Posts Tagged ‘Collapse’
The general hostility on the allotments toward politicians of every colour intensified this morning with the latest news on the so-called NHS reforms. Of course the mood wasn’t helped by torrential rain as we worked in the hen-runs, but the antagonism runs deep and the cynicism deeper still. The feeling wasn’t improved by revelations that the UK government was transferring suspects to Gaddafi’s butchers for questionning right up to the moment when Cameron suddenly became the saviour of Libya.
But our real anger was sparked by information gained by today’s Guardian which reveals that Helios, a German private healthcare provider, has been in extensive talks with Lansley’s Department of Health with a view to it taking over NHS hospitals. As forecast in one of last week’s blogs, the plan to subject the NHS to EU competition laws means there will be no barrier to the government handing over the running of large parts of our health service to private non-British firms. Helios has a reputation in Germany of being motivated more by revenue than by patient care and has a record of cutting both staff and wage levels. Apparently officials from the health ministry have, together with the management consultancy firm McKinsey, made a series of presentations selling the “potential financial opportunities in London”.
Of course we all realised that, despite their claims to the contrary, Cameron and Lansley are hell bent on privatisation and the proof, obtained under the Freedom of Information Act, should not really surprise us. But I guess we all hoped against any reason that the coalition leaders were telling the truth. Some hope!
The NHS bill is about to be debated by MPs. A number of Lib Dem members have warned Clegg that he faces a revolt but the likelihood of that is small given that he is responding by threatening the collapse of the coalition followed by a general election and the inevitable annihilation of the Lib Dems. Our Nick is clearly a man of dubious principles. But he has a fight on his hands with those who do possess some. Andrew George and John Pugh, co-chairman of the Lib Dem backbench health committee, have tabled a dozen chnages to the bill, almost all seeking to roll back the “competition and choice” agenda. Evan Harris, a former MP and grassroots activist, has publicly warned Clegg it risks a membership revolt. He said yesterday that “the bill in its current form does not have Lib Dem support and it will fare extremely badly at the party conference and in the Lords”.
But for me the most telling oposition will be provided when the much respecetd Gerry Robinson gives his views on Panorama. In tonight’s “Gerry and the GPs” he says that the “stakes here are huge; the very existence of the NHS could depend on getting this right”. He goes on to say that he has been involved in “any number of changes in large organisations but this is the strangest one I’ve ever seen. It’s already started – many are being made redundant, things are changing – but we don’t know what the endgame is”. Sir Gerry introduces a London GP, Dr Deborah Colvin, who reports that her Primary Care Trust (PCT) is already disintegrating even though the bill has not passed through parliament. “Things are coming apart” she says. “We don’t know next month where we are going to get our IT support from because half of it has gone and 50 per cent of the local PCT has gone too”.
Gerry Robinson ends his report on a really sobering note. He says that local hospitals could be sacrificed if the NHS is to cope with its £20 billion of cuts and the lack of a central decision making body – here he is referring to Lansley’s plan to rid himself of responsibility for the provision of health care – raises concerns over who will take responsibility for hospital closures.
If, with Clegg’s help, Cameron and Lansley get this bill though the answer will presumably be German private hospital companies!
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?
Over many years the image of the professional expert and the mass of unskilled ‘nobodies’ has taken root. It is of course pure nonsense as the collapse of the financial sector demonstrated. People in suits carrying laptops filled with exponentially smoothed graphs no longer impress, we now recognise them as no more productive or skilled than the PR spin-doctors so beloved by ministers. But the damage has been done, we no longer manufacture things and many of the old skills are vanishing as artisans going into retirement are not replaced – apprenticeships having becoming virtually extinct. And yet if it is real skill you seek, you need to take a second look at those so derided by the Bullingdon set!
Yesterday I visited the home of a pal from the allotment community. Since retiring he has built the most spectacular garden I have ever seen. The layout is superb and incorporated in it are various buildings built of stone, and containing every comfort of a ‘den’ fit for a king. As I walked the walk I found myself wondering how we ever came to believe that manual skills are in some way inferior. And when we chatted I found that my pal has an in-depth view of the economy that sounds a good deal more sensible than that being put about by the ultimate whizz-kid in a suit, George Osborne.
