Posts Tagged ‘Medical Profession’
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
The TV was switched on in the clubhouse yesterday and, for want of something better to do, we sat around clutching our mugs of hot tea watching Geiorge Osborne perform at the Conservative Party conference. Just a few days ago we laid on the grass for our break, now we are back to shivering in the face of a fierce and penetrating wind. And the chancellor, who always reminds me of a school prefect lecturing the fags, did little to warm our hearts.
In fairness there is little of cheer that he can say right now, although it did prompt us to thank heavens for Grumpy Gordon’s veto of Blair’s plan to take us in to the Euro. But in reality Osborne is right, we cannot relax our attempts to reduce the deficit. But what irks us old codgers is the amount of money being poured into futile projects, money that would be better spent providing some of the essential services being cut.
An obvious example is Afghanistan. Ten years on, the Taliban is stronger than ever and no one seriously believes that we are going to succeed where the Russians failed anytime soon. Yet we continue to pour £4.5 billion into the project each year. There are many other examples, but the one that strikes us particularly is the £3 billion being poured into the so-called NHS reforms which yesterday attracted more vitriol from the medical profession with warnings that the whole system is sliding into chaos.
The biggest single factor are the massive cuts being applied to the budget of every hospital. If someone less half-witted than Lansley occupied the Secretary of Health’s seat they would surely by now have dropped the reforms in favour of halting the culling of nursing staff. Right across the country the numbers of nurses per ward are being slashed, and there is no doubt that we are reaching the point where the lives of seriously ill patients are being put at risk.
In a poll conducted last week 52% of nurses said that the cuts are affecting patient care. Over half of those surveyed said that they are now too busy to give patients the necessary level of care, and 32% insisted that the overall quality of nursing care is in sharp decline. A massive 57% said that they are now having to work over and above their contracted hours as a result of staff shortages. The poll was conducted by the Royal College of Nursing which questionned 8000 nurses.
The chief exceutive of the college is Dr Peter Carter who said yesterday; “Nurses are at the heart of everything that is good about the NHS and this is yet more evidence that the frontline is not being protected. Nurses are wilting under the strain of longer working hours, taking on the burden of unfilled vancancies and reduced staffing levels. All these short-term measures are likely to leave patients with poorer care and a worse NHS”.
Almost every hospital Trust reports a deteriorating situation. Plymouth hospitals have axed 145 from its nursing care team, and the Royal College has claimed that patient safety is now at risk. In Portsmouth some of the posts axed include specialist nurses which give care to people with long-term medical conditions. In London, Camden and Islington 69 posts have been axed, most of which dealt with the mentally ill. The list is a long one and is growing by the day as Foundation Trusts are summoned to the lush London offices of the regulator Monitor and ordered to achieve cuts whatever it takes.
It is now just a matter of time before deaths resulting from insufficient nurses will hit the headlines. Even the Daily Mail, which seems to specialise in condemning the NHS, will be forced to concede that this government has totally misread the situation.
There is talk of the Lords refusing to endorse the NHS bill which is now before it. If it does the house of privilege will have performed a rare public service. But even if it does, Lansley will undoubtedly press ahead with a resubmission. Meantime the changes are being enacted and huge amounts of taxpayer’s money are being squandered, money that could have been used to maintain at least the safe level of nursing.
We ancient chicken-keepers often mock David Cameron but we do believe that there is compassion behind that bland exterior. We can only assume that he simply doesn’t realise what is happening on the front line of nursing. Pethaps he is listening to Lansley whose nature prompts him to regard any warning as unenlightened opposition. Frankly the man is incapable of running a chip shop let alone the service that, in extremis, is the one likely to impact most severely on every family.
The vast majority of nurses are caring and dedicated. Last week, when on a visit to a busy ward, I was chatting to one who is both of those things and more. She seemed exhausted and dispirited. She said that she feels shame at the little time she and her colleagues now have to attend to patients needs. Her buzzer called her away and, as she rushed off, she remarked that the roof has fallen in on her world.
It is about to fall in on all of ours too unless someone can stop the madness. We are not talking about more money, all that is needed is a switch from ‘reforms’, opposed by every clinician in the land, to safe levels of staffing.
