All posts tagged 'NHS'

UKIP bouyant after its seaside trip

by Paul on Politics, by political editor Paul Francis Sunday, March 1 2015

If the purpose of party conferences is to send your supporters and candidates away with a spring in their step and a glint in their eye about their electoral prospects, Ukip can claim it more than achieved that after its seaside trip  to Margate.

It wasn't quite on a par with David Steel's exhortation to his party to "go and prepare for government" but the mood in the hall at the end of the Ukip Spring conference in Margate was definitely one of optimism that the party is on course to end up with enough MPs to have a stake in who governs the country and how it is governed after May 8.

What was interesting was  the efforts over the two days that the party is making to spell out what is is for as well as what it is against, what it is positive about rather than what it is negative about.

Although the headline findings of the recent Survation poll - commissioned by one of its donors Alan Bown  - was good news for Nigel Farage in his bid to win Thanet South, some of the other findings were less positive for the party.

Which explains why it has now cast itself as the defender of the NHS. Speaker after speaker came to the platform to declaim they would go to the end of the earth to save the NHS. If you closed your eyes, you could have been at a Labour conference - provided you overlooked the bits about immigration placing the NHS under an intolerable strain.

This was a not-so-subtle bid to appeal to disaffected Labour voters, which party strategists say is where they are increasingly picking up support.

In his own keynote speech, Nigel Farage said the party's campaign would be overwhelmingly positive and vowed to steer away from smears and American-style negative campaigning he clearly expects to be targetted at Ukip in the coming weeks. 

There was a whiff of David Cameron's entreaty to his party to "let sunshine win the day" when he became party leader. Whether the party can stick to this remains to be seen.

The other striking feature about the conference was that it was pretty much gaffe free.

A message has clearly gone out to candidates that they cannot afford to be "off message" and to think carefully about what they are saying in the media. (Paradoxically, the embarrassment caused by the fly-on-the-wall documentary "Meet The Ukippers" has probably helped).

Its MEP Patrick O'Flynn told the conference he did not want candidates to wake up on May 8 to think whether an unguarded remark or slip of the tongue captured by the media might have cost them victory. That may be tough to keep to but it is a sign the party is desperate to be seen as more professional - even if it makes it rather less colourful.

As to how it will fare in Kent on May 7, Nigel Farage slightly rowed back from his prediction on Saturday that the party could be on course to win "four or five seats" in the county, telling me that it was becoming increasingly difficult to draw predictions from national polls about what would happen at a local and regional level.

There is however a growing feeling that there may well be surprise results that confound the pollsters. With so much focus on Thanet South, insiders are saying that in constituencies like Thanet North and Dover and Deal, they are in with a shout.


It was probably not the wisest thing to predict victory quite so explicitly but we have come to expect Janice Atkinson, the Ukip candidate, to be forthright.

Not for her the cautious understatement.

But her declaration that she was going to win Folkestone and Hythe on May 7 - "our own private polling shows that," she said - was the kind of uncompromising forecast that gives party spin doctors palpitations every time she makes a speech.



Nigel Farage certainly doesn't look ill but that hasn't stopped him being the target of unfounded rumours that he is. The speculation, he claims, was spread by the Westminster lobby and although untrue had triggered some concerns among party donors.

He decided the only way he could draw a line under it was to tackle it head on in public.

And it seems he is enjoying himself after his dry January. Asked if he was making up for it with a 'wetter' February, he said: "No, let's just say we re back to normal."

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Categories: Politics | Protests

The Conservatives could win Rochester and Strood. But not on November 20

by Paul on Politics, by political editor Paul Francis Friday, November 14 2014

There is every chance that the Conservatives can win Rochester and Strood. But it won't happen next Thursday, barring some kind of sensational upset.

The momentum is with Ukip, as it has been for most of the campaign, and it is hard to see the Conservatives producing a major game-changer between now and next week.

