26th January 2013

26th January 2013

One has to ask the question are some people really fit to be parents.  Having just walked back from town I stood at a busy junction, where snow and ice lay on the ground.  I pressed the button to stop the traffic and be able to safely cross the road.  On the other side of the junction were two young mothers with two prams and four children under the age of five on foot. [I am stood on corner of Brayford Way and A57; they are stood on corner of A57 and road opposite Brayford Way, called The Avenue].  The traffic flow in the area is slightly complex in that the traffic on Brayford Way is three lanes one way and two lanes the other.  On the three lane side there is a filter on the left hand lane up The Avenue to where the red vehicle is.  To add to the situation there are currently road works on The Avenue so stopping vehicles coming down The Avenue, which is an incline away from the A57.  Right so you now have the picture; add to this there are a few other people stood at the junction also waiting for the green man.  We have cars stationary in the right and middle lane of Bradford Way but moving in the left hand lane when suddenly with a gap of no more than thirty yards in the traffic these two young mothers start to cross the road, pushing their prams and the children on foot following behind.  Needless to say as a car came onto Brayford Way in the left hand lane as it reached the junction suddenly found two of the young children, who were straggling behind their mothers, in the middle of the road.  Fortunately the driver was able to stop and sound the horn of the vehicle.  At this point one of the mothers realised two of the children had not crossed the road and remonstrates with the driver.  Why were two of the children so slow you may ask?  Though I guess you might also be asking why the devil did the mothers cross the road in the first place and not wait for the green man.  Anyway the reason the two children were straggling was that in the road works was a cuddly toy.  This was retrieved by a gentleman walking down the Avenue.  But then to compound the matter one of the mothers runs back across the road to collect the toy again forcing another car to take evasive action.

So why do I tell this story.  Well it is very worrying that in modern society we appear to have a number of people who think that everything revolves around them.  So rather than waiting a few more seconds for the green man these two mothers put their children’s lives at risk.  Working, I presume, on the assumption that any vehicle coming towards them will stop or they would beat it across the road.  Imagine if the vehicle had been a 40 ton lorry and it had hit ice on the road rather than a family size car.  As it turned out the mothers did beat the car across the road but two of their children did not.  It was only either good fortune or the skill of the driver that a serious accident was avoided.  However, worse, it can be argued what was the message they have given their children “that it is acceptable to cross the road without waiting for the green man”.

At this point one has to consider are these two women fit to be mothers and why is it they either are willing to take the risk or cannot see the risk they put their children in.  I believe modern society has lost the art of parenthood for many people.  Why because it has become all too easy to put a child with the electronic nanny and this allows the parents to concentrate on themselves rather than bringing up their children.  Electronic nannies; be that the television or computer games; do not have any morals.  They are all driven by profit.  They put the responsibility on the adult to limit a child’s access to them.  However, if the adult’s moral compass is either spinning wildly or pointing in the wrong direction how can they possibly know what is the most beneficial decision for their child.  Further more and more children today have a television, computer, and other electronic gadgets in their bedrooms – so further cutting them off from their parents.

Research for the Literacy Trust in 2004 showed that young children who watch too much television have impaired language development.  Not surprising when programmes like “tellitubbies” are being produced. Interestingly the research by Dr. Robin Close [http://www.literacytrust.org.uk/assets/0000/0429/TV_early_years_2004.pdf] further suggested children watched more television in poorer families where parents had little education.  The research also does not recommend television for children age two or younger and for older children no more than one to two hours of educational [and I stress the word educational], non-violent programmes per day.

In Great Britain there are over 16 television channels dedicated to pushing out non-educational programmes to children.  However, in the USA; and rarely would anyone cite the USA of doing something right; where there are many more channels aimed at children Congress passed a law as far back as 1990 that required all television companies to produce three hours a week of “core” programmes.  Core programmes being of educational standard and with limited commercials and a clear demarcation between programme and advert.  Highlighting web links is also limited. Admittedly there are still some parents who use the electronic nanny but at least the children are then “forced” to watch something of educational value.  Here in Great Britain we have had commercials about road safety but it appears that in the case of these two young mothers that information failed to lodge in their brains.

As a society have we lost the art of communication?  Is everything so focused on the “meism” culture that young parents no longer are able to talk through how to bring up children with their parents?  Is society so splintered that turning to grandma or granddad and getting advice and support is not possible.  I believe it is time we cut down on the likes of the electronic nannies and started to spend on purposeful and practical pastime facilities.  We have all heard about the “hockey mum” and seen what she does.  Whilst I am not suggesting that only mothers put the interests of their family, and most importantly their children, ahead of her own we do need families where mum AND dad spend time with their children doing things that have no meaning but are beneficial.  Whether that is playing in the park, going swimming, sitting around the table playing a board game or having a meal together WITHOUT the television being on.  Sadly modern society appears to believe that it can only function with an electronic devise telling them what to do.  Let’s hope there is not a power cut because far too many people, young and old alike, in modern society will not know what to do.

