Tag Archives: GPs

#NHSCrisis: Keep reminding May the misery is her fault

Theresa May: In Prime Minister’s Questions last week, she was blaming older people for the crisis in the English NHS [Image: PA].


Shadow Health Secretary Jon Ashworth is absolutely right: With no less than 66 out of 152 English hospital trusts in a state of emergency, it is unacceptable for Theresa May (or Jeremy Hunt) to pass the buck. Blame lies with them and their government.

Mr Ashworth’s points are damning:

Theresa May and her Government not only take no responsibility. She feels no shame and doesn’t seem to realise what’s happening to real people.

So she now considers it a “small number” when more than a quarter of patients are waiting over four hours in A&E.

She now considers it “acceptable” that hospitals have to convert gymnasiums into temporary wards and pensioners are trapped, waiting in cold ambulances.

Rather than action, her response is to try to water down the A&E target as if she believes that changing the goals in Whitehall will make any difference to someone waiting in anxiety on a trolley in a real A&E.

Yesterday she tried to blame family doctors.

Source: Theresa May is in denial and out of touch in her response to the crisis of the NHS, says Jonathan Ashworth

Today (January 15), Jeremy Corbyn outlined a few simple steps that would relieve the immediate pressure on the health service, providing breathing-room for long-term solutions to be found.

He said the Conservatives should cancel their plan to cut Corporation Tax and the higher rate of Income Tax. This would release £70 billion.

The money could be used to ensure there are enough beds for incoming patients and enough staff to treat them.

And plenty of money would be left over – certainly enough to provide £2 billion for improvements in the social care system.

Helen Stokes-Lampard, chair of the Royal College of General Practitioners, echoed Labour’s position on the NHS Crisis in an appearance on Peston on Sunday. She said: “You’re not cutting fat from the system; you’re cutting muscle. If you cut muscle, it won’t stand up anymore.”

This Writer could not agree more.

Theresa May, Jeremy Hunt and the Tories simply don’t have a leg to stand on.

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‘Compassionate’ Conservatism’s three ‘R’s – reading, writing and… rickets?

Painful deformities of the skeleton such as bowed legs: The return of rickets is another sign that the Conservative-led government is regressing Britain to conditions during the primitive Victorian era - or even earlier.

Painful deformities of the skeleton such as bowed legs: The return of rickets is another sign that the Conservative-led government is regressing Britain to conditions during the primitive Victorian era – or even earlier.

David Cameron’s quest to bring the Victorian era back to life in the 21st century reached a new milestone this week when the UK’s chief medical officer formally announced the return of a disease long thought banished from these shores: Rickets.

The announcement brings to fruition a prediction made by Vox Political almost a year ago, when we said: “As a consequence of the rise in poverty, overseen and orchestrated by Mr Cameron and his lieutenant Iain Duncan Smith in the Department for Work and Pensions, the classic poverty-related diseases of rickets and tuberculosis are on the increase.”

According to the NHS Choices website, rickets “is a condition that affects bone development in children. It causes the bones to become soft and malformed, which can lead to bone deformities.

“The most common cause of rickets is a lack of vitamin D and calcium. Vitamin D comes from foods such as oily fish and eggs, and from sunlight on our skin. Vitamin D is essential for a child to form strong and healthy bones.

“Rickets causes the bones to become painful, soft and weak. This leads to deformities of the skeleton, such as bowed legs, curvature of the spine and thickening of the ankles, wrists and knees.”

The disease was thought to have been eradicated in the UK but, in a damning indictment of modern political priorities, chief medical officer Dame Sally Davies has admitted that 40 per cent of our children – that’s two-fifths of all the children in the countrynow have some kind of vitamin D deficiency. Current figures for full-blown rickets are not available.

“The disease was common in Victorian England, but largely disappeared from the Western world in the latter half of the 20th century thanks to vitamin D being added to everyday foods such as margarine and cereal,” stated a report in The Independent. “There has been an observed rise in cases in recent years.”

Can there be any doubt that this rise in cases has been brought about, not just by children sitting at home playing video games rather than going out in the sunlight, as some would have us believe, but because increasing numbers of children are having to make do with increasingly poor food, as Cameron’s policies hammer down on wages and benefits and force working class people and the unemployed to buy cheaper groceries with lower nutritinal value?

The Tory wage-crushing policy has been ignorant in the extreme, according to Dame Sally’s report, as it has created an extra burden on the NHS. Preventative measures “could save the economy billions”.

Dame Sally’s report is entitled ‘Our Children Deserve Better’ – echoing Ed Miliband’s Labour conference mantra, “Britain can do better than this” – and sets out recommendations to tackle urgent problems, such as a universal handout of vitamin supplements to all children under five for vitamin deficiencies, and measures to handle rising child obesity and a lack of effective mental health services.

The neglect created in our health system by more than three decades of neoliberal political rule has had a devastating effect on the nation’s children. According to Dame Sally, while our mortality rate for 0-14 year olds was among the best in Europe during the 1980s, it is now among the worst, with five more children dying every day than in the best-performing country, Sweden.