Despite this, Conservatives remain - at least publicly - pretty upbeat and you can still find a few who think they could yet upset the odds and emerge victorious.

That was clearly behind the appeal by David Cameron for people to vote for the Conservative candidate Kelly Tolhurst - regardless of what party they supported. Was this the last throw of the dice in their campaign? It seemed that way.

The plea for a rainbow coalition to stop the purple wave was surprising - especially coming from the PM - but my sense is that it has not struck a chord with the other parties. It is true, as Mr Cameron suggested, that by-elections are different to normal elections and voters are more likely to switch allegiance.

By-elections are occasions when normal political logic goes out of the window. However, the notion that Labour supporters will hold their noses in the ballot booth and put a cross against the Conservative candidate just doesn't ring true.

The reaction to his plea suggested that there is not much enthusiasm for the idea from those it was aimed at. Somewhat inevitably Ukip was thrilled, depicting the call as desperate and an admission that the Conservatives cannot win on their own.

Nigel Farage delighted in telling a rally on Thursday that he knew things were going well for the campaign not because of the opinion polls or bookmakers but because Mr Cameron was pleading for support from people who would normally vote for other parties


So, if the outcome of Thursday's by-election, why might the Conservatives find some consolation?

It came in the latest opinion poll whose top line was that Ukip were 12 points ahead for the by-election but which also found there could be enough support among voters next May to see the Conservatives regain it from Ukip.

In the light of what looks like a disappointing night to come, it is a small crumb of comfort for the party which has lived up to its promise to chuck everything at trying to win the by-election but seems destined to come off second best.


The Labour campaign can not have been helped by the on-going whispers against Ed Miliband. Having a mini leadership crisis in the middle of a by-election is - to state the obvious - not exactly helpful to any party.

Still, it has continued to send down some of the party's big hitters and locally, its activists have been busy pounding the streets and knocking on doors. And its candidate Naushabah Khan has arguably been one of the more confident performers in hustings and in media intervieiws.

But despite this, the party's standing in opinion polls have gone down since the start of the campaign - a reflection that sometimes events can conspire against political parties in ways that are totally beyond their control.

It is puzzling, however, that the party strategy has not been more heavily focused on the NHS and the on-going problems at Medway Maritime.

One reason may be that in doing so, the party could be perceived as criticising frontline staff who are its own supporters.

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We saw these problems with the NHS coming

by The Codgers' Club Friday, March 14 2014

by Peter Cook

It’s deeply troubling that the A&E department at Medway Maritime has been marked down as unfit for purpose by the CQC. The people of Medway deserve better.

I feel sorry for patients but also for staff, most of whom I am sure are caring and work hard to provide a good service against impossible odds.

What makes me angry is that all the problems that beset the NHS these days were foreseen donkeys’ years ago, but clearly never acted upon. People have been talking about the “demographic time bomb” – which predicted a population top heavy with us oldies – for at least a couple of decades. They knew damn well what problems this would pose.

Why are people surprised that it’s happening?

When I covered health for the Medway Messenger, two big things were happening in Medway.

The hospital governing body was being turned into a foundation trust, which was supposed to give the financial flexibility needed adequately to meet future demands. Clearly that’s not happening.

And the PCT – of blessed memory – was working on expansion of the community nursing service, so that elderly and chronically ill patients could be treated in their own homes, relieving pressure on the hospital, particularly A&E.

A hospital, in the brave new world of the NHS, was to be only for serious cases. Everyone else was to be treated in their homes or at medical centres. General practitioners were to take on more community healthcare, but as we all know by the time you get an appointment with your family doctor, you are either dead or it’s got better.

When things go badly wrong with an organisation, it’s either because of bad management or lack of resources. In the case of Medway Maritime it’s both.

The £6m being offered by the government is too little, too late. It’s a sticking plaster solution to a problem that the most junior of student nurses could see hurtling towards us.

The after-hours GP service for pensioners should have been in place years ago, together with out of hours minor injuries clinics.

