Tag Archives: rickets

Universal Credit is increasing ‘Victorian’ diseases while worsening the nurse shortage

This is a 64-year-old man from Birkenhead whose experience of Universal Credit left him so malnourished he weighed just six stone when he was finally rescued and taken to hospital [Image from Pride’s Purge, using material from Terry Craven’s Facebook page].

This is the reality of Conservative politics – they simultaneously make serious problems worse while deliberately reducing the nation’s ability to combat them.

So once again we are hearing that the so-called “Victorian” diseases are on the rise. More than 800 people in the northeast of England were admitted to hospital with diseases including gout, tuberculosis, malnutrition, whooping cough, measles, scurvy, typhoid, scarlet fever, diphtheria, mumps, rickets, cholera, and vitamin D deficiency during the 2017-18 financial year.

Many are linked with malnutrition and they are called “Victorian” diseases because they were most common during the poverty-ridden years of the 19th century.

The current epidemic has been linked with the Conservative government’s abuse of the benefits system, as enacted through Universal Credit.

To provide an idea of how that link can be made, let’s look at the case of Harry Dent, who cannot read, write or use a computer. He was moved onto Universal Credit and immediately fell into debt because he did not understand the housing benefit element was paid direct to him, to pass on to his landlord – and in monthly, rather than fortnightly instalments. Nobody told him.

He tried to get his finances under control by taking out a £750 advance on his benefit – but is now having to pay it back, meaning he has even less money on which to survive. He has been left with £50 per week to pay his bills and buy food, leaving him with the classic dilemma of choosing between heating and eating.

While he has attended a food bank, he lives under the spectre of malnutrition.

He says Universal Credit discriminates against people with learning difficulties as claimants must be able to use a computer, read, write, have an email account, remember passwords and remember appointments.

And his mental health has suffered as a result of being put onto the harmful “benefit” – claiming he sometimes feels like “jumping off a bridge”.

You may remember Work and Pensions Secretary Amber Rudd saying only one or two people have ever fallen into serious difficulty because of Universal Credit. Well, Harry’s is just one of the many stories that have come to public attention in the last week. You can read more of his story here.

So we have a system that intentionally puts people in danger of malnutrition, and of falling prey to the “Victorian” illnesses listed above. It might be possible to deal with this if the health service was fully-staffed, with well-trained and capable nurses.

Shame we’re being starved of that resource by the same “benefit”, isn’t it?

Trainee nurses lose hundreds of pounds when they claim Universal Credit because, under the new system, their student loans are classed as income. Read the facts here.

It means many trainee nurses are unable to complete their studies – depriving the health service of their skills. Perhaps it’s one reason the health service in England is hiring only one person for every 400 jobs advertised.

The Royal College of Nursing (RCN) is said to have advised students to avoid claiming Universal Credit until they absolutely have to – until it is rolled out in their home area.

But despite Amber Rudd having paused the rollout recently, this is not a solution to the problem.

It seems malnutrition, “Victorian” diseases and the lack of nurses to help treat them are all part of the same problem – a problem called Conservative government.

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Malnutrition and ‘Victorian’ disease return – because of rising poverty driven by the Tories

161206-food-bank
The numbers aren’t huge at the moment, but they are significant – between 2010 and 2014, malnutrition in Salford rose from 43 cases to 85.

The longer we have a Conservative government, the worse it is going to get.

This Blog predicted the problem all the way back in December 2012, when I wrote: “In the UK, there are currently 13 million people living below the poverty line [including] working people, whose income does not cover their costs; the unemployed, who are finding they do not have enough money to buy food due to the vicious and unwarranted benefit cuts thrust upon them… and of course the homeless, a sector of society that is due to grow exponentially, again due to the many cuts inflicted by the bloodthirsty Conservatives.

“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. In 2012, the Conservatives have achieved their aim to revive the Dickensian Christmas.”

Almost a year later, the UK’s chief medical officer announced the formal return of rickets. One may presume that the disease, while present, did not exist in great enough numbers prior to this but, thanks to the policies of David Cameron, Theresa May and the Tories, that had changed.

This time, I wrote: “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 nutritional value?

