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Showing posts from March, 2015

The Tory ideological attack on the poorest

The majority of people on benefits in the UK are hard working and on low pay.  Many of them would be on the kind of zero hours contracts that the Prime Minister conceded, eventually,  in his interview with Jeremy Paxman that he would not like to be on.  He was also asked by Jeremy Paxman where the cuts would fall to deal with the deficit.  The answer of course is 'cutting benefits' and through further 'efficiency savings'.   It is all pie in the sky.  Either the Prime Minister has no idea how they would cut the deficit or the Tories have a hidden agenda.  Actually, it is not so hidden. They will cut 'welfare'.  That is what would happen - swingeing cuts in welfare.

Swingeing cuts in welfare will hurt the hard working poor.  The poorest are already paying disproportionately more tax than the wealthiest.  They have already suffered through measures such as the 'bedroom tax' and other cuts in benefit.

At the outset of the coalition five years ago, we were…

Worthless promises on the NHS

Mr Cameron's shameless 'promise' to provide a 'seven-day a week' NHS has rightly been condemned by the BMA, the doctor's association.  What Mr Cameron needs to demonstrate his how he would fill the £30 bn gap in funding that will develop by 2020.  Unless any of the political parties can explain that then their promises are empty rhetoric.

The coalition government has effectively cut funding for the NHS at a time when demand on its services is increasing.  Mr Cameron was quick to boast in his interview with Jeremy Paxman this week that spending on the NHS has increased.  What he failed to say was that it was by just 0.9% per year, the lowest levels on record.  With 40% cuts in local authority funding leading to 20% cuts in social care the burden on the NHS has increased.  This is a direct result of government policies.  In addition the NHS has had to find £20 bn in 'efficiency savings' at a time of complex 'top down' reorganisation imposed by the…

Playing games with the NHS?

The Labour Leader did a decent job of his interview with Jeremy Paxman last night. My judgement is that he 'won' the debate that wasn't held - instead we had the two main party leaders facing separately Jeremy Paxman and the studio audience.  There was no head-to-head confrontation.  But in my view Ed Miliband 'won' because he didn't 'lose'; in contrast, David Cameron 'lost' because he didn't 'win'.

What really came out of it was Ed Miliband in a different light - not the 'geek' he has been portrayed, but a forceful and motivated leader.  This came out in his answer to the question of why he stood against his brother, David, for the leadership.  He gave a good account of himself.  But, and it is a big but, there was nothing from either of the two leaders about how they would deal with the £30 bn gaping hole in funding that will develop in the NHS over the next 5 years.

The NHS is uppermost in the issues of concern to voters. …

Government fail to make economic case for HS2

Is HS2 (the proposed High Speed Rail link between London and the North) value for money?  A new report by the House of Lords Economic Affairs Select Committee says not - or at least that the government has failed to make a sound economic case.

The construction of the railway and purchase of rolling stock is estimated to cost up to £50 billion. The net cost to the taxpayer is expected to be £31.5 billion at 2011 prices over 60 years.  This is a costly project.  You would think then that a sound case had been made.  But the committee concludes that such a case has not been made.

The Government's principal justification for building HS2 is to provide capacity to meet long-term rail demand.  But the committee finds that  inadequate information on rail usage and demand modelling makes it difficult to determine whether this is correct. Overcrowding appears to be caused by commuter traffic, not long-distance traffic, and is exacerbated by inflexible pricing.

The main charge of the commit…

King's Fund indictment on NHS and social care funding.

The King's Fund has produced a devastating analysis of the impact of the coalition government's austerity measures on the NHS and on Social Care.  Cuts in local government funding of some 40% have led to a 20% cut in funding of social care provision.  This in turn has led to an increased load on the NHS at a time when funding has been restricted and it has had to find £20 billion in 'efficiency savings'.  The real terms increase in spending on the NHS over the last five years is the lowest it has ever been at 0.9% per year.  The result is an NHS in crisis with patient care under risk.

it estimated that a funding gap of £30 billion will develop over the next five years.

Today the BMA, the doctor's representative body has issued its response to the King's Fund report.

