Posts Tagged ‘Jeremy Hunt’
June seldom lives up to its flaming reputation, but the 2003 version is off to a glorious start. As we worked on the allotments this morning it was easy to imagine that all those wet dark mornings never happened, and everyone was in good humour. There was general surprise at the national surprise about revelations that the powers that be are secretly spying on us, we always assunmed this to be the case. Indeed we have often warned Albert that his fantasies about Lady Gaga are read by Obama and Gove, who probably frowns at the absence of semi-colons.
But our main preoccupation continues to be the fate of our A & E departments. Most are in meltdown as a result of the cuts disguised as efficiency savings. And to make things worse Jeremy Hunt is hell-bent on closing just as many as he can, always providing that they are not in marginal Conservative constituencies. The spin is that this enables neighbouring hospitals to develop larger, safer facilities. The reality is that they finally crumble under the weight of yet more blue lights.
Today we have proof positive of the real effect of adding to the travel time of ambulances. The A & E unit in Newark was closed and since then the number of deaths of trauma cases have jumped by 37%. You don’t need to be a brain surgeon to work out that an additional delay of up to 30 minutes for someone in extremis can be fatal. Add to that the difficulty that people with day-to-day injuries encounter when their nearest facility is many miles away and the picture is complete. Every large connurbation needs an emergency facility.
Up until now the public reaction to closures has amounted to protest marches and petitions. The effect of those on someone rearranging the deckchairs on the Titanic is minimal. But suddenly a new form of action has appeared. Legal experts have concluded that the closure of an A & E unit is illegal, a refusal by the government to meet its obligation to provide life-saving facilities with rapid local access. As a result the latest victims, Lewisham in South London, have decided to take Jeremy Hunt to court.
In a preliminary hearing a Judge has ruled that there is a case to answer, and has limited the legal cost liability to £20,000. Barristers have agreed to cut their fees and a huge fundraisng campaign is under way. This has now earned the support of ’38 Degrees’, the national protest organisation, which is throwing its considerable weight behind it and people from across the country are making donations. We codgers put our hands into our pockets yesterday.
If the legal wizards are right this will set a massive precedent. Clearly what Hunt is doing is incredibly irresponsible and morally flawed. But if it is also ruled to be illegal the government will be forced into a corner. We say government rather than Hunt since the real villain here is Lansley whose so-called reforms were based on the ludicrous assumption that the gaps caused by closures could be covered by community units funded by the private sector.
The case will be heard by the courts in two weeks time. In the event of Lewisham losing there is of course the opportunity to appeal. It would be the ultimate irony if the European court came to our rescue, but hopefully it won’t be needed.
Some months ago this blogsite predicted that the NHS would emerge as the major issue. We stand by that although it has to be said that the previous governmnet was equally culpable in attempting to close down essential medical services.
But this is an issue over and above party politics. This is about life or death when an emergency strikes. It affects everyone of us. We are all sick and tired of politicians and the time has come to hold them to account!
THOUGHT FOR TODAY ” Providing aid to Africa is in Britain’s vital economic and security interests and must be maintained at current levels”…Justine Greening yesterday, arguing the case for overseas aid having precedence over NHS funding.
It is hardly surprising that the Duke of Edinburgh is held in high regard by a group of ancient codgers such as ours. As we gathered in the glorious sunshine this morning a lot of fingers were crossed for the 92 year-old who is about to have an exploratory operation. It was typical of the guy that just hours before he headed for hospital he was cracking jokes at a Buck House garden party. His jokes may not be to the taste of those who still regard the Royals as divine beings, but we love his irreverence. Over sixty years he has managed the seemingly impossible task of providing the Queen with stable back-up, whilst demonstrating that the two of them are only human.
He has also proved that there is more to old age than Horlicks and slippers. We pray that he will be around for many years yet but the next few days will be anxious ones. Any form of operation holds risks for elderly patients, but we confidently expect him to emerge in two weeks time armed with gaffes galore. The Queen will probably hold her breath for no one can ever accuse Philip of being politically correct.
Living in a goldfish bowl must have many drawbacks, but one advantage is the immedaite availablility of medical support and, as happens in old age, the Duke has had to avail himself of that on a number of recent occasions. But in this country most families are similarly blessed even if we do have to make appointments and wait in line. For every family in the land our GPs are, when problems emerge, the most important people in our lives.