Faced with a growing chorus of concern that his programme of rapid cuts will lead to disaster he constantly claims that it will lead to a huge growth in private sector volumes and jobs. He will have noticed that yesterday’s opinion polls show Labour on 45%, the Conservatives on 35% and the Lib Dems on 9%. But he will continue to believe that a new boom in growth is around the corner. For all our sakes let us hope he is right, but how can he be?
As my pal commented, if people are in fear of redundancy, are being squeezed as inflation tears into their disposable income, and face rocketing power bills the most likely response will be to switch from actual shopping to the window variety. Seems obvious doesn’t it? It prompted me to do a little research.
The 128- strong chain of Oddbins went into administration yesterday, blaming a poor Christmas and a difficult retail environment. Mothercare and Laura Ashley both warned that trading has deteriorated considerably in recent weeks while Easy Living Furniture, a 20-strong chain in the south went into administration. H & M announced a 30% fall in profits, the “result of a wodespread decline in consumer spending”.
On Wednesday, the boss of electrical goods group Dixons said that the ” government cuts were having a chilling effect on consumers” as the group announced that like-for-like sales at its Currys and PC World stores tumbled by 11% over the past 11 weeks. Signet announced weak trading at its H Samuel and Ernest Jones stores. DFS said growth had slowed and even Domino’s Pizza, the stock market darling, admitted to falls of up to 10%.
In the interest of balance I tried to find reports of rapid growth but found none. Everywhere in the retail sector there is doom and gloom. And as the cuts begin to really bite over the next few months it seems inevitable that the position will worsen. How can there be growth when no one, bar the rich, has money to spend on other than the bare essentials? In fact the situation is even bleaker than my amateur research suggests. The Bank of England has reported that the number of people defaulting on their mortgages has climbed sharply!
Yesterday I nominated ways of reducing costs without impairing growth. But the reality is that the coalition is being driven by inbred ideology. Only the Lib Dems can bring influence to bear and there are increasing signs that people like Lucas, Farron, and Kennedy are much closer to Miliband than to Clegg. But he holds the power and can be relied upon to echo his master’s voice.
To return to my opening point there are many highly skilled and perceptive people outside of the politicians. But the gulf is now enormous. As my pal put it the most dangerous people of all are those that believe their own bullshit!
THOUGHTS FOR TODAY; ”Michael Jackson, also known as the ‘carrier bag’ -white, plastic and best kept away from kids”……..Angus Deayton “Rap music sounds like someone feeding a rhyming dictionary to a popcorn popper”….Tom Robbins “It’s called rap music because the ‘c’ fell off the printer”……Allan Bease “I don’t like country music, but I don’t mean to denigrate those who do. And for those who like country music, denigrate means ‘put down’ “…..Bob Newhart “I wanted to be a country singer but I took the test and I had too much self-esteem”…..Brett Butler “The hardest thing about writing country music must be thinking up clean words that rhyme with ‘truck’ “…..Brian Kaufman “Opera is when a guy gets stabbed in the back and instead of bleeding he sings”…..Ed Gardner “I’m sitting at the opera, and I’m thinking ‘Look how much work it takes to bore me’ “…..Dave Attell “I went to watch Pavarotti once. He doesn’t like it when you join in”…..Mick Miller
ANSWERS TO YESTERDAY’S QUIZ; 1. Jon Pertwee 2. Peter Bowles
TODAY’S QUESTIONS; 1. Which singer was know as ‘Old Groaner’ ? 2. In which country did he die?
At the Conservative Party conference Eric Pickles, the communities secretary, talked of ‘home rule’ for big cities. The government will, he announced proudly, allow councils to pool the budgets across the public sector – social services, care, housing and health improvement. He went on to talk of elected mayors and pay cuts for chief executives, but by now my attention had wandered. I was remembering a visit I made recently to a social services team in the South of England.
Based presumably on roles I have played in both the NHS and industry, I was asked to advise on organisational change. I ended up as near to tears as an old ferreter is allowed to get. The only organisational comment I could make was that the service is so dangerously understaffed that it can no longer function at safe levels no matter how hard the remaining employees work. In fact they are so stretched that more and more are succumbing to stress-related illnesses. The irony is that their super-human effort is making the situation worse by the day.
