The thaw has gathered momentum and the main task this morning was to clear the remaining snow before the accursed Jack Frost restores his ghastly grip. Suddenly rows of cabbages have re-emerged, not to mention an array of buckets and tools which have been buried for some time. The weathermen are warning us to make the best of this unusually brief and loveless honeymoon, a strange analogy presumably based on the assumption that Captain Mainwaring’s experience was a one-off.
But this spell of arctic conditions interspersed with bursts of mild air has done more damage than can be seen even by an observant eye. Today there are worrying signs of an influenza epidemic gathering momentum and ‘swine’ variety is to the forefront. Yesterday we learned of the tragic death of little Andrew McCall who died suddenly on Christmas morning. The 23-month-old had no underlying health problems. His devastated parents have called on health officials to vacinate all children under the age of five against swine flu. Mrs McCall said yesterday that “we don’t wish to cause a panic, but we don’t want other parents to lose their babies….the only way to protect your children is by getting a vaccination.We will campaign for the NHS to provide the jab but meantime we know of at least one supermarket chain whose pharmacies are offering the jab for just £8″.
Sadly the McCall family is not the only one in torment today. Flu rates are already approaching epidemic status. There have been 27 deaths and many of the 460 patients already being treated in Intensive Care Units are children. The fear now is that infection levels will rise dramatically over the next few weeks with the return of children to school acting as a major trigger.
And one man should be held accountable for this horrendous situation, one man who decided that saving £8 was more important than protecting a child. Andrew Lansley, who has already alienated the medical profession with his range of ludicrous reforms, ignored medical advice and cancelled the free flu jabs for children younger than five on cost grounds. Last year the parents of all those between 6 months and five years were offered the jab and the resulting high take-up averted the expected epidemic.
For good measure Lansley also axed the advertising campaign for older people and those at risk. As a result there is a much lower take-up this year and far more people are in danger. This was another serious misjudgement and has been heavily criticised by doctors who believed that only an extensive publicity campaign would convince potential victims that swine flu has not gone away. Leading virologist Prof John Oxford said yesterday that “Mr Lansley is on the spot if he doesn’t believe in warnings via advertisements. He is on very thin ice”
The decisions taken by Lansley in cavalier fashion have already cost lives. He has no clinical know-how but, as on other things, decided that he knew best. He put saving relatively small amounts above the need to protect children from what can be a deadly condition. Cameron must intervene today, the free jabs must be restored at once and public notices issued in the leading newspapers tomorrow. There is no time to waste, already GPs, nurses, midwives and NHS staff are under enormous pressure and are warning that a continued failure to immunise will lead to an out-of-control disaster.
Having set the wheels in motion, the prime minister should find time for one other task. He should sack Lansley. It is too late to save those like Andrew McCall but thousands more will be at risk if a self-opinionated clinical illiterate remains in charge.
SOUNDS A GOOD IDEA….BUT!
The coalition has announced plans to build on the Blair idea of petitions. Sadly his concept became somewhat discredited when it was found that many of the proposals from the public were signed by Oliver Cromwell and Lord Nelson. But the new coalition version will, we are told, have built in checks to ensure that anyone voting on the web site is a registered elector. So far so good.
Anyone can propose a policy and, if they muster 100,000 votes will have it debated in parliament. So far, even better.
However, the blurb tells us that contentious ideas such as coming out of the EU will not proceed. The onus on that would be on parliamentarians who “would have to convince one another of the benefits of staying in Europe”. So far, rubbish! Oh yes, and no proposal that did not conform with the Human Rights Act would be disqualified which means almost everything.
In other words we can propose, and have debated, any issue on which the Conservative Party and the chattering classes agree!
YESTERDAY’S QUIZ ANSWERS; 1. Rev Jim Jones 2. Earl Mountbatten of Burma
TODAY’S QUESTIONS; 1. Which country invaded Afghanistan in 1979? 2. On what were people in Britain asked to vote in a referendum in 1975?