The Turkey’s prepare to vote for Christmas


So Corbyn played his trump card, that he had proof that the Tories are planning to privatise the NHS. Now I have to say (and I’m hardly known as a fan of Corbyn) that I’ve heard first and second hand accounts from at least two independent sources (one of whom works for the government and another in finance) who can back up his story. So no this is not coming from the Russians (clearly that’s just Cummings and the right wing media in damage control mode).

Even small details in Corbyn’s claims, such as their being 6 separate meetings between the US and UK trade delegations, is what I was told several months ago. I’ve not made a big deal out of it, simply because I assumed it was common knowledge. Then again, I don’t read any right wing newspapers so maybe I’m being a little naive.

But either way, yes if you vote Tory, you are probably voting to end the NHS, the rolling back of consumer safety, workers rights and environmental protection. That is pretty much a given. And before anyone says I’m alright jack I can afford to go private. Go ask an American sometime how much it costs them to get health insurance. And then there’s the out of pocket medical expenses the HMO’s don’t always cover. You can be spending a thousand dollars on an ambulance, several hundred for medicines, etc. Not only do Americans spend twice the amount on their privatised healthcare system, but the US government spends more subsidising a private system (per capita) than the UK spends on the NHS. So its going to cost the UK money not save it.


Yet despite it all, the Tories are still way ahead in the polls even thought they’ve had an awful campaign so far, where the PM has to be kept away from people, Mogg told to hide in his country estate and even Trump has been told to please keep his trap shut (least he blurt out something incriminating). But they are still likely too win, largely because the other parties haven’t worked out the Tory strategy and aren’t doing anything to counter it.

The Tories under Boris have completed their transformation into the UK Republican party. And the republican party mantra is, if you ain’t one of the 1% you can fu*k off. They can get away with this because they know that there’s enough people who will support them for a variety of reasons ranging from ideology, bigotry, racism, greed, stupidity and straight out sadism. For republicanism is at its heart sadopopulism. Tory/GOP supporters are quite okay with policies that make them worse off (or actually endanger their lives), so long as some other perceived enemy is also (or more severely) effected. I have it bad but at least them liberals/migrants/poor people have it worse.

And while you’d never get a majority to support that, such is the undemocratic nature of elections in the US and the UK its possible to get a majority control in government with only 30% of the votes. The brexit vote was carried by just 37% of voters (and many leave voters will be dead before brexit happens). Trump got 3 million less votes than Hilary and won with the support of just 25% of the electorate.

In short, the Tories are not a political party anymore but a tribe. Hence why many of the tactics the opposition are employing simply won’t work. Corbyn for example recently said that, given how he can’t get remainers to support him (cos he’s straight up lied to them dozens of times in a row), he was going to appeal to leave voters for the rest of the campaign LOL. Nothing he says will convince them to vote labour. Boris is the brexiters tribal chief, endorsed by the high priests of brexit (Farage, Mogg & Rothermere) and protected by the black magic of the tribe’s witch doctor (Cummings). Logic and facts have no meaning for Tory voters.

And since we are talking about it, no Trump is not going to be impeached. Do you really think republicans are that stupid they don’t know he’s committed a long list of numerous crimes, practically on a daily basis? They know it all too well, they just don’t care. He’s their tribal chief, until he’s deposed they’ll back him to the hilt (of course once they realise his goose is cooked then they’ll betray him, you can’t backstab someone without first getting behind them).

The only way of seeing him in a prison cell is for the democrats to win the 2020 election by whatever means necessary. Which means putting forward a candidate who has the best chance of beating him and uniting the left wing vote behind that candidate, regardless of which wing of the party they represent (no more of this Bernie or bust BS and someone needs to tell Bloomberg to pi*s off). Then they prevent another Trump from ever happening again by change the voting system to Proportional Representation, split up the job of president into head of state and head of government (as is the norm in most countries) and de-politicise the US judicial system (so nobody will ever be able to overturn Roe v’s Wade).

The same is true in the UK. The left and centre need to unite to stop the Tories. In any seat where the Tories have any chance of winning, there should only be one other candidate standing. Between now and election day is it that difficult for the candidates to get together and agree to all withdraw bar one, whom the rest endorse (with the understanding that said candidate will support a 2nd referendum and switching the UK’s voting system to PR). And incidentally, in quite a lot of seats in English cities the lib dems are often the 2nd placed party. In return many labour marginals could be moved into the safe seat category. This would turn the tables on the Tories.