Nowhere are the effects of this more evident than in mental health. I am less than proud of what my self understanding tells me on this. I imagine that many of you are, like me, afraid of the subject and afraid of the unfortunate victims. We prefer not to see or hear about it and reserve our comments for the headline cases that hit the news headlines. These are invariably followed by an inquiry which berates a failure of social services but fails to mention that many of the workers there have case loads well beyond anyone’s abilility to manage.
The situation at the unit I visited was already grave under the last government, now more cuts are filtering down through local authorities and the situation has lurched out of control. In many serious cases a whole day is required, in reality an half-hour sometime next week is all that can be realistically promised. In that time a lot of things can go seriously wrong, not least amongst them suicide. Social workers are responsible for decisions about compulsory ‘sectioning’ but in border line cases these deserve careful screening and visits. And whilst mental illness can strike any family, some of those worst affected in inner-city areas are themselves problematical.
To add to the nightmare the number of mental health hospital beds are reducing, a fact that adds to the amount of administration required by the social worker concerned. I spent a day with the team and had to confess that nothing in the NHS prepared me for this. In NHS hospitals, staff in areas such as A&E and Intensive care are regularly under great pressure as they deal with life or death situations. Social workers also face these plus a constant threat of violence, but unlike their NHS colleagues have to do so often alone and outside the reassurance of a safe environment where colleagues are usually at hand.
My impression was that morale in many areas of social services is reaching rock bottom. The staff are in many ways similar to nurses in their dedication and compassion but they see no protecting hands outstretched for when the going gets tough. Their dwindling numbers mean that their sense of isolation will worsen yet their clients and their families will heap more and more abuse upon them. Understandable, since they too are desperate and the social worker is the face on the front line, the one that has to attempt to justify hardship born of budget cuts.
Of course we all hate the present and impending wave of service cuts in areas such as libraries and Council funded leisure activities but their outcomes bear no resemblance to those hitting social work. Perhaps the most fundamental weakness here is the organisational link wih local government. A good deal of social work borders on health issues and from time to time governments have attempted to bring them in to a merged structure with the NHS. They have regualrly backed down in the face of opposition from town halls across the land. Hanging on to empires has transcended the needs of people for whom a social worker is the only lifeline. In the NHS, if all else fails, a chief executive has the right to appeal to seniors close to the Department of Health. Social services have to rely on Councils, not a situation one would relish on even day-to-day problems.
My gut reaction when listening to Eric Pickles or even David Cameron was to rant. But in truth they know nothing of these things. I am sure that if the Prime Minister had seen and heard the stories I did he would be shocked. But even he is far removed from issues such as mental illness and Alzheimers and it may well be that, like me, he prefers it this way.
I desperately wish I could see even the smallest light at the end of this dark tunnel. But I can’t. All I see is a total collapse of a vital service and endless headlines criticisng social workers. Even that assumes that there are any left to criticise.
It is a scandal that shames our once proud and caring society!
KEEP YOUR FINGERS CROSSED FOR DELHI!
Having listened to, or read of, endless stories of chaos in Delhi it was a pleasant surprise to see a very impessive opening ceremony to the Commonwealth Games. Sadly all the adverse publicity led to many leading athletes pulling out and the games will be the poorer for their absence.
Of course it is too early to aim retribution at the many ‘experts’ who filled column inches with dark forebodings but, if all continues to go well, that day will come. As things stand they have managed to drag India’s reputation through the mud and many are beginning to ask if their exposes were not a tad premature.
The next few days will see reputations ruined. Let us hope that the organisers and those athletes brave enough to attend are the ones that emerge with theirs intact!
YESTERDAY’S QUIZ ANSWERS 1. Amsterdam 2. 1974
TODAY’S QUESTIONS 1. Which Egyptian king was the museum hit of 1972? 2. Which opera house staged its opening night in 1973?
