There are many new faces on the allotment this weekend. During the winter months we chicken keepers have the place largely to ourselves, it is usually at about this time that the growers return. And this year there are new members, demand for allotments has rocketed as people realise the advantage of fresh food grown for the price of a packet of seeds.
Everyone that I have spoken to is downbeat about the economy. More big retailers are reporting that sales are nosediving and, if my allotment friends are any indication, it is easy to understand why. Everyone feels uncertain about their household income, and in many cases about their jobs. I noticed in today’s press that Danny Blanchflower, former member of the Bank of England Monetary Policy Committee, is warning that “Osborne has cut too far and too fast”. “A collapse in spending will amost inevitably push the economy back into recession later this year” he adds. Thanks Mr Blanchflower, that has really lifted our jaded spirits!
But at least there has been one piece of potentially good news today. The NHS is important to everyone and it seems that David Cameron is becoming alarmed by the swelling chorus of outrage at the reform plan proposed by his Health Secretary, Andrew Lansley. Almost the entire medical profession is opposed and millions of people have signed petitions and joined in demonstrations. It has been obvious to anyone with understanding of the NHS that what Lansley proposes will cripple the NHS and destroy treatment levels. Now the political implications have dawned on the prime minister.
As a result Cameron has ordered a major climbdown. Apparently the Bill (currently opposed by the Lib Dem part of the coalition) is being rewritten to allow the many GPs who wish to have nothing to do with commissioning to opt out. Amazingly it will propose that areas not covered will be taken over by ones that do have a GP consortium. How on earth that can work is another mystery!
Another major change is a limit on the market proposed by Lansley. There are to be safeguards to prevent private companies “cherry-picking” the most profitable services. Payments are to be changed to match the complexity of treatments. And the role of the Regulator is to be rewritten to focus it on value for money rather than a remit to increase competition.
Perhaps the biggest change of all sees the 2003 deadline scrapped with Primary Care Trusts granted an extended life. What will happen here is another mystery since many have already wound down to the point where they have had to be merged with others, and many of the key staff have left.
None of the changes make practical sense, they are driven by what one insider described as the prime minister’s need for “wriggle room”. Another said that the present plan will not win support of the British Medical Association or the Lib Dems whose backing is essential if the Bill is to be voted through.
But Lansley is defiant and has let it be known that “the horse has bolted” and that the reforms have already “gone too far to be undone”. Why that should be the case when the Bill has not been enacted is yet another mystery explained only by the sheer arrogance of the Secretary of State.
From all that I know it is certainly not too late to stop what the vast majority of informed and uninformed opinion regard as the biggest threat to the nation’s haelthcare since the formation of the NHS. Yes, there needs to be fine tuning of efficiencies but total destruction will be, er, totally destructive.
During a meeting with Sir David Nicolson, the chief executive of the NHS, Cameron was warned that unless the programme is at least slowed down, there was a danger that the NHS will plunge into chaos. At least he seems to have listened!
But the pressure from organisations like 38 Degrees will not lessen. They now scent blood. The first signs of the government recognising the extreme danger of what they have proposed are there for all to see. It will require much more opposition to force them to scrap the whole ludicrous and expensive plan, but that should be the aim of every single person who expects to ever need the NHS!
Given that this is but one of many interventions that the prime minister has had to make on crazy ministerial proposals it is perhaps time for him to take a long hard look at the composition of his cabinet. They show all the signs of being incapable of organising a booze- up in a brewery!
A SPECIAL THOUGHT FOR TODAY!
“The Amazon Rainforest is home to one in ten known species of life on Earth, but every minute an area the size of three football pitches is lost”
Source. Latest Royal Mail Stamps marking WWF; Safeguarding the Natural World
ANSWERS TO YESTERDAY’S QUIZ; 1, Douglas, Isle of Man 2. Thirty people died in an inferno.
TODAY’S QUESTIONS; 1. 1974; what was the maximum speed on Britain’s motorways? 2 1974; Who was ejected from the Northern Ireland assembly?