Also it needs to be acknowledged that a big turn off for many voters is Corbyn. Put it this way, any election literature I’ve seen from labour this election (from the local candidate), doesn’t even mention Corbyn once. That’s how toxic he’s considered by even those within his own party. Rumours have it he was planning to quit in the spring anyway, so why not just make it official. He comes out and says that he’ll stay on in a caretaker capacity until brexit is sorted (one way or the other), then resign and let a new labour leader take over as PM. Furthermore, the initial focus of a labour government will be on resolving brexit and ending austerity. The more hard left policies such as re-nationalisation would be issues for the next PM to implement (or possibly a future government after another election).

This would essentially be a statement of fact. A labour government is not going to have time (or the money) for anything other than brexit and basically cleaning up the Tories mess, at least for the first year or two. Backbenchers and coalition partners will insist on these issues being prioritised. Admitting this reality would probably be enough of a compromise to persuade wavering remain voters (who will otherwise vote Tory to stop Corbyn) to back the coalition.

And similarly the lib dems need to drop their policy of revoking article 50 if they win. While yes it does make sense if you understand what’s going on (or how a 2nd referendum would actually pan out), but to anyone who isn’t a political expert it sounds arrogant and elitist. And its not like they are going to win a majority anyway. The SNP too should drop all talk of independence until after brexit. They haven’t much chance of winning a referendum until the damage of brexit/Boris has been demonstrated, so why talk up an issue now that will just cost you votes.

Of course, its highly unlikely any of this will happen. After all we are only having an election because the opposition were too pig headed to come together, oust Boris and his cabinet of ghouls and hold a 2nd referendum (then an election). If you’ve been on any labour/momentum social media recently they spent half their time moaning about the lib dems. You’d swear brexit and austernity was their idea. And the lib dems end up reciprocating.

And in fairness to the lib dems you only have to listen to the latest out of Len McCluskey’s dumb pie hole, in which he suggests that Corbyn should ignore what was said at conference and back leave. This has been the problem, you can’t trust anything Corbyn says because he can’t tie his shoe laces without first consulting with his cabal of toxic advisers.

Hence with a disunited left, its very likely the Tories will still win anyway. Doesn’t matter how badly they screw up, what pesky facts the opposition come up with, nor how out of touch or down right nasty the Tories sound. They will win because they don’t need a majority of voters to back them, just their tribe (who don’t care about the facts), a biased media (even the BBC have become so pro-Boris as to inspire meme’s) and an unfair voting system.

The Tory tribe don’t care how evil or corrupt their chief is, so long as he “shares the cake” and they get a crumb or two, they’ll still support him. Granted they might feel a little differently when they lose access to healthcare (as many older Tory voters are ultimately voting to die in a pool of their own piss on a dirty hospital floor), but it will be too late then. The Turkey’s are literally voting for Christmas.

Pre-election analysis – the UK’s Trump v’s the rebel alliance


So its possible we’ll have an early election, thought probably not as early as Boris Johnson wants. He seems to be hoping that by bringing a bit of Trump like behaviour to the UK he can get a majority, allowing him to force through the sort of brexit he prefers…..which might not necessarily be a no deal mind (if he’s got enough seats then he doesn’t need the DUP or the hard brexiters anymore, he could toss both under the bus and put forward May’s deal again, or the EU’s original proposal of leaving NI in the single market, negating the need for any backstop).

The odds are certainly in his favour, he’s 10% ahead in the polls and such tactics have certainly worked in the past, but its not that straight forward. In fact its a very risky gamble. As I pointed out before, such is the unfairness of the FPTP system its mathematically possible for the Tories to win a majority of seats with only 30% of the vote. However, its also mathematically possible for them to finish 10% ahead of anyone else and yet still not get a majority.

Certainly yes, Boris Johnson is good at one thing and it’s lying. He could sell a clapped out VW Bettle by claiming its actually a classic Porsche…which is pretty much a good description of his likely election strategy! However, the Tories have been trying to out UKIP, UKIP for the last two decades and failed every time. Farage, assuming he fields candidates (and given my point above he’d be very naive not to do so) lives in a glass house and can hurl rocks Boris can’t, while promising bigger and better unicorns. To return to my analogy about the used car, he’s going to be across the street at the election selling an actual Porcsche….which he doesn’t actually own…as he’ll basically be pulling the old pig in a poke scam.

