Tag Archives: NHS

Social Cleansing: Yet again government policy not living up to their rhetoric

Today we have a new scandal on the front pages, “social cleansing” and the movement of masses of people to other areas of the country.

This type of action is only something previously heard of in war torn countries or extreme right wing (even fascist) regimes.  Yet today, Grant Shapps, Conservative Housing minister is trying to explain why the actions of Newham Council are happening when he specifically told the country that this would NOT be the result of government policy.

Newham Council, in London, the Olympic capital for 2012, is in discussions with Stoke on Trent, one of the most deprived areas of the country, to take up to 500 residents from their area because they can no longer afford to provide social housing for people due to the caps on Housing benefit.

We were assured by ministers that the idea of “social cleansing” and the fear of wholesale movement of poorer people out of the well off areas of London was simply hysterical, is now looking a little hollow.

We were assured by Grant Shapps in interviews:

Housing minister rebuts opposition critics: “We are not being unfair”
Concerns over Housing Benefit reforms “complete nonsense” says Grant Shapps.

See http://www.guardian.co.uk/society/2010/oct/28/housing-benefit-cuts-defended

Now the very concern dismissed by the government is now becoming fact.  Whether by design or simply government incompetence (it is difficult to tell the difference at the moment) their policy is having the exact result that they stated would not happen.

The BBC reports:

Newham Council says it can no longer afford to house tenants on its waiting list in private accommodation.

The gap between market rents and the housing allowance is too big, it says.

It has written to the Brighter Futures Housing Association in Stoke, offering it the “opportunity” to lease homes to it.

The letter says the local private rental sector is beginning to “overheat” because of the “onset of the Olympic Games and the buoyant young professionals market”.

It says the council can no longer afford to house tenants on its waiting list in private accommodation as the gap between market rents and the local housing allowance has become too great.

The council has been “forced to look further afield for alternative supply”, it adds.

And unbelievably this is a “Labour” council.

But along with so much this government says like “no top down re-organisation of the NHS” ; “We are all in this together”; “No Banker will have a bonus of more than £2,000; and that they had no plans to raise VAT, all become hollow in the face of reality.

As with the NHS reforms that will have changed the service for ever, we will not know the full effects of the reforms until several years later, when the damage will have been done and most probably irreversible.

In respect of moving 500 people to Stoke On Trent, I understand that the “people” concerned have neither been consulted or their concerns heard.

This is policy could have some of the most vial consequences our country has ever seen, but we will sleep walk on regardless.



The ramblings of a disconcerted citizen

In uncertain times the ideas of a civilised society are tested almost to breaking point, but the point of a real civilised society is that it is able to protect the most vulnerable in society at the times they are most in need.

Over the past few years it appears to me that our civil society structure is being tested possibly beyond breaking point.

We are told by our politicians that we are “all in this together”, while at the same time advocating damaging policies that seem to be aimed at the most vulnerable in our society.  This is not party political, but a general observation.

It has been revealed in a recent study that with care for the elderly, 20% of our hospitals do not even provide care that would be adequate in law, and over half of the hospitals failed to meet basic standards.  Can this be justified in any society?

Councils up and down the country are closing libraries as they are seen as a “soft” target to cut costs.  The argument is that everyone can use the internet, conveniently forgetting that 20% of households do not have access to the internet, and that certain sections of our society can only access reading material and the internet via libraries.

Of course these sections of our communities tend to be the old; young; unemployed; disabled; single parents and those in poverty.  In other words, those at the margins of our society and the most vulnerable.

Assessment’s for Employment Support Allowance (ESA) and the general stigmatisation of anyone with a disability who claims benefits in the national press is yet another cause for concern.  The many stories that are told by those with physical and mental disabilities about how they have been treated in their assessments for benefits are quite horrific.  Indeed so horrific, that the process itself quite often exacerbates any illness the applicant has.

Mental illness has been at the forefront of this injustice.  It appears to be the case, that it is acceptable to refuse people ESA on the most flimsy of grounds and to provide an assessment in a short period of time with a tick sheet mentality.

We all know that the diagnosis of a mental illness can take a long time, even years, and many mental illnesses can change on a day by day or even hour by hour basis.  So how can an assessment be made so quickly that will affect the living standards and quality of life of an individual and their family?