“The Tory wage-crushing policy has been ignorant in the extreme… as it has created an extra burden on the NHS. Preventative measures ‘could save the economy billions’.”

More than three decades of neoliberal political rule had had a devastating effect on the nation’s children, I wrote. While our mortality rate for 0-14 year olds was among the best in Europe during the 1980s, it was now among the worst, with five more children dying every day than in the best-performing country, Sweden.

The highest death rates were 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.

I also wrote that the then-government seemed hell-bent on ensuring that predictions of a rise in tuberculosis would come true as well, with its plan to tackle the phantom problem of “health tourism” (see how long that little nonsense has been floating around?) deterring temporary migrants from seeking treatment when they first fell ill.

By October last year, the list of ‘Victorian’ diseases re-surfacing in the UK had increased to include gout, TB, measles, scurvy, rickets and whooping cough.

Social security researcher and commenter – and stalwart friend of This Blog – Samuel Miller called on local authorities to investigate the return of these diseases.

He told us: “There is growing evidence that the draconian welfare reforms are irreparably damaging the mental and physical health of benefit claimants. Health figures recently revealed a 50% increase in the number of people admitted to hospital with malnutrition over the past four years, and a return of Victorian diseases linked to poverty such as gout, TB, measles, scurvy, rickets, and whooping cough are a barometer of failure and neglect,” – and referred to a list of articles which may be found here.

And now Salford council has answered the request, telling us what we all knew – and what we all feared.

Back in 2014, I wrote something that, while accurate then, seems even more true now, so I make no apology for repeating it here:

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 Theresa May and Jeremy Hunt to read: “Suffer, little children – for you have a Conservative government.”

The number of malnutrition cases in Salford has doubled – with many of the victims children.

Victorian illnesses such as rickets and beriberi – thought to be long eradicated – are on the rise due to food poverty according to a shocking new report.

The number of people being admitted to hospital with the condition doubled over a four year period.

Although health conditions are often a primary cause, Salford council leaders believes that poverty is also to blame.

Source: Salford children are suffering malnutrition and Victorian diseases as poverty tightens its grip on the city

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Will the Tories ever admit their ‘welfare reforms’ are reviving Victorian diseases?

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

Social security researcher and commenter Samuel Miller thinks they are.

He wants health authorities in the UK to investigate whether the return of diseases linked to poverty – and to the Victorian era – such as gout, TB, measles, scurvy, rickets and whooping cough.

This Writer flagged up the possibility as long ago as October 2013, after the UK’s chief medical officer formally announced the return of rickets.

I wrote: “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?”

Despite Tory claims that the UK is in better shape than it has been in years, it seems clear that these health issues are getting worse.

Mr Miller writes: “There’s an urgent need for health authorities to investigate whether Ian Duncan Smith’s welfare reforms, and cuts to social services, are responsible for the alarming rise in cases of malnutrition and the return of Victorian diseases.

“There is growing evidence that the draconian welfare reforms are irreparably damaging the mental and physical health of benefit claimants. Health figures recently revealed a 50% increase in the number of people admitted to hospital with malnutrition over the past four years, and a return of Victorian diseases linked to poverty such as gout, TB, measles, scurvy, rickets, and whooping cough are a barometer of failure and neglect.”

He cites these sources:

Malnutrition and ‘Victorian’ diseases soaring in England ‘due to food poverty and cuts’

Gout and malnutrition levels soaring as Victorian disease return

NHS hospital to offer food parcels to patients at risk of malnutrition

Malnutrition a public health emergency, experts warn

Who are you going to believe? Tory rhetoric or demonstrable evidence?

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Rickets returns, Observer? Tell us something we DON’T know!

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.

Thanks to Unemployed in Tyne and Wear for pointing out this Observer article:

“Poverty is forcing people to have dangerously poor diets and is leading to the return of rickets and gout – diseases of the Victorian age that affect bones and joints – according the UK Faculty of Public Health.

“The public health professionals’ body will call for a national food policy, including a sugar tax, as concerns rise over malnutrition and vitamin deficiencies in British children. It will also appeal for all political parties to back a living wage to help combat the illnesses.