So some significant number of voters will defect to the brexit party or UKIP (so even if the brexit party don’t stand, he’ll still lose some votes). And, as perhaps his recent walkabout should have highlighted, there are some UK voters who fundamentally won’t vote Tory. Even among some leave voters this would be unthinkable (in fact some voted leave to give Cameron & the Tories the two fingered salute). Go into the wrong bar in Glasgow, Leeds or Liverpool, tell them you are a Tory and you’ll hear a click behind you as they lock the doors, cos you ain’t leaving the place alive! Now whether this block of voters is 5% or 25% I do not know. But if I were Johnson I’d rather not find out the hard way!

At the other extreme his Stalinistic purges of moderate opponents is causing many to quit the party. Johnson seems to be confusing Tory members (who are pretty gung ho for no deal yes) with Tory voters (who are a completely different kettle of fish). Ruth Davidson’s quitting alone puts nearly all of the Scottish Tory seats in doubt. His own brother now quitting is also crucial, as he was one of the few moderate Tories left in a cabinet post.

And this business of sacking 21 further MP’s for doing something Johnson regularly did himself (including the father of the house Ken Clarke along with Winston Churchill’s grandson!) is going to have quite an impact. There is nothing to stop any of these MP’s (or other previous Tory defectors), from running again as independent Tory candidates. Or they might simply throwing their weight behind some pro-remain candidate in their constituency. Some Johnson crony parachuted in at the last minute is going to have a bit of an uphill struggle getting elected.

And losing votes from both ends is exactly the sort of scenario where the Tories could lose many of the marginal seats, meaning that they win the battle but lose the war (i.e. top the polls but finish well short of a majority). To make matters worse the election isn’t just going to be solely about brexit. Johnson and his puppet master adviser Wormtongue Cummings know this, so they’ve been trying to out Corbyn Corbyn, with lavish promises of money from heaven. Of course given that a hard brexit will depress the economy and pull down tax revenue, its hard to see how he’ll be able to afford current spending, never mind the sort he’s planning.

But while Boris is promising a few million here, a few there, Corbyn’s promising billions. And Corbyn can claim he has a plan to finance this, he’ll go for a softer brexit (or more likely none at all once his party and coalition partners have their say) and put up taxes for the rich. Now granted there’s a few holes in his proposals (which I’ve discussed before), but the Tories can’t get away with using the magic money tree jibe (not that they won’t try of course!), because they need a forest of them after brexit. So its not certain this tactic will work. It could leave them open to attack by lending more credibility to Corbyn’s proposals. And my guess is the public will find Corbyn’s proposals more appealing.

That said, certainly the Tories main election asset is Corbyn. Poll after poll shows that the public don’t like him, he’s not seen as a PM in waiting. And no I’m not a secret Tory or a lib dem (I usually vote either Green, SNP or labour). I’m simply reflecting the opinion of him you’d hear expressed in any working class pub, food bank or greasy spoon cafe. And these are the sort of people who generally vote labour. In Tory circles he’s the spawn of Satan. If there’s one thing that would cause moderate Tories and centre ground voters (who hate Johnson and don’t want a no deal), to lose their nerve and vote Tory anyway, its the thought of a Corbyn premiership.

And Corbyn’s policy of different forms of fence sitting on brexit (while thwarting efforts to block it) is going to be a major problem in any snap election. His official policy is to have an election, win it, negotiate a new deal with Brussels and put that to a people’s vote. The reality is that, while there will be differences between a Corbyn brexit and a May brexit no doubt (as he’ll go for a customs union, which negates the need for a backstop), the differences aren’t huge. Parliament is as likely to vote against such a deal as it was to vote against May’s deal. And a people’s vote will almost certainly result in remain winning by a large margin (meaning Corbyn then has to resign becoming the 4th PM brought down by brexit). And this assumes his party, who are overwhelmingly pro-remain, and his likely coalition partners (even more pro-remain) are going to be okay with putting his progressive agenda and all other business on the back burner for several years so he can sort out brexit.

The obvious hypocrisies of this policy will be exposed and his position will fall apart within the first week of any campaign, leading him to lose votes in all directions. The Tories and brexit party will say he’s pro-remain, the lib dems that he’s pro-leave. And how can we trust a leader whose still not made up his mind about something this important after 3 years? In which case, labour will haemorrhage seats to all its rivals and that could easily tip the scales Johnson’s direction.