I could give many examples, whether from those suffering from Bipolar; depression; social anxiety; personality disorders and so on.  One day that person could be fit for work, the next they may be completely incapacitated.  Yet the criteria for those making decisions that will affect the wellbeing and health of a human being is being stripped down to a tick sheet and the need to cut costs.  It appears that no consideration is being given to the consequences of these decisions, even if it means in a minority of cases, death.

Mental health services are also being stretched to breaking point with the need to make space for the next patient in a crisis being paramount.

It strikes me that those with mental illnesses are the easy targets for the powers that be.  Our society is becoming a case of “WHO SHOUTS LOUDEST”. Whether it is the young; the elderly; those in social need or the ill, they have become the easy targets. The question is, why should people have to fight to be treated with respect?  It is clear that many in mental distress will find it most difficult to fight against an unjust decision by benefit agencies, which must be known by those implementing the policies.

It now appears from the evidence of real people at the sharp end that the safety net is no longer catching all those it was set up to help.


Suicide, Self Harm and the NHS

I remember my school days with mixed feelings, however, I do remember certain attitudes and phrases that have lived with me or that I remember fondly or otherwise.

One such phrase was a sarcastic one which was used by my economics teacher. He always talked of the “Angels”.  Never say anything against the “Angels” he would say.

The Angels were of the course the NHS nurses.  They could do no wrong, neither could the Doctors.  Of course this is only true until a politician decides stigmatising a profession or other suits their course, but that is another story.

In the past few years I have come to see health professionals in a different light as my dealings have turned from specifically a “user” to someone who has to liaise with and discuss aspects of NHS and voluntary sector mental health services.

Suicide and Self harm are some of the most extreme actions committed by those in mental distress, and listening to the torment that those who inflict harm on themselves feel can be disturbing and heartbreaking.

It is hard for those whose experience in life does not include extreme mental anguish, anxiety and depression, to understand the mentality of taking actions that actively harms ones self.  It is perhaps beyond the logic of the “well” mind.

It is for this reason that many suffering such illnesses do not like to engage some health services.  They do not want sympathy, but perhaps respond better to empathy, from those in a position of understanding.  Indeed some experience of our health services lead people into a cycle of worse mental health as a result of that engagement with the professionals in health provision.

It is a sad thing to say, but many in the NHS do not understand or indeed care about the mental health conditions that they come into contact with on a daily basis.  It may well be a minority, but it comes up with such regularity that it is hard not to conclude it is a real problem.

The stories of those treated with a lack of respect or a lot worse can be seen all over the internet.  It is remarkable in this day and age that there is not some cross over of training to include the mentally distressed when they come into contact with other health professionals.

Stories of a person having a heart attack and being taken to hospital for treatment, to be faced with a Doctor who see’s scars of self harm and proceeds to lecture the patient and to say he did not want to treat the patient and why are they wasting their time .  Treating the patient with disrespect, disregard and insulting them.

On other occasions such treatment has led to suicide attempts.

Then there are the stories of those who attend hospital due to a self harming episode to be again insulted for “wasting” their time and deliberately making a shoddy job of the “treatment”, causing yet more anguish.

There are additional stories of refusing to use pain killing treatment because of the idea that if it hurts sufficiently they won’t come back!

Then there are those within the mental health profession themselves, who are so stretched, or that have such skewed priorities and rules that even knowing patients require help, they refuse them on the basis that a time limit has been reached.

If anyone was unaware, mental health conditions do not heal themselves to a time table.

If you would like to see the effects of some of these issues have a look at the PurpeNoise blog where some of the issues are graphically illustrated.


Some people tell me that mental health issues are no longer “stigmatised” or that our mental health provision is “a lot better than it used to be”.  The proof of the pudding as they is in the eating, and I am beginning to have my fill.

Stigmatisation is still apparent, in corners of our society that would surprise many people, and the mentally ill are still the first to be cast adrift in society when the chips are down.

If this would surprise you, then look at the details of the new Employment Support Allowance and the glee with which the tabloids miss represent stories of who is available for work following the new “assessment” procedures.

