Category Archives: NHS


After the carefully thought out philosophical comments by Jeremy Clarkson this week, it made me think further about the stigma in society that we face about  suicide and those in mental distress.

The common preconceptions that suicide is “selfish” appears to still pervade society’s public houses and homes throughout the UK.  After all this time, can mental illness ever lose it’s stigma, or will it remain the acceptable butt of people’s jokes and prejudices.

Something in the region of 1 in 4 people suffer mental distress each year and suicidal thoughts can be a regular occurrence for those in extreme distress.  Suicide is the biggest killer in the “world” of all young people (under 25), while each year more people die in the UK from suicide than they do from road traffic deaths and homicides combined.    Yet despite this, people are loath to talk about this subject or to acknowledge it’s significance.

This cultural attitude is exemplified by the ignorant and over bearing like Jeremy Clarkson who are happy to comment on subjects he knows little about in order to garner more kudos from his “fans” and of course gain himself a “little earner” – (did you know he had a new dvd out? )  – I’m sure being racist would be on his radar if he thought he could get away with it.

Unlike many, I have to say I am not a Clarkson hater.  I find his pithy vaguely funny remarks in a sometimes overbearingly politically correct world sometimes entertaining. However, what many episodes along the way have shown is that his ignorance and willingness to offend for monetary gain, gives his game away.

Suicide is selfish

An interesting statement, and many believe it.  The cognitive thought process that goes into this statement

Suicide is selfish

Is easy to understand.  We see the individual.  We see the consequences.  We see the son, daughter, mother, father, wife, husband, lover, family, home – left behind, seemingly to pick up the pieces.  To carry on, with the cloud that suicide leaves in it’s wake darkening the lives of those left behind.

I hear the call that it is an “individual choice”, surely we all have a choice.  People who commit suicide have a choice to commit the act of suicide or not to.

All of this makes sense to many people.  It’s obvious isn’t it?

Over the past year, I have volunteered for a charity called CHANGES BRISTOL which provides support groups for those in mental distress.  The subject of suicide comes up all too frequently.

Many who have suicidal thoughts are never allowed to articulate these thoughts in society, due to the stigma and taboo surrounding the subject.  Yet in a safe and non judgemental environment people can and do open up.  Sometimes, to ask someone if they feel suicidal, or if they have ever thought that suicide was an option, the relief they experience is tangible to see.

Suicide is real.  It is committed by the old and young; black and white; male and female.  It cuts across boundaries and those suffering from mental distress can be found in every corner of our society.

For those who attempt suicide, it is often a transient feeling at the depths of despair.  For those who fail in their attempt at suicide, most when asked 12 months later are happy they failed.  Their life has moved on and things change – they are now in a better place.

The more we can help those with suicidal thoughts get past this moment of despair, the more chance we have of saving lives.  Not just the lives of those who commit the act, but of their families and friends.

The truth is hard for many to come to terms with, but for most who attempt suicide, their cognitive functions are diminished. That is at the moment of attempting suicide, they are in so much pain, that they cannot think through their actions or what it would mean to their families.  Indeed many reach the     cul-de-sac of thought where there is no other option – their family would be better off without them.

This is not a thought process that could be described under the heading of “selfish”.

There are others, who have been so ill and in so much pain for so long (decades in some cases), that they do come to a decision that to end their lives is the only option for them.  In these minority of cases, who are we to judge their “selfishness”.

“Every year, around 200 people decide the best way to go is by hurling themselves in front of a speeding train.”

“In some ways they are right. This method has a 90 per cent success rate and it’s quick.”

“But it is a very selfish way to go. The disruption it causes is immense – and think what it’s like for the poor driver”

“Change the driver, pick up the big bits of what’s left of the victim, get the train moving as soon as possible and let foxy woxy and the birds nibble away at the smaller, gooey parts that are far away or hard to find.’

Jeremy Clarkson

It appears the “gooey” bits that he should be concerned about are that which is not functioning to it’s full capacity between his ears.  Or maybe the problem is that it is functioning to it’s full capacity.

In truth the only way society can move forward is when we can have a sensible and level headed debate about suicide in this country.  To reveal the inadequacies of our mental health services and to be honest about the extent of the problems we face.   Suicide must no longer be the taboo that we should never discuss, but a reality.  The less stigma and prejudice we have in society against mental illness the more people will get help for their problems and the fewer suicides we will have.

