Tag Archives: chronic

Coronavirus discrimination: surgery asks chronically sick and disabled patients to refuse treatment

People with serious health conditions and disabilities who are registered with a GP surgery in Wales had a nasty surprise in the post.

The surgery sent them a letter saying if they caught the coronavirus, the best thing for them to do would be to reject treatment and wait for death – and it asked them to sign a form confirming it.

Llynfi Surgery, in Llynfi Road, Maesteg, sent the letter to patients with serious health conditions such as incurable cancer, motor neurone disease, and untreatable heart and lung conditions, on March 27.

It comes as further confirmation that people with disabilities will suffer adverse discrimination in the coronavirus crisis – that government guidance is to abandon them.

The letter states that people with these conditions are “unlikely to be offered hospital admission” if they become unwell with coronavirus and “certainly will not be offered a ventilator bed”.

It continued: “We would therefore like to complete a DNACPR form for you which we can share with the OOH [out of hours] GP services and which will mean that in the event of a sudden deterioration in your condition because of a Covid-19 infection or disease progression the emergency services will not be called and resuscitation attempts to restart your heart or breathing will not be attempted.”

Going on, it suggested that the “best option” for patients is to stay at home to be cared for by their family with “ongoing support from ourselves and community nursing services”.

It listed “benefits” to signing the DNACPR form:

  • “Your GP and more importantly your friends and family will know not to call 999”;
  • “Scarce ambulance resources can be targeted to the young and fit who have chance of surviving the infection”, and;
  • “The risk of transmitting the virus to friends, family and emergency responders from CPR (even chest compression alone) is very high. By having a DNACPR form in place you protect your family and emergency responders from this additional risk”.

The final line reads: “We will not abandon you but we need to be frank and realistic about what the next few months holds for all of us.”

Wales Online reported on this scandalous correspondence, saying that the local health board had contacted patients who were upset by the letter, to apologise and “answer any concerns”.

And both the Welsh Assembly member and MP have issued a joint statement saying this was “not a standard letter” and the board is working with the surgery “to offer compassionate and sound advice in the very best traditions of our health service”.

You’ll notice that there isn’t a single line in these comments that contradicts the suggestions in the letter.

If anything, it seems the authorities have simply been embarrassed that it has stated the facts about government guidance on long-term sick and disabled patients who contract the coronavirus in a blunt way.

The affair seems to be confirmation that the government is indeed using the coronavirus to cull “useless eaters”, in line with the eugenics beliefs of Boris Johnson and Dominic Cummings, and the Nazi-style persecution of people with long-term health issues that has been carried out by successive Conservative governments over the last decade.

Source: Surgery asks sickest patients to sign ‘do not attempt CPR’ form if they get Covid-19 – Wales Online

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Two die amid threats of losing benefits and eviction

The late Julia Kelly

The late Julia Kelly

Conservative-led Coalition Government welfare policy has led to two more deaths, it has been revealed.

One concerns a man suffering from depression who was living in fear of eviction after his benefits were stopped (no reason was given in the news report), and the other involves a woman whose suicide was allegedly triggered by a DWP letter demanding repayment of £4,000 in disability benefit.

The Lancashire Telegraph reported that the body of 34-year-old father-of-three Benjamin Del McDonald, who suffered with depression, was found last November.

East Lancashire Coroner Richard Taylor said: “Something must have happened to make him behave the way he did, because He had so much more to live for, especially his relationship with his daughter.

“At the time, his money had been stopped, he had no form of income, and he said he was threatened with eviction from his home – all matters that can play one someone’s mind very much.

“The appropriate conclusion for me today is that while he was suffering from a significant bout of depression, he took his own life.”

The full report is in the Lancashire Telegraph.

In Northampton, 39-year-old Julia Kelly was found to have taken her own life, days after receiving a series of letters from the Department for Work and Pensions including one demanding that she repay £4,000 in Employment and Support Allowance payments.

She had faced three tribunals in a bid to keep her benefit, and her family “firmly believed” the stress caused by the DWP over her claim was what “triggered” her suicide.

A statement by her father, David Kelly, said: “We firmly believe the letter from the DWP was the trigger for her actions. Not to be believed by the DWP that she was suffering chronic back pain and also to be accused of wrongdoing and be told her payments might be stopped – we believe she snapped and could not take it anymore.”

Mr Kelly said his daughter had been forced to “fight for every penny” of disability benefit including attending three tribunal cases.

The DWP had claimed that Ms Kelly was not entitled to claim ESA as she had failed to declare capital funds.

Together with her father, she had set up a charity called Away With Pain, to help fellow sufferers of chronic back pain.