19th January 2013

19th January 2013

On Thursday evening I joined about 300 other people in the Drill Hall in Lincoln for the BBC programme Question Time. It was an interesting evening with much of the programme being about the High Street and Europe. However, before the programme was recorded there was a “dummy” question about obesity and food. As some-one who is not exactly skeletal in size the debate was of interest as were the various issues that were bounced around. One of the main ones was that in modern Britain parents could not get or afford nutritious meals when out and about resulting in their only option to go to the burger outlets. Points were made about how this should be seen as a treat and if family meals at home were nutritious then the occasional less healthy meal would not be a bad thing. The argument was then put that people today do not know how to produce a nutritious meal at home and some in the audience said they could not afford it. Weigh up the simple cost of a bag of crisps against the cost of any apple. The latter if eaten slowly takes longer and is more filling and now-a-days is often cheaper. Today (Saturday) I went out shopping for lunch tomorrow and for £4.50 got a chicken; vegetables for under a £2 and few other bits and pieces which with the various bits and bobs in my culinary cupboards at home will enable me to produce, in no small part thanks to the Hairy Bikers, a full roast along with a dessert. I also noticed that if I had just purchased the chicken breasts they would have cost me around six pounds. This makes the whole chicken cheaper in the long run because any left over meat will go to make a curry on Monday. Now I am no domestic goddess as the photograph proves, also just because we had the kitchen done up does not make my cooking any better. However, it is very easy to produce a wholesome meal for a family of four for under a tenner. It is all down to education. This may well lead to howls and shrieks of I cannot afford a tenner I have to do it for under a fiver. This got me thinking. In my local co-op I asked the young lady serving the cost of 20 cigarettes at the same time I looked at the price of alcohol. Twenty cigarettes I was told are priced at over eight pounds and she even told me one company produces packets of one hundred for over thirty two pounds. So when a parent tells me that they cannot afford to spend a tenner in the local market or Lidls but they are stood there with a cigarette in their hands I have to ask exactly who are you kidding. Add to this I walk to my local co-op, good exercise for the dog (yeah right). If we are going to really address obesity then we need to address the way people see food. Trips to fast food outlets should be an infrequent treat not a daily occurrence. I have seen people using the local fast food emporium; just down the road where I live; as the place to get their Sunday main meal. We often have queues of cars spewing out of the drive through lane; blocking access to the rest of the shopping centre; full of children and waiting to buy yet another fast food to be eaten on the run. It is fairly obvious that this is not a treat but a way of life. Also often appears to be a way of silencing the children in the car. Cooking itself can be an experience for children. Imagine the sights and smells that mixing ingredients from scratch and how children can then make small changes to the basic recipe and still be healthy – substituting blackberries for raspberries or stuffing a lemon up the a*s* of a chicken. How can we expect a child to learn about good food and diet if the parents, who lead by example, head for McDonalds rather than make their own meals? When my children were young their treat was McDavids home made burgers into which all the ingredients were known, rather than a trip to McDonalds. No horse meat in those burgers. Also the burgers only had bread bases, the tops were open piled up with a variety of items – I wonder if that is where the Hairy Bikers got that idea from – then some salad or baked beans on the side add a few chips and hey presto a healthy fun meal. Matthew (when he was alive) used to make pizza and was proud of the fact that his veggie sister would eat it because one side was veggie and the other carnivore based. Try buying that in a shop and knowing what has gone into it. He learned those skills from school and being allowed to experiment in the kitchen at home. Both his sisters can cook and produce different styles of meals but which are wonderful. Lunch recently with one of my daughters was home made soup, using she told me the remains of her vegetable box, and home made fresh bread. She makes bread much better than me. As I freely admit I am not threadlike in physique but I do ensure I get fresh fruit and vegetables meeting my five recommended portions a day. I have cut down on things like pork pies – oh I so miss them – and cakes. It may not result in me becoming skinny but I have found I am saving money and I am told I am looking healthier. But more importantly I enjoy the cooking. The kitchen is becoming my domain. Admittedly it gets me out of the washing up. I get pleasure for seeing empty plates and hearing comments as people come into the house – “oh something smells good”. Now tell me does the meal in the photographs not set you taste buds alive and it cost me less than a tenner.

