Tag Archives: tool

The ‘diabetes tax’: Some patients must pay £1,200 a year for tool Theresa May said was freely available on the NHS

Theresa May: She might get her FreeStyleLibre diabetes tool on the NHS, but her government has made sure many members of the public have to pay a fortune for it.

An apparently innocent interlude in Prime Minister’s Questions has opened up a potentially-huge controversy for the Conservative government.

Labour MP Steve McCabe noted that Theresa May uses a FreeStyleLibre diabetes tool, which monitors her condition and warns her when she needs medication. He asked when it would be freely available on the National Health Service. Here’s the dialogue, from the official record of Parliamentary affairs, Hansard:

Steve McCabe (Birmingham, Selly Oak) (Lab)

“Even the Prime Minister’s fiercest critics—I believe she has a few—must be full of admiration for the way in which she manages her diabetic condition and holds down such a tough and demanding job. I understand that she benefits from a FreeStyle Libre glucose monitoring system. Wouldn’t it be nice if she did something to make that benefit available to the half a million people who are denied it because of NHS rationing? Perhaps we could call it “help for the many, not the few”. [907106]

“I thank the hon. Gentleman for his comments. I do use a FreeStyle Libre, and it is now available on the national health service, but it is not the only means of continuous glucose monitoring that is available on the NHS. Yesterday I saw a letter from a child—a young girl—who had started on the FreeStyle Libre, but, because of the hypos that she had been having, had been moved to a different glucose monitoring system. There is no one system that is right for everyone; what is important is that those systems are now available on the NHS.”

Technically, she was correct and the FreeStyleLibre is available on the NHS.

But, thanks to Tory meddling, its availability to people with diabetes is based on a postcode lottery.

You may remember that Andrew Lansley’s hated Health and Social Care Act of 2012 imposed Clinical Commissioning Groups on the NHS. These are local organisations that decide which services should be available to patients in their areas, based on the amount of money that is made available to them. The creation of CCGs was justified with a claim that GPs would serve on them – but in fact GPs are far too busy and the work seems to have devolved to businesspeople.

Unite the Union surveyed the 3,392 CCG board members in 2015 and reported that 513 were directors of private healthcare companies: 140 owned such businesses and 105 carried out external work for them. More than 400 CCG board members were shareholders in such companies.

As a result, trust in CCGs’ ability, or indeed willingness, to provide the best-quality healthcare their budgets can afford is low. It seems the bias is more likely towards offering private firms the contracts they want, in order to appease shareholders who sit on these groups.

The FreeStyleLibre – together with those who use it – appears to be a victim of this system.

While it is nominally available on the NHS, as Mrs May claimed, it is not available to huge numbers of NHS patients because the CCGs in their area simply haven’t offered to pay for it. Instead, they have to fund it themselves at a cost of £100 per month.

That’s a “Diabetes Tax”, if you like, of £1,200 per year.

This information comes from a segment of the BBC’s Politics Live that I was lucky enough to notice:

Here’s the clip the programme put up on Twitter, in which Type 1 diabetic Tessa Nejranowski destroys Mrs May’s claim:

So there you have it:

Mrs May lied to Parliament. FreeStyleLibre is not available on the NHS – at least, not everywhere in England – and where it is not, people have to pay £1,200 a year to have it privately. That’s a “diabetes tax” imposed on people with the condition by the Conservatives.

And it’s about as strong an argument as any for the dissolution of the CCGs and the repeal of the Health and Social Care Act 2012. But you’ll have to wait for a Labour government before that happens.

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Sincerity in the face of adversity (Mr Cameron, take note)

Shiny and insincere: Maybe. But Bob Monkhouse spoke from the heart about the loss of his son, something that seems beyond David Cameron's abilities.

Shiny and insincere: Maybe. But Bob Monkhouse spoke from the heart about the loss of his son, something that seems beyond David Cameron’s abilities.

Do you ever have moments when you think you’ve said something the best way you can, and then someone else comes along and does it better? In this case, the words come from an unexpected source – and from beyond the grave.

