Posts Tagged ‘Cancer’
Don’t hold your breath – there are no breathtaking tales of mad chicken-breeders today. I presume that things took their usual course and that Albert was hauled out of the pond for the zillionth time, but I was absent. I was up at the crack of dawn to travel to an NHS cancer fundraising event. Given the age of austerity such work takes priority over everything, a sentiment with which no family afflicted by this scourge will disagree.
Whenever I find myself involved in discussions with patients and clinicians alike I find myself wondering about the obsession of the government with the private sector. It is, according to Messrs Hunt and Lansley, the answer to every health-related issue, yet I have still to see any evidence that it wishes to be involved in life-threatening conditions. As each month passes I become more and more convinced that our supposed saviours are interested only in ‘cherry-picking’ the easy and profitable treatments. And the more of those that are taken from the NHS, the worse its financial position becomes.
I have also reached another conclusion. There is growing evidence that ministers are involved in a smear campaign against the NHS as a means of selling their privatusation programme to an unsuspecting public. For example? Stafford Hospital! My suspicions were first aroused when I read the diatribe of abuse poured forth by Jeremy Hunt and others about the cruelty, filth, unnecessary deaths and uncaring atmosphere at Stafford. I have been involved in the NHS for many years and have never experienced anything remotely matching these descriptions. I found the claims impossible to believe, and then I read of the march of over 50,000 local people in support of their hospital in Stafford . Something was very strange here.
I published a blogpost asking if we were being misled. I soon found the answer for large numbers of staff, members of the public and patients have sent in testimonies that totally contradict what increasingly sounds like malicious distortion. I already knew that experts had condemned the claims about deaths, and I already knew that tales about patients drinking from vases – a claim repeated by David Cameron at the Conservative Party conference – were pure invention since no vases existed. But I hadn’t realised the extent to which other claims were pure invention.
As someone who led a transition to Foundation Trust status I have no doubt that Stafford was subjected to enormous financial pressures by the regulator Monitor, and that these combined with the imposition of ‘efficiency savings’ – cuts under another name – led to an acute shortage of nurses. Inevitably these led to day-to-day problems. But there is now clear evidence that Stafford was no different to any other NHS hospital. The scandal was, it seems, blown out of all proportion as politicians seized on instances of personal grief which often expresses itself as anger.
With the help of many people in Stafford who treasure their hospital, which is now receiving excellent ratings, I plan to return to this episode in some detail. The vast majority of nurses and doctors are caring and compassionate who do their professional best in the face of an oderwhelming workload. They deserve better than being used by politicians as pawns.
Meantime a word on behalf of another caring profession would not be out of place. Social Workers have become the fall-guys of society. Yesterday Ofsted said that standards of child protection are “unacceptably poor” in no fewer than 20 local authorities. It is, said Ofsted’s chief inspector, Sir Michael Wilshaw, a “national disgrace”. He is right, but the blame does not lie with the ever-reducing number of Social Workers.
In the wake of high-profile cases such as Baby P, Victoria Climbie and Daniel Pelka the number of children referred to social services has soared from 538,000 in 2008 to 605,100 in 2012. This has coincided with massive cuts in local authority budgets, which in turn have led to big cuts in funding for social services. The result is that each Social Worker now has an unmanageable caseload.
Sir Michael reported that poor leadership and too many changes at the top were contributing to the problem. “The combination of unstable communities and political and managerial instability in our social care services is a dangerous mix”, he said. Writing in the Independent, Joanna Nicholas, an independent social worker and child protection consultant, adds that there are too many newly qualified workers resulting from the rapid turnover of personnel.” It is amazing that people stay in the job at all”, she adds.
The Director of Children’s Services in Birmingham, Peter Hay, is a brave man. Last week he made clear that; “We cannot guarantee to save children in Birmingham”. It needed to be said. The simple truth is that there are now insufficient Social Workers and the experienced ones that are still battling on cannot possibly cope. So long as the national priority is to shield tax avoiders and to offset the income loss by imposing cuts to such as children’s services there will be serious shortcomings. The Social Workers, like the nurses, are not to blame.
This morning’s headlines reinforce the argument that the private sector is not the answer. Read the story of Orchid View!
THOUGHT FOR TODAY; “Neglect stemming from institutionalised abuse at a care home directly contributed to the deaths of five of its elderly residents after warning signs were ignored or missed by managers and watchdogs. There was mismanagement from the top down at the Orchid View home”….Penelope Schofield, West Sussex Coroner
It was good, as we cleaned out the hens, to look up to see a beautiful blue sky this morning. Only a few white wispy clouds spoiled a perfect ceiling and the sun was already promising a warm day. The origins of the term Indian summer are much disputed but, whatever the truth of the matter, we appear to be about to enjoy one.
It was much in evidence yesterday afternoon when a number of us went along to a garden party in aid of the Rosemere Cancer Foundation. The garden in question lies at the back of a semi-detached bungalow. It is the most brilliant garden we have ever visited and we came away almost green with envy. No ‘ideal’ plot shown on TV matches this, the garden consists of a series of ‘rooms’ separated by low stone walls and trees and shrubs of every kind. Every plant spoke of diligent and loving care, and here and there collected curios caught the fascinated eye. There were even ivy-clad stone wall buildings containing log fires and restful chairs.
Virtually all the materials came free, having been made available by demolition contractors. This little Eden sent us home brimming with ideas and on returning to the allotments we felt a compulsion to launch a vicious attack on the weeds surrounding our pond. By way of a bonus we were presented with a book on chickens, that too demonstrated that we are never too old to learn!
We also met a lot of nice down-to-earth people. Quite a number of them have faced cancer and all were fulsome in their praise of the services at Rosemere. That centre of love and excellence is a classic example of just how far the NHS has come in its battle with man’s greatest enemy. How tragic it is that meddling politicians such as Lansley and Hunt are creating confusion and near despair.
We were amused to see in this morning’s papers claims by opponents of Ed Miliband that he is reverting to socialism. Neither he nor his critics seem to have any concept of what socialism is. Rightly or wrongly people such as Nye Bevan created the NHS and welfare state in the belief that all men are equal, and that any introduction of the profit motive would mitigate against the task of turning that belief into reality. Announcing the abolition of the so-called bedroom tax is hardly the start of a return to a just society.