The Northampton Chronicle report states: “Ms Kelly, who previously worked for Northamptonshire Young Carers, had to give up work in 2010 due to a severe back injury that had grown progressively worse since a car crash, which wasn’t her fault, in 2005.

“In 2013, Ms Kelly was involved in another car crash which fractured the part of her spine that had been fused together. To repair this damge she needed a major operation lasting six hours.

“Talking to the Chron last February Ms Kelly said: ‘One person said “until it happens to you, you have no idea what is involved”. It stops your life in its tracks and that is it. Pain management is probably the most under-funded area of the NHS and yet this is something that doesn’t go away. People do get suicidal.

“’You actually go through the bereavement process; not losing a person but you have lost the old you. Your morals and everything are the same, but that girl who used to jump in her car or who was the wildest on the dance floor, that has all changed. You have to get your head around that and be realistic about your expectations.

“’In my head I was going to get better, then when it didn’t happen, it was like ‘oh God, now what happens?’ Some people don’t get to that mind-set, through no fault of their own, so many people fall through the net.'”

The full report is on the Northampton Chronicle.

A general election is approaching. If a Conservative-led government gains office again, ask yourself how many more people will die prematurely?

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Another ESA-related death but the DWP wants us to believe there’s no connection

140310death

The latest person to die while facing a change to his sickness benefit is Neil Groves, who was hit by a train at Surbiton station on his 46th birthday.

Mr Groves died just after 7.30pm on February 13. His father Ronald, 78, told local paper the Kingston Guardian a potential change to his son’s Employment and Support Allowance “must have” weighed on him.

He said: “He has obviously had it in his mind. They basically told him that his assessment was coming up again.

“He knew it probably would be the end of his sickness and disability and he would go back on to [Jobseekers’ Allowance].

“He said he would not be able to manage on that wage a week. It is all part and parcel of it.”

Mr Groves had received Incapacity Benefit for some years, his father said, which was stopped after an assessment, and he was not moved on to ESA.

He later won an appeal against the decision.

He had recently been diagnosed with chronic depression.

You can read the story on the newspaper’s website.

The DWP, in an email to the Information Commissioner that was copied to yr obdt srvt as part of the disclosure process for the forthcoming tribunal on claimant mortality statistics, has stated: “There is no evidence of a link between the death of an individual and their receipt of a social security benefit.”

Do you think that’s accurate?

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You are ‘infrahuman’ and your government thinks you are ‘stock’ – even if you voted for it

130516colinbrewer

The public voted him back in: Disgraced former Cornwall councillor Colin Brewer resigned over remarks he made about the disabled – it seems he has suggested disabled children should be treated in the same way as deformed lambs. These comments are beyond the pale but the electorate in his Cornish ward voted him back into office, knowing what he had said! What does that tell us about attitudes in Britain today?

 

This is a sequel. Last October, Vox Political published Living under the threat of welfare reform, a personal account of the hardships suffered by just one disabled benefit claimant as a result of the Coalition government’s crude and unnecessary attacks on people who are unable to work and must rely on social security. The author expressed fears about her future, after the main changes to benefits that were expected in April this year. Vox Political contacted her earlier this week to find out how she was coping, and this article is the result. Please welcome Sasson Hann:

Definition of ‘welfare’: the good fortune, health, happiness prosperity, etc., of a person, group, or organisation; well-being: to look after a child’s welfare; the physical or moral welfare of society.

When I first read ‘21st Century Welfare‘ published in the summer of 2010, 10 months after I was forced to give up my professional career, I realised that those of us reliant on benefits were facing an almost insurmountable challenge to their well-being: a challenge like nothing before in recent history.

At the time, I spoke to friends about the possible consequences of welfare reform, then subsequently became distraught and angry when hearing that people had died after having benefits reduced or removed; sadly, now a weekly occurrence. So when Vox Political asked me to write a guest blog – an update of my personal circumstances – in all honesty, I felt that my situation was nothing in comparison: it’s challenging nonetheless.

The collective mindset towards people who claim benefits has definitely changed since 2010. ‘Hate crimes’ are in the news; hateful comments under articles in online newspapers. In fact a new term coined by researchers for this change – particularly toward benefit claimants – is ‘infrahumanism‘; people viewed as ‘less’ than human. Colin Brewer, the disgraced former Cornish councillor who was forced to resign after making derogatory comments about disabled children is an extreme example of this. Only yesterday he was reported as saying that society should treat disabled babies like farmers treat deformed lambs: the police are investigating. What concerns me more is why a community recently voted him back into office: what does this indicate?