 Dr Mark Porter, BMA council chair said:

“This report highlights the damage done to the NHS by the Health and Social Care 2012, which distracted attention from rising pressure on services and cost b…

Coalition cuts hit social care for the elderly

In the run up to the general election I am wary of many statements I hear abut the NHS and social care.  One general statement is that 'it isn't all a question of money'.  This is true - of course it isn't all about funding.  But what are we to take from such a statement. It is usually made when people complain about the level of funding.  It is a 'catch all' reply.  It is also somewhat disingenuous as a reply because it is meant to avoid the real issue, funding.  We now spend 17% less on social care than we did I've years ago.  This is not surprising because  social care is mostly funded through local government, which has seen its financial support from central government cut by over 40 per cent in real terms since 2010.  Yes, 40%!  That is the nature of what we have been doing over the last 5 years to 'cut the deficit'.  
In his budget last week Mr Osborne cut taxes on beer and spirits to try to generate a 'feel good' factor for the gener…

Anonymity for suspects is justice

The way Sir Cliff Richard has been treated by the police and the BBC in relation to allegations of sexual misconduct is a disservice to justice.  The deliberate leaking and collusion with the media to provide maximum publicity is a shocking breach of trust.  Allegations of sexual abuse must be pursued where there are sufficient grounds for doing so,  but deliberately making known the identity of a suspect is to put justice at risk for both potential accused and victims.  It sets up a 'trial by media' where those accused have no rights to defend themselves or facility for rebutting allegations. It creates a 'no smoke without fire' concept and tarnishes reputations.

It has become a particular problem with the investigation of historic cases following the Jimmy Savile revelations. Almost anyone in the public eye has become 'fair game' for the police and the media without a thought of the normal process of justice.   The police on the one hand want to widen their i…

Chancellor cut the price of beer whilst the NHS is in crisis.

I suppose I should comment on the budget. It is to say the least a curious budget for a Chancellor who has spent five years telling us we must cut the deficit. He now tells us that he has £6 billion to spare. Fantastic! Or should I say 'hey we have an election'.  So what has he chosen to? He cut duty on beer. Now that is really what we needed.  It is the little things that say a lot about this government's priorities.  Was this a budget for the poorest? No.  Was it a budget to help the NHS or to help pay for social care? No.  it was an election budget.

 The NHS is facing a crisis and the Chancellor prioritises the price of beer.  It is a very odd priority. He chose to do very little that would help the poorest.  This point was made by a woman interviewed in the street on BBC news.  It is all very well helping people save, she said, but it only helps those who have money to save.  And there you have it. It is a budget directed at those in marginal constituencies whose vote …

Call for free social care for those at the 'end of life'.

Each year around 500,000 people die in England and Wales. In 2013, approximately 80% of those who died were people aged over 65. One third of all deaths are people aged 85 and over, but only 15% of those who receive specialist palliative care are in this age group.

In a report published today, the Health Select Committee of the House of Commons recommends that social care should be free in end of life situations.

The report looks at the state of end of life care since the independent Review of the Liverpool Care Pathway, chaired by Baroness Neuberger,  and finds great variation in quality and practice across both acute and community settings.  They call for round-the-clock access to specialist palliative care in acute community settings saying this "would greatly improve the way that people with life-limiting conditions and their families and carers are treated, especially if there were opportunities to share their expertise with other clinicians."

This is a key ingredient o…

Mr Farage knows what voters will think he means

It is a good trick that Mr Farage plays on behalf of UKIP.  He says something controversial such as answering No to the question whether there should be any race discrimination laws.  He then gets the startled reaction he knows it will get. He then says this has been misinterpreted.  The media say he has 'backtracked'.  But the message has hit home as it was intended.  He has successfully played the 'race card'.  It appears both bumbling and 'telling it like it is' at the same time. It is appealing to those who feel that the truth about immigration isn't being debated.  But it is a trick - a deft slight of hand.

It brings Mr Cameron out to condemn it, which Mr Farage is grateful for - after all 'we are not racist' are we. it is just that....'  Mr Cameron confirms he and the Tory party doesn't speak for those who have turned to UKIP.  Mr Miliband comes out and condemns it giving even more fuel to the fire of publicity.  The trick is working w…

The election and cutting the deficit

What is it all about and does it matter? The general election that is. It is often remarked about the main political parties that 'they're all the same'. It is certainly true that increasingly they have come to sound the same.  This is in large part, not because the policies are the same, but the pitching of them is similar: the same target audiences, the same cliched lines, the same sort of sound bite. It is also the case that policy differences are often nuanced rather than substantial. But the differences are none the less real. The impact of these differences is not so much through individual policies but through overall strategy.  We here the same soundbite about 'cutting' the deficit, 'dealing' with the deficit from all main parties. We 'must' cut the deficit has become a mantra, almost unquestioned -  a kind of political truism.  But is it really the case that we must? And do all the parties really agree? What's the real alternative in th…

Nuffield Trust issues stark warning on A&E

With the general election fast approaching the NHS remains at the top of the list of issues of most concern to voters. Now a new policy briefing by the Nuffield Trust has warned that continued financial squeeze on the NHS will accelerate the pace at which the urgent care system reaches breaking point. The report concludes that the most significant issue is not the numbers of people presenting at A&E, but the ability to discharge patients safely and quickly from the hospital
as a whole. That is, it is not A&E as such where the problems lie. A&E is part of an integrated system  and the four-hour target for waiting can distort behaviours inside hospitals and health systems in ways that are not in the interests of patients or staff.