In fact the quickest of glances at the Sunday press suggests that we are in danger of drowning in a sea of lies. Pride of place must go to the right-wing media who have consumed more column inches that Eric Pickles waistline on the revelations of the Brown versus Blair feuding and plotting. How, they ask, can any political party behave in this way. Clearly they have forgotten the treatment meted out to Margaret Thatcher. The truth is that both major parties are riddled with internal rivalries, smear campaigns and skulduggery. The whole bunch of them are dishonest and insincere. To even suggest that they may return to the passion and unswerving beliefs of the likes of Bevan is laughable.
Another lie featured heavily this morning is the slanted interpretation of the latest opinion poll. The Conservatives, scream the headlines, have an 18 points lead over Labour in regard to trust in economic policies. Since the top rating is 38%, one should logically look at the highest reading, which is that 72% no longer trust the government, and 80% distrust the opposition. That sounds much more in line with the comments one hears every day.
Then we have Chris Grayling, a minister who has brought a whole new meaning to the term low profile, prattling on about the dangers of Labour “clobbering the rich”. They, plus the Lib Dems, will, he says, drive the job creators out of the country if they return the top tax level to 50%. Since virtually none of the large companies at the heart of job-creation pay UK taxes, and none of the parties shows any inclination to offend them, that seems less than likely.
And today’s tidal wave of fibs is not confined to politicians. Today’s Sunday Torygraph devotes a lot of space to claims that global warming is an invention, that the ice-caps are not melting. In fact Christopher Booker goes so far as to condemn such frivolities as “useless windmills”, a very convenient argument for a government rapidly abandoning its supposed green tendency.
Call me naïve if you must but I am inclined to believe the evidence presentd by David Attenborough and the like, and I cannot bring myself to believe that their regular screening of films recorded from above are falsified. Do we believe media political flunkeys or Attenborough? Quite.
Anyway enough of lies, I’m off to have a pub lunch with a policeman friend. I shall ask him if the Home Secretary is telling the truth when she says that police targets have been abolished, and that the funding cuts have not affected front-line policing. I think I know what his expletive pockmarked reply will be!
THOUGHT FOR TODAY; “Nixon was a typical politician who would cut down a redwood tree, and then mount the stump and make a speech on conservation!”…Adlai Stevenson
It was yet another dark wet morning when we cleaned out the hens. But the conditions matched our collective demeanour for we codgers were in no mood for jollity. We were remembering so many happy days on the allotments as we listened to our much-loved Test Match Special. Over so many years the programme has attracted a huge following, and not merely from cricket lovers. The great John Arlott and Brian Johnston were its pioneers and their style of knowledgable cricket commentary interspersed with stories of cakes, buses and the world at large created what became an addiction for millions. Every member had a nickname, one of those was the Major.
That was the title bestowed on Christopher Martin-Jenkins. It was a crib from ‘Fawlty Towers’ in which Major Gowan became a byword for lovable, chaotic behaviour. So it was with CM-J. He was renowned for eccentricity, forgetfulness and being late. Today we mourn his passing, today he is the late.
The Major was respected throughout cricket, not for his own modest playing record but for his deep-rooted love of the game and his detailed knowledge of its every twist and turn. In 2007 he became the only career journalist and broadcaster to deliver the annual MCC Spirit of Cricket Colin Cowdrey Lecture, an honour that ranked him alongside the likes of Desmond Tutu, Imran Khan and Richie Benaud. In 2009 he was awarded an MBE and in 2010 and 2011 he served as president of the MCC.
CM-J stepped down from Test Match Special last year when cancer struck, but he continued to watch the game and to write about it for the Times. In his final piece, reflecting on the death from a heart attack of fellow cancer-sufferer and former England captain Tony Greig, he wrote that: “It was probably for him a merciful release because the late stage of any cancer is often hell on earth”.
Regular readers may recall the response I had to an article criticising the Barmy Army, whose antics so often spoil the enjoyment of spectators. My critic suggested that I join the “Christopher Martin-Jenkins appreciation society”. He intended it as an insult, I received it as a compliment. In my view CM-J represented all that is good in cricket. He was fair, honest and courteous. He was entertaining.
CM-J was only 67 years old. He has gone too soon, yet another victim of mankind’s greatest scourge. I do believe in a God, but I so often find myself asking why man cannot live out his allotted years without an agonising ending. It is just not cricket. It is appalling that man’s efforts to uncover its terrible secret has to rely on charity.
Without doubt the radio will be at full volume this summer as we work on the allotments. The drama of the Ashes will, as always, beguile us. But we will miss the “Now I hand over to the Major”. That very special voice is bowled out, silenced for ever.
A day or so ago I bemoaned the constant barrage of unsolicited calls landline telephone users receive from call centres, many of them aimed at persuading us to switch from one overcharging power supplier to another. You have probably experienced this pain in the neck, but have you tried ringing them? This morning I rang the ‘automated’ Cardline operated by Southern Electric Gas, expecting to pay my bill in record time. In fact the service is automated only in that you key in your account number and are then placed in a queue. Being an awkward cuss I decided to hang on through countless automated requests to ‘hang on’, and ten renderings of the Queen of Sheba. After 30 minutes I eventually spoke to an operator and paid up. If companies in a truly competitve situation behaved thus they would be bankrupt within a year.
All of which will provide a topic for discussion tomorrow morning when I resume my hen-cleaning duties. The pet hate of all my fellow codgers is the greedy power suppliers, so it should get the day off to a good start.
But a more worthwhile subject for increased blood-pressure would be the shuddering halt to which the fight against cancer has come. Over the weekend nearly 100 eminent cancer specialists met up in Lugano, Switzerland. They were told that progress against man’s greatest scourge is stalling. The latest targeted cancer drugs are failing to live up to expectations, and are priced so high that treatment is becoming unaffordable even in rich countries.
The meeting of the World Oncology Forum agreed urgent action was needed. Just a few years ago many experts thought the arrival of targeted medicines, designed to attack the genetic makeup of the tumour, would make dramatic inroads into cancer deaths. But the excitement generated by targeted drugs which interfere with specific molecules involved in tumour growth and suppression, has been short-lived.
There were apparently miraculous results from the use of the BRAF-inhibitor vemurafenib in advanced malignant melonoma, a usually fatal form of skin cancer. But six-months later the cancer returned “with a vengeance”. Other drugs working in a similar way – Traceva for lung cancer, Avastin for breast, colorectal and other cancers, and Sudent for renal cell carcinoma and gastrointestinal sarcoma – have produced a similar story. All produced startling results but resistance to the drugs built up quickly.
