels are not without environmental impact. As demand grows so more land is likely to be devoted to production with impact on forests and biodiversity.  But at leat it is renewable.

The market in biofuels increased in recent years primarily to meet demand from the transport sector, especially road vehicles, which use biofuels either in pure form or as blend into conventional fossil fuels.  With rising crude prices the biofuels industry became more or less self sustainable and less reliant on subsidies to promote green energy production.  The falling price of crude may put that in jeopardy.  This may in turn have debilitating impact …

The Pope says 'non'.

The Pope has caused a stir.  Against the tide of 'Je suis Charlie' he has said effectively 'Je ne suis pas toujour Charlie'.  In all the excitement of solidarity we might forget that 'freedom' is tempered by the impact of exercising the liberty to express our views.  We do it all the time.  There are often things we choose not to say because of its effect on others. We do not wish to hurt them.  It is a self imposed censorship. There is no reason why the press ought not to exercise a similar restraint.  It is particularly so when dealing with stereotypes and actions which might incite dislike or even hatred of others.

We are almost all of us familiar with the process of bullying.  Each individual contribution to it might be small and seemingly insignificant, but the sum total can be profoundly damaging on the victim. This is why when we say  'je suis Charlie' we must be sure what it is we mean by it. It is too easy to consider the impact on a 'commu…

Problems in A&E are a symptom of deeper problems

The publication of the weekly figures on A&E waiting times once again demonstrate the strain on the NHS.  This is not simply a problem of first line care. It is a symptom of a deeper malaise.  It is the result of £20 billion of cuts since 2010 and of a senseless top down reorganisation.

To dismiss the £20 billion as 'efficiency savings' won't do. They are cuts and these cuts have impact on front line services.

Politicians need to look at the NHS as a whole to address pressure on A&E. We need more than sticking plaster to repair the damage done.  Doctor and health care organisations have warned repeatedly of the problems in the NHS - a service at the brink of failure.

We have a health service that still delivers at the highest levels. It is a service in large part free at the point of delivery.  But we cannot take the service for granted. It needs resources and staffing. As the BMA say today, the government cannot address the problems in the NHS without looking at t…

BMA respond to collapse of private franchise at Hinchingbrooke Hospital.

A company which became the first private firm to manage an NHS hospital says it wants to "withdraw from its contract".

Circle Holdings, which operates Hinchingbrooke Hospital in Cambridgeshire, said its franchise is "no longer viable under current terms".

Commenting on the announcement that Circle Holdings, which operates Hinchingbrooke Hospital in Cambridgeshire, is withdrawing from its contract, Dr Mark Porter, BMA council chair said:

“What has happened in Hinchingbrooke shows that the responsibility of running a critical public service can never be handed, over and so the insistence on private providers as a potential solution to problems facing Hinchingbrooke was always misguided. This example also shows that that not even private providers are immune to the extreme financial pressures on NHS services, caused by a shortage of government funding.

“Patient care must remain the absolute priority at Hinchingbrooke hospital as the running of services is transferred.…

Private providers not the answer to NHS problems

The doctor's organisation the British Medical Association says today that the government's  top-down reorganisation of the NHS was 'unwanted'. It also says that private provisions is not the answer to the problems of the NHS.  General practice the BMA says is struggling to keep pace with rising demands in the face of cuts in funding.

There is a tendency when the NHS is under strain to refer to an ageing population and the demands on the NHS. But this crisis is of the government's making.  If you cut resources it is going to have an impact on frontline services.  The Tory leadership promised there would be no 'top down' reorganisation of the NHS. They reneged on that and imposed a complex reorganisation which is causing problems. The coalition said that the NHS would be ring-fenced from the cuts. It has not been. Calling cuts efficient savings does not mean they are not cuts.  These cuts amount to  £20 billion over the five years of coalition government. You…

Glad to see the back of this nasty government

I will be pleased to see the back of this coalition government. Under the cloak of dealing with the deficit they set about a vicious ideological attack on the poorest and most vulnerable. They branded those on benefits as 'cheats' at worse or 'welfare dependents' at best.  They talked of 'welfare dependency' but did nothing to deal with the root causes of such 'dependency - low pay and poverty. The drove families from their homes because of a 'spare bedroom' - Nasty - very nasty. Hard working families made to take the brunt of austerity. As a result it has been the poorest who have taken the biggest hit in 'dealing with the deficit'.  Austerity became synonymous with 'dealing with the deficit'. Yet austerity was an ideologically driven attack on social and welfare provision. The truth is that if we had 'all been in it together' then there would have been changes in taxes too. As it was it was one rule for the wealthy and anot…

