Sorry for my absence. I’ve been in the care of our fantastic NHS


Yes, the considerable gap in posting anything on this blog has been enforced in part by a long-standing health issue. It led to four operations last year, and another just a few weeks ago. A cycle of – operation – pain – recovery – low mood – operation again – has been my life for quite some time.

The thing is though, without our NHS I don’t know how I’d have managed. Indeed, I could never have afforded private care as the health insurance premiums would have been through the roof. After all, who would insure someone who was always needing hospital care?

So what about the care I received on the NHS? From my local GP practice, through to the operating theatre, via consultant, ward, pre-assessment, blood tests and more, it was nothing short of excellent. The only thing I never truly grasped, was why there was such a complicated system to dispense Tramadol upon my discharge from hospital.

What did become very apparent, was the dedication of all the staff in spite of the visible pressure. Frankly, there didn’t seem to be enough nurses or medical staff on the wards; and on one occasion I spent four hours in the recovery room because there was nowhere else for me to go.

The impact of funding cuts, and the lack of beds is clearly a serious issue. But it certainly isn’t going to be solved by more so-called efficiency savings and yet more private sector involvement in the NHS. From what I saw the staff were already working flat out, and only additional resources (and I include in that resources for more effective social care) will make a difference. Something tells me though that the Chancellor is not going to be very helpful come the spring budget.

As for me, well hopefully my medical problems are behind me. My biggest fear however, especially as the Tories seem to have consolidated their likelihood of staying in power, is that by the time my grandchildren are all grown up, our health service may be all but gone.




Extra spending on the NHS following Brexit just isn’t believable

It’s been a while since I last posted anything on my blog, largely due to a long-standing health issue that has meant five operations in three years, with two behind me already this year. So I have seen at first hand the finer workings of our National Health Service; and I believe very strongly that it is something worth fighting for. But that is an issue for another blog post…

However, our NHS has been the subject of a somewhat wild claim in the ongoing referendum campaign. Of course seeing the two sides of the Tory party beating the crap out of each other is an interesting side story; and I wonder how they hope to build bridges afterwards. But to get their voices heard the main protagonists seem to prefer the headline catching sound bite over reasoned argument.

So it was the other day when Gove suggested that the NHS would be a £100 million a week better off if we left the European Union. If Gove was a socialist I might be more inclined to believe him. But really? The cost of EU membership is less than 1% of total UK government spending. So the money saved from Brexit would not go far when divided up between the many calls on the public purse.

But more significantly, Gove comes from a party of government that has been quietly privatising the health service. What’s more, he and his fellow conservatives have been responsible for some serious cuts in public expenditure, inflicting upon the more vulnerable in our society a deliberate policy of austerity. So if a post Brexit government, presumably led by Boris Johnson, had money to spare, do we honestly believe they would spend it on public services?

Of course not. If anything a more likely beneficiary would be the rich elite in the form of tax cuts, presumably so that the wealth trickles down to the rest of us. Seriously though, Gove’s ‘leave’ group of very right-wing politicians, assuming they took control of the Conservative party, would – Brexit aside – make little difference to how the country was already being run.

So back to the NHS: When I woke up in recovery after my last operation, it was clear that the staff were stretched. In between the doses of  Tramadol I did ask about this, and was told that they needed at least one extra person. This example may be just anecdotal, but I don’t believe Brexit would solve NHS funding problems. Indeed, after Brexit what would be the impact on staffing if EU nationals were no longer able to get jobs in the NHS? If Brexit was followed by a recession due to a falling pound and other economic problems, what would happen to the current funding of our health service? Gove and his mates don’t seem to have any answers; but them spending extra on the NHS just isn’t believable. 

If ever there was a time to back our NHS, it is now #JuniorDoctorsStrike #NHSBill

The current dispute with junior doctors is much more than a fight over pay and conditions. The very future of our national health service is at stake. I say this because as others have already made clear, the seven day working that the Tories want to see would leave even more of our NHS open to privatisation.

Already £billions worth of contracts have been awarded to the private sector to run all kinds of different services. But with no routine surgery at weekends, the present set up is a less attractive prospect to the profiteers. Put another way, the likes of American private health companies would no doubt prefer to see planned operations provide a profit over seven days rather than five.

Of course what the Tories are doing, although alarming, is not exactly surprising. Privately run health care is just an example of their ideological approach to public services; and marketisation was of course a key aspect of the Health and Social Care Act 2012. Then consider also the impact of financial pressures imposed by central government.

