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Showing posts from December, 2015

Overturn the tables of the money changers

This is the season to be jolly, and I wish all readers a prosperous and rewarding new year! I thank you all for taking the trouble to read Song of Life in 2015.

You will forgive me if I say that our celebration of a new year should be tempered with the knowledge that so many are suffering the consequences of austerity. Poor working people have been made to take the blame for the financial crash and the actions of irresponsible bankers. Their prospects in 2016 are not good.

The NHS is at breaking point. Social justice is being eroded. The social care system is crumbling.  2016 will be the year when local taxes will rise to pay for government cuts - more families will lose their homes.  There will be more NHS rationing as 'efficiency savings' create post-code lotteries in health care. The poorest local authorities will find the most difficulty meeting social care needs. It is likely that more residential home providers will go bust. Happy New Year!

Christmas and New Year are tim…

The case for mandatory folic acid fortification?

The UK’s failure to fortify flour with folic acid has caused around 2000 avoidable cases of neural tube defects since 1998.  This is the conclusion of research published online today in the Archives of Disease in Childhood.

The researchers say that the UK should now follow the lead of the US and 77 other countries  in legislating for mandatory fortification of flour to curb the associated toll of fetal and infant death and disability.

Folic acid is a B vitamin which is vital for the formation of red blood cells.

The UK has rightly been cautious about making 'medicines' or dietary supplements mandatory.  In medical ethics we emphasise autonomy and the right to make decisions about one's health and treatment. Autonomy is a fundamental principle of modern medical ethics.  It sets a high ethical threshold, and a key concern must be that the benefits of mandating medicine should be sufficient to breach this fundamental principle.

To a large extent this is a utilitarian ethical …

NHS 'winter crisis' due to Tory cuts.

The 'winter crisis' in the NHS is a crisis of the government's own making. It is the result of the real cost of the £20 bn efficiency savings forced on the NHS. This is the truth behind the headlines of bed-blocking. The bed shortage is because we don't have enough beds to cover increased demand over the winter.

This is the reality. OECD figures show that in England and Wales there are just 2.95 beds per 1,000 people. This compares with 6.37 in France, 7.65 in Austria and 8.27 in Germany. And before the Scottish Nationalist Party pipe up, the Scottish Government figures show their figure is down 21% compared to 2004. But England and Wales are way behind the 4.95 beds per 1,000 in Scotland. Nevertheless, Scottish hospitals have shed beds at a faster rate than almost anywhere else, with more than 5,000 disappearing in just seven years. In North Wales more than 400 beds have been lost over the last five years.

In response the government would say it is due to “ong…

More for less is no solution in the NHS

The audacity of Chancellor Osborne knows no bounds. Having starved the NHS of much needed funding he now says: 'We have a clear plan for improving the NHS. We’ve fully funded it.'

Nothing could be further from the truth.

Britain's National Health Service is in a financial crisis with more Hospital Trusts in deficit and creeping privatisation eating at core provision.  Despite the government giving £3.8 bn funding up front, NHS England is expected to find a further £22 bn in efficiency savings over the next five years on top of the £20 bn already found. As shown in a previous article, this is affecting front line services with increased waiting times and bed shortages.

Mr Osborne wants to avoid last Christmas' headlines of an NHS unable to meet demand.

Last December, NHS England figures show, the numbers of patients waiting on trollies in A&E trebled from just over 13,000 to 38,848.  Now, the government is trying to avert another Christmas crisis by providing extra …

Let's break the cycle of poverty and disease

The House of Commons Health Committee has called for urgent action on childhood obesity.  Childhood obesity is increasing at an alarming rate. One fifth of children are overweight or obese by the time they start school, and this increases to one third by the time they leave primary school.


The cost of childhood obesity is an example of the short-sighted madness of Osborne's austerity programme.  The consequences of obesity on health will cost more in the long run than any saving he makes by cuts in welfare and support.  It is a foolish strategy.  The Health committees report demonstrates this in stark terms.




The government spends just £638 m per year on obesity prevention, yet the cost to the NHS of obesity and its consequences coupled with type 2 diabetes is a staggering £13.9 billion each year, and the cost to the economy is estimated at £27 bn.

The Health Committee  are right when they say that childhood obesity is a complex problem which will need action across a number of are…

The Emperor has no clothes

John Berger wrote that the poverty of ‘our century’ (he was referring to the 20th Century) is unlike that of any other. ‘It is not, as poverty was before, the result of natural scarcity, but a set of priorities imposed upon the rest of the world by the rich.’ He went on to say that the modern poor are not pitied but held responsible for their own condition.

We see this writ large in Cameron's austerity Britain.  The poorest are not only being made to pay the price for the failings of an irresponsible financial system, they also have been stereotyped as undeserving, work-shy and dependent on benefits.  It is a stern message without hope -  more poverty will drive them to help themselves out of poverty.  The Secretary of State for Work and Pensions has said as much - he wants to make those on benefits 'better people'.  It is as if the poor must be saved from themselves, or from 'welfare dependency' by a 'cold turkey' of reduced benefits.

So what of the bankin…