Like the Duke, our family doctors have adjusted in line with a changing society. When I was a boy the arrival of the doctor led to the adults standing up and uttering more ‘Sirs’ than Bunter ever did. They were, in our eyes, all-knowing and all-powerful. One suspects that many a placebo did the trick in an age when faith in the healer was absolute. But the treatments available then were primitive by todays standards.
In today’s world all that has changed and life expectancy is soaring, one implication being that the incidence of cancer will rise to up to 50 per cent. The image of GPs has changed too and many a patient brings to the surgery a print-out of the latest wisdom of the internet. But in one basic fact nothing has changed, when we walk into the doctor’s room he or she has ten minutes or so to diagnose our condition. This is a monumentally important moment, our life is in the hands of someone who has to perform the same act of observation and concentration on perhaps thirty or so others before the day is out.
Of course we may well find ourselves ultimately in the hands of a hospital specialist. Their knowledge and experience of a specific condition is inevitably greater than that of someone who has to cover every aspect of the human body or psyche. But the accuracy of the initial diagnosis is the key to our condition being narrowed down to the right specialism.
Without doubt the GPs of today have a vast range of diagnostic aids that their long-gone predecessors could only dream about. But the pressures are immense. Each patient must be given the impression that they, and they alone, are the focus of the doctor’s attention. Every referral requires considerable IT skills. And when the surgery is over there is a mass of paperwork and bureaucracy to be coped with. And now there is the added burden of involvement in the commissioning of services, and all that that entails.
Hanging over all this right now are the ludicrous antics of politicians who regard the NHS as a vehicle for points-scoring. Jeremy Hunt comes under pressure for the deterioration in emergency services – the result of funding cuts disguised as efficiency savings – and, hey presto, he blames GPs. Fortunately the great British public has rather more trust in doctors that in politicians, but the frustration of it all doesn’t help.
A few weeks ago I developed a, to me, mysterious pain. I made an appointment and all was revealed and dealt with. As I left the surgery it occurred to me that the doctor had just exercised skills and concentration the outcome of which no other profession ever involves.
The less we see of our GPs the happier we are. But when we need them they become all important. Idiots like Jeremy Hunt would do us all a favour if they left them alone to get on with maintaining that status!
THOUGHT FOR TODAY; Abdelkader El-Janabi was yesterday sentenced to 15 years imprisonment for raping a 15 years-old boy in the toilets of a Manchester city centre department store. He was revealed to be a former intelligence officer in Saddam Hussein’s regime!
On days such as this the allotments are heaven on earth. The vegetable plots feature rows of beans, potatoes and peas standing in guardsman-like rows, whilst neighbouring areas are ablaze with colour as long-dormant bulbs strut their stuff. Around the perimeter the hedges are a mass of green, and concealed within are over a dozen nests visited constantly by parent birds. The ponds too have come to life, and from time to time fish dart from the cover of lily leaves to snatch at the food scatterd on the surface by the codgers whose mood has risen with the sun. We all like to think that we are helping to preserve endangered wildlife, this is one piece of land that Pickles and his pals wll not be allowed to ravage.
In fact such is the low esteem in which our politicians are held these days that we tend to the view that, in all things, opposing what they propose is the only hope. Nowhere is this more evident than in the case of out-of-hours medical emergency services. In the pre-Lansley days every family could retire for the night secure in the knowledge that should an emergency occur help was readily available. In our patch local GPs operated a co-operative which guaranteed an immediate response.
For the time being that is still the case, but local commissioners are now being obliged to seek competitive tenders. Heaven help us if a company such as Harmoni takes over. A report from the Quality Care Commission published last month was highly critical of Harmoni – North Central London for failing to employ enough GPs to ensure patient safety. “Overall, there were not enough qualified, skilled and experienced staff to meet people’s needs”, it concluded. As in many other areas where the out-of-hours service has been privatised patients have had no alternative than to rush to the nearest A & E department, and we all know of the effect this is having.
Jeremy Hunt, and Lansley before him, have continued to insist that the new commissioners will not be under any obligation to privatise emergency services. Indeed Hunt has made great play of the fact that the breakdown of emergency services is the result of GP’s opting out of responsibility for 24/7 services. At the very least he is being ingenuous.