“Doctors and hospitals are seeing a rise in children suffering from ailments caused by poor diet and the faculty has linked the trend to people’s inability to afford quality food. Latest figures show there has been a 19% increase in people hospitalised in England and Wales for malnutrition over the past 12 months but experts say this is only the extreme end.”

The shocking aspect of this article is that it has taken reporters at The Observer so long to realise what is going on; Vox Political pointed out the rise of this problem almost two years ago!

In the article The rise of food banks and the fall of the Big Society, published on December 22, 2012, VP stated: “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. In 2012, the Conservatives have achieved their aim to revive the Dickensian Christmas.”

Nearly a year after that – and almost a year ago – in October 2013, The Independent cottoned on to the fact that standards of health were in relapse.

Vox Political‘s article ‘Compassionate’ Conservatism’s three ‘R’s – reading, writing and… rickets? (October 24, 2013) had this to say: “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 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 country – now have some kind of vitamin D deficiency. Current figures for full-blown rickets are not available.”

It continued: “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’.

“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.'”

The most damning aspect of the Observer article was the comment from Carmel McConnell, founder of the Magic Breakfast charity, which provides a free breakfast to 8,500 British schoolchildren in need each morning.

She said teachers in the schools where she worked expected to see a dramatic decline in the health of their pupils as they return after the holidays: “Teachers tell us they know even with free school meals it will take two to three weeks to get their kids back up to the weight they were at the end of the last school term because their families cannot afford the food during the holidays.”

Dr John Middleton of the Faculty of Public Health placed the blame squarely on the Coalition government of Conservatives and Liberal Democrats. He said in the Observer article: “Food prices up 12 per cent, fuel prices up double-figure percentages and wages down is a toxic combination, forcing more people to eat unhealthily.”

The Vox Political article of October last year ended with a re-worked Biblical quotation, changed to fit the modern philosophy of David Cameron and his Health Secretary, Jeremy Hunt. Considering the latest findings, it is even more appropriate today: “Suffer, little children – for you have a Conservative government.”

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Voters of Newark, what were you thinking?

The result: The Tory who won is so unremarkable that I've forgotten his name. More interesting is the chap in the big hat behind him; at first I thought he was the Monster Raving Loony candidate, but it seems more likely he's one of the voters.

The result: The Tory who won is so unremarkable that I’ve forgotten his name. More interesting is the chap in the big hat behind him; at first I thought he was the Monster Raving Loony candidate, but it seems more likely he’s one of the voters.

One has to ask what is wrong with the people of a Parliamentary constituency when, after four years of a desperately inept and corrupt Conservative-led government, they decide to elect another Tory as their representative in a by-election.

Which of the government’s policies clinched it for you, Newark? Was it the brutality inflicted on people who are out of work – particularly those with long-term illnesses and disabilities? Does the fact that people are being driven to suicide at an almost-hourly rate turn you on?

Was it the determination to push your wages down in order to inflate bosses’ and shareholders’ salaries, forcing a higher take-up of taxpayer-funded in-work benefits? Do you like paying high taxes to support the very, very rich?

Was it perhaps the ongoing privatisation of the NHS? Do you think that’s healthy for the people of Britain? Perhaps rickets hasn’t yet reappeared in your constituency but it’s just a matter of time. Are you looking forward to getting tuberculosis?

Maybe you are looking forward to the government’s Legal Aid changes that will put innocent people in jail and leave criminals free to roam your streets and victimise you any way they want?

Or do you really want a Conservative majority in Parliament so they can push through their long-cherished dream of taking away your human rights? Is that what you want?

That’s what your votes supported!

Worse still, you put UKIP in second place. UKIP! The party that, besides supporting the destruction of the NHS (you’ve come out very strongly for private healthcare, Newark, I hope you know that) wants to put your taxes up (although they’re trying to hide that now because people found out and didn’t like it), and supports marital rape.

Way to go, Newark.

At least you had the good sense to kick the Liberal Democrats down to sixth place and the loss of their deposit – but that just means you’re schizoid, Newark! You reward the Conservatives for policies that are a hazard to your health, and punish their coalition partners for the same reasons!

Way to go, Newark.

