Posts Tagged ‘Last Straw’
Helen is the daughter of Alan, one of my allotment pals, and she is a midwife. In fact she was, for Helen has finally decided that enough is enough. She tells me it isn’t, as one might imagine from press reports, that she doesn’t care. She cares too much and can no longer bear the situation that she, and many others in her profession, now face. In many parts of the country midwives are struggling to cope and the news that the government has rejected the appeal from the Royal College of Midwives for 5000 replacements is for many the last straw.
What has made the situation even more unbearable is a series of press stories claiming indifferent service. The latest concerned maternal deaths at Queen’s hospital in Romford. Two maternal tragedies led to reports of disrespect and neglect by the midwives, and a statement from the hospital said that seven staff have been disciplined or sacked. What it didn’t say was that the maternity unit is so understaffed that midwives are cracking under the strain. Mr Lansley’s reaction? He has announced plans to close maternity services at the neighbouring King George hospital and to transfer the service provided there to Queen’s. Minus staff of course!
Across Britain, smaller, more homely maternity hospitals have been closed as part of the draconian cuts imposed on the NHS. The result is that our maternity units are now the largest in Europe. All are under great pressure and the 97% of women who give birth in hospital have only a short hospital stay, even following major abdominal surgery, and to compound the problem post-natal services have also been massively cut.
All the research indicates that the continuity of midwifery care gives the best physical and psychological outcomes for both mothers and babies. But in recent times this has become impossible. Ironically, because of the lack of recruitment, many newly qualified midwives struggle to find posts. Those that do find the fragmented, over-medicalised system, with its chronic staff shortages, a living nightmare. The result is that many of the young midwives that find a post soon leave or crumble in the face of so much pressure.
For young mothers this is an important and potentially wonderful time. Understandably many are nervous and expect the sort of personal attention and care that was always the hallmark of our midwifery services. Most of those who train for many years to become a midwife are dedicated and caring. The heart is being knocked out of them.
I can well believe that, like me, Andrew Lansley is utterly clueless on this vital subject. Perhaps he should ask someone such as Sarah Davies who is senior midwifery lecturer at Salford University. This respected expert of 20 years experience says that the current systyem, with its often traumatic consequences for mothers and babies, is unacceptable. She says that action is now essential, otherwise we will remain in a vicious circle of diminishing care standards and avoidable tragedies.
Sarah believes that we not only desperately need 5000 more midwives but a different model for maternity care – one that is comminity based; gives midwifery continuity; and where birth takes place as close as possible to home. I understand little of this but it does sound to me as though Lansley’s reforms are heading in absolutely the wrong direction.
If you feel as I do why not contact your MP. It is time for action!
TEST YOUR KNOWLEDGE WITH THE WEEKEND QUIZ!
1. Dermatology is concerned with the study of human what? 2. Alastair Cooke became famous for broadcasting his “Letter from” which country? 3. Which country does Nelly Furtado come from? 4. Disney’s feature-length cartoon “Pinocchio” was released in which decade? 5. Whose debut album was “Northern Soul” in 1992? 6. Which game was Abner Doubleday credited with inventing? 7. Which of the Kennedy family was involved in the Chappaquiddick incident in the 1960s? 8. Which name was shared by Charlie Chaplin and Diana Princess of Wales? 9. In Hollywood, which Jean was dubbed the first ” Blonde Bombshell”? 10. Which describes Rubik’s cube – two-dimensional, three-dimensional or four-dimensional?
According to your viewpoint, old men are either all-wise or plain loopy, clones of Victor Meldrew and all that. Given the state of the daily issues we chicken-keepers mull over it is hard to categorise us that precisely. In reality we have become so bemused at the state of national and international affairs that we have almost reached the point where it seems that those who lead us are either so clever that their deeds are beyond our feeble comprehension, or they are all even loopier than us and are collectively driving us for the nearest cliff.
What has brought all this on? A glance through this morning’s papers was the last straw, the truth being that none of it makes sense. Our first source of such bemusement came with the latest adventures of James Murdoch. Yesterday he gave an encore to the parliamentary committee. He probably didn’t enjoy being likened to a mafia don, or compared to an Asda manager, but his demeanour remained unchanged. It is now apparent that even the tea-lady at News International knew that hacking was widespread but the boss, like Manuel in Fawlty Towers, knew nothing.
Even more puzzling is the fact that the dogs that should have barked – the police and regulator – stayed silent. Even more puzzling than even that is the fact that our government was about to allow Mr Murdoch to double his dominance in the UK, and our Prime Minister was employing one of the leading NI lights whilst spending interminable amounts of time socialising with the Editor. To compound all this we learned yesterday that all the members of the parliamentary committee were under surveillance, their every move noted and recorded. Of course James Murdoch knew nothing about this either.