16th January 2013

16th January 2013

It is -80c outside the hospital as I arrive.  I am rushing to get inside from the warmth of my car to the warmth of the hospital as fast as I can without slipping on the icy footpath.  As I travel the 100 yards or thereabouts I pass the hospital’s “smoking station”. A place set up because since 1st of July 2007 it has been illegal to smoke in public places.  Since then we have seen the growth in “smoking stations”.  As I pass this one there in the dark at -80c is a nurse; no coat, no jumper or cardigan; smoking.  If ever there was an image of how addictive nicotine is that has to be it.  She is on what is probably her only 20 minutes break during her shift and she has gone out into the freezing cold night to get her fix of her chosen drug.

Now I know the smokers amongst you and even some non-smokers will be saying “sanctimonious old git” because I am a non-smoker – well actually an ex-60 a day smoker, though in fairness I probably gave away ten or so a day to patients.  I could get through six plus on the drive to work in London and another six on the way home.  But it is not the fact people smoke that concerns me, hey it is a free world and if you want to fill your body with chemicals that can and do kill go ahead.  No the thing that bothers me is that nicotine is so addictive that people will go to any length to get their fix and once hooked struggle desperately to stop.  I know from when I smoked that at 3.00 a.m. when I was out of cigarettes and woke up wanting one I would drive to a vending machine and buy a packet.

I remember being told once that pure nicotine crystals if ingested would kill you.  With this and all the other risks why do so many, especially the young more start each day and become addicted.  Furthermore how can we stop them from starting?  Perhaps you may say should we stop them?  It can be argued that once hooked nicotine will drive the user to their next fix more readily than any other drug.  It has been argued that as the most addictive substance in the world; nicotine has a 96.5% addiction likelihood; it should be banned.  Studies show while alcohol, caffeine, and cannabis are the most commonly used drugs, it is nicotine that has the highest rate of reinforcement (continued use) and dependence (difficulty with cessation).   The top five “addictive” drugs are nicotine, crack, Methamphetamine (smoked), Crystal Methamphetamine (injected) and Heroin.  But nicotine is the only “drug” in this group that can be legally purchased and this is what makes it dangerous.  Equally of the five four are or can be smoked.  Smoking gives the user of any drug the fastest hit of their substance of choice – about 8 seconds.

The government tries to get us to stop.  It pushes up the price – well that never stopped me.  They run adverts on the television – we ignore them like many adverts because we are in the kitchen making a cuppa. They force manufacturers to hide the brand – when I smoked a cigarette was a cigarette Sovereign and Players No 10 it did not matter so long as it was a cigarette.  They raise the age you can buy them – I started aged 11 behind the Health Authority buildings with Dave Agar (sadly he is no longer with us).  None of that worked.  My father even showed me cancerous lungs – in one eye and out the other.  What got me to stop – being offered a choice, the cigarette or the mortgage.  The mortgage won.  So what choices can we offer people?  And what can we replace nicotine with?

They say sex is a great if not the greatest driver of humans, particularly men.  Though having watched both modern and not so modern women it appears to drive them just as much.  Just say George Clooney, Nicholas Cage or try Luke Benward and Justin Bieber for the younger ones and look into their eyes, the signs are the same as if you say Ursula Andress, Samantha Bond, Drew Barrymore, Avril Lavigne or Lindsey Lohan to a man.  But what if you add a cigarette to the picture which has now developed in your mind’s eye.  The picture to the right shows a young lady who most men would see as attractive, everything is as it should be.  But then look again and think if she were standing before you right now looking into your eyes what would you see?  Her long blonde hair flowing over her shoulders or the curves of her body accentuated by her limited clothing or would all that be lost by the smell of her ashtray breath as she exhales and says “Hello darling”.

Over the years, since I gave up smoking, I have come to see the cigarette as a barrier.  When I smoked it was a bridge, “have you got a fag mate” it opened up a conversation – unless you were in New York where asking for 20 fags got you some very strange looks in the 1980s, perhaps not today anyway – and allowed you to develop friendships or get over a problem, share information, even gain the attention of a patient, the list was almost endless.  But now things have changed and the cigarette and all its associated smells and sights puts a cloud between you and beautiful things.  Yet people continue to smoke and new smokers join the band daily.

Should we be making it even harder for the smoker to get their fix or should we be treating them as some-one who is an addict and providing them with treatment?  It is a question that will run on for many years to come.  However, to the beautiful people out there putting that cigarette to your lips; in my eyes; it moves you from a beautiful person to person; your beauty is lost to me in a cloud of smoke.

It is still -80c outside and I am willing to bet some-one is stood at the smoking station outside the hospital without a coat or jumper or cardigan but with a cigarette to their lips.