It should be noted that turnout was just 52.67 per cent. Presumably the other 47.33 per cent are the “disenchanted” voters of whom Ed Miliband spoke so eloquently in his response to the Queen’s Speech (did you hear the Queen’s Speech, Newark? She listed 11 more-or-less pointless bills put forward by a zombie Parliament – which you have supported).

Let us hope those 34,779 lost voters can be persuaded to re-engage with democracy in time for next year’s general election, and restore sanity to your constituency.

Now go away, Newark.

You really don’t deserve all this attention.

(The latest Vox Political book collection – Health Warning: Government! – is now available. It is a cracking read and fantastic value for money. Only available via the Internet, it may be purchased here in print and eBook form, along with the previous VP release, Strong Words and Hard Times.

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Britain’s starvation crisis won’t bother our new millionaires at all

Britain's shame: The front page of yesterday's Daily Mirror.

Britain’s shame: The front page of yesterday’s Daily Mirror.

So the United Kingdom now houses more millionaires than ever before – but at the huge cost of forcing hundreds of thousands of people to seek help from food banks or starve.

This is David Cameron’s gamble: That enough people will profit from the misery of the huge underclass he has created to vote him back into office in 2015, to continue his attack on anybody who takes home less than £100,000 pay per year.

Are you really that selfish?

Do you think this is any way for a civilised, First-World society to order itself?

No – it’s more like the description of the Third World that became prevalent towards the end of the 1960s: A country with low economic development, low life expectancy, high rates of poverty, and rampant disease. They are also countries where a wealthy ruling class is free to exploit the population at large who, without money or force of arms, are powerless to stop them.

Let’s see now… The UK definitely has low economic development. Neoliberal governments since 1979 have decimated our industrial base and the so-called recovery we are currently enjoying has yet to show any worthwhile results, despite the dubious rises in employment and wages that are making headlines this week.

Low life expectancy? Yes, we have that. People in lower-class residential areas are expected to live only a few years into their retirement, if they make it that far, while those in rich areas may continue into their late eighties. Sharp readers will recognise that, although we all pay the same amount into the state pension, the rich get more from it as they live long enough to receive larger amounts.

High rates of poverty? According to the Trussell Trust, the number of food parcels it handed out per year tripled from 346,992 in 2012 to 913,138 last year, with 330,205 going to children. Another 182,000 were provided by 45 independent food banks. The government says poverty is falling but bases its figures on a proportion of the median wage, which has been dropping for the last six years. This means government claims that worker wages are rising must also be lies.

Rampant disease? Perhaps we should not go as far as to suggest this is happening – but the British Isles have witnessed the return of diseases long-thought banished from these shores, like Rickets and Scarlet Fever, along with an increase in Tuberculosis. These are all poverty-related, as they are caused by malnourishment. You can thank your Tory government for forcing so many people out of work and diverting so much NHS funding into privatisation.

As for a wealthy working class exploiting the population – the evidence is all around us.

Look at the reasons people are being driven to food banks, according to the Daily Mirror article from which I quoted the food bank figures: “Benefits cuts and delays, the rising cost of living and pay freezes are forcing more and more people into food banks, experts have long warned.” All of these are the result of Tory government policy.

The government is, of course, unrepentant. I had the misfortune to see Treasury minister David Gauke – who found infamy when he signed off on huge “sweetheart deals” letting multinational firms off paying billions of pounds of income tax they owed us – saying he was not ashamed of the huge food bank uptake. He said they were doing a valuable job and he was glad that the government was signposting people to them. Nobody seemed to want to ask him: In the country with the world’s sixth-largest economy, why are food banks needed at all?

Of course, I’m not likely to persuade anyone to change their political allegiance over this. You all know where I stand and, besides, this blog is simply not big enough to make a difference.

So I’ll leave you with the words of someone who is far more popular: Eddie Izzard, writing in (again) the Mirror:

“A million food parcels. How did our Britain get to be so hungry? Our country, where even after the Second World War, we still had the ambition to feed our poorest people and build a better country.

“This government said it wanted to reform the British welfare system. Instead, it has broken it. The proof is here in the desperate families who have had to turn to their GP, not for medicine, but for vouchers to be able to eat.

“Instead of supporting the most vulnerable people in Britain during the recession this government has hit them with a wave of cruel cuts and punishments – sanctions, Bedroom Tax, welfare cuts.