The obvious solution therefore would be for labour to go full on pro-remain, forming an electoral alliance with the lib dems, greens and SNP. That would maximise his gains and minimise his losses. The trouble is that Corbyn lives in a bubble and doesn’t understand any of this. And he has a halo around him (as this piece perhaps shows), which stops his supporters seeing the blindingly obvious. If you’ve wandered onto any momentum blog or twitter feed recently they are wall to wall wailing against the lib dems. You’d swear a no deal brexit, austerity and privatising the NHS was their idea rather than the Tories.


What remainers need……

And recall Corbyn has his own set of defectors, such as the Jewish MP who quit over anti-Semitism some time ago, who recently joined the lib dems. And he plans to field candidates against them next election, even thought they’ve little chance of getting elected….although they might help a Tory get elected in the process! In short, I get the impression that Corbyn and his red shirts are going to turn the next election into the Judean people’s front v’s the people’s front of Judea, with him and momentum playing the role of the crack suicide squad, with the Romans Tories looking on with bemusement.


…..but what they might actually get

For the price of the inevitable defeat that will follow such a strategy is going to be high for labour supporters. Johnson gets in with a large majority and implements a hard right agenda that makes Corbyn’s hard left policies impossible to ever implement (as everything in the country including the NHS and public services will now be owned by US multinationals, plus they’ll bring in US style voter ID laws that make it difficult for young people or the poor to even vote). A big block of voters will leave the party in disgust and likely never come back (some polls have shown labour slipping to 4th place behind the lib dems and brexit party). He’ll have to resign, the Blairites will take over and his failure will be pointed to for decades as “proof” that such left wing policies are a route to electoral disaster (which I’d argue will be unfair, the problem is that Corbyn is just a crap leader, not necessarily his policies).

So it is all up in the air. Yes Johnson may succeed in turning the Tories into the US republican party under Trump. He might sell a plan to make the UK great again, which turns out to be a plan to turn the country into the 51st state and a somewhat poor and bankrupt one at that! Or he might find the electorate recoil in horror at such a thought and he’s simply given Corbyn the opportunity to sneak into power as head of a remainer rebel alliance. Delaying the election does on paper decrease the probability of the Tories winning, but it certainly doesn’t rule it out. There’s everything to play for, but do the players really want to play?

Brexit and Immigration


Brexit has been interpreted by Theresa May and the Tory party, as the UK voting to make itself poorer, in order to cut immigration. Of course, as I’ve pointed out before, this is a false narrative, which comes from a fundamental misreading of immigration statistics.


If leaving the EU is about immigration, how come non-EU countries have far more immigrants than the UK?

But either way, that’s their policy and the proposed immigration bill has now had its second reading in parliament. And oh boy is it bad. Basically, all of the EU citizens already here are being tossed into the meat grinder of May’s hostile environment. As will it also impact on any new migrants foolish enough to come to the UK, be they from the EU or further afield. Oh, and minsters will be allowed to change future immigration law without parliamentary scrutiny. So its basically a massive power grab by the home office, all but guranteed to lead to another Windrush scandal.

Because already we’ve heard numerous horror stories as a result of UK immigration policy. A British citizen with a disabled husband and an autistic daughter forced between choosing which of the two to abandon post-brexit. A 90 year old with severe arthritis being told to return home and appeal a visa rejection on a technicality (which as he’s no house or family back in the US would mean him living on the street). A women threatened with deportation (with two hours notice) on the basis of evidence from her abusive ex-husband.

And these are some of the milder stories that have made it into the news. I’ve heard other examples of outright racism from UK border staff. Individuals who’ve gone into debt with pay day loan companies due to some cock up by the UKBA (who basically don’t understand their own rules). Even cases of border agency staff admitting to applicants they hadn’t read the application in full before rejecting it. And May is proposing to add another 3 million to that and doesn’t expect any problems?

They’ve also set an arbitrary wage limit of £30,000 below which all workers are considered as “unskilled”…which pretty much tells you just how out of touch the Tory party is. Earn less than 30k, you’re a scullery maid or a tradesman and thus an unwashed pleb and there’s enough of them here already.