All of which pointed to the project being off to an encouraging start but needing more research. The experts believe that the ultimate breakthrough will come from using these drugs together or in combination with other, older established drugs. And here is where the whole dream grinds to that shuddering halt.
Doctors at the meeting said that the pursuit of profits has stopped pharmaceutical companies taking part in trials of combinations of their drugs with those of their competitors. They are also not prepared to test their own drugs combined with older ones that are now out of patent. Leading French cancer specialist Prof Alexander Eggermont said that the “economic models of molecular medicine are very uncertain, because if you don’t produce cures, you don’t make sales and resulting profits”. And working on medicines out of patent leaves a company open to having any successful outcome marketed by others.
It all boils down to one depressing fact. Research and development cannot succeed so long as the bulk of it is left to competing manufacturers. It is unreal to blame them individually, what is desperately needed is some form of consortium underwritten by the richer countries and agreements to share successful outcomes.
It is the perceived wisdom of today’s politics that only private competition can produce excellent outcomes. That may be true for general retailing, it most certainly isn’t true in the case of monopolistic power supplies and, even more crucially, it isn’t true in the case of drugs development.
Cancer victims around the world were a hairsbreath away from salvation, future generations likewise on illnesses to come. Now they have to wait because no organisation in the whole world has the vision to draw up a composite plan for action.
I have watched the Andrew Marr History of the World series, and shaken my head in bemusement at so many chances missed to reshape the future. Perhaps a century from now people will do the same when an historian explains that when it came down to curing mankind’s greatest affliction, the need for profit ruled out meaningful action!
Old codgers like me often take delight in slamming the modern age of instant communication, but I have to confess that without the Internet I would have felt pretty isolated over the past week or so. This morning I even had an email from a close friend in Spain who has been following my progress as recorded on this site. She tells me that great interest is building there in the deeds of the England team. As it is here. For many of us the spirit of the England camp is truly amazing given our track record. Could it just be that having a manager born in Croydon, and who speaks English, has something to do with it?
Meantime my alarm at what is being done to the NHS grows by the day. In my time as a Foundation Trust chairman I had regular contact with the chief executive of the Regional Health Authority, Mike Farrar. He is not someone given to exaggeration or hyperbole. He is now in charge of the NHS Confederation and had this to say: “Without action now the NHS looks like a super-tanker heading for an iceberg”. He added that whilst the NHS needed redesigning politicians had “consistently failed to put the long-term interests of their population’s health above their own short-term political interests”.
Mr Farrar was speaking in the wake of an NHS Conferation survey of more than 200 chief executives and chairs. It showed that NHS finances are in the “worst situation ever experienced”. It also showed that patient care is deteriorating rapidly in the face of cuts totalling £20 billion coupled with the sheer chaos resulting from the so-called Lansley Reforms. The people that should know say waiting times are rocketing, and many treatments are being curtailed.
Yesterday another influential voice was added to the chorus of doom. John Appleby, the chief economist of the King’s Fund, warned that the NHS is “setting itself up for failure” by stretching an already “barely achievable” productivity challenge for another four years. What the service is being told to do by Lansley is, he said, ”frankly undoable”.
Yesterday also saw two new announcements from government. Social Care Minister Paul Burstow said that the indicative budget for England’s 28 cancer networks is being cut from £18.5 million to £10 million. Treasury sources indicated that the present cuts of £20 billion will be increased to £50 billion over the next six years.
Nowhere is all this mayhem more evident than in cancer services. The networks introduced by the previous government have made a big difference. Almost halving the funding will be disastrous. Disastrous for most but not all, the private sector is now advertisng instant and personalised treatment for those “wise enough” to take out private insurance cover”. Lansley will be delighted by that, the rest of us can only look on in despair.
Last week brought all this home in a big and painful way. One friend who has cancer attended his usual clinic. Nurse numbers had been cut and, together with 20 others, he had to wait for almost three hours before learning that those not seen would have to return the following day. As if that was not enough his chemotherapy treatment was postponed. He tells me that a harrassed nurse was in tears as she said that “Lansley should come here to witnesss the effects of what he has done”.
Another friend was on a hospital ward suffering from cancer of the spine. His relatives had been told that he had little more than a week to live. Suddenly they were told that, due to staff cuts, he had to be moved out and, despite their protestations, he was taken by ambulance to a nursing home. A member of the family travelled with him and said that it as an appalling ordeal. He died two days later.
Tomorrow many GPs will be on strike so far as routine treatment is concerned. Lansley is making much of this. The truth is that this is not primarily about pensions, it is an indication of just how far morale has fallen. GPs are supposedly being given the responsibility for commissioning. They have neither the time nor appropraite skills to undertake it and, right now, the Primary Care executives so recently made redundant are being recruited back to take on the role. Sheer and utter madness. Reforms were needed but these are the wrong ones!
More than anything else I would like to see a group of people forced to sit on a cancer outpatient clinic and to witness what is happening. That group would include Lansley, whose madness led to this, Clegg who condoned it, and such as Jimmy Carr who seem to believe that not paying tax is justified.
Many years ago Aneurin Bevan called such people vermin and has been villified for it ever since. But he was right. How else can you describe those who care so little for others?
QUOTES TO PONDER ON; “There’s a fine line between fishing and just standing on the shore looking like an idiot”….Steve Wright “Being powerful is like being a lady. If you have to tell people you are, you aren’t”……Margaret Thatcher “The thing most women really like in bed is breakfast”……Robin Williams “I tell kids they should throw away the cereal and eat the box. At least they’d get some fibre”….Dr Richard Holstein
No allotment duties for me today. I had to do something far more harrowing and heartbreaking. I had to attend the funeral of a much-loved friend and former colleague. The church was absolutely packed and there were few dry eyes as we listened to an Eva Cassidy rendering of ‘Over the Rainbow’.
When Primary Care Trusts were first formed I chaired the selection panel for non-executive directors. It was then that I first met a young woman who was to prove an inspiration to us all. Some years later she joined me at a hospital Foundation Trust. Her workrate was phenomenal. She constantly came up with innovative ideas aimed at improving patient care. She regularly made contact with patients and when she encountered a less than satisfactory experience, she would insist on change. If ever there was a patient’s champion it was her.
She was a beautiful – in every sense of the word – young woman with two young children and everything to live for. I had always assumed that she would eventually return to her role as a senior executive with a large retail chain, or take over the role of chair in the NHS. But her children were her sole priorities and any career resumption would have to wait. But it as not to be.