14th January 2013

14th January 2013

As I was tootling along the Lincolnshire lanes today watching the snow flakes fall like little stars between the leafless trees my mind wandered to the 20 children and six adults who were needlessly killed in Sandy Hook, Newtown, Connecticut just before Christmas.  I thought how those little children would never see such beautiful sights again.  Never get to feel the softness of the snowflake on their nose or the tingle of flakes as they settle on their hair.  Then Wayne LePierre’s words crossed my mind about how it was the fault of video games makers, the media, the film industry just about anyone except the person carrying the gun that they died.  He demands the right to bear arms, says it is his Constitution right – a Constitution that is only a couple of centuries old and was drawn up in the time of violence and civil war – to bear arms.  One has to ask the question would LePierre have said the same things if one of the 20 children at Sandy Hook had been his grandchild or one of the teachers his daughter or his wife.  I guess not because his views are driven by an ideology that is stuck in the America of the Wild West that saw the Constitution as the only way to build a society.  In a time when politicians lacked the insight to realise that by allowing people to carry a weapon of mass destruction it would in reality destroy their original desire that of their right to protect themselves.

If LePierre’s argument of “The only thing that stops a bad guy with a gun is a good guy with a gun” worked then gun crime would have died out in America years ago when they armed their police officers and when they put armed guards on the banks, airports, office buildings, power plants, courthouses and sports stadiums he listed with great gusto.  But it has not.  The death rate continues and does not appear to be stopping any time soon.

No the way to stop gun crime is to remove the weapons from the streets.  For the United States of America that does mean a major culture change.  LePierre went on to say quote They’re our kids. They’re our responsibility. And it’s not just our duty to protect them — it’s our right to protect them. You know, five years ago, after the Virginia Tech tragedy, when I said we should put armed security in every school, the media called me crazy. But what if, when Adam Lanza started shooting his way into Sandy Hook Elementary School last Friday, he had been confronted by qualified, armed security?” unquote.  But surely the first thing Lanza would have done on arrival at Sandy Hook School would be to shoot the security guard and then gone on his killing spree.  No the answer is to remove the right to bear arms and ensure that anyone who illegally carries a weapon knows that they spend a very long time reflecting on their actions behind bars.

Let us be realistic if we are a civilised society; and we claim in UK and USA to be civilised societies; then the answer to a grievance is as Churchill in the White House in 1954 is reported to have said “jaw jaw is better than war war”.  We will never know what actually drove Lanza to do what he did.  Furthermore there will be others who for whatever reasons believe the answer to their problem is go out and make a dramatic statement.  What we as a society have to do is help them make their statement in a way that does not physically hurt others.  Banksy made and continues to do so dramatic statements and whilst some may argue that they financially hurt some people they do not physically hurt them.  The outcome of his actions has made him world renown and raised the profile of many causes.  But more importantly if before you read this blog I had asked you two questions:

1 – who is the satirical street artist using subversive epigrams to get his message across and

2 – who entered a school in a Connecticut and shot teachers and pupils

would you have been able to name Adam Lanza as the answer to the second question.  I doubt it.  However, most of you would have guess Banksy as the answer to question one.

So it befalls to all of us and that includes Wayne LePierre and the NRA to put down our guns and teach our children the right way to address the pressures in life.  We must train them how to talk through a painful problem, a distressing thought or a moment of anger.  We also have to educate them to learn the difference between reality and fantasy.  How the latter can be fun but has to be controlled and limited to consenting adults and how the former has consequences that can cause you and others life long pain.

So LePierre and Co at the NRA are you willing to risk that the next school killing in your county;  and sadly I am sure there will be one;  may include your child or grandchild?  Or would you rather show you are man enough to recognize that the world has moved on from the days of Wyatt Earp and give up your right to bear arms.

10th January2013

10th January 2013

Here is a quick thought for tonight’s blog.  

If the world is getting warmer due to climate change how come I now have to wear woolly bed socks at night to keep my feet warm?

Surely if the world is getting warmer then I should be wearing less not more in bed at night.  But I am finding that it is colder at night.  This is not just a winter thing because I also was wearing them in the summer months.

I know the weathermen/women tonight are telling us snow is just around the corner but the snow does not get into my bedroom.

The only thing John Prescott got right when he was in government was the Kyoto Protocol agreement, which sadly the USofA has not ratified.  If places like China, Germany and Fiji can sign up and ratify how come the UsofA is unwilling to ratify.  Is this another example of words from the UsofA but little useful action.  A bit like their comments over Europe as well. 

However, getting back to my bed socks, is it in fact that the climate change we are experiencing at present is a reduction in temperature around the world or should I just blame my cold feet on the Jet Stream coming from America?