It is a pity that there is no gold medal at the Commonwealth Games for sounding superior for we would be guaranteed to win it. The not unexpected problems in Delhi have brought out the very worst in our athletes and administrators who have been sounding off about the standard of the competitor’s accomodation and health and safety.
The former is the easier to deal with. One leading ‘star’ said that reports indicated that the accomodation is ‘little better than a youth hostel’. And what is wrong with that? The athletes seem to have caught the Premiership disease, they will only be there for a short time and ought to be able to cope without gold taps or whatever other supposed deprivation awaits them. They should perhaps reflect on the fate of the people whose homes were bulldozed to make way for the buildings. They were given two hours notice of eviction and many lived on the pavement for several weeks before being directed to a bit of land outside the city. Few could afford to rebuild their homes and the poorest now live beneath plastic sheets draped over a framework of sticks.
One such is Parviti, a mother in her forties. She is on record as saying that “we were told that palaces would be built there for foreigners and the slums would have to be destroyed”. She too is now at the new site, having slept rough for weeks and has so little money that she is watering down such food as she can procure to make it stretch to the whole family. Perhaps palaces represents an overstatement but everything is relative. As far as accomodation is concerned our pampered competitors should get down from their high horses.
Of course health and safety – how we love that phrase – is another matter. Conveniently ignoring the fact that the components that failed, and led to the collapse of a bridge, were British-made our media has had a field day. Who cares about the native population, one of our stars might get covered in dust! One editorial proclaimed that we are sensitive because we are the pioneers of health and safety. Really? A report from inspectors, obtained under the freedom of information act, has shown that serious safety problems were exposed recently at a Cumbria dockyard that makes nuclear submarines. An exercise based on a nuclear submarine accident found that members of the rescue team were prevented from getting to the scene of an imagined reactor failure for 15 minutes because they first had to fill in forms about radiation risk. Co-ordinators failed to account for people evacuated from the danger zone, the handling of casualties was ‘poor’. The summary says that “this was an exercise that went badly wrong because of lack of planning and emergency preparedness. It revealed a mismatch in resources, gross failures in communication, and cock-ups throughout”. It could have added Lord help us all had it been a real emergency. Sounds rather more serious than the collapse of a small bridge!
For me the last straw was the pompous tone struck by a whole range of people including minsters and officials. We, they claimed, are a caring society and the welfare of those who represent us is the number one priority. I admit that my knee-jerk cynicism was the result of reading of the fate of a terminal cancer sufferer in Bristol. War veteran Bernard Warren has been given two months to live but has been denied nursing care because, according to NHS Bristol officials, he “does not tick all the boxes”. It seems that our concern for the welfare of representatives does not extend to those who once represented us in rather more serious arenas!
You may well contend that the Games should not have been awarded to Delhi but that is another matter. The fact remains that they have been, and thousands of local people have had their misery compounded by the construction of a Games site. Whatever hardships this event may cause, we can be sure that our people will not bear the brunt of them. Provided that security against terrorists is assured, we should go there and stop sounding like colonial masters.
As my old Gran liked to regularly remind me, people that live in glasshouses shouldn’t throw stones. My headline is dedicated to her and her devotion to an adage that should still guide us today.
IF ONLY UNCLE VINCE WAS IN CHARGE!
Vince Cable should be preserved for the nation. He tells it as it is and dares to say what most of us think. I have heard the description ‘spivs’ used in many a bar and allotment shed when the subject of bankers came up, but here we had a minister happily roaring it out.
Of course there is now outrage on the part of the City set, bankers and those who specialise in trading company assets without thought for the economy or employees. But Vince has spoken for many in suggesting they increase their self understanding by looking into a mirror.
Sadly, dear old Uncle Vince has no real clout and little good will come from his attack. The obscene bonuses will still pour forth. But at least he has shown to whom the Lib Dems should turn once Clegg finally joins the Conservative Party. And an election fought under Vince just might give the Liberals a chance of real power!
ANSWERS TO YESTERDAY’S QUIZ; 1. The sun, especially the solar wind. 2. Helicopters
TODAY’S QUESTIONS; 1. Which British rocket launched the Prospero satellite? 2. In which year was the first oil pumped from Britain’s North Sea fields?