Thomas Paine

Thomas Paine
"These are the times that try men's souls. The summer soldier and the sunshine patriot will, in this crisis, shrink from the service of their country; but he that stands by it now, deserves the love and thanks of man and woman."

Friday, 30 December 2011

The Elderly are People too

A sharp, above inflation rise in the cost of non-residential care has occurred within the last 12 months making home care less affordable for an increasing number of vulnerable adults. Local councils are responsible for price setting on home-care, meals-on-wheels services and staff transport costs – all of which have risen drastically.

Surveys also show that prices differ markedly from area to area, creating yet another postcode lottery.

So while council chiefs still rake in huge salaries and benefit from lavish privileges – the vulnerable suffer again. And although George Osborne promised an extra £2 billion to help with elderly care, H of C analysis shows that £1.3 billion has been removed from councils’ spending on help for elderly since the coalition came to power, which puts sending £1 million-a-time cruise missiles to help topple Gaddafi into perspective, ay?

And earlier in the week we leaned that half of the over 75's are living own their own, with only a quarter of them receiving weekly visits – underlining the importance of non-residential care all the more.

Those whose health rapidly declines because of insufficient care will more than likely end up in hospital, and even then there’s no certainty they’ll be washed, fed or even given water! Besides, people want to live in their own homes, and the elderly are people too.

So is it surprising to hear that there has been a steep increase in the number of over-65′s found to be exceeding the recommended units of alcohol per week? Not really. Who isn’t being driven to drink nowadays?

“No Doctor – it’s My Back that Hurts!”

A new initiative that is set to be published on the 10th January will encourage medical practitioners to enquire into a patients eating, drinking and smoking habits even when they have booked an appointment about a totally unrelated issue in a “make every contact count” policy.

The initiative will apply not only to doctors, but will be extended to nurses, physiotherapists, midwives and pharmacists. The idea has been welcomed with open arms by most in the medical profession.

One argument on why a podiatrist should impart advice on the dangers of smoking, for instance, is that if that patient has diabetes, smoking can make the diabetes worse and heighten the risk of having a foot amputated.

Makes sense – but where would it stop?

Should a man visiting a doctor about high cholesterol be given advice on gambling addiction because gambling debts have adverse mental affects which could lead to over-indulging in foods or alcohol by way of comforting oneself?

Probably not now gambling advertising bombards our airwaves incessantly.

Moreover, this initiative seems to presume that there is a high proportion of the population who are unaware that excessive drinking, eating and smoking is bad for one’s health. I find this hard to believe. The majority who are risking their health in such ways are doing so regardless of the health concerns.

This is the real issue.

Instead of improving the overall health of our nation, it is more likely that the “make every contact count” policy will compound the general feeling of state interference into people’s personal lives and deter them from seeking genuinely required medical advice. “I already know I drink too much, smoke too much and eat too many fatty foods… Oh – I don’t want to get told off! I think I’ll just weather these back spasms, see if they go…”

Tuesday, 27 December 2011

The Season of Goodwill

Quite how long Cameron can pretend that the Tottenham riots, and similar events, are the responsibility of a small criminal element within society - rather than a substantial element that represents the nation's dark underbelly - is yet to be seen. However, some events over the Christmas period will make this imagery increasingly more difficult to sustain.

Although not the most serious incident, the mass brawl during a midnight mass by churchgoers at St Edmund's church in Southampton was perhaps the best indication of how far a bullying government, rather than one that tries to bring the nation together during these difficult times, has infected society. The stabbing and death of a teenager in Oxford Street, during the sales, resulted from rival gangs shop lifting at the same store was only surprising because it occurred during daylight - but followed a norm to which we now have become, sadly, accustomed. However, it was the shooting in the head, by a teenager, of an Indian student in Manchester, who had come here to study at Lancashire University that is likely to trouble Cameron the most.

Having removed the prospect of a university education from the ambitions of many British students, his plans to sell these places to the rich parents of overseas students is likely to suffer if there are too many repeats of this type of incident. Rich overseas parents value the lives of their children and if the imagery of Britain being a safe place to study continues to be undermined - he might find that these places are not filled and is obliged to offer them at 'knock down' prices to British students.

The government does seem to be unable to acknowledge that forcing unpopular measures onto the people in difficult times is not the way forward - measures that bring the people together is what are required. Unpopular measures are the certain way of ensuring civil unrest and increasingly darker crimes. The youngest in society if left unemployed and without hope of a decent future are the most likely to rebel. Those approaching middle age or retirement are far less likely to vent their fury against the government, or turn to crime as, apart from having less energy, they are the groups most likely to accept adverse changes and soldier on because they have have families, homes and a position in society - all of which are in jeopardy should they be convicted of any crime.

The unemployed young, in contrast, are far less likely to have anything that they value above their future. Apart from allowing the young to squander that time in their lives when long-term goals are being established, and difficult to redirect at a later stage, should opportunities arise. Cameron is set on a course of wrecking many millions of young lives before they have began, by not treating their plight as his priority.