9th January 2013

9th January 2013

It is amazing what chaos an overturned lorry can cause.  Heading out to a meeting of nurses in Nottingham tonight at about 3.00pm I passed an overturned lorry on a roundabout just outside Newark.  The Highways Agency was busy clearing up the mess and cargo from the lorry.  It lay on its side like a beached sperm whale.

Five hours later and driving home I discovered traffic backed up all over the place. Coming from Nottingham the cars and lorries were stationary all the way to the Mansfield turning, some three miles from the accident.  Even when I took detour through Newark and around the villages I ran into stationary traffic.

At the accident cite the men were busy still clearing the chaos of the overturned lorry.  However, they had now had to close half the roundabout on the major artery out of Lincolnshire.  This was causing total traffic turmoil.

It does beg the question “how safe are our roads?”  Why had the lorries; it turned out there was a second lorry there; turned over?

Increasingly we are seeing more and more potholes and broken carriage ways, with the length of time before damage is repaired lengthening.  Country Council and Highways Agency do not appear to be making repairs.  However, in middle of next month and in March I am sure we will see loads of road closures as repairs are hurriedly carried out to spend the budget before the end of the financial year.

Why is it that public services all appear to be unable to budget so that spending is balanced over the year?  At the end of each financial year managers start spending in the knowledge that if they do not some government department or other will take it away from them.  Surely if the money was spent as the potholes appeared this would provide road users with a better service.  This would also save motorists the cost of repairs to their wheels and cut down the number of accidents.

However, potholes for cyclists are even worse.  Whilst a pothole to a car is an inconvenience most of the time – to a cyclist it is an almost guaranteed accident if they hit it or worse are forced into it by a motorist.  Motorists pay billions of pounds a year to use the roads.  It is time that money was spent on roads.

I finally got home, after a detour of ten miles and an extra 45 minutes on my journey time.  Thank goodness I have a comfortable car – I dread to think what it would have been like in a small car.

8th January 2013

8th January 2013

The debate in the House of Commons resulting in benefits being capped at 1% rise may cause some, including 4 Lib Dem MPs to baulk at the idea but surely this is, to use modern parlance, a no-brainer.  Most people in the public sector have had 0% rises over the past two years and in the private sector have seen their wages go up by less than 1%.  Many have also seen the deductions for their pensions rise.  So why should those who do not work get any rise let alone 1%.

I heard a man on the television complaining he was barely surviving on his benefits.  How does he think people in the public sector feel when he got 5% last year and they got nothing?  Last year private and public sector workers had to survive on less because of the cost of living rises.  A teacher still has to pay his increased gas bill, a nurse still has to get to work paying more for her public transport, a police officer still has to pay for their cornflakes and the factory worker still had to pay his higher electricity bill yet they got nothing extra to help them.

If we look at the benefits affected by the vote this evening and marry these across to the working person it become even clearer as to why this has to happen.

  • Jobseeker’s Allowance, if you are not working why should you get a pay rise when those in work are not getting a pay rise?
  • Employment and Support Allowance, again if you are not working why should you get a pay rise when those in work are not getting a pay rise?  Some may say why target the sick but sadly too many people have been seen to abuse this benefit and ATOS has failed to provide a service fit for purpose
  • Income Support the argument here is that if you are working you should be supported but the government does not appear to have looked at this as a separate issue
  • Elements of housing benefit, here the rise in benefits only goes to benefit the landlords, if there is no extra money they either reduce the rent or get no rent at all.  Something or nothing, it is easy to guess which greedy landlords will go for.
  • Maternity allowance, this is a more difficult one but it could be argued that if you are planning on having a child then you should have considered can you afford it.  If not then you have to choose 50inch plasma TV and your monthly Sky costs or a child?
  • Sick Pay, Maternity Pay, Paternity Pay, Adoption Pay, many in the NHS are about to have their sick pay cut; in some cases by up to 30%; so again why should some-one working feel the pain whilst some-one not working does not?
  • Couple and lone parent elements of working tax credits and the child element of the child tax credit at this point one might consider that the government has gone a little too far.  If you are working then tax credits should have been left out of the equation.  We have to ensure that any plans for childcare will particularly help the working poor, rather than just offer relief to the middle class.

As Nick Clegg said Labour has to explain why it had content to support the two-year freeze in public sector pay, but is not willing to endorse a three-year 1% rise in tax credits and other benefits. Nick Clegg said “It is not a decision I relish but it is one of the decisions we need to take to fill the black hole in our public finances. That decision alone saves this country just over £5bn over the next three years. That is the equivalent of employing 140,000 classroom teachers,” Further he added “We have done that to protect the money for the NHS and for schools. Asking the question where would Labour look to find that five billion pounds?  Would Labour target our children in their schools, the country as a whole through defence cuts, the vulnerable through cuts in social care and local government or the health of nation by cutting the NHS?