Politicians of all parties mouth on about being massive supporters of the NHS and the need for high quality services. What they need to do is to put our money where their mouths are and to get things properly organised. After all its their constituents’ lives at stake.

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Categories: Medway Maritime | Moans and groans

Minor injuries unit is major asset for us all

by The Codgers' Club Monday, December 2 2013

by Peter Cook

To be helpful, the man who delivered the new fence posts left them neatly stacked outside the back door, where we couldn’t miss them.

My carer didn’t miss them. In dashing out to feed the cats she took the opportunity to go bum over bosom, ending up in a tangled heap of timber, cat food tins and indeed cats.

It’s to my eternal credit that not a titter did I utter. Never a morsel of mirth passed my lips. Just an abbreviated snort which I quickly suppressed.

Instead I got her back on her feet and into the house, where we discovered that our tiny tin of Elastoplast was unequal to the task of staunching the flow of blood from her shins.

I should explain that she has form for this sort of thing. Years ago she threw herself under an escaping pony, Emily Davison style, and had her shins severely trampled on. They’ve been fragile ever since.

But hey ho – we have a minor injury unit near where we live. So with an imaginary blue light flashing we headed for that. The staff were wonderful.

We were quickly booked in, well she was, and within a quarter of an hour a pleasant, good-humoured and extremely professional nurse was dressing the wounds. It didn’t hurt a bit. Well I didn’t feel anything, I think she did.

Now the point is they’re closing this minor injuries unit down. At the same time they want to take pressure off the accident and emergency departments of major hospitals. How can that make sense?

What they are telling us is that the unit must close because no “provider” has come forward to run it. What kind of management is that? It’s the kind of management you get when you open up the NHS to private enterprise, that’s what it is.

If I get knocked down by a bus tomorrow am I going to be left lying in the road because no “provider” has come forward to scoop me up? It’s a real possibility once they see who it is.

If a service is needed and our MIU is, it should be properly funded and set up according to the needs of local people.

It’s not as if the GP service can fill the gap. My carer was told to make an appointment with her practice nurse to have the wound dressed but no appointment was available for a week. A leg can go gangrenous and drop off in less than a week. The alternative to the MIU for us would have been a tortuous journey to the nearest A&E, followed by a four-hour wait among people keen to share all manner of infections and then treatment by an over-stressed junior doctor.

We’re heading into the depths of winter, when snow and ice put the skids under people, resulting in cuts, bruises, fractures and sprains. Do the slithering wounded have to be carted off to A&E in future?

Here’s a slippery slope we are all on already. And that’s the lethal toboggan run of an NHS that is fast deteriorating because the politicians won’t fund it properly.

It’s not so much a question of off piste as seriously piste off.

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Categories: Moans and groans

Heart, health and prickly sprig shock

by The Codgers' Club Friday, October 25 2013

by David Jones

Golf can be dangerous. And gardening, too.

Apparently, golf courses and gardens are two of the most popular places in which aged persons fall off their perch.

This depressing statistic crossed my mind while working in my garden last week. Suddenly, I felt an excruciating pain in my chest around my heart, as though I had been stabbed with a dozen needles.

This is it, I thought. I’m having a heart attack. Can I make it back to the house to dial 999? I felt my chest. The pain got worse. I’m dying, I thought. Actually, I wasn’t, or you wouldn’t be reading this blog.

The explanation was considerably more mundane. A twig of holly had fallen off a tree and dropped into my shirt pocket.

This little episode goes to prove how dangerous it is to jump to conclusions about one’s health. I have friends who try to diagnose their ailments on the internet so that when they visit their GP they can give him the benefit of their advice and even tell him he’s got it wrong.

Self-diagnosis is always risky, because you may decide your condition is minor when it isn’t, or you may be the pain in the neck yourself when you pester your GP with symptoms which could be cured with an aspirin.