We felt a little like the England bowlers this morning. It was raining heavily when we arrived at the allotments and things went downhill from there. Some roofing had blown off during the night and creatures unknown had gained entry to our corn store. But life, as with cricket, is like that. Sometimes everything goes well, sometimes the opposite. With that in mind I was back at home by 11.00am to watch Sir Lanka resume their innings at Lords. England couldn’t possibly bowl as badly as yesterday. But they did!
But whatever the day’s fortunes, I always feel grateful for the things that I haven’t got. And top of the list is ME or, to use its medical title, Myalgic Encephalomyelitis. It is often the case that when the medical profession labels something ‘itis’ it is a clear indication that it hasn’t a clue as to cause or cure. In the case of ME it is even worse than that for there is a sizeable section of clinicians who deny its very existence despite the fact that sufferers are often weakened to the point of total exhaustion. One such once asked a friend if his walking stick was a psychological crutch. Tom answered that without it he would fall flat on his face.
I was reminded of all this when Yvette Cooper, the shadow home secretary, chose the Hay Festival to talk about her own nightmare. The illness – also known as Chronic Fatigue Syndrome – struck when she was 24 and working as a researcher for the late John Smith. She contracted flu one January and, in effect, it never went away. She recalls it as a horrible time; “I didn’t know when it would ever end. I couldn’t leave the house, I couldn’t even get out to buy a newspaper. All those things you take for granted like running for a bus were totally beyond me”.
Compared to some sufferers from ME, Yvette was fortunate in having an enlightened GP. Instead of ludicrously suggesting that the whole thing was simply in her mind, he said that he believed it was triggered by some sort of virus and treated her accordingly. But it was a very long and depressing experience. It was brave of her to open up publicly on this for right now there are many sufferers who are totally debilitated and endure advice about ‘pulling themselves together’. I know from my pal that there were periods when he could hardly pull the sheets on the bed!
It is estimated that at any one time the illness affects around 250,000 in Britain alone. It leaves then severely lacking in energy and struggling to recover, there being no agreed cure. I did once chair a large conference on the subject. I was struck by the brave determination of so many for whom simply getting there had been a huge achievement. Various doctors came along to lead the discussion and one particularly impressed me. She had suffered herself and was convinced that the answer lay in finding a beneficial regime of vitamins.
Other speakers included a top-class athlete who had been suddenly stricken down. One day she could run ten miles without pausing for breath, the next she needed help to climb the stairs. My lasting impression was of a condition that strikes at all ages and which takes away all hope. And at that time many GPs were dismissive of the what some then chose to call ‘yuppies disease’.
There is now an active ME association and much more clinical involvement in research and the provision of help. But the battle goes on for many and it is hard to imagine suffering from something that suddenly renders you bedridden and yet is claimed by some to be an invention.
It must have cheered many that Yvette Cooper, essentially a private person, decided to publicise her own ordeal. Knowing that we are not alone is the greatest comfort anyone suffering from anything can have.
THOUGHTS FOR TODAY; HOUSEWORK; “I hate housework. You make the beds, you do the dishes, and six months later, you have to start all over again”…..Joan Rivers “Cleaning your house while the kids are still growing is like shovelling the path before it stops snowing”……Phyllis Diller “As far as I know, a single man has never vacuumed behind a couch”…..Rita Rudner “I buried a lot of my ironing in the back yard”…..Phyllis Diller “My second favourite household chore is ironing, my first being hitting my head on the top bunk bed until I faint”….Erma Bombeck “I’m 18 years behind with my ironing. There’s no point in doing it now, it doesn’t fit anyone I know’…….Phyllis Diller “I would like to marry a nice, domesticated homosexual guy who has a fetish for wiping down Formica and different vacuum cleaner attachments”……Jenny Eclair “In painting a ceiling, a good rule of thumb is that there should be at least as much paint on the ceiling as on your hair”….P J O’Rourke “Our terraced house was so small that the mice used to walk about on their back legs”…..Les Dawson “A neighbour is someone who has just run out of something”……Robert Benchley “I’m a wonderful housekeep. Every time I get divorced, I keep the house”….Zsa Zsa Gabor
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?