No-one likes to see the amount of money they have increasing by less than the rate of inflation but it was not the unemployed, or the teachers, or the nurses, or the military and the list goes on who caused the problems we are in.  The group of people who caused it are sitting comfortably on their yachts, in their large houses by their swimming pools in the knowledge that Labour let them get away with it and now the Coalition has to clear up the mess without being able to get at the money squandered by the casino bankers.

Vince Cable is right when he points out that the welfare budget could not be insulated from the spending cuts that were needed to rebalance the public finances.

Like many I would love a large modern flashy car, three holidays in the sun, a 50 inch plasma TV – well perhaps not the 50 inch TV because most of the stuff on it is rubbish – but I like everyone have to live within my means.  The government has to do this and now so do those who get benefits paid for by the working taxpayers of the country.

7th January 2013

7th January 2013

So the Government is just over half way through its first term as a modern coalition.  In 2010 the people decided that they had had enough of the extremes of government swinging from the right to the left and back again.  Each time either Labour Party or the Conservatives got into power they blamed the other party for the mess and spent the next parliament trying to undo what the previous one had done.  But now we have a real chance of a Parliament that will not have swung so far to the right that at the next election people will not have to vote Labour back in to redress the balance.  In the Coalition there are some good things that have happened, the deficit down by 25%, exports up to growing global markets, the triple lock for pensions and income tax being cut so now 2 million of lowest paid not paying any tax.  There are social and public reforms that will be in place for years to come and should stand the test of time.  However, there are others that one has to question why the politicians took that route.

The NHS is an example of that.  Over the past 30 years politicians have changed some major aspect of the NHS every year bar one, in that year they changed two aspects.  The government says there are 6,500 less managers but the reality is that many held both a clinical and managerial role and have been given new titles without the word manager in them or have been made redundant.  The number of senior managers has not fallen and many have seen their pay rising whilst clinical staff have faced pay freezes and a rise in their pay deductions.  Continually we hear in the media of the bad nursing care but no-one talks about how there are less nurses in the NHS than in 2010 or that bed occupancy has risen, both of which increase workloads on the clinical nurses left.  No-one reports the positive care that 95+% of patients receive from nurses.  It does not sell media space or airtime.  However, if some of the senior managers were got rid of and replaced by clinical nurses then we may well see even more improvements in patient care and this would lead to less opportunity for the media to attack nurses.  During my career I continually pointed that managers needs nurses to do their job but nurses do not need managers to do their job.  Today we hear how in Staffordshire the senior managers failed to monitor what was going on the wards and the results were fatal.  In the days of Matron’s round such situations would not have arisen.

I remember a Chief Executive once saying to me I regularly go around my wards and departments and all my staff know me.  Then one day when he was passing through a ward one of my union members asked me who that was.  I said it was the Chief Executive; “oh” came the reply “I have never seen him before”.  When matron patrolled the wards no nurse would ever have not know who she was.  In hospitals suits are worn by the money people and politicians all clinical staff are designated by their professional uniform from porter to consultant.  The same applies in the police, military, fire brigade even in private companies, take for example Stobarts.

The Secretary of State for Health says “It is tough and often thankless being an NHS manager …” but he misses the point that they are paid in excess of £50,000 a year.  Nurses at the bedside earn half that and are doing and the equally tough and now often thankless task of trying to hold the NHS together.  If the Secretary of State really wants to make a difference he would not have voted for the Health & Social Care Bill last year and would be looking to reduce the wages of senior managers so the money could be used to employ more clinical staff at the bedside.

The Health & Social Care Act has allowed private companies to come in a cream off NHS money for their already trough like boardrooms.  I cannot see how if you are pumping £100billion into the NHS by allowing private companies to get involved it will lead to more money for patient care.  The figures are very simple.  £100 billion of tax payers money goes to NHS.  NHS then provides private company with access to £100 billion.  Private company need profits; around 20%; to feed share holders  so now £100 billion is £80 billion.  The Tories also want a £20billion budget cut in the NHS.  So now the figures read £100bn minus £20bin minus a further £20bn equals £60bn.  So in reality by allowing the private sector in and using the NHS to help offset the bankers greed we have reduced the NHS budget to £60billion and further feathered the nest of the Tory Boardrooms.  Then Ministers say it is the fault of the nurses that the NHS is failing.  But hang on whilst nurses currently make up 70% of the work force the total nurse bill for the NHS is only £7.9bn; or 7.9% of the current NHS budget; so where is the rest going?

