Sunday, 30 December 2007

GPs are revolting

From The Sunday Times
December 30, 2007

Doctors revolt on patient records

Eileen Fairweather

SENIOR doctors are encouraging a mass revolt against the government’s £12 billion national health database by supporting a campaign to urge patients to opt out.

Activists in the British Medical Association (BMA) have produced a pro forma letter that people can send to their GP to stop their records going onto the database.

The doctors fear that patients’ records could be misused if they are made available to health workers across the country, as is planned under the Connecting for Health system.

The campaign is modelled on the recent widespread protest against excessive bank charges, which was also coordinated through the internet. The letter can be downloaded from the website of the BigOptOut campaign,

Dr Paul Cundy, chairman of the BMA’s general practitioners IT committee, helped compose the protest letter.

He said: “Some doctors are actively encouraging their patients to rebel. This letter is an easy way for patients to express the rights that the BMA feels they ought to have by default.”

Saturday, 29 December 2007

Saying sorry

As doctors, we are taught from an early stage in our training to be honest about our mistakes, and to say sorry to patients or relatives if things go wrong; it is what is expected of us.

Why is it that hospital managers and politicians seem completely incapable of ever saying sorry. It would make life so much easier.

Sunday, 23 December 2007

Another fine mess

A GP friend (not in Bedford) has just sent this letter to his local MP:

I am bemused that a Government so beset by public outcry concerning withholding pay awards to the Police, economic peril concerning Northern Rock, constitutional irregularities concerning the monies of Mr Abrahams, security lapses concerning HMRC, DVLA & DSC, and the military quagmire that is Afghanistan and Iraq, should have chosen this moment to precipitate a confrontation with a group of 36,000 professionals across the nations of Britain who enjoy the respect and daily personal contact with the vast majority of the electorate.

I speak, of course, of General Practitioners.

Following the recent Government originated survey of two million people, which cost over £11 Million of tax Payers money, I might add, we have discovered that 86% of the population are quite satisfied with the opening hours and availability of GPs. Indeed, I believe that the figure is somewhat higher here in Somerset. In most sectors of industry and commerce this achievement would be warmly applauded and celebrated as an excellent service. Apparently this was not the answer that Mr Brown wished to hear.

In response to his publicly stated pledge for Extended Opening hours, the General Practitioners Committee submitted rational and well-costed proposals. These appear to have rejected out of hand, and the Government is about to impose a draconian new contract upon the profession.

This contract will remove resources from Practices for care of chronic conditions, and instead allocate them to a clinically unnecessary pandering to the desires of a very small minority of the electorate. In pursuing these marginal votes, the Government is quite content to reduce day-time access for the majority of our needing patients – the elderly, children and mothers.

This contract further threatens the very fabric of General Practice, regarded by many as the lynch-pin of the NHS, and the essential bedrock of Continuity of Care, which we know is so valued by our patients. One potential consequence of this sequence of events will inevitably be the glancing over shoulders in the direction of the dentists – the mass privatisation of medical Primary Care is a reality that no longer creeps, yet now hurtles towards us, effective April 1st 2008.

Doubtless there are numerous Labour Marginal MPs whose political future will look very uncertain if Mr Brown’s efforts to dismantle the NHS come to fruition. You may care to mention this to them.

I am most grateful for your attention to this matter. Should you require any further details, please do not hesitate to contact me.

Yours sincerely

Saturday, 22 December 2007

Another IT triumph

NHS trusts lose patients` details

Press Association
Saturday December 22, 2007 10:33 PM

Nine NHS trusts have admitted losing patients' information in the aftermath of the HM Revenue and Customs (HMRC) data loss scandal, it has emerged.

Hundreds of thousands of people are thought to have been affected by the breaches of strict data protection rules by the health service.

The losses were disclosed by the Sunday Mirror as police continued to hunt for two HMRC computer discs containing the details of 25 million child benefit claimants. Since the discs went missing in the post it has also emerged that three million motorists' details have been lost in Iowa, in the American mid-west.

One of the NHS trusts involved - Maidstone and Tunbridge Wells - has reported two breaches to the Department of Health (DoH), meaning that 10 cases have occurred in total.

The DoH said it did not have details of how many patients were affected in each case as the breaches were being dealt with locally.

However, City and Hackney Primary Care Trust has reportedly lost the details of 160,000 children after a computer disc failed to arrive at its destination at St Leonard's Hospital, east London.