Type “headache” into Google and about 20 different causes pop up, from brain tumour to poor posture. Take your pick.

While there is always the danger of becoming a hypochondriac, I do think the NHS should make a far greater effort to publicise the free health checks available for patients over 60, a category into which all three Codgers fit neatly.

These free checks are one of the NHS’s best-kept secrets. A simple blood test, available on demand, can detect a whole range of conditions, from high cholesterol to prostate cancer.

They are not infallible, but they are an awful lot better than discovering you have something serious when it could have been detected and cured earlier.

A friend of mine went for one of these tests recently and he was more than miffed when the nurse remarked: “Ah, so you’re one of the worried well.”

I would have found that both patronising and insulting. The sensible well would be more apt, especially when you are on the wrong side of 60.

Prevention is better than cure, as the old adage has it.

And one word of advice: it pays to be pushy when dealing with the NHS – not rude, just pushy. Or you’ll just get fobbed off.

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Why do we just lie back and think of English?

by The Codgers' Club Saturday, July 6 2013
by Peter Cook

Wherever power exists in this country, there exudes the stench of corruption, like putrefaction from a rotting corpse.

I apologise if I have lapsed into the English habit of understatement, but Britain is now officially corrupt.

Like an early West African republic, we expect the national wealth to be creamed off by an oligarchy. If we were Egyptian, or even French, there would be riots in the streets.

But we are not. We are British, and in many cases English.

So perhaps the best way to deal with the avarice of those who run our country is, like a reluctant bride, to just lie back and enjoy it. Fight it with biting humour. After all there’s not much else we can do.

The first of the great British institutions to whiff of the gangrene of corruption was of course the banking sector represented by the City of London.

Why were we surprised? Greed is firmly incorporated in the DNA of bankers and is written into their job descriptions.

Next to riffle the nostrils were our elected representatives, who for some reason just could not understand why it was dishonest to falsely claim expenses for their duck houses, moat cleaning and second homes.

If they can’t work that one out how can they possibly run the country? Nevertheless they are shortly to be given another whacking great pay rise.

We soon became aware of a stomach churning pong emanating from the national newspapers, or some of them. Are we really surprised that they would hack into the telephone conversations of innocent people whose children had been murdered, or of celebrities whose sex lives had not been strictly conventional. All under the banner of “freedom”.

And so we come to the police – the Hillsborough cover up? The shameless selling of stories to newspapers? The Lawrence scandal?

Of course there is the perpetual corruption of those who dishonestly claim benefits. But this pales into insignificance against the stupendous greed of companies and individuals who evade tax through offshore bank accounts. They will claim they are breaking no laws and that it’s the tax system that is to blame. Come on!

These colossally rich people with their expensively-employed accountants devise schemes so intricate no tax system could ever keep abreast of it all. Tax is a moral issue. Failing to pay what’s due is theft from the rest of society.

We’ve had insurance scandals, dirty doings in the NHS, rip offs by energy companies – wherever you look there is self-seeking and dishonesty. Greed begets greed.

And now we have the disclosure that the government of the United States is tapping into our internet accounts, with the collusion of our own government!

We’re told this is for our safety and that honest citizens have nothing to worry about. Do we believe it? Do we believe anything that anyone in authority tells anymore? I don’t!

But I don’t know what we do about it. I hear that Bhutan, a landlocked country in the far Himalayas, rates success by happiness rather than wealth. How we get from the quagmire of corruption to the clean mountain air of Bhutanese purity I don’t know.

Perhaps those of us who care should just ignore the greedy bunch of self seekers at the top, leave them to fester in their own filth, and just plough our furrows as best we can.

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Categories: Moans and groans

Olympics shows love for NHS runs deep

by The Codgers' Club Friday, August 3 2012

by Peter Cook

I turned on the telly last Friday night fully expecting to be bored stiff by all the Olympic ballyhoo.

Instead I was completely blown away by the opening ceremony. Weren’t we all? It was a truly magnificent spectacle.