A week or so before she died another close friend and I visited her at her Mum’s home. We talked for an hour, but we all knew in our hearts that the end was near. Afterwards I felt a deep almost uncontrollable rage. Cancer, one of the most evil scourges to afflict makind, had another victim to add to its foul list. A lovely vibrant lady whose smile lit up every room she ever entered was beyond help from clinicians who, despite all the progress that has been made in cancer treatments, were powerless.
Why angry rather than sad? Of course I was sad and will be for so long as I live, but the anger is shared by the families of millions who simply cannot understand why resarch into cancer is still restricted to the gallant efforts of charities. No one can understand why world leaders never so much as mention cancer. No one can understand why we can spend billions on pointless wars, on Olympics, on high-speed rail and countless other projects, yet not allocate so much a penny to funding dynamic scientific research into a killer disease. Today’s announcement of a fortunate and chance discovery about the effect of Aspirin says it all.
Given funding from the wealthy countries, teams could be established. The billions spent by Lansley on his ludicrous NHS reforms would have made a big difference. And given the money, that isn’t as far fetched as it sounds, great minds are every day creating new technology of mind-boggling perplexity. Is leisure really a higher priority than life?
By chance I happened to see last night a TV rerun of an interview with Sammy Davis Junior. He commented that he no longer bothered with envy or hate for life is too short. He went on to say that if all the energy expended on hate and wars was instead devoted to cancer, the mystery would have been solved long since.
Several of us codgers devote as much time as possible to helping the Rosemere Cancer Foundation. Given what has happened to a dear friend we will redouble our efforts. We only wish that the complacent mugs that pass for ministers would help us!
THE LATEST WEASEL WORDS! “It is hard to believe that we need governmnet regulations on issues such as ice cream van musical jingles” wrote David Cameron at the grand launch of his Red Tape Challenge last April. He went on to promise that he would cut burdensome regulations.
Surprise, surprise! The Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs has now launched a survey to consider the enhancement of regulations. Listed amongst many others is a “code of practice on noise from ice cream van chimes“!
There was a sense of relief when we arrived at the allotments this morning. A few days ago several members suffered injuries when we battled in arctic conditions, and when we heard the weather men talking about a repeat dose we feared the worst. But the rock salt stayed in its heap, and our spirits rose as we trod unhindered and found that the water containers required but the push of a knarled finger to yield a drink for the squawking multitudes.
So relieved and delighted was everyone that I was able to sell tickets for a Valentine’s candlelit concert as we sipped our tea. Mention of Valentine’s Day brings back a lot of memories for most of us codgers. Some are not repeatable on a family blog, let us merely say that in those long-gone days unsigned cards and the rear of bicycle sheds played their part. But later we grew up and found partners via rather more conventional methods. Sadly some of us have now lost our partners but they remain Valentines in our hearts. Others, like me, still have our Valentines. She-who-must-be-obeyed and I were first manacled together some 56 years ago and, as the old song had it, it doesn’t seem a day too much. Well that’s my version, hers may be somewhat different!
The concert is to be held at Blackburn Cathedral on Friday and features a host of musical stars catering for all tastes. It is being staged by the Rosemere Cancer Foundation which is an NHS charity based within the Rosemere Cancer service which serves a large part of the Noth West. The service has a second-to-none reputation for the treatment of cancer, due in part at least to the work of the Foundation which aims to fund the purchase of the latest high-tech cancer-busting equipment. NHS funding is incapable of funding immediately the latest kit and the work of the charity ensures that Rosemere is renowned for being bang up to date as one exciting new treatment follows another.
The idea of focussing the charity’s vital fundraisng around Valentine’s weekend is a good one. The festival has for so long seemed the sole preserve of the very young but everyone has a Valentine somewhere in their hearts and an annual reminder, if needed, is no bad thing. And the scourge that has taken so many is the obvious target for our emotions. For too long cancer has been spoken of in whispers, yet one in three of us will encounter it at some point of our journey, and everyone will know of someone who encounters the dark night of the soul when they hear those scary words at the time of diagnosis.
But Rosemere is anything but scary, it is a positive place full of top-grade professional clinicians all of whom play their part in the charity’s work. For they are determined to ensure that patients benefit from every new discovery. And slowly but surely they are winning the battle.
So here is the chance to have a lovely night out in a lovely setting, and to join the battle against cancer all at the same time. Tickets cost £15 (including drinks) and the concert starts at 7.00pm, ending at 9.30pm. Tickets can be reserved at Rosemere on 01772 522913 or at King George’s Hall on 0844 847 1664.
Together with ‘Gilly’ of Radio Lancashire fame, I shall be saying a few words and hope to see you there. My old codger friends will be there, steer clear of the short geezer with a wide-parting, that’s Albert!
THINGS PEOPLE SAY!; ” Anything you buy will be in the sale next week”….Erma Bombeck “There are no exceptions to the rule that everybody likes to be the exception to the rule”…..William F Buckley “The less one has to do the less one finds the time to do it in”……Lord Chesterfield “Who sleeps with whom is infinitely more interesting than who votes for whom”….Malcolm Muggeridge “Any political party that includes the word ‘democratic’ in its name, isn’t”….Patrick Murray ”Clement Atlee reminded me of a dead fish before it has had time to stiffen”…..George Orwell “A horseracing breakfast; a cough and a copy of the Sporting Life”…..Simon Barnes “Broccoli is something that’s difficult to say anything nice about except that it has no bones”…..Johnny Martin “We must have lunch sometime is the polite euphemism for I don’t care if I never see you again”…..Marcus Hunt “Tact is the ability to describe others as they see themselves”…….Abraham Lincoln “A guy knows he’s in love when he loses interest in his car for a couple of days”…..Tim Allen “I don’t use the word relationship . Unless you’re screwing your cousin, that’s a relationship”……Lewis Gizzard “I think….therefore I’m single”….Liz Winston
There is not a cloud to be seen, the sun gleams from a blue canopy. But the beautiful scene is best viewed through the double-glazing, this is brass monkey weather. Our not so tiny hands were truly frozen as we thawed out the hen’s water this morning and we appreciated Albert’s brew, even if it was hard to work out what it was. The thought did cross my mind that it might be similar to the concoction produced by Baldrick in ‘Blackadder goes to War’. But it was hot.
There was a good deal to chatter about as we drank it. John Terry has lost his armband, Chris Huhne his cabinet office. England have embarrassed their critics by skittling Pakistan out for less than a ton. Under another Kenneth Clarke move the length of time that a record of criminality is retained on personal records have been slashed, in the case of burglars to just one year. So thirteen months from now keep an eye on your meter reader!