The highest death rates are in deprived areas – in the northwest, northern cities and some of London’s poorer boroughs, with 21.1 deaths per 100,000 people under 17.

Dame Sally said: “I think this is something, as a country, we should feel profoundly ashamed about – I do.”

Do you think Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt feels ashamed, as he cuts NHS budgets and hives off huge care contracts to profit-making private companies?

No?

Nor should you.

The Vox Political article from December last year also claimed tuberculosis would return, and our report this week on the government’s plan to tackle the phantom problem of “health tourism” seems to demonstrate that it is hell-bent on ensuring that this comes true as well.

Our report earlier this week quoted the chair of the Royal College of GPs, Claire Gerada, who has warned that the cost of administrating the new system could outweigh the savings, while also increasing public health problems such as TB by deterring temporary migrants from seeking treatment when they first fall ill.

In the Bible, Jesus is quoted as saying, “Suffer little children to come unto me, and forbid them not” – meaning he did not want his disciples to stop youngsters from hearing his teachings.

That saying may now be re-worked to fit the philosophy of David Cameron and Jeremy Hunt to read: “Suffer, little children – for you have a Conservative government.”

How can we believe the government’s ‘health tourism’ statistics?

"It's my policy and I'll cry if I want to" - or is Jeremy *unt simply responding to criticism of his bid to climb on the anti-immigration bandwagon?

“It’s my policy and I’ll cry if I want to” – or is Jeremy *unt simply responding to criticism of his bid to climb on the anti-immigration bandwagon?

A speech by Iain Duncan Smith is immediately reminiscent of a wasp negotiating its way through a bulldog’s digestive system; there’s a lot of droning and implied pain, but through it all you know exactly what the outcome will be.

From this starting point, one may liken a speech by Jeremy Hunt to a hippo having an unhappy bowel movement as a result of an unwise dietary choice; much clumsy blundering in the wilderness and a fair amount of distress – which may be transferred to any poor creature unlucky enough to get in the way.

It seems that migrants and visitors from abroad who use the NHS are now facing the full onslaught of the Health Secretary’s metaphorical indigestion, with nary a bucket of Rennie in sight – except in this case the cure would be a set of reliable statistics covering the use of NHS services by our foreign-born friends.

Armed with new reports by independent firms Prederi and Creative Research, the Health Secretary (and well-known misprint) believes ‘health tourism’ is costing the NHS £2 billion every year – and has announced that he plans to claw back around £500 million of that money.

A BBC report states that ministers believe some of the spending is unavoidable but “it would be realistic to save a quarter. Savings would come from deterring so-called health tourism, recovering money owed by other countries and a levy on non-European temporary residents”.

But the cost of health tourism, as set out in the report, is tiny – at a maximum of £80 million it would be four per cent of the estimated total loss – and this is based on evidence which even one of the reports’ authors, Prederi, have admitted is incomplete. On its own, it could not possibly generate the saving demanded by the new policy, nor could it justify the claim that £2 billion is currently being lost.

That is not the point, though. This is about getting the NHS on the anti-immigration bandwagon.

The study has been released to coincide with the Immigration Bill, which (surprise, surprise) includes plans for a £200-per-person-per-year charge for temporary migrants to use the NHS during any stay lasting between six months and five years.

The Conservative-led Coalition government says this could recoup around £200 million per year, but this is clearly nonsense.

Put yourself in the position of a person from abroad, considering an extended stay in the UK. If an extra cost of up to £1,000 for a five-year stay was added to the trip, out of the blue, would you go ahead with it? Or would you consider other destinations?

Alternatively, if the trip could not be avoided, would this not make you more likely to use the NHS, in order to simply get your money’s worth? The trouble with this is that such a person would not know the cost of a consultation. According to Dr Chaand Nagpaul, chairman of the British Medical Association’s GPs committee, the cost of a single hospital outpatient appointment would equal the £200-per-year levy.

And then there is the administration cost. New Statesman revealed that the chair of the Royal College of GPs, Claire Gerada, has warned that the cost of administrating the new system could outweigh the savings, while also increasing public health problems such as TB by deterring temporary migrants from seeking treatment when they first fall ill. This gives rise to the possibility that we are facing another Tory policy that could have deadly consequences for the population.

This is not a plan to deal with health tourism at all. This is an attempt by an increasingly-desperate Conservative Party to claw back some of the voters who have (themselves) migrated to UKIP because of fears that have been planted in their minds by political spin-doctors, rather than any real threat – the phantom problem of immigrants getting benefits they haven’t earned.

Health tourism is not costing the UK £2 billion a year, and the measures outlined by the government will not stop it, or save any lost money. If anything, it will cost the country millions of pounds.

But then, when has Jeremy Hunt bothered with the facts, when he can have his way simply by playing on people’s fears and manipulating their beliefs?

This is why reference was made, at the top of this article, to Iain Duncan Smith – another Tory minister who won’t let thousands of possible deaths interfere with his beliefs.

NHS changes – how much power do GPs need, anyway?