The dye is cast

We are perhaps beginning to see the problem of fixed term parliaments. Election campaigns start early. The new year is but a few days old but we are already at the beginnings of the elections which must be held in May. So this means we have in store effectively five months of campaigning. David Cameron was on the Andrew Marr show this morning in full campaigning mode. Claims and counter-claim came from the Labour and Tory parties.

An opinion Poll in the Observer has the Tory and Labour party running pretty well neck and neck.  A four month campaign risks bringing serious decision making to an end as everything is now locked into the election timetable. The coalition exists now in name only. We are in election mode and the Liberal Democrats and Tories are establishing their positions. This is the problem with fixed term parliaments.

But the battle lines are already clear. The Tories will attack labour on tax and spend. Labour will attack the Tories on public services and particularly t…

Political soundbites on the NHS are not enough

Once again the BMA are warning of the problems faced by an overstretched and underfunded NHS. Now it gives a clear warning that treating the NHS as a political football in the run up to the general election in May is not the way forward.  The NHS needs a period of long-term, sustainable investment, and not to be used as fodder in the election with pledges to throw emergency money at the problems.

We need a coordinated strategy that puts patient care at the heart of the NHS. Labour is the party of the NHS. It can be proud of its history. But it must produce a clear and realistic strategy.  Recent international reports have demonstrated that our NHS is a jewel in our crown. It still leads the world in many regards. But we know it is overstretched. We know that waiting lists are getting longer and the system can breakdown. The staff work hard enough. They deserve better than political sound bites.

The Labour party must show that it can produce a clear and responsible strategy for the NH…

Andy Murray's vote counts too

Andy Murray started the new year in style with a 6-2, 6-0 crushing win over Rafael Nadal to reach the World Tennis Championship final. Already commentators look for the superlatives. Is this the 'new' Andy Murray, coming back strong after a difficult 2014? Can he win another Wimbledon? Will he tell us who to vote for in the general election?

One thing I do know is that he should not have been expected to apologise for making his views known about the referendum on Scottish independence. He has a right to express his views. Andy Murray expressed regret after tweeting his support for the "Yes" campaign. The Wimbledon champion received a torrent of abuse after tweeting his support for the Yes campaign on the morning of the referendum. He should not have felt it necessary to regret. There is nothing to regret. He now realises that his views matter, perhaps more than he realised. But why anyone could get angry about a Scot expressing his views about independence demonstra…

Election promises not enough to fix NHS BMA warns

As the old year ends and a new year starts, there is more worrying news from the British Medical Association (BMA).  There quarterly survey across all branches of practice show that nearly 50% of doctors reported low or very low morale. Morale among GPs continues to be lower than other branches of practice. 74% of GPs describe their workload as being unmanageable or unsustainable, a percentage that has steadily increased in every quarter of 2014.  Little wonder then that the BMA start 2015, the year of the general election, with a sobering warning.

Morale is low and yet a new report finds that the NHS provides amazing value for money when compared internationally.  So what is the problem? All the evidence shows the NHS is stretched to breaking point and we can see that increasing month on month as the cuts bite into front-line services.

Pledges in the party manifestos for the coming general election should come with a health warning. Pledges and promises won't alone fix the proble…

Only we know how to do these things

Unfortunately 2015 has not started well. Oh it had the fantastic firework displays and I have no doubt that a lot of people were happy.  But then I hear Butler-Sloss speaking on BBC Radio 4.  Lady Butler-Sloss said she worried that “the victims and survivors, for whom I have the most enormous sympathy – and as a judge I tried a great many child abuse cases – for them to be deciding who should be the person chairing it creates real problems”. Yes, indeed it does, they wouldn't want her to chair it for a start. But is that really a problem? Here is what she went on to say.

“If you do not have in the past a position of authority, how are you going to be able to run the inquiry? You are going to need someone who knows how to run things and if you get someone with an obscure background with no background of establishment, they will find it very difficult and may not be able to produce the goods.”

You see, that is what the people who consider themselves to be 'of the establishment&#…