Despite the mild weather the football fans amongst our allotment gang seemed slightly uneasy this morning. On the one hand they all want their team to succeed but the price of doing so has just risen to ludicrous levels. Torres was deemed to be worth three times the amount that the coalition wish to save by selling off our forests and even a new boy on the block from Newcastle is apparently worth twice the saving. Express those amounts in policemen or nurses and you have the final proof that our society has lost all sense of values. Of course the money is being provided by cash-rich tycoons from abroad but it still leaves a nasty taste. No doubt the seemingly benevolent will hike up admission charges again for next season, so the fans will ultimately pay if they still have jobs to provide the readies.
Who knows, we may be heading for foreign ownership of the NHS once the overseas speculators tire of playing with Premiership football clubs. If the prestigious Lancet is to be believed the NHS is heading for an inglorious end so anything is possible. The Lancet is THE organ of the medical profession and is not given to hyperbole. It’s editorial is therefore worrying in the extreme. It predicts the end of the NHS and goes on to say that “for the Tories to call themselves the party of the NHS was a commitment that seems particularly hollow now”.
Yesterday the results of a survey carried out by the Royal College of General Practitioners were published. 1800 GPs took part and a clear majority said they were concerned the reforms would not improve patient care. Chair of the College, Clare Gerada, said that GPs are worried about the pace at which the reforms are being implemented, the danger of fragmentation of services, and the great emphasis on competition. She added “GPs fear that these reforms could cause irreparable and irreversible damage to the NHS”.
Having been involved as a Chair of both a Primary Care Trust and an acute hospiotal I had already realised that to make such drastic changes at the same time as imposing cuts of £20 billion will inevitably lead to chaos. Yesterday I learned that the government’s bill incredibly includes a payment from the NHS budget to private sector providers. For each billion contracted out, the NHS must pay a ‘subsidy’ of £140 million. The logic here escapes me, it is a further blatant example of the Cameron/Lansley determination to privatise services.
As I have commented before this will lead to cherry picking with the NHS hospitals left to provide acute services from a limited number of hospitals.Expect whiolesale closures, expect postcode medicine the like of which we have never seen before, expect waiting times to double, expect already overworked GPs to simply delegate commissioning back to the PCTs wearing a different hat.
Perhaps the most telling judgement of all came yesterday from a member of the health select committee, Andrew George. Mr George is a leading Lib Dem MP. He told the BBC that “most of the informed and authoritative commentators on this all agree this may result in a race to the bottom, and it certainly will. And I think it will compromise quality of treatment too”
Can everyone, including members of the coaltion, be so wrong. I think not. David Cameron remarked that even his brother-in-law (a doctor ) is apprehensive. We should all be, for on the rare occasions when the Lancet has taken up a position, it has always been proved right.
When every member of a family is in good health it is easy to laugh at the antics of someone like Andrew Lansley. But to current users the man is a walking nightmare. We should perhaps remember that there will inevitably be a time when the whole family is not well!. By then it may be too late and right now we have to decide whether we trust the professionals or Cameron/Lansley. Easy choice really isn’t it?
THOUGHTS FOR TODAY; ” A woman without a man is like a fish without a bicycle”…Florynce Kennedy ” Ask a woman how she feels and she will tell you all about every relationship she’s ever been in. Ask a man and he’ll tell you he feels like a pizza”….Diana Ford ” A man has to be Adolph Hitler to be called ruthless. All a woman has to do is put you on hold”….Marlo Thomas ” Feminism is a wonderful idea – until the car goes wrong”..Nicola Zweig ” The Woman’s Movement would be a lot more successful if men were running it”……. Alan Clark “In Newcastle being gay means ’owns a coat’ “….Jimmy Carr “Do men who like to dress up as women find that they can no longer parallel park?”…Roseanne “Its better to be black than gay because when you’re black you don’t have to tell your mother”….Charles Pierce “Most women are attracted to the simple things in life. Like men”….Sophia Loren ” Remember if you smoke after sex, you’re doing it too fast”….Woody Allen ” My wife and I were happy for twenty years, and then we met”….Rodney Dangerfield
ANSWERS TO YESTERDAY’S QUIZ; 1.Michael Crawford 2. Last of the Summer Wine
TODAY’S QUESTIONS; 1. Where was Gough Whitlam once prime minister? 2. What organisation did the Rev ‘Tubby’ Clayton (died in 1972) found?