In Hackney dissatisfaction with Harmoni has led local GPs to develop a GP-led business plan involving over 80 per cent of the area’s family doctors. Known as the Hackney Urgent Healthcare Social Enterprise a bid was made to the local commissioners to retake control of all out-of-hours services. On 30 January 2013 the commissioning board voted to refuse the GPs’ request, insisting that the contract must again go out to tender. Documents seen by the Guardian show that it was fear of disruption stemming from litigation that led to this extraordinary decision.
The decision flies in the face of public statements by such as Nick Clegg that the “so-called section 75 regulations ( of Lansley’s bill) make it quite clear that clinical commissioning groups are not forced to open services to competition unless they think it is clinically justified in the interests of patients to do so”. In fact right now the vast majority of services still provided by family doctors are being put out to tender since failure to do so will lead to legal action via the dreaded European courts.
It has become clear that throughout the passage of the Health and Social Care Act ministers lied to ward off allegations of privatisation. Now those lies are coming home to roost, yet incredibly Jeremy Hunt continues to trot out the failure of GPs to provide a service as the reason for the mess that NHS services have become. And by so doing he is endangering every family that suddenly requires emergency help.
A few days ago an experienced local GP told me that of the 14 patients he had visited during the previous night’s shift, he only admitted one to hospital. He told me that a neighbouring private provider was admitting all patients calling for help in the absence of skilled clinicians. “They are”, he explained, “too expensive for a profit-based company”.
Deborah Colvin, the Hackney GP spearheading the GP bid there, is incensed that, having been encouraged to bid, two years work has been in vain. “These are people who are supposed to be making decisions that are about patients’lives and safety, and they’re not, they’re making decisions based on legal advice about the procurement process”, she says. “If Lansley and Hunt are not lying, they need to demonstrate this on the ground”.
I fear the doctor will have a long wait!
THOUGHT FOR TODAY; ” Were we to award the contract to you the legal advice is that this would very likely result in legal challenge which could potentially cause service disruption and lead to problems for the future commissioners of the service”…Heather Mullin, commissioning director to local GP Paul Julian.
It seems ludicrous to claim any positive from the appalling murder in south-east London, but there was one. Cub scout leader Ingrid Loyau-Kennett set an example that the whole nation would be well advised to emulate. Seeing a man prostrate, she left her bus to give first aid. Within seconds she was confronted by two terrorists covered with blood and flourishing lethal weapons. Sensing that things could get even worse she engaged the men in conversation and, in effect, contained the situation until the police appeared at which point she reboarded her bus and proceeded to calm the passengers who were bordering on the hysterical.
What she did was incredible not least because people, some carrying small children, had gathered to gawp and could easily have become further victims. None of us know how we would have responded to such a nightmare and can only hope that we would have had the necessary courage and good sense. Just for once our corrupt honours system should be used to recognise true valour.
And there the positive ends, although it must be said that other women went to attempt aid for the Lancashire soldier as the perverted Islamists ranted.
It says much for the British at large that so far the reaction of the vast majority has excluded vengeful violence. That in itself suggests that we are still a less than volotile breed for there has been much provocation. Many of the ‘tweets’ read out on last night’s Newsnight were truly horrendous coming as they do from British citizens. And voices from abroad reinforced the horror as such as the expelled extremist cleric Omar Bakri Mohammad claimed to have tutored one of the assassins in Islam after he concerted to the religion in 2003.
For Atma Singh, a long-term Woolwich resident and former adviser to Ken Livingstone, the answer is clear. He believes that Westminster has been dozing and needs to take a tougher approach towards Islamist extremism. “You have to create an environment where there is a clampdown on terrorism advocacy”, he said. “I also think the intelligence services need to step up. It’s a huge effort. And there are lots of sensitivities involved with home-grown terrorism since you are dealing with British citizens. But not enough has been done to get into these radical groups”.
All of us codgers are in shock. How could this happen in broad daylight on a busy street? How could anyone even attempt to justify what has happened to a much loved lad whose home is not too far from us. There will be limits to how far even phlegmatic Britons can keep their cool. The slowness to panic and react will be tested to the full in the event of another appalling incident if this kind. Time is not on the government’s side and it must be seen to be acting decisively.