The other trusts involved are Bolton Royal Hospital, Sutton and Merton PCT, Sefton Merseyside PCT, Mid-Essex Care Trust, East and North Hertfordshire, Norfolk and Norwich and Gloucester Partnership Foundation Trust.

NHS chief executive David Nicholson recently wrote to NHS managers reminding them of their responsibilities with regard to data handling.

A DoH spokesperson said: "Since the recent heightened concern about data protection a small number of trusts (nine) have reported breaches of their own security rules.

"There are strict guidelines and procedures for dealing with such breaches. Trusts have an obligation to inform patients where appropriate. There is no evidence of any data falling into the wrong hands. Investigations are under way in all the trusts involved and action will be taken against anyone who has failed to fulfil their legal responsibilities."

Not for those with an anxious disposition

If you look at this page from the Office of national Statistics

which shows that moderate flu years like 1998/9 have 45,000 excess winter deaths instead of 25,000

and this page from prescriber

which links to the lancet saying that flu vaccination hasn't been shown to reduce mortality in the elderly

and realize that the first influenza graph on this Health Protection Agency page

could be overlaid more or less perfectly on the excess mortality graph

And realise that we normally have a moderate 'flu outbreak every three or four years (and a severe one every 20 or so, and a Bird-Flu type pandemic every century)

And remember that even the official statistics

show bed occupancy routinely above 85%, while the reality for most (and particularly PFI schemes) the real rate is nearer 100%

Then you should be really worried about the health prospects of a country whose government has removed every ounce (and more) of spare capacity in the last seven years of low illness rate

With permission

The author of this piece, a consultant psychiatrist, has given me permission to reproduce it:

Over the last few years I have spent a lot of time in and around Parliament, the DoH and the political parties. I attended the 3 major party conferences for 5 years (2002 – 2006), I gave evidence to two Select Committees, I sat through all debates in both Houses during the passage of the Mental Health Bill and, whilst the Bill was in the Lords, I acted as Special Advisor to the Opposition (sitting in a box on the floor of the House, opposite the DoH officials, writing notes to advise Peers).

When I have the time and energy I may write of my experiences. In the meantime I make the following brief observations which may or may not help in your fight:
The Palace of Westminster oozes a feeling of power (even if the occupants achieve little and damage a great deal).
Journalists, in addition to MPs and Peers, feel powerful by being there. That’s why they don’t repeatedly publicise aspects of our ‘democracy’ that are a disgrace.

MPs and Peers vote when they have not listened to the debate and may have no idea what the vote is about (they only need to know which lobby to walk through – occasionally they even get this wrong). The Bells, called ‘division bells’ are not only sited throughout the parliament building and MPs and Peers offices, but also in all the nearby pubs and restaurants. Enjoy your, beer or meal, nip in to vote, then return to boozing. The number of Lords debating the Mental Health Bill rarely exceeded 10 speaking and perhaps 20 in the chamber. The numbers voting at 6 divisions were 344; 301; 255; 327; 313; 266. Voting demonstrates ones presence in the Chamber and so enables collection of the daily fee and expenses (I think it’s about £300 but can’t remember or bother to look it up – it certainly pays for the booze). I should say that some Peers work extremely hard and are astonishingly well informed (not something I would say about many MPs).

Governments, by definition, have a majority. With our current voting system the size of the majority is out of all proportion to the votes cast. Whilst the government may occasionally be defeated on the floor of the Commons it will never be defeated in Commons Committee. Let me give an example of numbers, a typical committee would have the following representation: 12 Labour, 6 Conservative, 2 Lib-Dems, 1 Other. Given that all are hand-picked, there are never any rebels. Only government MPs are permitted to be fed information during the proceedings (unlike in the Lords). MPs and ministers need the constant stream of notes, from officials, during debates because they are so ill-informed as to facts, as opposed to opinions, (they don’t even know the details of the legislative changes they are proposing). There were 17 DoH officials working full-time on the mental health bill (they were all invited for drinkies in parliament afterwards), the Opposition had 2 of us (I was trying to hold down my full-time job in Leeds at the same time).

Party conferences cost rate and tax payers a great deal of money for all the security. Organisations which wish to influence government send representatives. Of course many businesses are there. Why do organisations such as NICE and the GMC not only send representatives but host fringe meetings – at all the conferences? As with all fringe meetings, they are awash with food and alcohol, paid for by - us.

Having had dealings with the Department for Constitutional Affairs and the Department for Work and Pensions, I can report that many civil servants really value consultation. Only those working for the DoH don’t.