A lot of news to digest, but one obscure snippet dispelled our upbeat mood. It merited only a small paragraph in two of the dailies but it leapt from the pages for us. Here was the first taste of things to come under the Lansley NHS reforms. Axa PPP, the second biggest medical insurance company in the UK , providing ocver for more than 2 million people, has changed its stance on the drug abiraterone, thus enabling late-stage prostate cancer sufferers to benefit from it. Policies from Bupa, the market leader, and WPA already cover the treatment that means so much to many. The drug costs £3,000 per month per patient.
Abiraterone was developed by the Institute of Cancer Research and the Royal Marsden hospital, which is amongst the leading NHS cancer centres. Scientists found that some prostate cancers can produce their own testosterone. The drug works in a new way by blocking the production of male hormones in all tissues, not just the testes. The drug manufacturers are Janssen, who report that 3,300 men would currently benefit, rising to 5,500 by 2013.
For patients in dire distress the drug represents relief and hope. Maybe not hope of recovery, but certainly hope of a much higher quality of life in the short to medium term. So this is excellent news is it not?
The answer depends on whether the patient can afford private health insurance, or in the case of the wealthy, can pay out £3,000 each month. If he cannot, he will be refused access to the drug. The National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence (Nice), the NHS drugs watchdog, has announced that the cost of abiraterone is not deemed a cost-effective use of NHS resources. In other words, the massive cuts imposed on the NHS mean that many expensive drugs are beyond its pocket irrespective of patient’s needs.
Cancer Research Uk was quick to comment that the decision, which is still open to consultation, makes “no sense”. But in a perverse way it does. This is a classic example of what the reforms are aimed at, the creation of a two-tier system in which money talks.
There will be a steady flow of examples of ‘two-tierism’, none of them will pass the morality test. The medical professional bodies are all locked in combat with the government, the rest of us are outraged. Lansley’s minions, such as Simon Burns, claim that the changes are supported by the majority of NHS clinical staff. A lie. The outcome of a YouGov poll has just been revealed, 80% believe that the bill should be withdrawn entirely.
Even if that were not the case, this example should send a shiver down every spine. Except of course those who, like so many members of the cabinet, have riches sufficient to buy good health!
THINGS PEOPLE SAY! ” I’d hate to be a teetotaller . Imagine getting up in the morning and knowing that’s as good as you’re going to feel all day”….Dean Martin “Health is what my friends are always drinking to before they fall down”……Phyllis Diller “If it was the fashion to go naked, the face would be hardly observed”….Mary Montague “If God had meant us to walk around naked, he would never have invented the wicker chair”……Erma Bombeck “We looked at each other with the clear innocent eyes of a couple of used-car salesmen”…..Raymond Chandler “What do you think has been the effect of the French Revolution? It is too soon to tell”…..Chairman Mao in 1970 “The only advantage I have found to being Jewish is that I can be openly anti-Semetic”…..Kirk Douglas “When men cease to believe in God, they will not believe in nothing, they will believe in anything”….G K Chesterton “I don’t believe in fairies, even if they exist”….Breandan Behan “A Scotsman is a man who, before sending his pyjamas to the laundry, stuffs a sock in each pocket”….Ambrose Bierce “India; done thje elephants, done the poverty”….Phil Tufnell “I would like to live in Manchester. The transition between Manchester and death would be unnoticeable”….Mark Twain “We are not retreating , we are advancing in another direction”……General Douglas MacArthur
Times are hard and charities are struggling. Not surprisingly corporate giving has declined, members of the public are having to count their coins, and any investments charities may have are earning little interest. The temptation to simply shrug and abandon hope is strong, but we codgers can’t do that for the charity that many of us support is at the forefront of the fight against cancer in all its forms. And cancer does not ease back its efforts to destroy in a recession!
The leading cancer-battler in our region is the Rosemere Cancer Foundation which covers a large number of the hospitals and communities in the north west. And it has come up with a novel way of enabling us all to provide vital support without robbing our piggy-banks. It has decided to hold a Rosemere Valentine’s appeal.
For many of us Valentines day is but a distant memory of anonymous cards and trysts behind the cycle shed. Yet it really represents something much deeper. In reality everyone has a Valentine lodged in their heart. She-who-must-be-obeyed and I were first manacled together some 56 years ago but, come to think of it, I still see her as my Valentine. Hopefully she feels the same but I lack the courage to ask. Of course many are not so fortunate, many have lost the physical manifestation of their Valentine, but he or she almost certainly still lives on in their memories. Many younger people still have a partner/Valentine and many even younger ones may well be in those thrilling early days of romance. The Rosemere idea is to stage events that enable everyone to mark the occasion and to help escalate the ever-increasing victories over the scourge that once was mentioned only in fearful whispers.
The campaign is now underway and large numbers are staging their own events. There will be street collections and a host of other opportunities to donate. And the campaign will come to a fantastic climax on Friday 10th February at Blackburn Cathedral when John Gilmore of Radio Lancashire will host a night of musical stars. Tickets are £15 which includes a pre-concert drink and the chance to meet others marking a special day in their memories.
The Rosemere Cancer Foundation works within our NHS hospitals and has a superb track record in funding high-tech equipment that will take some years to arrive via NHS funding, a situation likely to become even more the case in the months and years ahead. It also funds refinements to the service, all aimed at making the experience of cancer patients a far more bearable one.
One in three of us will at some time encounter cancer and there have been enormous strides in treatment over the past few years. We cannot afford to ease off for as each year passes one becomes ever more convinced that ultimate victoy is just around that dark corner.
So we codgers are telling everyone we know of the Valentine’s appeal. We really believe that this is a unique opportunity to reconnect with our deepest feelings and to maintain the fight against a ghastly enemy that has robbed us of so many friends and loved ones, all at the same time.
How about making a date? For more details simply go to www.rosemere.org.uk . See you at the Cathedral!
As predicted on Tuesday I am running as late as a Northern Rail train today. We have been down to the Land of my Fathers for an ‘overnight’ in our holiday home, the purpose being mainly to prepare for the winter weather. Our location is on the sea shore in North Wales and the sea was not in a welcoming mood. Huge grey waves were crashing on the very spot where just a few months ago we lounged.