“The zero hours economy it champions is not enough to put food on tables. It’s done nothing to tackle food and fuel costs.

“No wonder that today, 600 faith leaders, dozens of charities and 40 bishops are telling David Cameron he is failing the country’s poorest people.”

Perhaps you are not affected, like all those new millionaires on whom the Tories are relying. Do you think that makes it all right for this to be happening here?

You can use your vote to share your opinion.

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A&E fears fall on deaf ears

Andy Burnham, Shadow Health Secretary: He'd rather listen to real doctors than spin doctors.

Andy Burnham, Shadow Health Secretary: He’d rather listen to real doctors than spin doctors.

The title of this article should seem brutally ironic, considering that the Coalition government famously ‘paused’ the passage of the hugely controversial Health and Social Care Act through Parliament in order to perform a ‘listening exercise’ and get the views of the public.

… Then again, maybe not – as the Tories (with the Liberal Democrats trailing behind like puppies) went on to do exactly what they originally wanted, anyway.

Have a look at the motion that went before the House of Commons today:

“That this House is concerned about recent pressure in Accident and Emergency departments and the increase in the number of people attending hospital A&Es since 2009-10; notes a recent report by the Care Quality Commission which found that more than half a million people aged 65 and over were admitted as an emergency to hospital with potentially avoidable conditions in the last year; believes that better integration to improve care in the home or community can relieve pressure on A&E; notes comments made by the Chief Executive of NHS England in oral evidence to the Health Select Committee on 5 November 2013, that the NHS is getting bogged down in a morass of competition law, that this is causing significant cost and that to make integration happen there may need to be legislative change; is further concerned that the competition aspects of the Health and Social Care Act 2012 are causing increased costs in the NHS at a time when there is a shortage of A&E doctors; and calls on the Government to reverse its changes to NHS competition policy that are holding back the integration needed to help solve the A&E crisis and diverting resources which should be better spent on improving patient care.”

Now have a look at the amendment that was passed:

“That this House notes the strong performance of NHS accident and emergency departments this winter; further notes that the average waiting time to be seen in A&E has more than halved since 2010; commends the hard work of NHS staff who are seeing more people and carrying out more operations every year since May 2010; notes that this has been supported by the Government’s decision to protect the NHS budget and to shift resources to frontline patient care, delivering 12,000 more clinical staff and 23,000 fewer administrators; welcomes changes to the GP contract which restore the personal link between doctors and their most vulnerable patients; welcomes the announcement of the Better Care Fund which designates £3.8 billion to join up health and care provision and the Integration Pioneers to provide better care closer to home; believes that clinicians are in the best position to make judgements about the most appropriate care for their patients; notes that rules on tendering are no different to the rules that applied to primary care trusts; and, a year on from the publication of the Francis Report, notes that the NHS is placing an increased emphasis on compassionate care, integration, transparency, safe staffing and patient safety.”

Big difference, isn’t it?

From the wording that won the vote, you would think there was nothing wrong with the health service at all – and you would be totally mistaken.

But this indicates the sort of cuckooland where the Coalition government wants you to live; Jeremy Hunt knows what the problems are – he just won’t acknowledge them. And he doesn’t have to – the media are run by right-wing Tory adherents.

So here, for the benefit of those of you who had work to do and missed the debate, are a few of the salient points.

Principal among them is the fact that ward beds are being ‘blocked’ – in other words, their current occupants are unable to move out, so new patients cannot move in. This is because the current occupants are frail elderly people with no support in place for them to live outside hospital. With no space on wards, accident and emergency departments have nowhere to put their new admissions, meaning they cannot free up their own beds.

Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt had nothing to say about this.

Andy Burnham, who opened proceedings, pointed out the huge increase in admissions to hospital accident and emergency departments – from a rise of 16,000 between 2007 and 2010 to “a staggering” 633,000 in the first three years of the Conservative-Liberal Democrat Coalition government.

Why the rapid rise? “There has been a rise in people arriving at A and E who have a range of problems linked to their living circumstances, from people who have severe dental pain because they cannot afford to see the dentist, to people who are suffering a breakdown or who are in crisis, to people who cannot afford to keep warm and are suffering a range of cold-related conditions.”