This new attitude and the end to the stigma of mental illness should please Mr Clarkson, after all, this would mean for him – fewer delays on the trains, and less of his precious time “wasted” .


NHS REFORM: The Penny is Dropping for David Cameron

The ideological madness that are the NHS reforms, has suddenly hit the top of the Coalition Agenda and Andrew Lansley could be ready take the biggest fall from grace in British politics.

Even in the right wing press, and those of who are the most ideological opponents of the ethos of the NHS are beginning the ground work for an acceptable U-turn on NHS policy.

First David Cameron put a well publicised pause on proceedings, while Andrew Lansley did his tour of the media insisting that he would listen but essentially the reforms would proceed.

Wheeling out the big guns of David Cameron, Nick Clegg and Andrew Lansley in a three pronged attack and charm offensive was thought to be a good strategy.  However, in reality the intellectual arguments against the reforms have simply not changed.

However, the irony of the overwhelming victory of the Tories in the local elections and the decimation of the Liberal Democrat vote has now galvanised the LibDems into fighting their corner.  After all, they have little to lose.

It is true that in one way they are in a weak position if a snap election was called, however, the Tories could not guarantee an overall majority and may end up in a worse position than they are now if they take the gamble.

The Coalition has set out its stall for a 5 year Parliament and the whole strategy, which incidentally, I think will succeed, is to ride the storm, wait for the economy to pick up and go to the polls ready for a Tory majority.

Now, however, the LibDems have nothing to lose now the debacle of he AV referendum is well and truly behind us, they have to show how they can affect the policies of the government.  The next important target on the horizon is the NHS reforms.

The LibDems have to show they are able to change policy for the better, and Nick Clegg appears to have found a small part of his back bone and is changing strategy to disagree in public and to show the differences between the LibDems and the Tories rather than have a show like a national unity government.

Even the likes of Fraser Nelson are saying it would not be the end of the world if the NHS reforms were thrown out.

Andrew Lansley is now trying to defy the laws of gravity by arguing against the Labour party on the basis that their reforms are more left wing than labour! Defying all the coalitions arguments and policy rhetoric of the past 12 months.

Andrew Lansley has been arguing that Labour would cut more money from the NHS than the coalition intends and this would lead to less nurses, doctors, beds etc.  However, when the left argue this we are told it CAN be done by not affecting front line services and by efficiency savings.

So, as usual, it is one rule for one, and another rule for others.

The truth is that the public do not and will not trust the Tories with the NHS.  They WILL NOT win this argument, so the right is arguing they could still re arrange the NHS, bring in privatisation, without a large unwieldy bill.

More stealth and less rhetoric is the order of the day.

Andrew Lansley has been working on this for the past 7 years, and is seeing his ridiculous ideological madness falling into the abyss of failed political careers.  He must be in line for an award for the most years spent in politics without achieving any outcomes whatsoever.  If I was cutting waste in government I know where I would start, and I think David Cameron may be having the same idea.

Meanwhile this is the first week of a new look Lib Dem coalition partner.  The NHS bill will either be severely changed or ditched all together.  There is no other way, and there is no other direction for the Lib Dems than to insist on this.  Whether that will be enough to save them from annihilation is unclear.


Andrew Lansley Faces Humiliation from the Nursing Profession

The dogmatic way in which Andrew Lansley has approached the NHS over the past 10 months has been staggering to watch, and today he was humiliated again, this time by the nursing profession.

The cartoon above sums up the car crash of the policy that is the NHS reforms. David Cameron having to step in to save the policy and the fortunes of his government.

Today Nurses voted overwhelmingly to back a motion of “no confidence” in the Health Secretary Andrew Lansley.  It was not just overwhelming but almost unanimous with the vote being 99% to 1% in favour of the motion.

Andrew Lansley characteristically would not speak to the nurses at the conference, but if he had of it would have been a talking to in the same way as he has been talking down to much of the health professionals over the past 10 months.

Over the past week he has been pursuing a face saving agenda, doing interviews just about everywhere explaining he is “listening”.  Yet at the same time stating that he has overwhelming support throughout the professions, including the BMA, GP’s and Nursing profession for his reforms.