Unfortunately, we become increasingly aware that his paymasters are the global corporations and these do not want to employ British youngsters whose background is rooted in years of employment law that oblige employers to treat their staff fairly. The global corporations want employees who are desperate for a job and will accept harsh treatment - so immigrants, either from one of the ex communist countries of the EU or a developing or third world country are much preferred. Also, by leaving British youth unemployed no doubt there is an expectation, that in time, they too will significantly reduce their career expectations and be as desperate for a job as the immigrants and, similarly, will learn to be grateful to their employer.

Although this may be the case for a significant number, it seems unlikely that the majority will, but instead gradually evolve into hardened political activists and join the 'Occupy Wall Street' protest movement. They will be determined that the indigenous people are not treated so shabbily in the future. Unlike the protestors in the US, who have their own unique difficulties, our membership of the EU restricts a similar movement developing here as has been shown by the 'Occupy' camp outside St Paul's Cathedral. Whilst members, workers from the EU countries can come here and fill vacant jobs, thereby undermining such a movements impact.

This is also the case for the UK's open policy of immigration. Apart from seeming an economic madness to allow immigrants into the country to do jobs that British youngsters could be trained to do - thereby reducing both the numbers unemployed and the amount paid out in benefit - this policy also undermines the potency of the 'Occupy' movement. It might be that many of the jobs available presently are not seen as an acceptable career to the British young. However, if the employers could not call on desperate immigrant labour, they would have to improve the terms conditions and provide a career path if they are to fill these jobs.

For Cameron, leaving the EU would fly in the face of the desires of his 'Corporate' paymasters and his economic strategy, of encouraging these global giants to sight the EU operations here, would be in tatters.

It seems certain that significant conflict is ahead. It remains to be seen if his carefully constructed police state is strong enough to contain the building outrage, that seems certain, in the coming years.

Wednesday, 14 December 2011

We Need a Heavy Cull of UK Politicians!

As the dust settles on last week's EU event, the underlying causes for the actions of the leading players in the drama becomes clear. Easiest to understand, from our ambitious politician's point of view, is the change in support for the parties since 'The Happening'.

Until last week, and for many months, Labour had been showing a lead in the polls sometimes with a predicted 60 seat majority. This lead has now evaporated and a hung Parliament is predicted with Labour two seats short of a majority.

Simon Jenkins in the Guardian describes Nick Clegg's dilemma in graphic terms: 'Nick Clegg's finger cannot have hovered long over his suicide belt at the weekend. He could have blasted the coalition to smithereens and forced a general election. But that would have blown David Cameron back to power and left the Liberal Democrats in a pool of blood on the pavement.'

David Cameron's hands were also tied, he could not afford to sign up to the proposed treaty changes as he knew that this would lead to a referendum, as this course has now been enshrined in law, whenever it is proposed that further powers are passed to Brussels.

There is a clear majority against our membership of the EU and any suggestion that more powers should be transferred to Brussels would be greeted with a firm 'No' from the electorate. In itself this would not have been a disaster for Cameron, but, he knew once the door had been opened to referenda, he would have great difficulty in preventing the, once promised, referendum on our membership.

Cameron does want to be in the EU, his and Osborne's economic strategy is based on encouraging global corporations to base their European operation's in the UK, this of course would not be possible if we do not have access to the single market and their economic strategy would be in ruins. However, he does want to reduce the extent to which we are 'run by the EU' and would like to have some powers returned.

Ed Milliband, as an enthusiastic EU supporter, also had a difficult hand to play. Knowing that the majority are against our membership, he was treading on dangerous ground because he was opening himself up to the question 'what would you have done in the same circumstance - signed up to the German proposals? Since this was the only real alternative, his condemnation of the Prime Minister's actions put him the wrong side of public opinion and explains the Party's reversal of fortunes in the polls.

So, we might have expected that a new path had been determined, with Cameron siding with his, mostly eurosceptic, MPs and pressing for a new deal with the EU which included the repatriation of, at least, some powers - but no, instead we find, if the usually reliable Benedict Brogan is right, suggesting in the Telegraph that Sarkozy's hard line with Cameron was primarily 'a political stunt engineered by Mr Sarkozy to save himself from defeat in the French elections next year'! Also that Cameron's new priority is to sooth the rankled feelings of his Lib/Dem coalition partners by rebuilding relationships within the EU, so that he can concentrate on his main priority of saving the UK economy.

Brogan also predicts that ratification of the German plan 'looks doubtful for at least half a dozen EU member states' as 'Countries that initially backed [the plan] are beginning to have second thoughts. The idea of a German - enforced austerity has made even resolute Europeans nervous'.

So, instead of a clear direction we are, once again, left with the euro teetering on the brink of collapse and the predicted looming global financial crisis with its unnamed, but horrific consequences. Nick Clegg's political career looks over, because of his 'Cameron's poodle' image and Chris Huhne seems to booked his place as Clegg's successor, because of his, well leaked, defiance to Cameron at yesterday's cabinet meeting.

Am I alone in thinking that national politicians should make every effort to sit down together and hammer out an agreed policy at this time of national emergency and not use it for personal or party political gain? Also, that they should remember that they are the representatives of the electorate and their views should be at the heart of their decisions taken.