The only lounging we did last night was in the village pub which was deserted. As we sat there it all reminded me of Dads Army and Private Fraser’s ’dark and lonely place’. In the absence of any fellow Welshmen to argue with, we soon headed for the cruel sea. It was still only 8.00pm so a book it had to be as the wind howled outside. I chose to read some more of one of the most imspiring books I have ever delighted in. Because this is by necessity a short blog I will merely introduce you to it with a view to writing the full review that it merits at a later date.
The book is called ‘Wayne’s Tour’ and is a ‘Big Bloke’s' account of his Tour de France. So well written is it that by the time I crawled fully clothed into my bed (I forgot my pyjamas and much else) I felt almost as exhausted as he did when he tackled a challenge that millions of younger and smaller blokes would have flinched at.
In 2004, Wayne was about to retire from the Lnacashire Constabulary after 30 years’ service, and considered himself an ordinary bloke who wanted to mark the event by achieving an extraordinary thing – to cycle solo all 2,256 miles of the Year 2000 route of the Tour de France in aid of the Rosemere Cancer Foundation, and in memory of two colleagues who lost their battle against cancer.
Wayne takes you on an authentic journey that is fascinating, convincing, moving and amusing. His down to earth story of the highs and lows of the planning, preparing and cycling is a truly inspiring narrative that is sprinkled with lessons in life – yet he combines it with a smile on every page.
There is so much about this book that I love. Above all is the clear evidence that if you are determined enough you can do anything, even if in the doing you encounter physical strain to match no other.
I shall return to this amazing book but if in the meantime you wish to learn more I am sure that a visit to www.inspiringexcellence.co.uk will help!
Sue Carroll, the Daily Mirror’s “queen of colmnists”, died on Christmas night. Eighteen months ago she was diagnosed with cancer of the pancreas. In a recent video clip explaining her absence from the popular weekly column she had written for 13 years, she said; “I’m not hanging out the bunting. This bugger is far from beaten, but at least it’s behaving itself”. She had endured an operation to remove two tumours which failed, and later had chemotherapy. She then returned to ITV as a pundit on the Alan Titchmarsh show, but her brave fight was in vain. Christmas 2011 was to be her last.
And so it proved to be for many others at the end of a year in which the scourge continued to amass its victims. And yet, as this blog reported recently, an amazing breakthrough has occurred in the United States where a vaccine seemingly capable of shrinking any tumour by at least 80 per cent has been discovered. Sadly it will take at least two years to complete trials. The reason for so much delay is lack of funding and resources. Doubtless various other potential breakthroughs are similarly stalled in laboratories across the globe.
I recently lost a close friend to cancer and, as is always the case, I seethed with anger. Anger at the complacency of so many people who could do so much to help the fight. One in three of us will encounter cancer in our lifetimes yet only one in hundreds of thousands is prepared to lift a finger. On behalf of the Rosemere Cancer Foundation, which is at the forefront of raising funds to beat cancer once and for all, I recently took part in a Saturday roadshow aimed at persuading people to donate one pound or to help with voluntary collections. No government funding is available for cancer research or high-tech equipment and without donations the latest developments cannot be introduced. The reasoning was that if everyone in the large area served by Rosemere gave just one pound miracles could be achieved.
The roadshows were staged in Blackburn, Preston and Lytham town centres on a busy ’Christmas shopping’ morning. Despite extensive advertising the number of people that turned up was nil, nil and four respectively. We spoke to passers by who replied that they were much too busy.
Saddened by the death of Sue Carroll I scanned this morning’s papers to see just how much mention is made of the greatest threat to every family in the land. Zero. The impression one gained was that vast numbers were fighting – in some cases literally – at sales. Leading politicians, such as ministers Jim Plaice and Richard Benyon, were ranting on about the need to bring back the hunting of animals for the entertainment of posh blokes in red jackets. In fact every story seems to demonstrate a preoccupation with trivia, a pretence that there is nothing better with which to occupy oneself.
Of course it is unrealistic to expect constant coverage of the need to fight cancer. But when yet another young victim falls, my red mist persuades me that we are an uncaring and selfish society. It would be nice to claim that Sue Carroll and all those like her did not die in vain, that we have at last heeded the call to treat cancer as an enemy to be fought and conquered. But it won’t happen and 2012 will bring another list of millions who died for want of a concerted attack.
If you go to the Rosemere website you will see examples of just what has been achieved by the few, and you will quickly realise how much more could be done by the many!
SPECIAL NOTE FOR READERS;
Later today I shall be off to the Land of my Fathers, Robert Croft country. One thing you can rely on in Snowdonia is unpredictable weather and should my blog be late tomorrow I am sure you will forgive me. Whether Albert and my other fellow chicken-keepers will be as understanding is another matter but, should they have to care for my chooks I shall plead guilty but insane. And I did their chicken-chores on Christmas Day!
When, as part of their attempt to ‘sell’ their NHS reforms, David Cameron and Andrew Lansley announced that the NHS was failing cancer patients several of my allotment pals were deeply disturbed. Up to that point they had clung to the belief that if any organisation could save their nearest and dearest it was the NHS. Although we were still all opposed to the idea of applying massive reforms at the same time as imposing £20 billion cuts, we were shaken by the claim that our cancer services were the worst in the developed world.
When the controversy reached its heights, with virtually the whole of the medical profession warning of the extreme dangers of the Lansley plan for localised commissioning and the introduction of the private sector, it was apparent that the bill was seriously flawed. It was then that Cameron repeated his election claim that Britian had “a higher rate of cancer deaths than even Bulgaria”. Both he and Lansley repeatedly justified their draconian plan by emphasising that both survival and death rates from cancer are extremely poor by internatiuonal standards. Without doubt the seemingly honest announcement rattled many who were on the brink of supporting the huge campaign to save our health service.
We now learn that they lied. New research released yesterday has, not surprisingly, received little publicity in the right-wing newspapers for it shows that the NHS, far from being at the bottom of the cancer mortality league, is in fact “the international leader in tackling the disease”. A study published in the British Journal of Cancer covers extensive research by Prof Colin Pritchard, a health academic at Bournemouth University and Dr Tamas Hickish, a consultant medical oncologist at Poole and Royal Bournemouth and Christchurch hospitals. The authors studied cancer mortality and the amount of GPT spent on healthcare between 1979 and 2007 in England and Wales and nine other countries including Germany, the USA, Spain, Japan and France.
In a statement Pritchard said yesterday that the research shows that the ministers have “misrepresented the NHS’s record on cancer in order to gain support for their unpopular shakeup”. In fact England and Wales saw the biggest drop in mortality among males aged 15-74 – down 31%. While six countries saw falls of at least 20%, England and Wales – which in 1979-81 had the third highest rate with 4,156 deaths per million men – improved the most, achieving by 2004-06 2869 deaths per million. Among men aged 52-64 and 65-74, who are more likely to get cancer, mortality dropped by 35% and 28%.