Those with depression and other mental illnesses are the least able to “shout loudest” to get what they need.  Yet the new assessments are designed exactly for this reason in mind.  It is not about need, but about saving money, no matter who suffers.

This is not political, all parties are sharing the helm on this policy, and it sickens me.

So, for the many “Angels” who do their job without prejudice and professionally, showing consideration and sympathy, please continue your superb hard work and teach the others in your profession the way human beings are supposed to behave.

Compassion is not a dirty word.

Mental Health Services in Bristol: “Changes Bristol” Mental Health Support Groups

Author Anon

Mental Health services are stretched throughout the UK and it is getting tougher all the time.  Funding for mental health charities is getting harder to come by and the lack of joined up thinking within our NHS with Mental Health Services is constantly challenged.

In Bristol, services are limited and the help those with challenges such as depression, anxiety, social anxiety, OCD, Personality disorders, self harming, low self esteem, and Body Dysmorphia  are constantly let down by a state system that does not wish to fund or take seriously illnesses we can’t see.

There are many GP’s who are excellent when the patient comes with their problems.  However, there are a good too many who take the easy option or are ignorant of the options available to them.

Due to the inadequacies of the NHS in this field of medicine, many charities exist that provide gaps in health services.  Whether it is coffee mornings where people can go and interact with others who have suffered similar problems or simply break the cycle of isolation; charities that provide support groups that sign post to other organisations or those that provide limited counselling services for a low cost or for free.

Those that suffer from debilitating illnesses like depression find it hard to reach out and be pro-active, so when visiting the GP they would massively benefit from being given information on the options available both within the NHS and locally elsewhere.  Yet even when charities approach PCT’s and GP practices, they are not accommodated or information is not passed on to patients in all too many occasions.

This is very sad, and lets down the very patients they are trying to help.

Getting a GP surgery to take notice of services on offer can be a thankless task. First you have to get passed the stone wall tactics of the “Practice manager”.  A filtering service for the GP, giving them information they “need to know”.

Then if you get passed that hurdle, to get to talk to the GP’s or practice manager to provide information can be an even bigger obstacle.

Can it really be that difficult for a GP to give a patient a piece of paper with local services and charities that could help with their condition? Just one piece of paper? Apparently it is in many cases.

Too frequently the same old avenues are taken.  Medication first – then maybe referral for some talking therapy on the NHS or maybe even CBT – provided you are willing to wait 10 weeks in the mean time (if your lucky).  With the average lead time on medication working anything from 3 weeks to 3 months, it is hardly likely to give any comfort initially to those in a life crisis.

I even know of one case where a mental health charity was holding a support group within a GP practice where there were at least 10 GP’s practising, yet patients were never referred from that practice because the GP’s did not even know the support group existed in the very building they worked in every day.

Joined up mental health services? I hardly think so.

Thankfully, there are many charities and voluntary organisations who do provide services and for those within the Bristol area, one of those organisations is CHANGES BRISTOL.

Changes Bristol” is a Mental Health Charity serving the communities throughout Bristol and currently trying to expand to help more people.

The charity provides venues where any adult can come in a safe and friendly environment to meet other like minded individuals and to share what is happening in their lives.

The meetings are non-judgemental and whatever is said in the room remains in the room – confidentiality is key.

The groups are also a forum where mental health topics are discussed.  The Charity facilitates a 12 step programme where people can chart their progress in coping with or recovering from depression, anxiety and other mental health concerns. The charity is non religious.

The 12 Steps 

  • .   Admit you’ve got a problem
    2.   Take Action
    3.   Trust and Cooperate
    4.   Get the Power
    5.   Use and develop personal resources
    6.   Begin Personal Evaluation
    7.   Cultivate Healthy Thinking
    8.   Cultivate Healthy Behaviour
    9.   Realise that Feelings are not Facts
    10. Get on with Your Life
    11. Give it Time
    12. Pass it On
The groups are free though you can donate at each meeting if you would like. Venues include:

MONDAY EVENING – BARTON HILL  7.15-9.30pm (please come at 7pm for a prompt start) The Wellspring Centre, Beam St, Barton Hill, Bristol BS5 9QY

By bus: The number 36 passes close by along Avondale Road and stops very near on the end of Beam Street. Numbers 6, 7, 41, 42, 43, 44 and 45 stop near Lawrence Hill train station – it’s about a 5 – 10 minute walk from there up Ducie Road.