He said almost a million people have waited more than four hours for treatment in the last year, compared with 350,000 in his year as Health Secretary; the statement in the government amendment that waiting times have halved only relates to the time until an initial assessment – not total waiting time. Hospital A and Es have missed the government’s targets in 44 of the last 52 weeks.

Illnesses including hypothermia are on the rise, and the old Victorian ailments of rickets and scurvy are back, due to increased malnutrition.

Hospitals are filling up with the frail elderly, who should never have ended up there or who cannot get the support needed to go home because of a £1.8 billion cut in adult social services and support. This, Mr Burnham said, was “the single most important underlying cause of the A and E crisis”; ward admissions cannot be made because the beds are full. The number of emergency admissions of pensioners has topped 500,000 for the first time.

Ambulances have been held in queues outside A and E, unable to hand over patients to staff because it is full. That has left large swathes of the country — particularly in rural areas — without adequate ambulance cover.

The government is downgrading A and E units across the country into GP-run clinics, while pretending that they are still to be used for accidents and emergencies – in the middle of the A and E crisis.

People in England are reducing the number of drugs they are taking because they cannot afford to buy them. Families are choosing between eating, heating or other essentials, like prescriptions.

Competition rules have been stifling care, Mr Burnham said: “The chief executive of a large NHS trust near here says that he tried to create a partnership with GP practices and social care, but was told by his lawyers that he could not because it was anti-competitive.”

He added: “Two CCGs in Blackpool have been referred to Monitor for failing to send enough patients to a private hospital. The CCG says that there is a good reason for that: patients can be treated better in the community, avoiding costly unnecessary hospital visits. That is not good enough for the new NHS, however, so the CCG has had to hire an administrator to collect thousands of documents, tracking every referral from GPs and spending valuable resources that could have been spent on the front line.”

And the health trust in Bournemouth wanted to merge with neighbouring Poole trust, but competition rules stopped the merger taking place.

Mr Burnham demanded to know: “Since when have we allowed competition lawyers to call the shots instead of clinicians? The Government said that they were going to put GPs in charge. Instead, they have put the market in charge of these decisions and that is completely unjustifiable. The chief executive of Poole hospital said that it cost it more than £6 million in lawyers and paperwork and that without the merger the trust will now have an £8 million deficit.

“The chief executive of NHS England told the Health Committee about the market madness that we now have in the NHS: ‘I think we’ve got a problem, we may need legislative change… What is happening at the moment… we are getting bogged down in a morass of competition law… causing significant cost and frustration for people in the service in making change happen. If that is the case, to make integration happen we will need to change it’ – that is, the law. That is from the chief executive of NHS England.”

The response from current Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt needs to be examined carefully.

He said more than 96 per cent of patients were seen within four hours – but this conforms with Mr Burnham’s remark; they were seen, but not treated.

He tried to rubbish Mr Burnham’s remarks about scurvy by saying there had been only 26 admissions relating to scurvy since 2011 – but this misses the point. How many were there before 2011? This was an illness that had been eradicated in the UK – but is now returning due to Coalition policies that have forced people into malnutrition.

He dodged the issue of competition rules strangling the NHS, by saying that these rules were in place before the Health and Social Care Act was passed. In that case, asked Mr Burnham, “Why did the government legislate?” No answer.

As stated at the top of this article. he did not answer the question of the frail elderly blocking hospital beds at all.

The vote was won by the government because it has the majority of MPs and can therefore have its own way in any division, unless the vote is free (unwhipped) or a major rebellion takes place among its own members.

But anyone considering the difference between the Labour Party’s motion and the government’s amendment can see that there is a serious problem of perception going on here.

Or, as Andy Burnham put it: “This Secretary of State … seems to spend more time paying attention to spin doctors than he does to real doctors.”

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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.”

What a shame the UN can’t end extreme hypocrisy

D'oh! David Cameron realises he has just described as problems all the conditions he is trying to create in the UK, after his speech to the United Nations. This photograph used because I couldn't find one of him sticking his own foot in his mouth.