Understanding the real problems through the chain is vital to resolving any issues and they make the key point that

 "the complexity of the system and the highly politicised nature of A&E have impeded progress. Problems will not be solved i…

Not smart on smart meters

Why is it that when it comes to IT we seem to get things so badly wrong? Whether it is in the border agency or in the NHS we seem unable to get things to work or to roll out as planned.  Now we have a problem it seems with rolling out smart meters to save energy, one of the key planks of government strategy on tackling carbon emissions and climate change.  Now a parliamentary committee has warned that plans for installing these meters are in danger.

Plans to install the energy saving smart meters in every UK home and business by 2020 are in danger of veering off-track and could prove to be a costly failure because the project has not been driven forward effectively, the Energy and Climate Change Committee of the House of Commons has warned. In a new report the MPs raise concerns about technical, logistical and public communication issues which have resulted in delays to a national roll-out programme.


Tim Yeo MP, Chair of the Committee, said:

"Time is running out on the Government…

Farage's normality

UKIP leader Nigel Farage has defined 'normality'. Mr Farage told BBC News: "UKIP is putting forward a policy that will take immigration in Britain back to normal. Normal was from 1950 until the year 2000."  Well, that is all well and good then.  I always felt there was something 'normal' growing up in the 1950s.  It had that sense of 'normality' about it. Cars were 'normal', though very rare in the street where I grew up.  Boats, planes and trains were very normal too.  At least they appeared normal. Nothing alien about them as far as I recall.

Of course there was a lot of hocus pocus about the paranormal, but even that was normal.  The 1970s was pretty 'normal' too even though there was a lot of spoon bending going on.  I recall the 'flood' of East Africa Asians - I recall Enoch Powell's 'Rivers of Blood' speech - and all that was 'normal' too. In the 1950s I recall the signs in windows saying 'No Black…

Stop Playing Games with NHS senior doctors warn

As the general election approaches NHS staff are more concerned than ever that they are not being listened to.  As the campaign hots up to get politicians of all parties to stop 'playing games' with the NHS and to put the needs of patients first hundreds of senior hospital doctors from across the UK are gathering in London today for the BMA’s annual consultant conference.

Consultants will discuss key issues affecting the NHS including funding pressures, privatisation, the Health and Social Care Act and the challenges facing the profession from increasing workload, burnout and a recruitment and retention crisis in areas such as emergency medicine.

Speaking ahead of the conference Dr Paul Flynn, BMA consultant committee chair, said:

“Consultants have played a vital role in not just protecting, but improving the quality of patient care in the face of NHS budgets cuts. Many consultants, especially those working in emergency medicine, are working flat-out to keep up with rising pat…

Coffee conundrum — good or bad?

Here we go again — yet another study on coffee consumption and health, this time claiming that moderate coffee consumption lessons the risk of clogged arteries and heart attacks.

I wonder if anyone really takes any notice of such studies.  Just five years ago another study found that people under 55 who drank more than 28 cups of coffee a week were at an increased risk of early death from all causes, with a more than 50 per cent increase in mortality.  So you can take your choice on cup you drink from.

Now, it is claimed  in research published in the online journal Heart people who drink a 'moderate' amount of coffee daily are less likely to develop clogged arteries that could lead to heart attacks.

Researchers from South Korea found that people consuming three to five cups a day had the least risk of coronary calcium in their arteries. Now I wouldn't consider five cups a day as being 'moderate', but I suppose there are some addicted coffee drinkers who take more.…

Disingenuous arguments on Europe

It is often said by those who want the UK to leave the EU, or for substantial renegotiation of the terms of Britain's membership, that Britain didn't originally 'sign up to' the free movement of people and an 'ever closer union'.  The free movement of people and thus the problem of migration  is they say a result of the EU and not the EEC which we originally signed up to.  The EEC they claim was purely a common market and not a political union.  It was for the free movement of goods and not people the claim. We had a referendum on our membership of the EEC but not of the EU.  It is to say the least a disingenuous argument because it is wrong.

Certainly what is now referred to  as the Single Market was at the heart of the original Treaty of Rome, which came into force in 1958. That Treaty aimed at creating a “common market”, later “internal market”, covering the whole territory of the then six members of the  EEC.  But what did this market consist of? The common…