Last week this blog ran a couple of articles attacking the way David Cameron, in his speech to the Conservative Party conference, used the memory of his late son Ivan to attack the Labour Party’s stance on the National Health Service.

Some readers took exception, and it is to these that the following is addressed.

In a Mail on Sunday interview back in January, Cameron himself expressed his displeasure with people who said he would eventually find a way to take something positive from his loss: “Even though Ivan was very disabled and very ill, it was all just a total shock. We had no idea he was going to suddenly die in the way he did,’ he said.

“But the person who says to you, ‘There’s a silver lining to all this,’ or ‘Some good will come of all this,’ you actually want to thump. It’s the most annoying thing anybody can possibly say.”

It seems Cameron did find a way to make something of his son’s death, though – by attacking Labour. Here’s the Daily Telegraph‘s coverage of this part of his speech last week: “In the most emotional passage of his keynote address, Mr Cameron expressed outrage that Labour was trying to position itself as the party of the NHS and undermine the Conservatives’ record.

“‘They were spreading complete and utter lies – and I just think, how dare you! It was the Labour party that gave us the scandal of Mid-Staffs, elderly people begging for water.’*

“He added: ‘For me this is personal. I know what it’s like to have a sick child in hospital and know that when I get there are people who will care for it like it was their own child.

“’How dare they suggest I would ever put that risk for other people’s children? How dare they frighten those who rely on our National Health Service.'”

In both the remarks quoted above, Mr Cameron’s son hardly gets a mention. He’s there as a device for Cameron to talk about himself or Labour.

This is something that was brought home to Yr Obdt Srvt in the most unexpected place over the weekend, when BBC Four ran a documentary about, of all people, the late Bob Monkhouse.

During his life, Bob gained a reputation for being shiny and insincere – all gloss and no substance. It’s a reputation that may be partly deserved. He also shared two important characteristics with Cameron – he was a Conservative (or at least a Conservative supporter, back in the 1980s), and he had a son with Cerebral Palsy who died young (although considerably older than Cameron’s son).

And there was nothing insincere about Bob when he said this about his son Gary: “I think most parents of a grossly handicapped child will see [it] not as their tragedy, but as their child’s tragedy. And then, as in the case of my son, you begin to learn from the child.

“He was such a – a straight arrow. He was a source of great inspiration to me and, and I think of him every day, and if I grieve – as I do – I grieve not for his death but for his life, which was a very difficult fight for him.”

The difference between Bob’s words and Cameron’s should be clear. If so, then there is nothing to add.

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Have we forgotten how to care – or are we just fed up with a government that won’t listen?

No horses were harmed in the making of this article. But at least one ESA claimant died while it was being prepared. [Picture: Eater.com]

No horses were harmed in the making of this article. But at least one ESA claimant died while it was being prepared. [Picture: Eater.com]

Here we are again.

Almost exactly a year ago, I wrote what in Vox Political terms was a blistering indictment, in which I tore metaphorical strips off of any reader who had failed to sign the government e-petition then known as Pat’s Petition.

This document, calling on the government to “stop and review the cuts to benefits and services which are falling disproportionately on disabled people, their carers and families” had secured around 60,000 signatures but had less than a day left to run when the article was written.

It would be nice to think that the piece acted as a prompt for at least some of the 3,000 people who signed in those last few hours – but this was not enough to save the petition, which failed to reach the 100,000 signatures needed for Parliament’s backbench business committee to consider taking its demands further.

Now we are in a similar position with the successor to Pat’s Petitionthe WoW Petition. It just happens that Yr Obdt Srvt had a hand in writing this one, along with a few others, and a lot of work was done to make it media-attractive and a magnet for signatures.

It was launched by the comedian Francesca Martinez, who is disabled, and the organisers went out of their way to find ways of publicising it throughout the year it was to be available for signing – for example, with ‘mass tweets’ on Twitter to attract tweeple who had not noticed it previously.

The petition calls for “a Cumulative Impact Assessment of Welfare Reform, and a New Deal for sick & disabled people based on their needs, abilities and ambitions.”

At the time of writing it has two months (and a few hours) left to run, and has just reached approximately the same number of signatures as Pat’s Petition. Unless around 1,000 people start signing every day, this one might fail as well.