Attitudes have certainly altered towards me, though not as drastically. Strangers think that they have the right to walk up to me and demand: ”What’s wrong with your legs then?’  People think it’s fair that the government should force me from my home of 27 years. Others cast doubt on my integrity, not believing that I’m too disabled to work. Some repeatedly ask me to explain why I receive certain levels of care and benefits, even why I should need a wheelchair outside: not indicative of ‘infrahumanism’ exactly, but definitely insensitive. Of all the pressures a disabled person faces, frequently having to justify your disability is one of the hardest challenges.

As for financial matters, my income has dropped drastically since 2010. I receive DLA and I’m in the ESA support group; a half decent income. That was until 2 years ago when my local authority started charging me for my care – some £3,000 per annum – despite me having no assets or savings. Nevertheless, I adjusted, and figured that unlike some, at least I had a ‘personalised’ care package.

Then I had a care reassessment last year. The assessor informed me that most of what my carers do was ‘no longer funded’. Basically, the new packages focus on eating and keeping a person clean: we do more for pets. I fought and gained a hollow victory: whilst I retained 75 per cent of the hours, social services dictated their use; I would also have to pay extra for private care. Ironically, in 2011, the government published a document about personalisation, but implemented the exact opposite. The reassessment commences again in July – another six months of stress compounded by the additional yearly financial and disability reassessments. I tell myself this is the ‘new normal’: I must rise to these challenges; not so easy when chronic illness dominates your life.

Beginning in April, I had the extra cost of a £100 per month bedroom tax (my housing association has nowhere for me to move to); along with the extra care costs, this totals £5,900 per annum. As a result, I can rarely socialise now, and it will take much longer to save to replace things. I reasoned that at least I have a home, enough money to pay bills, buy food, and the occasional treat. It’s unnerving though not having a financial buffer if my benefits are removed: a sobering thought. I have a good network of family and friends to help me, but ultimately, like others, they can’t afford to keep me financially long term; is it any wonder that some feel they cannot carry on, that there is no way out?

Multiply what I’ve lost by thousands of households in my area and country-wide, and imagine just how much money is being taken out of the local/national economy; how damaging this will become. In Wales for instance, due to historical poverty, the cuts to benefits have affected one in three people, such that the Welsh Assembly have recently appointed the first ‘Poverty Minister‘, claiming that austerity will cause hardship not known since the 1930’s.

When the Conservatives were last in power in the 80s, they scrapped housing benefit for the low-paid, water was privatised, and the Poll Tax was introduced. It had a dire affect on my family: we couldn’t afford heating so we suffered painful chilblains and contracted continual chest infections; without heating, the flat developed inch thick black mould on the walls; we couldn’t dry our clothes properly so they smelled of mildew; we were lucky if we could afford one meal a day; after a number of years our clothes and shoes wore out; we regularly had to go without soap, washing powder, loo roll, personal hygiene products and the like. It was a dark and miserable time for us.

I cannot begin to describe what it is like to have your dignity stripped away like this; I never thought I would see such hard times again: I was sadly mistaken. The current cuts to services and benefits go much further than this, leaving people with no safety net and no access to legal services. Incredulously, it isn’t even saving the government much money.

The government say we can’t afford the welfare bill, but regular readers of Vox Political will know there is in fact plenty of money sloshing around. The moving of public money into private hands, and also into the pockets of MPs and Lords: money that should be used to stimulate growth and improve the lives of all. If the post war government had enough money to set up the NHS, the welfare state, and embark on a massive building programme – when they were in a far worse financial situation – then our government can do the same. Yet laughably, MPs were this week lambasting the BBC because of the ‘excessive’ £24,000 average payment made to staff who moved to Salford, when MPs claim far more in expenses every year. On the other end of the scale, the ‘stock’ – as the government like to call us – who suffer and die for the sake of a few pounds a week are collateral damage; acceptable losses like deformed lambs. And if those who are left cannot afford a home and food, so what? A nightmarish ‘survival of the fittest’ scenario.

I can’t do much to oppose this; I’m too ill to attend protests. Occasionally I help people claim benefits and appeal, apply to charities, look up information and advise them, write and print a CV, and I’ve even negotiated with bailiffs! I tell everyone I meet about how welfare reform is affecting people, and I write as much as I’m able. This is all some of us can do; facing each challenge and fighting each battle, one by one. Notwithstanding this human catastrophe, I remain sanguine: I love life and I will not despair.

Martin Luther King Jr said: “The ultimate measure of a man is not where he stands in moments of comfort and convenience, but where he stands at times of challenge.” The government’s answer to that ‘challenge’ is to make the poorest destitute, the opposite to the definition of ‘welfare’: in this we perceive their ‘measure’. Consequently, we ‘infrahumans’ are facing a challenge so great that it will be remembered in history: are you up to this challenge? For all of the people who aren’t; for the many families who have lost loved ones: those of us left have to be.