Yet in response, what the Labour Party is doing, or rather not doing, is of grave concern. On the NHS more than any other issue, Labour has been on safe ground. We love our NHS, and we trust Labour to look after it. So apologies if I’ve missed it, but why isn’t the party adding their voice to that of the Greens, and giving unequivocal support to the junior doctors? Why isn’t it giving its total support to the NHS reinstatement bill tabled by Caroline Lucas MP. Why isn’t it shouting from every street corner about the damage the Tories are doing? Why are they not making the future of our NHS the central plank in their fight-back against the Tories? 

The circumstances surely warrant a robust defence from Labour.

Working in our health service takes a special type of person. But the professionalism and commitment of staff has sadly been rewarded with pay freezes and attacks on their pensions. Now we are seeing a campaign against junior doctors played out in the media, and a threat to the bursaries of student nurses. Meanwhile the profiteers remain poised to grab ever more contracts for clinical services.

I’ve had need of our national health service quite a lot in the last few years. From my local GP surgery, to the operating theatre, to the urgent care centre at a local hospital, I have benefitted from the professional care and dedication of the staff: and the fact that the service is, for now at least, free at the point of use. The thought that one day it could be gone is frankly shocking. 

So if ever there was a time to back the staff, and back the National Health Service, it is now. 

marching for our national health service

A group of people are currently walking towards London today in support of our National Health Service. In fact, the People’s March for the NHS has been going strongly since it left Jarrow on 16 August.

It has now reached Market Harborough in south Leicestershire and has another 100 or so miles to go before arriving at the Houses of Parliament on 6 September. Following the basic route of the 1936 Jarrow Crusade, the People’s March for the NHS aims to make the public aware of what the coalition government has been doing to our NHS, and what has been happening to our hospitals and health services.

A key issue is the creeping commercialisation of our NHS, something that will only increase as a result of the Health and Social Care Act. This removed from the Secretary of State, responsibility for the health of UK citizens; and transferred clinical commissioning to local “commissioning groups” opening up a major point of access for private providers.

Now as you may have heard, David Cameron is of the view that as long as the service is free at the point of use, it doesn’t matter who provides it. But without effective regulation, commercial health care providers have no obligation to provide an integrated and universal service. Indeed, there is a very real danger, as Steve Smith explain’s on Big Up the NHS, that we will drift into US style provision. I doubt very few people in this country would want that.

So the People’s March is so much more than a publicity stunt – it is taking forwards an important message, and showing this right-wing coalition that not only are they are completely out of touch, but that we care deeply about our NHS.

excellence in our NHS is being threatened by creeping privatisation

I’m currently recuperating at home after surgery last Friday for a most unwanted, but fortunately not serious health problem. My whole patient experience, from referral to admission to aftercare, can only be described as excellent. The NHS staff who looked after me were dedicated, skilled and efficient. They were friendly, helpful and, being aware of my nervousness, full of empathy. What’s more, they kept me fully informed, explaining anything I didn’t understand, even drawing me diagrams. Most importantly they put my care and comfort first, and for that I am forever grateful.

However this human face of the NHS didn’t hide a shortage of nursing staff. In the recovery room it was apparent, even through my morphine-induced high, that they were a person short; and one of the nurses later confirmed this. They also looked a little stretched on the ward. But it is to their credit that the support I received was at all times superb.

Of course the media are always very quick to highlight problems in the NHS, and there have certainly been serious ones in some Health Service Trusts. But when you think about how many patients are treated on the NHS, serious incidents remain rare. Clearly though funding remains a key issue. Before the last election, posters of David Cameron appeared which said he’d cut the deficit, not the NHS. But since then we’ve witnessed efficiency savings and a reorganisation that was, as far as I can tell, about as useful as a chocolate fire guard. Health professionals are very worried: In the last two years 35,000 NHS staff have been axed, including 5,600 nurses. Half of our 600 ambulance stations are earmarked for closure. One-third of NHS walk-in centres have been closed and 10% of A&E units have been shut.

If that isn’t scary enough, then take a look at the creeping privatisation. Last year a majority of new NHS contracts to provide services went to private companies. The Department of Health’s annual accounts show these companies benefited from public money to the tune of some £10 billion. That, frankly, is staggering. Nor is it just non-clinical services that are affected. GP services, mental health services, ambulance services and some maternity care are amongst a long list now being run, in some parts of the country, by the private sector.

Yet there is absolutely no evidence that the commercial market is more efficient or provides any benefits for patient outcomes. Indeed, these companies have to make a profit, and the quickest route to this is through staff savings. In other woods, by making cuts.

Further privatisation is planned of course. Another £5.8 billion worth is being advertsied at the moment. The British people didnt vote for a privately run health service, but we’re being given one anyway.

So I have two questions for Cameron. Firstly, when we have an excellent National Health Service why on earth do you want to privatise it? And secondly, once the service is in private hands, for how much longer will care and treatment such as I have experienced, remain free at the point of use?