This might be controversial but it occurred to me that ‘comedy’ David Cameron and Andrew Lansley have been pinning much of their hopes for the Health and Social Care Bill on a perception that local doctors – GPs in their parlance – are best-suited to direct where spending on healthcare actually goes.

I’m not convinced that’s true. Why are people at the entry-level of the NHS being acclaimed as experts?

I suffer from a condition known as cluster headaches. Every couple of years, I get fast-onset, extremely painful one-sided migraine headaches at a rate of four or more every day, for a period lasting up to three months. It’s a rare condition – only around 50,000 people in the UK get it, which means very little research has been carried out.

When I went to my local doctors’ surgery with it, the GP I saw thought it was just a severe headache and told me to take some aspirin.

Aspirin won’t touch cluster headaches. By the time the drug takes effect, the headache is far too well-entrenched for it to make any difference at all. If I had accepted that doctor’s advice as being the best, most expert diagnosis available, I would have condemned myself to spending a quarter of a year in agony, every two years.

Instead, I went back, got properly diagnosed, and was put on injections of a substance that costs something like £25 a shot – which also raises questions about how much GPs will be willing to spend on a patient when they hold the budget.

Mrs Mike has a condition whereby the intervertebral discs – the shock absorbers between vertebrae – at the bottom of her spine have disappeared. There is an operation available on the NHS that would replace these discs with artificial ones, but this was never mentioned to her and I only found out by typing ‘intervertebral discs’ into the search box on the NHS website. Now, there might be a good reason for keeping this from her, but I doubt it.

Now these examples could be shot down by any critic as anecdotal, but there is evidence that this sort of thing is widespread.

Dr Phil Hammond, speaking on the Radio 4 show Heresy, tells us: “If you go to Dr Google, or his friend Professor Wikipedia, you have a 58 per cent chance of getting it right. Doctors are marginally ahead at about 75 per cent.”

And they tend to look up your ailment on the Internet as well! “Doctors use search engines too; it’s quite common for doctors to use Google,” said Dr Hammond on the same show. “If you look at their computer screen, you’ll actually see them typing… I had a mate who was a pain specialist… and he was teaching a junior doctor and a women came in who had Wartenberg’s Neuritis. He was looking at his notes before she came in and said to his junior doctor, ‘Look, I’ve never heard of this; let’s look it up on Wikipedia.’ They look it up, they make notes, and this woman walks in and says, ‘I’m terribly sorry; I was waiting outside and I heard you say to your junior doctor, you’ve never heard of Wartenberg’s Neuritis, you were going to look it up on Wikipedia. I thought I ought to warn you – I’m the person who wrote the entry.”

So we should not be hailing GPs as the experts who need to have control of NHS budgets. They’re not the experts. The experts are the consultants, surgeons or whoever, to whom they pass you if they find they can’t write a prescription to get rid of you.

The Bill must be scrapped. If we let the Tories make fools of us, it may be the last thing we do.

Mr Lansley’s UNclean Bill of health

I have trust issues when it comes to Andrew Lansley and his Health and Social Care Bill.

Mr Lansley swears blind that introducing competition will not only bring in better patient care, but will drive costs down as well.

The problem is, so much of the medical profession opposes it – including huge numbers of GPs, the people who are meant to benefit the most – that one has to be sceptical.

Also, if his Bill is so healthy, why is he – even now – refusing to publish the Department of Health’s risk report? This is the document that the Information Commissioner ordered him to release last November; according to the law (as I understand it) he is committing a criminal act by failing to publish.

I read today on the Green Benches blog that the report contains a very serious warning that Lansley’s changes will spark a surge in healthcare costs and that the NHS will become unaffordable as private profiteers siphon off money for their own benefit.

It may also warn specifically that GPs have no experience or skills to manage costs effectively.

This is a very serious matter. It means Mr Lansley – who has already criminalised himself over this, let’s not forget – could be attempting to mislead Parliament.

But let’s not get carried away. This is all speculation.

So, let’s make a constructive suggestion.

If Mr Lansley is so adamant that his Bill is going to be good for both patient care and the nation’s finances, let’s see him build a few safeguards into it.

Isn’t it time we asked what mechanism is built into the Bill to ensure that, if costs skyrocket and the quality of patient care plummets, Mr Lansley’s changes will be reversed, and the system brought back under control?

Isn’t it time we asked what penalties Mr Lansley himself will face, if the report is published after the Bill is passed and (as many fear) reveals exactly what the Green Benches blog mentions?

Isn’t it time the Tories made an effort to suggest they can be trusted to do the right thing for a change, instead of merely doing what’s right-wing?

There is also an Early Day Motion here which states “That this House expects the Government to respect the ruling by the Information Commissioner and to publish the risk register associated with the Health and Social Care Bill reforms in advance of Report Stage in the House of Lords in order to ensure that it informs that debate.”

Early Day Motions are formal motions submitted for debate in the House of Commons, but very few are actually debated. EDMs allow MPs to draw attention to an event or cause. MPs register their support by signing individual motions and I shall be calling on my own MP to support this one.

If you agree, go thou and do likewise.