While mortality among women the same age declined by less, at 19%, that was the third biggest improvement after Japn (23%) and Germany (20%).
The research goes on to show just how good England and Wales are on cancer care, relative to spend. It makes clear that; “We do significantly more with proportionately less funding. It means that 34,484 people are alive today who wouldn’t have been if things had not improved since 1980″. The reference to funding reminds us that the percentage of GDP spent on the NHS is significantly lower that that of most of the other countries covered by the research. It specifically mentions that, in monetary terms, the NHS is “vastly superior to the private healthcare system of the USA”.
The authors of the report rightly point out that we must always strive for further improvement. Our mortality rates may be amongst the best in the world but every death is one too many. The tragedy is that the result of what one leading clinician has called a totally unintelligible bill will undoubtedly be to reverse the improvements that have occurred.
As Pritchard himself remarks, Cameron and Lansley are happier with NHS ‘bad news’ stories, rather than “celebrating the considerable achievements in recent years of the NHS”.
The reason for that is obvious but nothing can justify telling lies which, apart from damaging the reputation of the NHS, have caused untold misery to the millions who have been diagnosed with the disease we all fear above any other.
This news broke on the day that Theresa May admitted that she has no idea as to how many unwelcome guests have been arriving in the UK. Call it incompetent or dishonest, either way this government is becoming less appealing by the day!
OOOO JOIN ME TOMORROW FOR THE MIDWEEK QUIZ OOOO
Hardly a day passes on the allotment when someone doesn’t speak of the need for protest. There are quite a number of causes right now including Libya, Afghanistan, the Defence cuts, the NHS massacre, Immigration, Law and Order and Benefits to name but a few. But the truth is that none of us have the guts to really protest, contenting ourselves instead with a letter to an MP. That is probably inept given that if the parliamentarian is of the government he or she will do little, if in opposition he or she can do nothing.
Brain Haw, who has died after a battle with lung cancer, was an example to us all. Over the years when visiting London I have often passed by his ramshackle campaign camp in Parliament Square. Initially I tended to dismiss him as some sort of weirdo, later I developed a great admiration for his resolute determination and zeal. It was ten years ago that he travelled from his home in Redditch, moved to protest at the effect on the children of Iraq of the sanctions being imposed. Soon, he was no longer protesting about sanctions, but against the build-up to the war in Iraq, then the war itself, and the occupation that followed it. When illness finally forced him from the pavement in March of this year, he was still warning onlookers and passers-by of the effects of the conflict in Afghanistan.
Haw’s father was one of the first troops to enter the Bergen-Belsen camp after it was liberated and his experiences were partly, Haw said, what led him to take his own life when his son was only 13. Haw himself joined the merchant navy and saw the Suez Canal and Bombay. He liked to recall that the children he saw there would have seen his large patch of pavement as luxury.
His camp at Westminster varied in size over the years and was labelled both an eyesore and an integral patch of democracy. Day after day he survived in a harsh landscape of exhaust fumes and police scrutiny. Over the years thousands of supporters and detractors passed by and many stood silently looking at his display of children killed in Iraq. His efforts were not lost on the artist Mark Wallinger who won the 2007 Turner prize with a piece entitled State Britain, a recreation of Haw’s work.
But he was intensely disliked by the establishment. His shouted (via megaphone) slogan of “45 minutes, Mr B-liar’ so angered MPs that Westminster city council was prevailed upon to attempt eviction. His biggest challenge came when, in 2005, the Serious Organised Crime and Police Act was passed. This banned any protest within one kilometre of Parliamnet Square. The police prepared to move in but Haw won an application for a judicial review. He won and gained Court permission to stay , subject to the size of his display.
Haw had little respect for the 100,000 who marched through the capital as Blair’s clear determination to go along with George Bush emerged. He argues that had such a multitude been prepared to peacefully occupy the Square for just one week the war would have been averted. Think about it. He was probably right.
Haw will be remembered by millions as a man of both friendliness and bloody-mindedness. He will certainly be mourned by the many who admired his insistence that it was not impossible to be heard, to challenge courts, to remind those in power of the consequences of their actions. He will certainly be seen as a true prophet of what was to befall the children of Iraq and Afghanistan and the eventual evidence that Blair lied.
In a strange way Brian Haw summed up we Brits perfectly. We admire anyone prepared to make a stand but few of us, including me, have the will or courage to do it ourselves. A leader such as Tony Blair would have faced rioting in the streets in many countries. Here our troops have died, and thousands of innocents with them, but the most violent protests have been letters to The Times.
In 2002 , during an interview, Haws was asked if he feared the mice that appear in the Square around dusk. He replied that “It’s the rats over there that we have to look out for”. He was pointing in the direction of parliament.
I have been asked by the Rosemere Cancer Foundation to publicise a very special effort being made to boost the fight against cancer. The Rosemere charity is leading the battle on behalf of patients in the North West and has an enviable record of funding the latest cancer fighting equipment. Slowly but surely the battle is being won but the charity needs your help.
The Great North Run takes place on September 18th, an event described as the most iconic half marathon on the planet. Rosemere is desperately seeking entrants prepared to raise a minimum sponsorship of £400. Details can be obtained form Anne Sweeney who can be contacted on either 01772 522913 or by email on ‘firstname.lastname@example.org’.
Do you know anyone who would fancy the challenge to test their own fitness and to join the crucial fight to save lives?
Ask any cross section of society about health concerns and you will probably get a variety of answers. There will be those who never give it a thought, those who count their greens, those who spend a large part of every waking moment worrying about symptoms. So it is with our allotment gang. It always strikes me as illogical that people well into their seventies – even eighties in some cases- should devote time to worrying about their health, after all we will all be done for within the next decade or so. But traits do not seem to fade with age and some of my pals are forever fretting about this twinge or that. I always tell them that if they really must worry they should forget cancer and coronary problems and focus instead on mental health.
The reason for that is the appalling state of our psychiatric wards. No one wants to be ill, but in the case of physical problems the likelihood is that you will find yourself in a reasonable hospital environment. Fall prey to mental illness – and one in three of us will to a greater or lesser extent – and you are almost certain to find yourself on an overcrowded and understaffed ward, fearful for your safety and unlikely to recover quickly. Indeed the evidence is that such is the state of our mental health services, you are likely to further deteriorate.