TUESDAY DAYTIME – HARTCLIFFE  11am- 1.15pm (please come at 10.50am for a prompt start) @Symes Community Building Peterson Avenue, Hartcliffe Bristol BS13 OBE. The meetings are in the same entrance as the Library, in the top corner of the Morrisons car park, just ask at reception. By bus: The numbers 36 and 75 stop a short walk away on Bishport Avenue

TUESDAY EVENING – HORFIELD  7.15-9.30pm (please come at 7pm for a prompt start) The Friends Meeting House, 300 Gloucester Rd, Horfield, Bristol, BS7 8PD  

By bus: The number 73, 73B, 75, 76, 76A, X11, 309, 310, U1 and U2 stop directly outside the building on Gloucester Road and accross the road.

WEDNESDAY AFTERNOON- REDCATCH, KNOWLE  1.30pm – 3.30pm Redcatch Community Centre, Redcatch Road, Knowle, Bristol, BS4 2EP. By bus: The numbers 379, 376, 54, 51, 36 stop at Greenmore Road and Broad Walk shops a short distance away.

THURSDAY AFTERNOON- WESTBURY-ON-TRYM   1.40pm – 3.40pm (please come at 1.30pm for a prompt start) Westbury-on-Trym Village Hall, Eastfield Road, Westbury-on-Trym, Bristol, BS9 4AG

By bus: The numbers 1 and 20 stop a short distance away on in the centre of the village

THURSDAY EVENING- HORFIELD   7.15-9.30pm (please come at 7pm for a prompt start) The Friends Meeting House, 300 Gloucester Rd, Horfield, Bristol, BS7 8PD

By bus: The number 75 and 76 stop directly outside the building on Gloucester Road

FRIDAY DAYTIME – BEDMINSTER  10.45m- 1.00pm (please come at 10.35am for a prompt start) RNIB Offices, 10 Stillhouse Lane, Bedminster Bristol, BS3 4EB.

By bus: The numbers 52, 75, 76, 90 all stop on Bedminster Parade, close to ASDA Please note that parking at the RNIB car park is not permitted.

More details are at the Changes Bristol website.
There is help out there, it just takes more time to find it for those suffering depression and anxiety and other mental health conditions.

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

MENTAL HEALTH PROBLEMS INCREASE IN THE UK: 40% rise in anti-depressant prescriptions

The health news of the day is that there has been a 40% increase in prescriptions of anti-depressants .  The news bulletins are linking this to the worries about money now the economy has nose dived and unemployment is on the rise.

This however, should not be a surprise to anybody.  It is well known that when the economy falters and a recession ensues the rates of suicides increase and with it the rates of mental health problems, depression and anxiety.

Mental Health organisations like Mind, Samaritans, and  smaller mental health charities like Changes find an increase in enquiries when a recession hits.

Health services in the UK are being stretched, in the last year alone referrals for talking therapies rose four-fold to nearly 600,000, Department of Health figures show.

Suicide rates have been on the rise for some time and are approaching the 6,000 mark.  Three times the amount of people killed on the roads and nearly six times the amount of homicides in the UK, more details on these figures can be seen here.

At a time when mental health services, as inadequate as they are, are being squeezed by the cuts, as they are perceived to be the harder outcomes to definitively prove successful.

Mental Health, unlike many other illnesses is not a one stop shop.  CBT for some and anti-depressants for others, is not the way it is treated.

Early intervention is key to prevent people being sucked into a life of dysfunctionality, yet the way society and companies in our fragile economy stigmatise the mentally ill, many will not seek help until the illness is well advanced.  This is even more worrying considering the extent of the increase in anti-depressant prescriptions just over the last 4 years.

I would expect the prescription rate to rapidly increase further as the economic crisis deepens, unemployment rises and the costs of other remedies other than drugs are cut.

Sadly, none of this should be a surprise to anyone.


The weak shall inherit the earth
IAPToo good to be true
Changes Bristol
Madness What Madness?