Based on Monday's Prime Ministers questions in the Commons, we must believe that amongst those juveniles performing, there were those who would have signed up to Merkel's plans to subjugate the nation to German dominance, effectively remove all democratic rights from the people and ensure the nation's rapid economic decline.

What dreadful sin have the British committed to be cursed with such wretches for politicians in such predominance?

Monday, 5 December 2011

O death, where is thy sting?

It might be thought that Cameron, given the many difficult and unresolved issues he is presently facing, would be eager to avoid any more contentious issues at the present time. However, this is not the case, he seems determined to press ahead with his plans to open up the NHS to private healthcare. This plan is contentious in itself, but it is likely to raise objections - even the most Thatcherite of Tories may bulk at sharing NHS records with drug companies.

It is a continuing source of wonder that the Coalition, never having been given a mandate from the electorate, is prepared to make so many structural changes to the nation's affairs and in the case of the NHS, one of great unpopularity. Earlier in the year, research showed that the vast majority do not support Cameron's plans to reform the NHS, with two thirds believing the Tories wish is for full privatisation - this is opposed by a ratio of 10 to 1!

Perhaps the most telling fact arising from the research is that very nearly two thirds, of those polled, believed that Cameron's primary motive is a desire to benefit business rather than patients - that is to say, his reforms are nothing less than a cynical attempt to reward those who back his Party - rather than concern for patient's wellbeing.

It does seem that, yet again, the root of the problem is that a political parties is not prepared to be honest with the people. The truth is that a nation, with huge debts and no real prospect of standards of living rising in the foreseeable future, cannot afford to provide the same level of health care, or other public services, as it could in more affluent times - in fact quite the reverse is true when our standards of living are falling.

This fear of honesty misjudges the stoicism of the people generally - particularly those having the lowest incomes. They are used to having to face the harsh realities of life, unlike the cosseted political class who are far more sensitive to minor losses of comfort. Providing that the cuts to NHS services are approached with intelligence and fairness, a people, knowing that savings must be made, will accept reductions - but not if any one group is clearly being advantaged at the expense of another.

Even before the current financial crisis, there were health services provided that were more questionably, the responsibility of the taxpayer to provide, than others. Perhaps foremost in this class were those services which were required to treat acts of self abuse. Included here might be illnesses that arise from obesity caused by the simple refusal to take sufficient exercise, illnesses related to smoking and drug taking along with the abuse of alcohol.

Provided that an informative public campaign had been undertaken to warn of the dangers of such behaviour, it is more difficult to justify asking the taxpayers to pay for any expensive treatment required as a result of ignoring this advice at a time when the level of service has to be reduced. Clearly the provision of, relatively inexpensive, pain killers is acceptable, but expensive procedures, unless there is unused capacity, cannot be justified if they deny the treatment of patients who have become ill through no fault of their own.

If the private sector is to be used, it can be used to provide health insurance to pay for additional treatments that are not provided by the NHS. Alternatively, the wealthier can pay for these treatments directly. By approaching the cuts required in the funding of the NHS in this way, an affordable service, free at the point of use, can be made available. Such an approach would be best made without making any significant changes to the 'commissioning procedure' as it is important to make single changes, and to find out their effect, before adding complexities that will distort the impact of the primary change.

Many issues that relate to healthcare impinge directly on our current view of death. In times of greater spirituality, when the general view was that some form of existence continued after death, this event was not kept so well hidden as it was not viewed with such dread. However, when so many of the population believe that nothing follows death - it is unsurprising that it is kept so far into the background. It is for this reason that our health service is used to extend the life of those who can and never will be able to have a meaningful life and are often condemned to continuing an empty existence more for the sake of their loved ones rather than for the benefit of those so stricken.

If the state has limited funds, and the current and continuing decline in the nation's wealth means that we cannot provide such a high level of state funded healthcare, surely the practice of extending those lives that, for all intent are over, has to be examined carefully - better this than denying treatment to those whose lives can be returned to a meaningful existence.

Viewing these sensitive and disagreeable subjects does go to the very heart of Cameron's justification for privatising at least parts of the NHS. When this subject is broached he often portrays the extra money supplied by corporations as a resource used to develop new drugs and treatments to that will continue to raise life expectancy - when the truth is, probably, that human life, free of life threatening diseases, has a natural active span that no amount of scientific research will be able to extend materially.

History tells us that many people in the past lived long lives, this was due to avoidance of life threatening diseases and work related activities that cut lives short. Now that many of these diseases can be cured and legislation has generally removed the threat to life in the workplace - there is little likelihood of average life spans increasing a great deal more.

It is Cameron's pretence that the scientific community will be able to extend life markedly that justifies many of his reasons for wishing to use private companies in the provision of NHS healthcare - and of course his justification for extending retirement age and increasing pension contributions in the public sector.

At a time when the global population has passed seven billion, when precious resources are increasingly difficult to find and, as a Nation, we are finding it difficult to provide jobs, homes and support for our existing population - should we really be making any further attempts to extend the current life expectancy?