It is difficult to believe that it will. Yesterday leading minister Jeremy Hunt was accused by Laurence Buckman, chair of the BMA GPs committee, of “spouting rubbish”. That has nothing to do with the security crisis but it does tell us a lot about the reputation of ministers.
We pray that at least one of them will follow the example of Ingrid Loyau-Kennet by displaying calm leadership and reasoned action!
THOUGHT FOR TODAY; “I saw the film and we could see that he (the suspect) was being very courageous. Under Islam this can be justified. The attacker was not targetting civilians, he was taking on a military man in an operation. To people around here ( in the Middle East) he is a hero for what he has done”….Bakri Mohammed, Muslim cleric banned from Britain and now living in Lebanon.
The sun was back with us this morning, even though the wind had a Suarez-like bite to it. It helps particularly since operation catch-up is underway. We imagine that right across the country growers are trying to make up for lost time, yesterday we sowed beans, potatoes and onions before filling a dozen tubs with geraniums and lobelia. But nature will take its course and everything will, like our local trains, be late in arriving.
Of course not every creature on the allotments was disappointed by the later start. The hens enjoyed an extra month of wandering at large over a big area, now they are refused access in the manner of known drunks at our local watering-hole. Sounds harsh but we can assure you that letting chickens loose on young plants produces results that even locusts would struggle to match.
Several of my pals went to meet Ed Miliband yesterday when he visited Chorley. They seemed impressed with his candour, not least the point that his weekly shouting match with our dear leader is only serving to reduce even further the standing of politicians in the public eye. I did comment that further reduction from a trust level of zero is difficult, but it is good to learn that someone at Westminster is still in touch with reality. However the glimmer of hope was soon extinguished by the morning papers.
Headline-grabber is David Laws with his threat to close yet more schools. The case for doing so sounds flawed, the preacher even more so. Isn’t this the man that fell from grace just months ago for fiddling his expenses? Then we have Chris Huhne banging on about prosecution costs arising from his sudden admission of guilt. And to complete the hat-trick, Jeremy Hunt, who wriggled out of his guilt in regard to the BSkyB bid, is giving a lecture to nurses about ethical behaviour. For most jobs offering high salaries one needs character references, it seems that such niceties are regarded as unnecessary for the most influential positions in the land.
But this morning’s greatest irritation is provided by yet more pronouncements on privatisation. Undeterred by the news that Michael Gove has overspent his budget for Academy Schools by £1 billion which he intends to take from the amount allocated to ‘state-run’ schools, ministers have let it be known that next in line are Companies House, the Land Registry, the Met Office, the Student Loans service, the blood donor service, Ordnance Survey and – surprise, surprise – Royal Mail.
Selling off the family silver may seem a wizard wheeze to a Chancelor desperate for cash up-front, but its long-term implications are horrendous. If you doubt that take a glance at what has happened to the Forensic services or the energy giants. All have finished up in foreign ownership and priorities that do not have service to the British taxpayers anywhere near the top of their lists.
Other than the chance to haul in quick cash can anyone explain the logic behind the Royal Mail sell-off? The organisation has been modernised and the service is now stable. There already is competition in profitable areas such as parcel delivery, but private providers are reluctant to take on the declining household postal deliveries. Result will be a knock-down price and a drastic curtailment to Post Offices providing essential services.
No one denies that competition for non-essential goods or services that are available from a range of suppliers makes absolute sense. But what is happening now is the surrender of monpolistic services essential to everyone. Hand them over and we all become potential victims. For example? Try Eastern Rail, the only state-owned rail franchise. It is the most efficient and hands millions back to the treasury. Replacing it with G4S, or whoever, will not provide competition on the east coast, it will merely divert taxpayers money to shareholders.
Perhaps we codgers are Luddites in disguise, but we just don’t get it. But since our masters are so convnced they should perhaps consider privatising parliament. Fewer MPs, minimum wage for all but the bigwigs, compulsory attendance, minimal expenses. Come to think about it privatisation may have its positives.
Perhaps they are simply privatising the wrong things?
THOUGHT FOR TODAY; ”As a bank you can be big and simple or small and complicated, and do well. If you get big and complicated, you become unmanageable !”……Archbishop of Canterbury 22/4/2013