To say this policy is bad is too put it mildly. It has the potential to be an even bigger job killer than a no deal brexit. The myths of the “Britain is full” variety are based on the false assumption that the number of jobs in the UK is fixed, when its not. Migrants can actually increase the number of available jobs (as more people spending money in the country means more employment) and by paying their taxes, they can contribute to better public services (of course the problem here is the Tories haven’t been spending that extra money on public services, but instead gave wealthy people a tax cut or hiding the fact that privatisation of public services has often made them less efficient and more expensive to run).

This new immigration policy seems to assume that there are no skill shortages below this arbitrary wage limit, when in fact there are multiple ones, notably in areas such as agriculture, construction, engineering, the NHS and care homes. It is no exaggeration to say the consequences of this policy would be major engineering projects being cancelled, crops left to rot in fields and many of these red faced gammon brexit voting bigots dying on hospital floors in a pool of their own piss.


The UK is heavily dependant on foreign qualified doctors. So post-brexit, try not to get ill…ever!

But can’t we get brits to do these jobs? Well no. As I’ve pointed out before, if the answer was that simple, they’d already be doing those jobs. For example, most junior employees often have a very low starting salary (which can include nurses and other medical practitioners). And in some professions, its hard to prove your exact income as employment is often on a contract, piecework, or journeyman type basis. And, as I discussed before, with regard to the energy sector, such a wage limit will create labour shortages across the nuclear, fossil fuel and renewable energy sectors.

The agricultural sector (and fishing) will be severely effected by this new policy. Most of the jobs in this sector are seasonal, typically spiking in the autumn and spring. The growing season in the UK is shorter than in southern Europe but longer than in Eastern Europe. So its possible for farm workers from other parts of the EU to come over, work for a few weeks, then move on and eventually return to their own farms to plant/harvest their own crops.

The idea that instead of experienced European farm hands, you’re going to drag a load of unemployed townies out of the UK’s cities, bus them off to work in farmers fields (many of whom haven’t so much as mowed a lawn before), and put them in charge of dangerous farm machinery, its farcical at best. And what are the supposed to do for the rest of the year? And yes farmers have tried this in the past (most recently as part of the Tories welfare chain gangs) and their experience is it ain’t going to work.

And even if they could get it to work it would probably be more expensive, which means food that’s a lot more expensive. And more than likely (given the tight margins on food production), rendering uneconomic much of the UK’s farms, leading to closures in the sector on a scale similar to what happened to the coal miners in the 80’s.

And at the other end of the scale one has to question whether we necessarily need more workers in the middle to high income salary range. Is there really a massive shortage of lawyers, interior designers, city traders and accountants in the country? And even if there were, such a policy could actually cost many British their jobs (because as noted migrants create more jobs). While companies like to keep a mixed bag of staff of different experience levels, push come to shove they will prioritise the hiring of a more experienced staff over a recent graduate, because they are more valuable to the company. Ultimately, if the only way to hire an experienced German lawyer or a Belgian accountant is to put enough zeros behind his contract to get him in the door, that’s what they’ll do, even if it means cutting back on the number of graduate recruits to do so.

In fact in my own line of work we’ve hired hardly any UK PhD graduates since the referendum. And now that I mention it, several who were already on the pay roll were the first given their marching orders in the months after the vote. And given that there’s been a significant drop in UK students undertaking PhD’s (due to fees, nobody wants to rack up further debt when they get to the end of their degree), how exactly are we going to recruit the next generation of lecturers, given the brexidous on UK campuses, with both UK and EU academics heading off to European universities. I don’t know, maybe we could go back to the old British tactic of press ganging? (get’em drunk at a conference and they wakes up in a lecturer theatre). Or maybe we can get Failing Grayling to give the lecturers? That seems to be May’s solution to everything these days.

And remember what applies to foreigners in the UK will be reciprocated by other countries. British overseas are already in a panic over the possible consequences to them of a no deal brexit. Many might be forced to return home (and most are retirees) or renounce their UK citizenship (which risks breaking up families). And UK graduates won’t be able to avail of employment opportunities in Europe, leaving them in the worst of both worlds.

Of course, if you’re a wealthy oligarch and willing to invest enough money in the UK, you can avail of a golden visa. No messy forms to fill in, no awkward questions (notably as to where you got the money in the first place!), no queues or waiting period, you’d don’t even need to work or pay tax. Just come on in. As always, the Tories are drafting a policy that favours the wealthy plutocrats at the expense of everyone else. The horrors their policy are inflicting, and will continue to inflict is lost on them. They’ve transcended the nasty party and become the sadist party.