D’oh! David Cameron realises he has just described – as problems – all the conditions he is trying to create in the UK, after his speech to the United Nations. This photograph used because I couldn’t find one of him sticking his own foot in his mouth.

The title refers to today’s comments by comedy Prime Minister David Cameron, who has stated that the United Nations needs a new set of international development goals to eradicate extreme poverty.

If he believes in this so fervently, why is he hell-bent on reinstating extreme poverty here, in his home country?

Before I go on, I should make it clear that I know poverty – as defined in the UK – is very much different from poverty in, for example, Africa. I know there are some in this country who would be very quick to get on their soapbox and warn that going without food indefinitely isn’t the same as going without a computer.

That’s all very well, but the fact is that changes made by the currently government will increase poverty massively, pushing hundreds of thousands of people below our extremely arbitrary poverty line. We will see increased malnutrition, and we will see a huge increase in diseases caused by lack of food, such as rickets (which is, itself, already on the rise).

People have already died – here in the UK – from the effects of changes wrought by Mr Cameron’s regime.

The BBC website’s report quotes Mr Cameron, who apparently said the UN must focus on ending factors that contribute to poverty, including “corruption [and] lack of justice”.

I bow to his knowledge and experience of corruption, because I believe he leads one of the most corrupt regimes the UK has had to endure in many a year.

Look at last week’s stories about the accounting firms that run the most tax avoidance schemes being allowed to write the law on tax avoidance (could this be because Mr Cameron and his part-time chancellor are well-versed in making money from such schemes? I think it could).

Look at the number of firms benefiting from Andrew Lansley’s changes to the National Health Service – how many Parliamentarians have a financial interest in those companies? (Hint: Many).

This is why I started the petition to ban MPs from speaking or voting on matters in which they have a financial interest* – and I think I touched a nerve there. It was the top-trending e-petition on the government’s website yesterday. From a standing start on Wednesday, it now totals more than 2,000 signatures, with more being added all the time.

As for lack of justice, let’s just remember this is the same David Cameron who is ending the right to Legal Aid for issues including debt, benefits, redundancy and landlord problems. If you’re poor and you end up with these problems, you won’t be able to rely on British justice.

He later added “conflict” and “lack of the rule of law” to his list. For conflict, let’s look at the riots of August 2011 – and hope that we don’t have similar scenes this year, after the effects of his buddy Iain Duncan Smith’s social security changes kick us all in the stomach.

As for the rule of law, I don’t think we’ve had that since the Coalition came into power and started writing laws that allowed its members and their friends to get their snouts in the trough at the expense of those of us who actually support the British economy.

How can cutting Corporation Tax by a quarter, or cutting the top rate of Income Tax by a tenth help our system? The people who benefit from that won’t be spending the extra money they’ll be keeping – they will bank it, most probably in the tax havens that part-time Chancellor Gideon Osborne has been busily creating while telling us he’s doing the exact opposite. This administration is exceptionally well-versed in doublespeak – saying one thing, meaning the opposite – but dismally slow at realising that we all understand exactly what’s really going on.

So: Corruption, conflict, lack of justice, lack of the rule of law. I do, in fact, agree that fighting these scourges on society – preferably by removing the regimes responsible – would greatly benefit the fight against poverty.

Perhaps the UN would like to start right here, in the UK?

The rise of food banks and the fall of the Big Society

Isn’t it a shame that in the season of goodwill, the Prime Minister cannot extend any to those who are worst-off in his bold Big Society?

Instead, all they’ve been given are bad statistics and platitudes.

I’m referring, of course, to his performance in the last Prime Minister’s Questions of 2012, when he was asked to explain why there has been a sixfold increase in the number of food banks in the UK during the last three years – the time since Mr Cameron’s Coalition government took over.

A food bank, for those who don’t know the exact definition, is simply a place where food is contributed and made available to those in need. In the UK, there are currently 13 million people living below the poverty line (according to the Trussell Trust, which is the authority on food banks in this country). These include working people, whose income does not cover their costs; the unemployed, who are finding they do not have enough money to buy food due to the vicious and unwarranted benefit cuts thrust upon them by the Coalition; and of course the homeless, a sector of society that is due to grow exponentially, again due to the many cuts inflicted by the bloodthirsty Conservatives.