Some how, nothing he says seems to chime with the notion of “listening”.  The pause for thought appears to be a 2 month stop gap to push the message home or to re phrase the policy rather than change anything.  A process of double speak is in operation.

Delegates at the Royal College of Nursing conference in Liverpool today voted for a no confidence motion sending a clear message that they do not trust or have faith in Andrew Lansley.  The problem with Lansley’s position is that he cannot attack the nurses for being lefties who don’t do any work while at the same time stating that they are valued and needed in the NHS and that he is listening.

The ideological nature of the reforms discussed here are clear to see and could irreparably damage the Health service if any reforms are not taken at the correct speed and with the right motives.

The more the pause for thought continues the more it looks like a filibuster, a playing for time, rather than a real willingness to listen and change the policy for the better.

40% rise in anti-depressant prescriptions
Suicide statistics compared to Murder and Road deaths
Andrew Lansley’s Health reforms – Ideological Madness

CARTOON THAT SAYS IT ALL – NHS REFORMS: The moment the penny dropped on Andrew Lansley’s NHS reforms

David Cameron thought it was all in hand, and then a voice came into his head, the dawning that buggering up the NHS might not actually be in the Conservative Parties interests . . . . or er the countries.

I wish I’d have been there for that conversation!

NHS: David Cameron and Nick Clegg – a listening exercise or a filibuster

So the “listening exercise” is announced to a most embarrassed Andrew Lansley looking over his shoulder at the cavernous abyss that is where his political career is heading.  That is, it would be heading if it was not for the fact that the extent of talent on the benches of the conservative party are so whoeful that he will cling on by his fingernails.

The fight back has begun on the NHS proposals lead by David Cameron and his buddy Nick Clegg.  An unlikely dynamic duo coming to the rescue of Mr Lansley.

Just over 2 months ago Mr Clegg announced that the NHS reforms WERE in the Lib Dem manifesto, and was not a dishonest manifestation of the coalition agreement. Claiming credit in January does not now seem such a good idea!

Today Mr Clegg has been on television doing the rounds insisting that he WILL LISTEN and that the NHS is SAFE with the coalition and it will not be PRIVATISED.

The problem is of course, where as a year ago people were falling over themselves to believe Nick and listen to his sincerity, no one gives two figs for it now.  How can you trust someone that has so obviously gone against what he told the electorate was his principle over Tuition fees??

David Cameron has recognised the enormous hole the government has dug itself, or rather Andrew Lansley has been digging for about 7 years!

The problem is, they say they will be listening, yet at the same time they tell us that there is no other choice than to enact these major reforms.  They also tell us that the substantive policy remains and that they will listen to GENUINE concerns.

So is this a real case of the coalition listening and changing their policies in accordance with the concerns of professionals and the public or is it a filibuster, to delay the inevitable, to play for time and tell us again and again why their proposals are the only ones on the table?

This next 6 month period will be the defining time for the coalition and this NHS bill is one large component of this.

This week letters have gone out to those on disability benefits for re-assessment along with the spin that a third of claimants will be coming off the disability allowances.  Writing the Daily Mail headlines for them.

Today the first of the cutting and raising of taxes comes into effect and by the end of the month many will be worse off.  Yesterday, the high street gave a gloomy assessment of the state of high street sales and the OECD downgraded the UK growth forecast.

In May there are the council elections that the LIBDEMS will be lucky to get out of in one piece and then there is the AV election that could, just possibly hammer one nail into the coffin of either David Cameron or Nick Clegg.

At present the Labour Party does not need to do anything to rise up the electoral polling averages, which is a good job as they have little to offer in terms of policies yet.

I have a horrible suspicion that the NHS rethink will be simply the tweaking on the edges while finding ways of using language more palatable for the public to swallow.  Savings not cuts we here now for the austerity program.  Lets wait for the next spinning machine to kick in for the NHS.

DAVID CAMERON PLANS HIS NEXT U-TURN: The NHS and Andrew Lansley are his next target

Another day and another policy to be saved.  The great reforming agenda of the coalition’s ship keeps hitting the rocks and today it is desperately trying to avoid another policy running a ground while the light house shines brightly into David Cameron’s eyes.

This time it is the NHS.  This one has been coming a long time, I have discussed the madness over the ideological nature of the so called reforms previously here. As time has gone on it was obvious that there were major problems with the NHS bill, yet Andrew Lansley has been carrying on regardless on a crusade with few followers except for private medical practices.