Greater minds than mine, if any such there be, have analysed the show. But too much analysis destroys the magic. It’s best to be swept along on a tide of Danny Boyle wonder.

Reaction from overseas has been mostly positive, although parts of the extravaganza must have been baffling to alien minds.

For example, a Los Angeles Times correspondent could not understand the National Health Service sequence, claiming it was equivalent to eulogising some well-known American healthcare company.

This, more than anything else I have read, demonstrated the gulf between our attitude to healthcare and that of right wing Americans, or even right wing British.

OK, the NHS frequently lets us down. We can all quote stories of when it has not lived up to expectations.

Most of the time, however, it works well. And who has not been glad and grateful for its existence in times of emergency?

But it’s Bevin’s central principle of providing free healthcare for everyone that is so important. Just think how much worry that removes from those of us who would otherwise be plunged into poverty.

OK, you can buy health insurance. But if healthcare is paid for out of general taxation, it means the well-off pay that little bit more, helping out those on smaller incomes. You would need to be utterly selfish not to see that as a reasonable ideal.

Since 1947, we in this country have taken free-at-the-point-of-access healthcare pretty much for granted. We often forget that in many countries if you can’t pay you die.

The NHS has become a sort of quasi-religion in Britain. It goes to the very roots of our belief in fairness and equality.

What Danny Boyle achieved with his NHS sequence was to demonstrate just how deeply felt is our love and affection for the healthcare system in this country, despite its many imperfections.

Politicians who monkey about with it will do so at their peril.

What we need to do now is to build a social care system that works as well as the NHS.

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Categories: Moans and groans | Olympics

Trust must have taken a leaf out of Barclays’ book

by The Codgers' Club Monday, July 23 2012

by David Jones

Nearly a month has passed since the decision was announced to charge disabled drivers for parking at Medway Maritime Hospital and I’m still trying to work out the perverse logic behind it.

The idea, according to the Medway NHS Foundation Trust, is to “create fairness around concessions”.

That sounds like the logic of the madhouse to me.

Which brings me this question: What have Barclays Bank and the Medway NHS Foundation Trust got in common?

Answer: Not a lot, I hear you say.

But here’s a point worth pondering, even if you do think I’m being far-fetched.

A small group of traders at Barclays Bank made a decision, which resulted in horrendously bad publicity for the bank.

At the Medway NHS Foundation Trust a small group of people made a decision, which resulted in horrendously bad publicity for the Trust.

By comparison, the rumpus over parking charges is just a minor spat and I’m not suggesting anything else.

What we do have is two sets of circumstances totally unrelated and at opposite ends of the spectrum, but both achieving in their own way an unwelcome outcome – damaging headlines day after day.

The bankers are guilty of outrageous greed. The people at the Trust were motivated by the best of intentions, albeit misguided. Both were typical of decisions made in a goldfish bowl without consideration of the wider impact.

In reality, as has already been pointed out, the estimated £180,000 a year the disabled parking charges will bring in extra revenue is just peanuts in terms of the overall Medway NHS budget.

Decisions by public bodies such as the NHS should sometimes be more than just about the bottom line. By forcing blue badge holders to pay, Medway’s health bosses have created a widespread perception that they are callous and money-grabbing? Was it worth it for an extra £180,000 a year?

What the spin doctors call “negative coverage” of the disabled parking row will have caused reverberations at the highest level at the Trust, especially as Medway Council’s controlling Conservative group has joined in the criticism.

I wonder if anyone at the Trust has been wondering how good it would be if the clock could be turned back and a different decision arrived at.

If I were to be really mischievous, I could suggest ways in which the Trust could raise even more money - £120 a night for a bed, all drugs and meals to be paid for by the patient, a scale of charges depending on your illness and, oh, labour costs for the doctors and nurses’ hours, rather like your bill from the garage.

Or have I just described a private hospital?

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Categories: Moans and groans

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