Thursday, 27 November 2014

Andrew Mitchell and 'Plebs'

Andrew Mitchell probably called the police 'plebs'. This is according to Mr Justice Mitting.

It is a shame it has cost £2 million to find this out because I told you over a year ago.

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Wednesday, 19 November 2014

GP Appointments

I have to share this wonderful story that I heard two days ago and relates to my last blog entry on the NHS. Bear in mind that this story is third-hand but I bet it resonates with many.

A lady went to the GP surgery and asked for an appointment. She was told that the surgery only accepts telephone appointments and was asked if she had her mobile phone with her. She did. It was switched off because the signs told her to switch it off. She was advised to go outside to phone the surgery. She did and spoke to the receptionist who had given the advice.

This is a story that would make a good comedy sketch. I didn't hear what happened next but for any comedy sketch writers the conclusion could be that there were no appointments left for that day and she could be asked to phone back the following day.

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Tuesday, 11 November 2014

NHS: The best in the world?

I have had three conversations in three days that are all linked. Three days ago I was chatting about the NHS and the person with whom I was speaking agreed that it is not popular to criticise the NHS. It is seen as the best provider of health care in the world, looks after us from cradle to grave and is free at the point of access. My point was that the NHS is great if your experience is great but the opposite is also true, and I have heard and read about many bad examples of care.

Just yesterday I was speaking with a mother who was concerned about her daughter who had moved to another county. She had informed all the relevant authorities that she was moving and had even asked for evidence from some of them that they were aware of her change of address due to previous bad experiences. Needless to say things had gone wrong again. Her daughter has a chronic condition which is obvious to even the most casual observer. There is no doubt that treatment is necessary but she was told that there was a question of funding for her treatment.

The treatment is essential. Someone has to pay for it but she was now being told that there was a doubt over funding. Why had she even heard this comment? It had raised her stress levels on top of her medical condition. It also raised the stress levels of her mother, and this is from a service which has 'national' in its title.

My third conversation was earlier today and I was speaking with a doctor. I didn't know he was a doctor at the time but it came into the conversation because he was talking about someone who had been injured and gone to hospital. We also spoke about how maternity procedures had changed in twenty years. When my children were born it was common for mother and baby to stay in hospital six days. Now it is not even a day. This may be seen as a great improvement in efficiency and if this is true then it also makes you consider how inefficient things were not so long ago.

The conversation went on to consider the strengths of the local NHS service. He felt that we had a great maternity service. I was surprised to hear this view because of the recent maternity scandal and subsequent suppression of the CQC report.  I was also aware that earlier this year my local Trust had been placed in special measures. The reply I received was that this was almost entirely due to poor management. However I also know that mortality rates were high and I remembered something about the maternity department at Furness General Hospital, FGH having the highest death rate in the country. I had read that in 2011 "leaked figures revealed that FGH had the worst mortality rate of any hospital in England".

There is a lot of good and excellent work that is carried out within the NHS. The trouble is that there is also a lot of bad work. I couldn't sum up my feeling any better than by quoting Jackie Daniel, my Trust's chief executive. "The reports reflect the fact we are part-way through a process of significant improvement which is still going to take a number of years to complete...It isn't an overnight job to change the culture of a large, complex organisation." There's something wrong with the NHS culture.

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Saturday, 8 November 2014

Morecambe isn't 'worst'.

In 2003 a book called 'Crap Towns' was published and Morecambe managed to claim third spot in the list. Morecambe did manage to drop out of the list in the next two editions but I have seen no strong defence that Morecambe did not deserve its famous initial third position. I have written previously about how Morecambe could regenerate and a lot of this depended on the link road which is now well under way. There are many other ways to aid regeneration such as a bridge across the bay and there is still plenty of work to do to improve Morecambe.

One method of supporting the local economy is to support local music festivals and Morecambe does have some small festivals. Unfortunately the local council recently failed to support a punk festival which brings many people into the town. There is talk of support in the near future but this must affect planning and confidence in Morecambe. It is therefore not surprising to read in the Independent that Morecambe has been named in another list. This time it relates to the worst places to shop in the UK.

There is no doubt that Morecambe residents often turn elsewhere for their shopping but equally there is no doubt that Morecambe's economy should improve with the link road. A multi-faceted approach will improve Morecambe's fortunes. The problem is that we have been tarnished by many previous decisions and the subsequent lists that name us as 'worst'.

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Saturday, 1 November 2014

Not a pleasant shoot

I saw a pheasant 'shoot' this week. I wasn't invited. I just happened to be there. I guess there were a couple of dozen people with guns and half a dozen people who were running the event. It was held, as you would guess, in the countryside but all these people were wearing fine clothes. One person in particular looked very fine in his suit. The strange thing was that at times he was driving a quad bike. These were not the types of clothes that you would want to get dirty. Having said that I don't think they did get dirty.

I saw the delivery of food and bottles of wine and cans of beer to wash it down. I saw a camaraderie among the shooters. I saw them displaying their trophies. I saw them enjoying themselves. But most of all I saw pheasants being shot.

My guess is that around 60 pheasants flew across a field in the space of five minutes. The first dozen managed to fly across and none were hit. There was a great number of gunshots. The vast majority must have missed their targets. Then one or two slowly landed in the distance. I guessed they had been shot but I wasn't certain as they could have been trying to hide. I soon put two and two together. They had been injured.

I saw pheasants that were hit and then plummet to the ground. They may have been killed instantly. Then I saw a pheasant flying very close to where I was sat. It was hit in the wing and was trying to fly away with it's one remaining wing. It flew straight into a stone wall. I think it died on impact.

I began to wonder what sort of person shoots pheasant. They are bred for this 'sport' so it's not to keep their numbers down. I decided that they must be people with a fairly significant disposable income that don't mind injuring and killing animals, but mostly they are people who use the shoot as a social gathering. It may be that these five minutes were repeated a few times in the day and I only saw one of them but it did take all day.

Then I saw the collection of the carcasses. There were two dogs which were highly trained and they were sent to carry the birds back to their owner. You could see where the birds landed. You didn't need dogs to find them. You didn't need dogs to carry them back as the field was not that big. The bird that hit the stone wall did not land in the field and the dogs were not allowed to enter this area. So the only time when a dog might have been useful to find a bird they were not used. Yes they were highly trained but a shoot is no reason for giving them this training. I am sure they could perform other very useful tasks.

I am not concerned with arguments about whether game birds are bred in captivity, or whether the game birds' natural predators are trapped and killed. I am not bothered if the birds are eaten or if supporters of the shoot are those who maintain the countryside. I am not even concerned about whether shooting is really popular. Any pro-shooting argument is 'shot down' by the shoot itself. I did ask who would do such a thing. Well it's obviously someone who doesn't mind giving pain to these birds.

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