And what about the Eurozone? Twenty years ago, Germans endlessly repeated Thomas Mann’s post-1945 wish to see “not a German Europe but a European Germany”. Today a telling variation is doing the rounds. Chat to most people in Berlin and you will be told that what is needed now is “a European Germany in a German Europe”! There can be no doubt that, alone amongst the EU states, Germany has practised the kind of budget, debt and wage discipline that is precisely what the whole of Europe need. No surprise then that Germans resent the prospect of giving away most of what they have achieved to nations that have failed totally. No surprise either that the price of rescue will be a German Europe. Just what David Cameron is trying to achieve is less clear. Is it his aim to be part of Rule Germania or is he trying to achieve the total expulsion so desired by his right-wing whilst being able to blame it on Aunty Merkel to appease the Lib Dems?
As if all this wasn’t enough to confuse us we then learn that the first ‘privatisation’ of an NHS hospital has been nodded through. You have to hand it to Lansley, he ploughs on with his reforms regardless of approval from either parliament or the medical profession and the fact that ‘Circle’, the new private sector owners, are known to be friends of his should take nothing away from admiration for his Liam Fox-like cunning. But he does seem to have missed some of the detail.
As more and more NHS hospitals fall under the control of private companies how will postcode medicine be avoided. Who will undertake the teaching and training of doctors? Who will handle the less profitable elderly patients? What is to stop Circle extending the number of private beds to the point where locals who cannot afford to pay have to travel to other areas? On last night’s ‘Question Time’ a seemingly half-witted lady panellist asked why it is that private hospitals are quieter, nicer places to be when you are ill. It just might have something to do with the fact that they handle about one-twentieth of the numbers that flood an NHS hospital, and handle no emergency work. Another panel meber said that Andy Burnham was planning to do the same. Yes he was, but the idea that that somehow makes the move sensible is very odd given that he is arguably almost as daft as Lansley.
Yes, it’s a funny old world as seen from the allotments this morning. But, as my old Mum used to say, we must look on the bright side. Doing that requires a belief that all the mighty know exactly what they are doing and the only reason we serfs cannot undertsnad is that we are denser that a hen-run post.
Let us hope that is the truth of it!
The allotments are a sorry sight today. The hen-runs are a sea of mud and another delivery of gravel is on the way. The gardeners have been down to dig their potatoes, pick their peas and beans and to lift their onions. Like us they trailed home soaked to the skin and clumping along in wellies weighing twice their real weight. “Things can only get better” I said in an attempt to lighten the mood. I was put down rather quickly, according to Albert they must certainly won’t. To add to his depression centered around the belief that the weather is going to get even worse and that the nation is broken in every sense of the word, he added the view that the NHS is ‘done for’.
He is probably right on the last point for yesterday MPs passed the Lansley bill by a majority of 65. Despite all the pledges made by Clegg to his own party conference, and subsequently to the nation at large, he finally rolled over and took the Cameron line. No great surprise really, only four Lib Dem MPs voted with their oft-proclaimed consciences. I noticed a letter in this morning’s press from a Lib Dem member in which he describes this as the last straw.
What was a surprise, to me at least, was the performance of David Cameron in the debate. His act was as always very Blair-like, very persuasive. That’s my description, Albert likes to describe him as the king of bullshit. Either way, his speech was remarkable for one thing above all others, he lied to the House. A lot of hesitant MPs were impressed when he reported; “Now you’ve got the Royal College of GPs, the physicians, the nurses, people working in the health service, supporting the changes we’re making”. Many assumed this represented a sudden change of heart and concluded that they must be listening to ‘breaking news’.
Within hours the various bodies quoted angrily refuted what the prime minister had said. Peter Carter, general secretary of the Royal College of Nursing said; “We still have very serious concerns about where these reforms leave a health service already facing an unprecedented financial challenge. At a time when the NHS needs to fund £20 billion in cuts and to deal with an ageing population, we are telling MPs this bill risks creating a new and expensive bureaucracy and fragmenting care’.
Clare Gereda, chair of the Royal College of GPs, seemed equally angry. She said; “We continue to have a number of concerns about the government’s reforms which, if implemented in their present format, will lead to an increase in damaging competition, an increase in health inequalities, and massively increased costs in implementing this system. As independent research shows, the NHS is one of the world’s most efficient healthcare systems and we should keep it that way”.
Of course the prime minister was practicing the oldest trick in the political tricks book. Under the protection of parliamentary privilege, he omitted the words ‘some of’ and declared that total organisations were in favour of something to which they are actually opposed. His mentor, Tony Blair, must be proud of him.
Just hours later one of his ministers lifted the lid on what is to come. In a speech to the Independent Healthcare Forum, Lord Howe talked of private companies “doing well as long as they could offer high quality services that compete with current NHS care. He said that the new bill would present “huge opportunities” for the private sector”. He did not mention what will happen to NHS hospitals once the private sector has availed itself of this huge opportunity by cherry-picking the profitable services.