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. In 2012, the Conservatives have achieved their aim to revive the Dickensian Christmas.

“The problem is that it is working people who are turning to food banks,” said Ed Miliband at PMQs. “One head teacher of a school rated ‘outstanding’ by Ofsted, Vic Goddard, says that even children with a parent or parents in work are often struggling with the choice of heating their homes, buying their children clothes or buying them food. A report last week from the Children’s Society said that two-thirds of teachers knew of staff providing pupils with food or money to prevent them from going hungry.”

This rings true. There is a reason that working people have been receiving benefits, and it is that they are being paid too little. It is a ridiculous situation, in the seventh largest economy on this planet, but one that has been perpetuated by successive governments – including, I’m sorry to say, Labour – since the 1970s. In contrast, executive pay has shot through the roof. If the minimum wage had risen in line with executive pay – just since it was introduced in 1998 – it would be more than £18 today, three times the actual level of £6.19.

The comedy Prime Minister responded with nothing of substance. He said the most important thing was “to get on top of inflation, and inflation is coming down”. How out-of-touch! It is true that inflation must be controlled, but his comedy chancellor, Gideon George Osborne, has decided that benefits – including those for people in work – will rise by less than the rate of inflation for the next three years, and Cameron himself has indicated that poor economic indicators may see him increase this to six years. The longer this rule stays in place, the further into poverty low-waged working people will go.

“The most important thing is to get more people into work and out of poverty,” said Cameron. This is not the same thing. We have seen that working people in the lowest-paid jobs are being plunged into poverty and forced to the indignity of seeking help from food banks – and remember, those starting in work will be the lowest-paid.

“And we see 600,000 more private sector jobs this year,” added Cameron, failing once again to admit that this figure includes around 200,000 that were already-existing public sector jobs, re-categorised as private in order to boost the Coalition’s statistics.

“We are helping […] families by freezing the council tax,” he said, neglecting to add that he is forcing people with limited cash to – from April – pay at least 10 per cent of it where they would have received council tax benefit before. “And making sure that we help families with the cost of living,” he droned on. This comment is meaningless other than as a complete fabrication. How can he expect to be believed when he is mercilessly forcing them into poverty?

“We have lifted the personal tax allowance and taken two million of the lowest-paid people out of tax altogether,” he said. But they still have to use their own money to make up the huge losses in benefits that are coming. This government gives with one hand but takes with the other.

“Because of the decisions that we made in this Government to increase the child tax credit by £390 ahead of inflation, we have helped those families with their bills and we will continue to do more in the future.” How? Child tax credit will be abolished when Universal Credit is brought in across the UK.

Cameron’s denouement was his declaration that Labour had nothing to offer, “except for the same old something-for-nothing culture that got us in this mess in the first place”. We all know that this is not true. Until the banking crisis, Labour ran a lower deficit than any Conservative government of the previous 30 years. The Conservatives had supported greater deregulation of the banks right up until the crisis hit, meaning that it would have been much worse if they had been in power at the time. And they supported Labour’s actions to solve that crisis – meaning that, if we are in a mess now, the Conservatives should take as much responsibility for it as Labour. They would have done no different.

Possibly the most astonishing moment was when David Cameron said volunteers in food banks were part of his Big Society idea, “to help those in need”. The stated aim of the Big Society was to create a climate that empowers local people and communities, taking power away from politicians and giving it to people. Now, here, Mr Cameron seemed to be saying the opposite – that it is about taking so much away from people that they are forced to rely on charity to survive. It seems, therefore, that the outgoing Archbishop of Canterbury, Dr Rowan Williams, was correct when he labelled it “aspirational waffle designed to conceal a deeply damaging withdrawal of the state from its responsibilities to the most vulnerable.”

His words were, to some extent, echoed by Ed Miliband at PMQs: “I never thought that the big society was about feeding hungry children in Britain. The reality is that in the third year of the Prime Minister’s Government, more children are going hungry and more families are relying on food banks.

“Is it not the clearest indictment of his Government’s values that while lower and middle-income families are being hit, at the same time he is giving an average of a £107,000 tax cut to people earning over £1 million a year?”

And those were the truest words spoken on the subject.