Thursday, 26 July 2012

Paying the telephone bill

I am moving house tomorrow and changing my internet provider. The way we move house in this country needs to be changed. I only found out that I was definitely moving yesterday but my my new provider cannot give me internet access until the 7th August. More importantly my old provider will still be providing for me until the 9th August. When I asked how I would not be paying the telephone bills for the new owners the answer I was given was to ask them not to use the telephone line. I can sleep soundly in my bed tonight.

The assistant on the end of the telephone line was quite clear. There was nothing he could do. I replied that this does not happen very often to me but it must be a regular occurrence for him. He simply repeated that there was nothing he could do and apologised.

I will let you know immediately if anything changes but the next blog may have to wait a couple of weeks.

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Friday, 20 July 2012

No need for apology

In the news is the police officer who struck Ian Tomlinson in 2009 at the G20 protests. He has been cleared of killing Mr Tomlinson who died shortly after being hit. I wrote about the death of Ian Tomlinson on the 9th April 2009 and this blog would not have been written were it not for the personal videos that were published via The Guardian. I can still remember the baton strike and push which is now deemed as 'reasonable force' even though his death had been ruled as unlawful at the inquest a year ago.

There is something not right when the police officer has a history of violence. There is something not right when the footage showed Mr Tomlinson walking away from the police. There is something not right when the trained police officer cannot recognise this and when he cannot distinguish an aggressive protestor from a member of the general public. There is something not right when a baton strike with a swing that may be seen at the Royal Lytham & St Annes is interpreted as reasonable force.

I don't know how the police officer was cleared of manslaughter but I am really much more certain that matters I raised in 2009 need attention. At the time I was concerned about the anonymity of the police. It took some time before this particular officer came forward. If he had a visible face or a visible police number then there would have been no need for him to come forward as we would have known immediately who he was. Who is responsible for allowing anonymity and why? I can only think that anonymity allows for actions that would not normally be taken.

Last year the police officer apologised "if it is the case that in any way I have caused Mr Tomlinson's death". It now seems that there was no need for an apology as he was just using reasonable force. Perhaps there should be an apology for the apology.

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Friday, 13 July 2012

How do MPs consult with constituents?

I am pleased to report that David Morris has replied to my question about the reform of the House of Lords. He agrees with me that reform is needed and has voted to debate the bill in the Autumn. The trouble is that I still have no idea what sort of reform he wants.

He told me that 'it is a matter of protocol that we do not comment on individual parliamentary votes until after the votes have taken place in the House of Commons', but  I want to know his general views. How do MPs consult with constituents? Why don't they discuss bills in a general form? I am still not sure if my MP wants a wholly elected second chamber or 80% or wishes to make only minor adjustments.  The problem is that if he wants reform then he has to vote for it otherwise he keeps the status quo. He may like his particular brand of reform so much that he does nothing by default.

I am also not convinced of the merit of a protocol that forbids comment. I did look for his name among the 70 Tory signatories who would vote against the Government and it wasn't on the letter. Surely there is a better means of communication than this, and what happened to the protocol for these 70 MPs? I can accept that some MPs may not want to comment on some issues prior to a vote, e.g. in case they change their mind between comment and vote. They don't want to be seen as people who make u-turns (see blog 25th June).

We have far too many secrets which are absolutely not necessary. Nobody would be hurt by knowing some of the thoughts of their MP on matters such as House of Lords reform, and it would be useful to know the grounds for any decision so that counter-arguments may be put forward.

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Thursday, 12 July 2012

What Can You Do with 17,000 Troops?

The news that struck me today concerned the security arrangements for the Olympic Games. I read that G4S, a private security firm was unable to meet the requirements for the Games which start in 15 days. If you were employing any company that left you in the lurch then I presume you would look for compensation. Well there is no mention yet but maybe the security firm will still be looking to get paid for its inadequate planning. However that's not the bit that struck me.

How many competitors are there? Around 10,000? How many security personnel do you need? Well I went to a few events at the Manchester Commonwealth Games and didn't notice any security staff. There were plenty of volunteers opening doors and directing people but I really can't remember seeing any police officers. Did they have members of the armed services to call on? Maybe they did and I suppose they should be available in case we had a tragedy on the scale of the Munich Olympics.

Now if members of an Olympic team are taken hostage how many soldiers would you like to call on? 100? 200? Well multiply that number by four because they will have to work shifts. That's the bit that struck me. There will now be 17,000 members of the armed services working at these Olympics. If something goes wrong in Morecambe then we could pull out all the stops and call on maybe a dozen police officers (I'm always an optimist). Let's just say I am wrong. Well what can possibly go wrong that requires17,000 troops?

The second thing that struck me was the generosity of the Government in response to the G4S fiasco by giving service personnel free tickets to the events. 10,000 Olympic and Paralympic tickets have been donated to the armed services. However it wasn't that long ago when close relatives of the competitors were on the news because they couldn't get tickets. Is this the same organisation that turned customers away because events were oversubscribed? Were they really holding back 10,000 tickets in case of fiasco? Are they holding back another 10,000 tickets just in case?

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Friday, 6 July 2012

No reply yet from Morecambe MP

I have written again to my MP about the House of Lord Reform Bill (see 'Will the Morecambe MP reply to me?' from the 27th June) . This time I let him know that I am writing a blog and today's entry is very simple for me as it is a copy of my email to David Morris MP...

Dear Mr Morris,

I wrote to you nine days ago asking for your opinion of the House of Lords Reform Bill. I think you should know that I am also looking at whether you reply at all as I have had people tell me that you do not respond to them (I have also heard some favourable reports).