Sasson Hann May 13, 2013.

Are British workers being lured into health insurance that will never pay out?

unum

Working people in the UK could be facing a huge drain on their income, if they join an insurance scheme being offered by a discredited American firm.

It seems that the company behind the hated Work Capability Assessment that has denied disability benefits to thousands of genuinely sick and disabled people, has begun a mass-marketing campaign to encourage able-bodied members of the British public to invest in ‘Income Protection Insurance’, and another scheme known as the ‘Back-up Plan’.

This insurance scheme is only available via the workplace, and it is understood that it has been designed to ensure that the company can resist paying out whenever a claim is made.

In other words, if you join the scheme, you will be giving away your money to a criminal firm. If you become ill or suffer disability in the future, you will not receive a single penny of the insurance money that is due to you.

That is the allegation against Unum Insurance, the American giant that has spent more than two decades advising successive British governments on how to avoid paying sickness and disability benefits to the most deserving claimants in our society.

If you have been contacted in the workplace and offered a chance to take out this insurance, please get in touch. Your experience of this system and insights into its operating procedures could be invaluable.

For those who don’t know the Unum story, you can read some of it here. Unum’s bosses devised their current system to combat the rise of ‘subjective’ illnesses such as ‘chronic pain’, ‘chronic fatigue syndrome’, fibromyalgia, multiple sclerosis, Lyme disease.

The solution devised by the bosses was to reduce the number of successful claims it paid out, by aggressively disputing whether the claimant was ill. So the company skewed its medical examinations to its own favour by questioning illnesses that were “self-reported”, labelling some disabling conditions as “psychological”, and playing up the “subjective” nature of “mental” and “nervous” claims.

The acknowledged basis for this attitude is the Biopsychosocial Model of illness, developed by the psychiatrist George Engel – but it’s a bastardised version, removing the bio- and -social aspects and concentrating on the ‘psycho’. This version of the theory, as used by Unum, has been utterly discredited. It is nonsense, totally disregarding such inconvenient medical procedures as diagnosis and prognosis, or limited life expectancy.

But it proved a great success for Unum – so much so that the UK government sought advice from the company in the early 1990s, when Peter Lilley was running the Department of Social Security. He wanted to reduce the number of disability claimants on his books, and Unum was only too happy to help out. It has been at the heart of disability benefit policy ever since.

We have Unum to thank for the Work Capability Assessment (administered by another private firm, Atos – an IT firm that has no expertise in healthcare, even though that word occasionally appears on its company logo). The recommendations made by Atos representatives, following these assessments, have led to the deaths of at least 73 genuinely ill people every week (according to government figures that are now almost a year old), who have claimed Employment and Support Allowance (formerly Incapacity Benefit). The real figure may be much higher.

The Coalition government considers this to be a great achievement and has now begun expanding the Work Capability Assessment regime to cover claims for Disability Living Allowance, now branded the Personal Independence Payment, with criteria that are much more difficult to achieve.

We can all expect many more deaths to arise from this.

Now, it seems, Unum believes the UK is ripe for bleeding – and that is why it is trying to sell its bogus insurance to working people here.

If you have been contacted, please get in touch.

For further information (with annotations pointing to the really damning evidence) see ‘The Hidden Agenda’ by disability researcher Mo Stewart.

When big business dabbles with welfare; a cautionary tale

unum“Jack Gilligan, who was the Democratic governor of Ohio… said ‘You know there will never be democracy in America when big business can buy both parties and expect a pay-off, whichever one wins. And you know, a touch of that may possibly have spread in this direction.” Tony Benn.

I have been researching the relationship between US insurance giant (and lawbreaker) Unum and successive UK governments – Conservative, New Labour and Coalition – and the minimal research I have managed so far tells me that, if there’s one thing the Labour Party needs to do to ensure its electability in 2015, that thing is the expulsion of Unum and all private insurance firms, their subsidiaries, partner companies, and people who have worked with or for them, from any position of influence. Kick them right out!

Any government that fraternises with these vampires puts corporate profits above the well-being of its citizens. That is clear from what I have read. I want to go into certain aspects in detail, but before that, you deserve to know the details, so I’ve written a little story for you:

Once upon a time, a big insurance company had a little problem. It had been making money hand-over-fist by investing people’s premiums in high-interest portfolios, but interest rates were falling and new kinds of ‘subjective illness’ had arisen, for which medical science was not prepared – ‘chronic pain’, ‘chronic fatigue syndrome’, fibromyalgia, multiple sclerosis, Lyme disease.