Anyone could have seen the rocks before they came to power but it has taken 11 months of power and 2 large scale U-turns in other areas to realise that the bill requires changing.

I have said before over the Forests and over EMA that U turns are sometimes necessary and essential for a listening government. I have indeed praised the Prime Minister for listening and not carrying on regardless.

However, there is an underlying theme to these U-turns that are most concerning and may well cause him trouble as time goes on by both wings of his critics.

Firstly, the right wingers like Fraser Nelson will snipe at his power base for being too weak and in his and others eyes on the right like Norman Tebbit, for not going far enough in destroying the welfare state and cuts in public services.

Secondly, there are those who feel that he is not listening and appears to be pushing through a program of reform that has neither a mandate or has been well thought out, and the U-turns he is performing rather than giving David Cameron credit is causing him more problems.

The underlying problem though in my mind is not that he is altering course after listening to concerns, but that flagship policies were so ill thought out and so badly explained that they even got to the stage that a U-turn should be made.

The Forests were a classic example that defy belief.  It is also amazing that Caroline Spelman still has a job.  Anyone looking at the public’s attitude to the Forests, concerns regarding access, how much money it would make and the details of the bill could see that this policy was never going to work. This was a pointless waste of time and energy by the government.

Now we have the reforms to the NHS.  Reforms that will cost around £3 billion to enact; where there was little if any debate on before the general election and one that even the beneficiaries (the GP’s) are not keen on.

Andrew Lansley was shadow Health Secretary for around 7 years before he got into government, yet his ideas have no wide spread approval either from within the health professionals or with the public at large.

If this is not incompetence I do not know what is. His use of statistics to shore up his argument for change are shall we say less than based on fact as discussed here.

It beggars belief that a controversial policy; that has no electoral mandate; where the main reform was not even known before the 2010 election; (namely that of disbanding all PCT’s), and that will actually cost the public purse massive amount of money just to introduce it at a time when we cannot afford such luxuries, just smacks of idiocy.

It is reported that David Cameron is seeking to make “concessions”, to the Conservative and Lib Dem back benchers to head off an embarrassing rebellion.

Conservative MP’s can see an electoral suicide pact a mile off, and want nothing that will alienate a fragile electorate for something no one knows will actually work.

There is talk within Tory circles that concessions will be made like:

  • New clauses limiting the ability of private firms to “cherry pick” the most lucrative work
  • Redefining the role of the regulator from the promotion of competition to a concentration on value for money
  • Improved public accountability for the GP consortia who are expected to take control of a budget in excess of £60 billion
  • To no longer make it compulsory that GP’s have to take over the budget, however, allowing other GP’s consortia to  take over their budgets

The real problem however with this bill is that no one knows if it will work or not.  The crucial question is whether patient care will IMPROVE with these changes or not.

Even with these concessions it does not stop GP’s from benefiting financially by referring patients to their own private clinics, and it also smacks in the face of localism by allowing other areas’ GP consortia take over GP funding.

It is a mixed up policy, based on ideology and not real outcomes that can be measured and improved over time and costing far too much money.

David Cameron is looking for wriggle room because Andrew Lansley is digging a massive hole for the coalition, due to his ideological intentions and the lack of clarity and detail in the planning of the NHS reforms.

This goes to the heart of Cameron’s government.  He has been so hell bent in not repeated the often quoted failures of the Blair government, that he has lost site of what is good for the country and how to enact good government.

The government started off with far fewer government advisers, which he has now redressed; has allowed his ministers free reign to develop policies, only for him to have to take charge and re vamp or jettison policies like Forests, EMA, Education and school sports funding.

David Cameron may well be a competent person with a nose for political maneuverings but the team around him are neither competent or have a head for the common sense political decisions.  This could ultimately be his downfall.

Andrew Lansley has been incompetent in developing his bill and poor at explaining it to an increasingly skeptical public.  This NHS bill will be a fundamental battleground and could make or break the coalition.

Quote of the Week: Ed Miliband at Prime Ministers Questions

“This bill shows everything that people don’t like about this Government – broken promises, arrogance, incompetence and ignoring people who know something about the health service.”

Ed Miliband on the reforms announced byDavid Cameron’s Conservative Lead Coalition.