I knew this from various inspections, but yesterday the outgoing president of the Royal College of Psychiatrists, Professor Dinesh Bhugra, spoke out officially. He talked of widespread failures in inpatient care for mentally ill people. There are, he said, many hospital wards that do not meet acceptable standards and which discharge back into society sick people who remained a risk to themselves and others.
The Professor blamed the problem partly on a ” dangerous vacuum” created because British doctors are not training as psychiatrists, while visa restrictions mean doctors friom abroad can no longer be appointed to fill the gap. A survey by the Royal College has found that 15 per cent of the 544 consultants’ posts in the UK are unfilled. In addition some 209 consultants are due to retire or resign. Even in times when all the posts were filled the service was inadequate, now it scarcely functions. A study to be published next week shows that over half of patients – mostly women – report feeling unsafe. Average bed occupancy are in some hospitals running at over 100 per cent and daily one-to-one contact with nursing staff is less than that deemed conducive to recovery.
Professor Bhugra warns that very high bed occupancy militates against quality and safety. Given the continued reduction in beds as a result of the failed care in the community regime, only the most disturbed, distressed and unwell are actually admitted to a ward. For such people the ward becomes their home but in many instances there are no seperate sleeping and toilet facilities for men and women, and there are few activities during evenings or weekends.
Mental Health charities such as Rethink claim the high number of suicides are a direct result of psychiatric wards failing to provide a therapeutic environment. Rethink spokeswoman Rachel Whitehead says that many people tell them that they feel unsafe and have little support or therapy. Supervision, she says, is also a problem, largely due to overstretched staff and wards which are overcrowded.
There are some good hospitals but I have visited some which have scarcely moved on from the time of Dickens. The problem is a simple one; too few beds, outdated wards, inadequate staff and an ever reducing number of specialist doctors. Those of us who so far have been fortunate enough to not need the service should surely demand that something be done. We are little better than a third-world country in our attitude and approach to mental health and the time has come for the people to demand action.
Sadly we do it with little confidence. New polls out today show all three of our political leaders with a negative rating. Hostility to the coalition has grown sharply with only 35% having trust in it. But the opposition fares little better. Of course the daily U-turns have destroyed faith – today’s relates to the proposal to cut prison sentences – but the problem is deeper than that. Few now trust politicians.
But that is where we must look for realisation that mental illness is man’s greatest affliction and demands as much attention and resource as any physical condition. Perhaps Lansley could redeem himself here although his beloved private sector will provide little help.
Churchill used to talk of ‘action this day’. Oh for a Churchill could well be cry of the tortured inmates of our degrading mental health wards!
ANSWERS TO YESTERDAY’S EGGHEADS QUIZ; 1. Eagle 2. Wales 3. Stairway to Heaven 4. Faraday 5. Paint 6. Lyon 7. Yorkshire 8. Bell shaped 9. Hair salon 10. Hood
When I was referred for an MRI scan the two weeks wait was an anxious time. Even that seemed a cosiderable increase over the waiting times in force when I was chairing a NHS Foundation Trust hospital. I have since learned from Bill, a fellow chicken-keeper, that his brother who lives in Hastings has been waiting for six weeks. At first the news didn’t make sense because in my day (as fogies love to remark) we were summoned to London to explain even one target ‘breach’, and we used to travel in some trepidation. At that time, just a couple of years ago, every patient referred to us had to be in full treatment within 18 weeks, which meant that he or she had to be seen almost immediately after a GP referral was received and any required tests had to be dealt at once. Of course the tight timescale made life difficult for clinicians and managers alike, but at least all those suspected of having cancer were spared the stress of uncertainty and the clinical risks associated with delays.
It was only during the chat with Bill that I was reminded that Andrew Lansley’s first act on becoming health secretary was to abolish waiting lists. At the same time he imposed massive cuts to funding and it doesn’t surprise me one jot that hospital Trusts up and down the land found some of the savings by extending their waiting times. One of the first savings would be the amount of hours having to be worked on MRI scans.
Realising that Bill’s information could be dismissed as hearsay I did some checking of my own. Hastings, the home of his brother, had only 3 patients waiting in excess of the permitted waiting times in April 2010. In April 2011 it had 1255, an amazing increase of 41,733%. So Bill’s brother is just one of many worried sick about their referral. Checking the figures of other Trusts revealed a similar pattern. In Leeds for example, there were only 10 waiting at the end of 2010, the total for this year was 878. Lansley, take a bow!
Across the country the waiting times for cancer testing and treatment have at least trebled and the situation is worsening during the first months of this financial year. Amazingly all the focus on Lansley has centered o his bizarre plans for reform. Fortunately these seem to be heading for the scrapheap not least because Cameron has ruled that GP commissioning will only start when GPs are ready, at which point their commissioning body will include nurses, hospital doctors and patients. In other words Primary Care Trusts are being reinstated under a new name and costs of around £2billion have been incurred.
But all this is meaningless mumbo-jumbo with political point-scoring at the top of the agenda. The point is that massive damage has already been done and without question people who could have been saved will die as vital post-diagnoses weeks are lost.
This is too importat for childish arguments about the respective abilities of Labour and Conservatives. NHS people will tell you that they are both hopeless. Labour imposed 400 targets which was ludicrous, the Conservatives have scrapped the wrong ones which was equally ludicrous.
Our health is uniquely important and we should all worry that a blundering fool like Lansley is in charge. At the very least the minister should be a senior clinician with no political bias.
Unrealistic? If we settle for that we settle for disaster, we betray every individual whose life depends on a rapid response!
THOUGHTS FOR TODAY; FAMILY PLANNING; “Somewhere on this globe, every ten seconds, there is a woman giving birth to a child. She must be found and stopped”…..Sam Levenson ”Let me tell you a terrific story about oral contraception. I asked a girl to sleep with me and she said “No”……….Woody Allen “”I have 13 children. It’s not a burden. I love my husband” – “Lady, I love my cigar, but I take it out of my mouth once in a while”……Groucho Marx “I’m Catholic. When my mum found my diaphragm, I had to tell her it was a bathing cap for my cat”…….Lizz Winstead ”Condoms aren’t completely safe. A friend was wearing one and got hit by a bus”……..Rob Rubin “A friend of mine confused her Valium with her birth control pills. She had 14 kids but didn’t give a toss”……Joan Rivers “I practice birth control, which is being around my brother’s children”……Brett Butler