The solution devised by the bosses was to reduce the number of successful claims it paid out, by aggressively disputing whether the claimant was ill. So the company skewed its medical examinations to its own favour by questioning illnesses that were “self-reported”, labelling some disabling conditions as “psychological”, and playing up the “subjective” nature of “mental” and “nervous” claims.

“Sickness is temporary,” they said. “Illness is a behaviour – all the things that people say and do that express and communicate their feelings of being unwell. The degree of this behaviour is dependent on the attitudes and beliefs of the individual, as well as the social context and culture. Illness is a personal choice.” In other words: “It’s all in the mind; these people are fit to work”.

Around the same time, a small country had a big problem with people claiming out-of-work benefit because they were ill. This was not a problem because they were lying about being ill – fraud amounted to less than one per cent of claims. Nor was it a problem because too many people were claiming – benefit levels were among the lowest of any countries nearby, and claims were on a par with those other countries.

No, the problem was that the man running the system, whose name was Peter**, wanted to make money out of it.

So he hired the boss of the big insurance company, whose name was John***, and asked him to help out. John said, “We have a great test that you can use! Instead of asking whether someone can do their job, you assess their general capacity to work, with a series of – we call them – descriptors. One could say the person ‘Is unable to cope with changes in the daily routine’, ‘Is frightened to go out alone’. Then the results get passed on to different people – adjudication officers – who judge whether they deserve your benefit. But the clever bit is that these officers aren’t doctors – the customer might be saying they’re sick but medical evidence has nothing to do with what the test is about! We’ll train your adjudicators – for a price. We’ve even got a sexy name for the test: It’s bollocks!”*

Off went Peter to try it and, lo and behold! The rise in claimants came to a halt, as if by magic. But it wasn’t magic. It was bollocks.

Meanwhile, the insurance company was making out like a bandit. Not only was it now at the heart of the small country’s government, it was able to make money from the claimants as well. Before the new rules came into effect, it advertised for customers, saying the new system meant “if you fall ill and have to rely on state incapacity benefit, you could be in serious trouble!”

Before long, the big insurance company found it was even bigger, with a quarter of all its post-tax income being paid by people in the small country.

Meanwhile, back at home, people had started to complain about the big company. It was a big, NASTY company, they said, because it had forced them to accept less when they claimed than their policies offered. The government there found that the big company had relied too much on in-house professionals; had constructed doctors’ or examination reports unfairly, for its own benefit; had failed to evaluate claimants’ conditions in their totality; and had placed an inordinate burden on claimants to justify why they should receive the benefits for which they had paid. Many claims were found to need re-examination.

That did not make a scrap of difference to the people running the sickness benefit system in the small country that had asked for the big nasty insurance company’s help. An election had happened and Peter had been asked to leave, but the new people in charge, Frank**** and Tony*****, were keen to capitalise on what had gone before and transform their welfare system into a new marketplace – a source of revenue, profitability and economic growth.

With help from the big nasty insurance company, they decided that the solution was not to cure the sick – or even to prevent their sickness in the first place – but to convince them that work is therapeutic, aids recovery and is the best form of rehabilitation. In other words, bollocks*. This way, with the help of the big nasty company’s bollocks* tests and adjudicators who based their decisions on bollocks*, they could say the problem was with the person who had the illness. Their behaviour and beliefs became the focus of the government’s moral judgement and action. If they did not change their ways, then sanctions would be used as a “motivational tool” – and people would be starved back into work.

And that, dear child, has continued to this very day! People claiming sickness or disability benefits in the small country, which is called the United Kingdom, have to take a test in which medical evidence plays a tiny role, run by people who are not doctors and judged by people who are not doctors. Many of these decisions have been found to be unfair, and have often been found to have failed to evaluate claimants’ conditions in their totality – which is why people with terminal cancer have been found fit for work. Many claims have been found to need re-examination.

You can see the hand of the big nasty insurance company at work, can’t you!

That is because the big nasty insurance company, which is called Unum, has been at the heart of the small country’s government ever since it was first invited in. And they intend to live happily ever after, at the public’s expense.

“A lot of people think that disabled people don’t have sex, but this is not true, because the government are screwing us hard.” Francesca Martinez, The News Quiz, BBC Radio 4, January 11, 2013.

*I should apologise for the fault in my computer. Every time I try to type – I’ll just cut and paste it in here – “the biopsychosocial model” or any combination of those words, it comes out “bollocks”. Sorry!

**Peter Lilley

***John LoCascio

****Frank Field

*****Tony Blair