You may be interested to know that I write a blog called Politics For Novices and I have written about our correspondence. You are welcome to take any of the views held in these blogs.

Yours sincerely,

Michael Gradwell

I have been told that he is a busy man. My immediate reply was that his team were not too busy to have three fairly long phone conversations with me about my voting intentions before the last election. I would also like to think that any business, but in particular the business of representing me at Westminster should be efficient.

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P.S I phoned David's office today (Monday 9th July) as the vote is tomorrow but the assistant did not have access to emails sent via the website. She will check and get back to me if they have not been received. However I did find out that they have a policy of replying within two weeks. What a shame that I only sent my first email twelve days ago. I was also told that two weeks was not a strict rule but I did know that because some people have told me that they have not had replies.

Monday, 2 July 2012

Intuitively Burnley's A&E closure is bad

I have just watched the Sunday Politics again (see previous blog entry) and it is the NHS Confederation  that is telling us that more A&Es should be closed because we need to spend the money on specialised services. So Burnley A&E was closed because the Trust did not want to duplicate services in both Burnley and Blackburn.

Rineke Schram, the Medical Director of the East Lancashire Hospitals NHS Trust was interviewed and started by telling us that "we haven't been as honest as we could be..." Was she about to tell us that their decision to close an A&E was wrong? Far from it. What she meant by "honest" was she hadn't got enough information out about how right they were to close Burnley's A&E. At least the BBC reporter got it right when she said that the closure was a PR disaster for the Trust.

Rineke makes the case that heart attacks can be treated "quite well" but you  have to pay for this specialised service which is associated with Blackburn's A&E. Unfortunately this unit is not much use if you die from your heart attack or if you die in the thirty minutes or more that it takes you to get to a more distant casualty. One member of the public commented that he would not like to be in the ambulance that got stuck on the motorway.

It is important to strive for improvement in patient services including the outcome for the victims of heart attacks but this should not be done at the expense of a valued A&E service. The Duke of Edinburgh knows exactly what I mean and so does Gordon Birtwistle, Burnley's MP. He reckons that 95% of emergency treatments could be dealt with in Burnley and that was my gut feeling in the last blog. It seems so logical. We know that many routine and common procedures do not need expensive adjoining units. We know that we want a local routine service.

Rineke added that her Trust meets its targets. Well it is obvious that the Trust has no target of keeping a local casualty and if you don't have the target then it won't be measured, but I can tell her that a local service is wanted.

Mike Farrar, the Chief Executive of the NHS Confederation tells us that there has been an improvement of up to 20% of people surviving heart attacks because of the specialised unit in Blackburn. Well I am not sure what this statistic means. 1% is up to 20% so does he mean 1 or 20? What does "up to 20%" mean?

I would question Mike's use of statistics because he goes on to tell us that it is 7 miles from the Burnley to the Blackburn hospital. I have checked the AA Route Planner (have a go yourself) and it tells me it is 16.2 miles! Even allowing for air ambulance it isn't seven. Mike asks a rhetorical question as to whether we would agree with travelling an extra seven miles if we thought we had a 20% better chance of survival? Well I bet that statistically you are much more likely to need a service other than a specialised cardiac service. I don't understand either of Mike's figures anyway. The presenter, Arif Ansari asked him where the 20% comes from and he "thinks" it is Trust information. Is that the same Trust that needs to be honest with us?

Councillor Geoff Driver felt that it was just a false perception that told the people of Burnley that they were worse off because their unit had closed. He said they may even be fearful of this closure so "we have to convince them that it is better so what we have to do is keep monitoring". Let me explain that monitoring may not give him the results that he wants and if the expectations of the people of Burnley were monitored then Geoff would certainly not get the results that he wanted.

Burnley people aren't just intuitively feeling that closure is bad. They know that a visit from a relative will be much more difficult. Not everyone has a car and bus services are bound to make life a lot more difficult for relatives and friends. You don't need intuition to tell you this, but Geoff says "we've got to keep convincing them that they've got a better service". You're right there Geoff.

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Sunday, 1 July 2012

Keep A&Es open.

How would you organise A&E if you had the responsibility? Well if someone has an accident or an emergency then it is really important to make sure you provide a good service and to make sure that your service is not too far from the people who have the accidents and the emergencies. However today's Sunday Politics in the North West considered the loss of Burnley's A&E as a possible template for other towns.

Accidents can range from minor injuries (and some towns have lost their A&E to a minor injuries unit and some to nothing at all) to life-threatening injuries. Similarly emergencies can range from those that need reassurance only (some would describe them as trivial but I'm sure they are not if you are the person who needs the reassurance) to an acute exacerbation of a chronic disease which again may be life-threatening.

Whether you choose to amalgamate A&Es will depend on costs. You will justify the costs of staffing in most towns because members of the public will come through the doors. Whether those people can be treated satisfactorily will colour your view. There will be many conditions which are treatable within a normal department. Reassurance can be given, stitches can be sewn and tablets can be prescribed. As for the life-threatening conditions then highly specialised resources will be needed as they are now which may or may not be associated with the casualty unit.

The Duke of Edinburgh recently fell ill at Sandringham and had to pass a couple of general hospitals to get to Cambridge where a specialist service was available. Centres of excellence will always have a place. However A&E provides an essential service which is commonly needed, and on that basis should be provided as close as possible to populated areas. In short, we should be keeping A&Es open.

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