The bill now faces its last obstacle, the Lords and Shirley Williams who has long opposed it. But at best she can only delay it and we must reconcile ourselves to the fact that Lansley has won. Even those who favour privatisation worry at the shambolic nature of the bill and people of all persuasions were surely worried at the main reason given for nodding it through. It was said that implementation is too far advanced to stop. Think about that! Lansley has already decimated the Primary Care Trusts and Health Authorities. He has deliberately proceeded with the biggest change ever to hit the NHS without the sanction of parliament.
I know the NHS, and its ways, well. Of late it has reached its highest performance levels ever. But it is beginning to crumble and I believe through every bone in my body that it is heading for destruction and replacement by an American style system. Good news for some, a death sentence for others.
R.I.P dear NHS, you have served us all well without influence of wealth or background. You have met your fate at the hands of lying ministers, cowardly Lib Demmers and an opposition incapable of opposition.
Years from now poorer people will look back in envy!
ANSWERS TO YESTERDAY’S QUIZ; 1. Margaret Kelly 2. Etta James 3. Sleep on it 4. The Passion Play 5. Mahogany 6. Chelsea 7. Jones 8. Die Hard 9. Clean & pollution free 10. Pectin
Harold Wilson once remarked that a week in politics is a long time. It seems that he was right. Just a week ago the general sentiment in the allotment shed was definitely pro-Coalition. Today a noticeable change was evident and even allowing for the postponement of ferret racing due to the arrival of the monsoons the members were unusually grumpy. The small element that opposed the idea from the start were in an ‘I told you so’ mood whilst the majority who realise that the Cameron/Clegg dream ticket is our last hope now realise that the word dream was a little overblown.
Perhaps the last straw came in the shape of David Laws. Unknown to us until suddenly rocketed to supreme power as the head of the campaign to slash expenditure, he made a good initial impression. Here was a no-nonsense Lib Dem determined to get over the message that in the crucial months ahead every penny must count. He more than any other had the task of persuading us that sacrifices had to be made and examples set. The Daily Telegraph, which seems better able that the official Watchdog to monitor expenses, has produced evidence that Mr Laws is hardly in a position to preach to us and his position is clearly untenable.
Prior to this bombshell we had the fiasco of the BBC’s Question Time. Millions tuned in to hear the traditional debate about the Queen’s Speech only to learn that the Coalition had refused to field a Minister unless the membership of the panel was changed. Even the normally avuncular David Bumblebee was moved to remark that it was not for Downing Street to dictate such things. It was both incompetent and arrogant, a sign perhaps of the knives being sharpened for our only truly independent broadcaster.
When Mr Cameron came to Yorkshire he did appear to partly redeem things when he spoke of the need to reintroduce manufacturing into our economy. If a nation fails to make things it must import them and that is not a good way to establish a sound balance of trade. But the Old Etonian then plunged into the black books of many of the ferreters when he added that we must do it Thatcher-style. Hardly! Many of our members are skilled time-served men who were swept on the human scrap heap when the Thatcher government set about destroying our manufacturing base. One Minister at the time told me that our day was done, why engage in dirty work when other countries wil do it for you!
There are countless examples, none more appalling than the fate of the Leyland Vehicles and Rover Group empires which contained many plants involved in high quality, highly profitable components. When the Government gifted the empires to companies from abroad no attempt was made to ensure that the manufacturing base was retained in the UK.
We were constantly told that Britain had the benefit of ‘invisible earnings’. We have since learned that what the Banking houses did was invisible in more ways than one! We began to breed a massive industry based on consultancy and bureaucracy. The pin-stripe replaced the greasy overall.
One can only hope that Mr Cameron’s plan to return to the old dollar-earning skilled crafts is more firmly founded than it sounds. It needs to be more reliable than what he and his twin brother Clegg predicted about fat cats and the Lords. It will be streamlined and no longer based on the old pals network they cried to frenzied appaluse of disgruntled ferret keepers. Today we read of 55 more Peers being appointed. Amongst their numbers are a line up of those who backed Cameron including Michael Howard, donor Dolar Popat and other cronies. And as if to prove that none of the parties meant what they promised other appointments include two-Jags Prescott, Ian Paisley and all.
This catalogue of mishaps has occured in a week when changes to capital gains tax mean a further hammering for long-term savers. Many older folk rely on the interest from savings made over a lifetime of thrift. Small wonder that our Dave dropped hints about interest rate rises. But even that was odd since the Bank of England led by the dynamic Mervyn King is supposed to be in sole charge of such matters.
But, as one of the more optimistic ferret racers remarked, maybe one week from now we will be back to singing the praises of the marriage made in heaven. Then again his record at forecasting the outcome of the Thursday night ferret race suggests that he is to forecasting what Cyril Smith was to abseiling!
Tomorrow………………..How much do we really know?………………………..?