Now, I’m not going to shout at you (not this time, anyway). There have been several developments which have affected my own thinking about government e-petitions, meaning my own position towards them has cooled considerably.

For starters, ask yourself: When was the last time the government changed its policy – significantly – in response to a successful e-petition on its website? Has it ever happened? I can’t think of one instance. But that is what this petition demands.

The simple fact seems to be that the e-petition site is a sop for people who want to effect change. They think it is a tool for them to improve the country when in fact it is a tool for keeping them under control; if you are spending a year promoting an e-petition, you won’t be undermining the regime in other ways.

My problem with this – if it is true, and not just a product of my own paranoia – is that, according to government figures that are now long out-of-date, 73 people are dying every week and nothing is being done about it.

Look at the government’s own response, published after the WoW petition received more than 10,000 signatures. It’s on the petition page and concentrates on the call for a cumulative impact assessment, claiming (wrongly) that such an endeavour is practically impossible. It isn’t. There’s no interest in the other demands at all.

Next point: If the 73-a-week figure is accurate – and more so if it is now a grave underestimation (which is my belief) – then the 62,792 signatures achieved at the time of writing is a horrifying indictment of Britain and its citizens. Are we all so apathetic that we are happy to sit around, eating our horseburgers and gossiping about whether the stars of our favourite soap operas are sex fiends (two of the year’s more popular scandals) that we can’t be bothered to spare a thought for people – perhaps people we know – who are suffering for no reason other than that the government we didn’t even elect demands it?

The horsemeat in our beefburgers received far more coverage than the fact that 73 people every week have been dying, even though (as far as I am aware) nobody has suffered fatal injuries from chomping on a bit of thoroughbred. What does that tell you about your fellow Brits? What does it tell you about yourself?

Moving on: Other petitions, on other sites, have attracted more attention (and many more signatories) – especially those with a topical theme that is embarrassing for the government on a personal level. When Iain Duncan Smith said he could live on the amount people receive on Jobseekers’ Allowance, a petition – calling his bluff by demanding that he actually do so – attracted something like half a million signatures within a few days.

On a more serious level, after Smith and Grant Shapps decided it would be fun to distort the truth about the number of people moving into work to avoid the benefit cap, a petition demanding that they make apologies and reparations for their claims also attracted more than 100,000 signatures within a very short period of time – and is to be handed in to Parliament very soon.

These considerations lead us to some uncomfortable conclusions.

First, it is unlikely that a petition focusing only on the plight of those in danger of joining the 73-a-week death toll will ever reach its target – and even if it did, it is unlikely to gain traction among MPs.

Oh, you think I’m wrong? Have you signed the petition? No? Then get across and sign it now – put your name where it will do some good! Yes? Have you told all your friends about it and pestered them until they’ve signed it too? No? Then do that. If you’ve already done both and you still think I’m wrong, go out and accost strangers in the street to do it. That’s how you get it to its target!

Second, any mass media campaign needs a convenient – and probably banal – hook to hang itself on, in order to make the lackadaisical public look up from their fish and chips and take notice.

So any future campaign needs to be timed to correspond with an embarrassing slip-up by a DWP minister. This should not be a problem.

Third, any future campaign should not bother with the government e-petitions website but should take advantage of other petitioning organisations in order to make a more immediate impact.

Got that? Good.

None of these conclusions is an excuse not to sign the petition that is currently running. If you have signed it, make your friends do so. If you’ve made your friends do it, make strangers do it too.

More than 10 people are dying every day, because of this government’s policy – and more will do so, as long as that policy remains in effect. In the time it has taken me to write this, one more will have passed away. Add those numbers up and they are far, far too many.

There has been news this week that the British Army’s final tour of duty in Afghanistan has begun – a country where almost 450 British Armed Forces personnel have died since hostilities began 11 years ago. That’s about as many as are dying here at home, because of government policy, every six weeks.

And the figures we use to calculate the death toll are nearly two years out of date.

Think about it.

Take a hard look at yourself.

And get that petition up to 100,000.