The 105 private firms that have gained “any qualified provider” status are not doing this for altruistic reasons and they will be looking to cut corners or make further profits wherever they can.  The likes of Specsavers may slowly increase the price of their products not covered by the NHS but having had an NHS examination you have to purchase.  We already are hearing of problems with Virgin Care GP surgeries where patients cannot get access to a doctor or a nurse or where serves are continually provided by locums.  How is the latter a provision of continuity of care?

I like the idea of coalition government because it stops the extreme swing of the political pendulum but it does require that both parties talk and listen to each other and that the zealots in either party are reigned in by the leaders when they push their crazy extremist ideas.

The National Health Service; providing healthcare to all British citizens free at the point of delivery; is the envy of every country in the world.  Without the NHS the United Kingdom cannot remain fit and healthy ready to work to put the Great back into Great Britain.

6th January 2013

6th January 2013

Sunday’s newspapers headline with the effect Tory cuts in benefits will have on soldiers, nurses and teachers.  Well no real surprise there, it has long been known that the Conservative Party supports business and sees those in the public sectors who protect business, be that directly (soldiers/police), or indirectly through good health (nurses/midwives) or by educating potential and future workforces (teachers) as being easy targets when they need to make cuts.  While boardrooms have been giving themselves pay rises, senior managers in the NHS have done likewise and even the MPs put in for a £30,000 plus pay rise, the working man and woman has been punished.  Today I heard some-one from the private sector suggest that nurses and the like should not suffer under the benefit curbs but that those who are reluctant to work should be just given vouchers for the basics, bread, milk, some gas or electric but not able to spend these on cigarettes, alcohol or in the bookie.  Here here.  This is not the first time I have heard this.  One does have to wonder if such a move would be the best way forward if Britain is to become Great again.  One nurse I was talking to said that if a criminal; on benefits; broke into her house the criminal probably would take pity on her and rather than steal the little she has would give her some money, because she does not have 42” plasma screen TV, Xbox, iphone or any of the other modern gadgets many on benefits appear to have.  Yet she works 40 hours a week looking after frail and vulnerable people for a take home of less than £500 a week.

It is all well and good Tories saying that those on benefits must feel the pain but most nurses, teachers, police officers and the like have been feeling the pain for some years now.  No pay rise for three years and an increase in the deductions from their wages along with a rise in the cost of living has resulted in all staff at the public sector “coalface” suffering a pay cut.  For those who are forced to rely on tax credits and child benefit to maintain any semblance of a decent life after a hard day’s work to have this cut by a government of millionaires and in some case career politicians who do not know what a hard day’s graft is appalling.

It is right that those who do not work should feel the financial pain, arguably they should have felt it last year when they got 5% rise and working people in both public and private sector got nothing or very little.  Any attacks on benefits should be targeted at those who are not working.  But the politicians tend to wield a Long Sword rather than a Rapier to deal with the problems caused by the financial orks.  Brandishing heavy blunder weapons may destroy much of the area it covers but it does not get to the heart of the problem.  If the Government wants to sort out the financial mess then it needs to use a scalpel so as to get to the heart without breaking the ribs.  Then it can perform heart surgery and the body will recover.

What the Government appears to be ignoring is that the financial orks are only a subspecies of the wider Capitalist Roaming Oligopoly Omnivorous Reptilian Sect.  The Crooks; lets call them Greedskins; are a savage, warlike, financially greedy race of androids who are spreading all across the world.  They share many features with other capitalists but will destroy them to achieve their omnipotence.  They are seen by their enemies (pretty much everyone else in the world) as savage, warlike and greedy, but they are the most successful species in the world, outnumbering possibly every other intelligent race, even humans.  However, this massive population of Crooks is split into hundreds of tiny empires, often warring between themselves to gain financial control.  It has been speculated that were the Crooks ever to unite as a single financial entity, they would undoubtedly crush any government that would dare to stand against such a tsunami of greed muscle.  Luckily, the Crooks enjoy killing each other financially every bit as much as they savour stealing the pecuniary blood of the world’s hardworking peoples.

Whilst it may be time that the Greedskins are brought to heel making the hardworking people of the world suffering the process is wrong.  There are plenty of people who contributed to the situation we are in who have to date got off scott free.  If a nurse makes a life threatening error he/she can expect to be in front of their regulator.  Yet for the many in the financial world who cause the financial meltdown they have got off with no punishment and simply passed the buck down the line to an expendable junior and walked away with massive payouts and pensions.  It just goes to show how the morale compass of many of the bank Boardrooms has been broken or lost.  Whilst the Mayan prediction for the 21st of December 2012 did not come about, it may be that we all misread the runes.  Perhaps it was not the end of the world but we should read their prediction as the end of the world for the Greedskins and the beginning of a new world era for people with a soul and a working morale compass.