How does government work? I once met the then Permanent Secretary at the Home Office. During his time there the Home Office was under ‘special measures’ because its accounts were rejected by the auditors 3 years running. When he left it was to become deputy governor of the Bank of England.

Friday, 21 December 2007

Take a break

The executive of the Save Bedford Hospital party wish all our many supporters a Happy Christmas; this has been a busy and successful year of campaigning, but we also deserve a rest (and you deserve a rest from us).

If there had been an election in October, we feel that we could well have won; we would certainly have put up a big fight. But we are ready whenever it happens, and we rely on your support and good wishes.

So, for now, all the best.

Wednesday, 19 December 2007

Feeling generous?

The government's Northern Rock fiasco has cost us a collective £57billion and rising.
That's an awful lot of OUR money.

And why has it happened? Well a small clue lies in my posting under the title "Jellied eels".

Monday, 17 December 2007

Jellied Eels?

Another day, another data handling disaster; and still they persist with the illusion that they could safely and effectively manage ID cards. Meanwhile, billions of your money continue to be wasted on the useless NHS IT system, which when it eventually comes to fruition will be able to lose all your confidential medical data at the touch of a button.

The real problem with this government is the lack of even a hint of basic competence; and let’s face it, none of them have even run a jellied eel stall before becoming politicians.

Sunday, 16 December 2007

Enough to make you sick

Patricia Hewitt was, by a country mile, the worst Secretary of State for health that we've ever had (and we have had a few disasters...anyone remember Alan Milburn).

So now I read this in today's Sunday Times: it's enough to make you reach for the sick bowl -

PATRICIA HEWITT, the former health secretary who left the government six months ago, has been offered jobs with at least five companies with links to the health sector.

The disclosure has led to renewed calls for more stringent rules to stop politicians from cashing in too quickly on their time in office.

Hewitt, who resigned in June, has been inundated with consultancy jobs since leaving the Department of Health. She is set to be the latest in a series of health ministers and senior officials to move into the private sector.

Lord Warner and Alan Milburn, both former health ministers, have also benefited, moving to healthcare jobs soon after leaving office. Liz Kendall, Hewitt’s former special adviser, is now a healthcare consultant to a number of organisations, including private sector companies.

Hewitt, who was health secretary from May 2005 but stood down when Gordon Brown took over as prime minister, is expected to take up her roles in the new year.

Warner’s jobs, revealed this month, include advisory roles for Xansa, a technology company in Reading, Berkshire, that has a partnership with the Department of Health to provide finance services to National Health Service bodies, and Byotrol, an antimicrobial company that sells products to the NHS.

Warner also has an advisory role with DLA Piper, which advised ministers on the NHS’s £12 billion IT programme. Warner was responsible for this while a health minister.

The move into consultancy will raise fresh questions about whether companies are gaining a strategic advantage by hiring ministers with recent experience of the highest levels of government.

Friday, 14 December 2007


Gordon Brown has been likened in some quarters to T. S. Elliott's famous cat Macavity.

This extract seems rather apt:

And when the Foreign Office find a Treaty’s gone astray,

Or the Admiralty lose some plans and drawings by the way,

There may be a scrap of paper in the hall or on the stair -

But it’s useless to investigate - Macavity’s not there!

And when the loss has been disclosed, the Secret Service say:

“It must have been Macavity!” - but he’s a mile away.

You’ll be sure to find him resting, or a-licking of his thumbs,

Or engaged in doing complicated long-division sums.

Incidentallt TS Elliott was, rather improbably, a great friend of Groucho Marx

Thursday, 13 December 2007


...we are told that Gordon Brown did not want to be seen signing the new European Constitution.

Well, for better or worse here he is...and don't forget that it's our constitution

To avoid misunderstandings

The Save Bedford Hospital party wishes to put on record the fact that this website is the party's site, and not the website of any one individual. That has always been the case.

We would have called the site "save bedford" or something along those lines, but all those website domains were pinched by another political party the day after we launched.

The opinions expressed on the site are the collective opinions of the party; sometimes postings are made in the first person singular, but that is just a matter of literary style.

If anyone thought otherwise, we hope that this posting clarifies matters.

Wednesday, 12 December 2007

Gone missing

There is a bit of a mystery at Bedford Hospital at the moment.

As those of you with good memories will know, I made a bit of a fuss when it was suggested that the hospital should not replace the retiring consultant in charge of the stroke unit. I personally feel that stroke is such a devastating illness that we really must do the best we can to care for patients with the condition, and there is good evidence that having a dedicated consultant in charge of the service saves lives and reduces disability.

So, eventually a new consultant was appointed; but then, just as quickly she has vanished. The management are tight lipped, and I know no more than I have written, but something has gone on, and given that this is a public service, perhaps we are entitled to know what.

Catch them young

I am delighted to have been invited by a local school to talk to their sixth formers about my campaign. I imagine that by the time of the next general election most of them will have a vote, so if any other schools in Bedford want to get in contact with me, I will be pleased to oblige.

Thursday, 6 December 2007

A new morality

I found a story today that sums up the way I was left feeling after watching yesterday's debate on party political funding:

77-year-old Maurice Fox received a letter from Kirkham Street Sports and Social Club in Paignton, complaining about him breaking wind loudly in the public bar. Maurice may be a man of with a bad habit, but he is a man with a sense of decency. When Maurice received the letter did he complain? no. This is what Maurice said: "I am happy to oblige them, there is no problem. I do get a bit windy - I am an old fart now. "I think someone has complained about the noise. I am a loud farter, but there is no smell. "I do not think it [the letter] is unreasonable, you get ladies in there." Maurice now goes outside to fart.

Compare this to the Labour party's behaviour at the commons debate for political party funding yesterday: If certain members of the cabinet had received a letter complaining about their party breaking wind in the bar, this would have been Labour's reply: "We admit that one of our group has been farting loudly in the bar. "We are angry that this has happened. "We are going to instigate an immediate review into this matter, and we are determined to have transparency at all times when it comes any member breaking wind. "Our friends will carry out the review, and on completion they will provide a detailed report of their findings to the alleged farter. "We will of course report this matter to the bodily function commission."

"However, we would like to make it very clear that patrons on the other side of the bar, have in the past, farted louder and longer than any member of our drinking group. "To this end, we would like to put forward a motion to ensure that any future farting will be done in a fair manner, and on a level playing field. "Although we admit that one of our group has farted, that member will not be going outside to fart until the Landlord throws them out."

Maurice Fox is a man with a sense of decency - The Labour party do not know the meaning of the word.

Now there's a question

From Prime Minister's Questions, 5th December 2007:

Dr. Vincent Cable (Twickenham) (LD):

Now that the taxpayers’ loan to Northern Rock has almost reached the level of the annual defence budget and is increasing every week by £3 billion—the equivalent of 15 hospitals—what guarantees has the Prime Minister received that this money will be fully repaid, beyond the vague assurances offered by Mr. Branson and the assorted collection of hedge-fund sharks who are behind him and others?

Sunday, 2 December 2007

The NHS today

Sub-standard care, staff shortages and higher levels of obesity are resulting in the highest death rate among new mothers for 20 years, according to a damning report to be published this Tuesday. By Jonathan Owen and Ian Griggs

Published: 02 December 2007

Record numbers of women are dying during pregnancy or shortly after childbirth, with maternal deaths in the UK at their highest for 20 years.

The findings are revealed in a new report, Saving Mothers' Lives, from the Confidential Enquiry into Maternal and Child Health (Cemach) to be released on Tuesday. Almost 300 women died in childbirth between 2003 and 2005 from conditions relating to pregnancy, leaving 520 children motherless. In a damning verdict on the substandard care that is putting women's lives at risk, the report, seen exclusively by The Independent on Sunday, cites "avoidable factors" that have contributed to the death toll.

It condemns "the number of healthcare professionals who appeared to fail to identify and manage common medical conditions or potential emergencies outside their immediate area of expertise".

It goes on to say that "resuscitation skills were also considered poor in an unacceptably high number of cases" where women died, and that the maternity system allowed "inappropriate delegation to junior staff", which hampered the medical care mothers received.

Cemach also calls for pre-conception counselling and advice for obese women, who are at higher risk of complications during pregnancy.

The report reveals that the mortality rate among mothers giving birth is up to almost 14 per 100,000 people – an increase of more than 50 per cent since 1985-87. Repeated reports highlighting fundamental failings in maternity care have failed to reduce the rate of maternal mortality – and women continue to die from common and curable infections. The number of women dying from heart disease has more than doubled since Cemach's last report on deaths from 2000-02. It has overtaken thrombosis as the most common cause of maternal death, in what the latest report says "reflects the growing incidence of acquired heart disease in younger women related to poor diets, smoking, alcohol and the growing epidemic of obesity".