Cutting the small amount of extra money paid to soldiers, teachers and nurses to try and stave off a crisis caused by people who earn more in a year than most nurses, teachers and soldiers will earning in their life time is not only wrong but morally unjustifiable, even for millionaire politicians.


As we enter 2013 I ask myself the question “will things be better this year or are we just going to continue as we have been doing?”  It becomes a difficult question to answer if you consider it from the perspective of some-one who has a job.  The question becomes more involved, “will I keep it”, “can I afford it” and one that increasingly appears to be raised “why should I work to keep others on the dole”.  I remember a conversation recently with a young girl in a shop.  She said she did not like her job and was thinking of quitting but would not get dole money for a few weeks if she did.  When I pointed out to her that whilst she had a job she was a) a productive member of society, b) occupied and so not bored and getting in to trouble; idle hands and all that;  and c) I was not seeing my tax being given to her for doing nothing.  However, she replied she wanted a better job.  I said I could not disagree with that but quitting was not the answer, after all would she give me money to stay at home, whilst she continued in her current job?  No she said.  I can understand her frustration when increasingly the shops are switching to machines at the check out and customer service is not something Boardrooms are bothered about, all they want is your money.  But having a job and providing people with the skills and knowledge to gain and hold down a job has to be the bed rock of any society.

So will things get better?

Well there are a number of things the government could do.  For example we have recently seen a number of fatal accidents at railway crossings why not employ some of the unemployed as railway crossing keepers. I had a colleague some years ago who prior to becoming a nurse was a railway crossing keeper and he said the job was simple it entailed “beating the train to the gates”.  Even if paid such people were paid a living rather than the minimum wage it would be cheaper than keeping them on the dole, bored, unproductive and importantly for taxpayers would save lives.  It is pretty difficult to drive through a solid wooden gate. 

Another possibility is to employ people as boarder control staff.    They could check every person and item entering this country, as they do in places like New Zealand and Australia, and by doing so ensure that those who are illegally trying to enter the country or trying to bring in illicit goods could be stopped at the boarder and sent straight back to where they came from.  We are an island and as such should be able to protect ourselves from unwanted guests.  I can hear the cries from the libertarians and as a Liberal Democrat I have some sympathy with those cries.  However, some years ago I suggested to the then Home Secretary that the answer to those looking for asylum was to have centres in their countries where they could start their asylum process.  The system would be simple enough people would report to the centre in their own country; this could be classed as a diplomatic mission and so provide security; and from there they would start the process of proving that they really were at risk and not just looking for a better life on the cheap.  Then if their claim checked out they could be offered asylum either in the enlarged diplomatic mission in their own country or brought to the United Kingdom.  This offers a number of solutions.  1) the diplomatic missions could be large enough to provide accommodation, employment and financial input in to a country that might be struggling to develop.  2) anyone being offered asylum would know from day one that if they failed to abide by British law they would be returned to their own country.  3) it would result in foreign aid being targeted at people in need and provide positive outcomes.  Such developments would also provide examples of how to be seen to be caring without simply just removing the problem.

But what of the original question if you are some-one without a job.  The future continues to look bleak.  The politicians continue to fight rather than come up with solutions.  The bankers continue to make money for themselves and leave small and medium businesses to struggle.  Senior managers in private and public sector continue to give themselves massive pay rises whilst failing to provide more jobs.  In fact in many cases senior managers and company executives are cutting jobs and with it the services people provide.  We see this in the shortage of police officers, nurses, teachers but also in lack of shop assistants, guards on trains and buses, the latter ones being in the private sector.  So there are potential jobs out there for the unemployed if only the politicians would think laterally or even think.  If, as we hear, there is to be a cap of £26,000 net a year on benefits, why not have the person you are paying £26,000 to working.  All the jobs I have mentioned about pay less than £26,000 gross.  So by moving the benefit money to the NHS or police or boarder agency we would be able to provide jobs directly and offer people employment.  It becomes a win win for everyone.  The unemployed get a job, society has more people providing services and the Treasurer saves money because it gets tax and national insurance back from the workers rather than just hand out money, an increasing percentage of which ends up in the hands of the bookies.

So “will things be better this year or are we just going to continue as we have been doing?”  I can only hope they will and that the ideas people have are taken up by the politicians.  But if the politicians and society continue blame each other and fail to work together, then the rich will continue to get richer by keeping their head down and the poor will continue to get poorer and increase in number so their head will continue to hang low.

It is time to make changes but maybe now the only way is for ordinary people to start making their voice heard.

Happy New Year.