But once the second coming happens Corbyn gets in he’ll put everything right in the world, won’t he? Actually no, Corbyn and much of the labour party were absent from the second reading of the immigration bill. In fact the original message sent out to MP’s was to abstain. The reality is that Corbyn has been taken in by the same toxic bigotry that migrants are a drain on the UK and drive down wages (which again, just isn’t true). He’s willing to talk to the talk about how the Tories policy favours the rich, or how human rights are important to him. But push come to shove he’s quite happy to see millions in the UK stripped of their rights and thrown to the wolves, while he sits in his allotment shed dreaming of his socialist workers paradise.

What’s that the Corbynites say? He’s got to play the long game and pretend he’s in favour of immigration controls (or brexit) to appease northern lexiters, then when he’s in power he can repeal these laws. Well, firstly that’s the cynical politics of manipulation at its worst (and I thought Boris was bad!), and secondly he can’t. Protocol dictates that governments do not revisit past legislation without good cause or reason. So unless he actively opposes this bill or fights an election with such a policy on the party manifesto (so presumably he’ll be hoping lexiters can’t read), then he can’t repeal it. The speaker won’t allow him to schedule time to debate it, the lords would probably veto it and the queen is within her rights to withhold royal assent. And as 35 year veteran MP he surely knows that. Its just he also knows there’s a large body of millennial’s who’ve been so badly screwed over by the Tories, they are desperate enough to believe any old tripe he comes up with.

All I can say is the sooner that the grown ups within both labour and the Tories wake up to reality and leave their respective parties, the better. And with labour membership down 10% in the last two months and polls saying Corbyn’s failure to oppose brexit will cost him dearly next election (and this was before him suggesting he might support May’s brexit deal), that seems to be what starting to happen.

As for the Tories, with new utlra-right wing parties being formed and the conservative party itself being infiltrated by the US far right, they need to learn that appeasing the far right doesn’t make them go away, it emboldens them to ask for more and more until they have everything.

Charging for the NHS puts everyone’s health at risk

The Tories are going for increasingly tabloid friendly policies that will sound like a good idea to Daily Mail readers, but ultimately achieve nothing, other than pour more fuel on the fire of xenophobia. Take their recent announcement that foreigners will have to pay for NHS services up front.

Certainly no doubt the NHS is chronically underfunded and over stretched. Nine out of ten UK hospitals is overcrowded at the moment and the country now has the shortest GP appointment times in the world.

So how much could this save the NHS? Well foreigners using the NHS fall into two categories. The first group are what we’d refer to as “health tourism”, where someone enters the UK for the expressed purpose of taking advantage of NHS services. This costs the UK between £110 – £280 million. The second represent more “normal” use of the NHS, where say a Spanish tourist breaks his leg and has to go to A&E. These costs amount to £1.8 billion per year. However it should be noted that probably only about £500 million is actually recoverable or chargeable.

The bulk of those being treated in this 2nd category are from European countries (or Australia) where the UK had reciprocal health care agreements with those nations (e.g. if a British pensioner or tourist needs treatment in Spain they get treated). Individuals nominally resident in the UK (e.g. students or those in employment) are generally exempt from NHS charges. Of course these conditions may not hold post brexit.

Note that the patient in this second group may not have much choice that they get treated in an NHS hospital. An American tourist who collapses in the street, a passenger who is taken ill on a transatlantic flight. So recovering costs from these people “up front” would likely be impossible.

Adding it all together, the NHS can recover (or avoid spending) between £610 – £780 million per year. That sounds like a lot, until you realise that the current NHS budget is about £120 billion, out of the £145 billion the UK spends on healthcare. So at most 0.65% of the NHS budget, or probably more realistically 0.3% of the UK’s total health spending. Even the infamous NHS funding gap of £30 billion, cannot be plugged by such charges, meeting barely 3-4% of this deficit.

The simple fact is that charging foreigners for NHS services will not solve anything. Yes it is unethical for someone to get on a plane and go to the UK intentionally to use NHS services, but its hardly a crippling burden and this represent a tiny fraction of those using the NHS. Trying to recover healthcare costs from them would be a drop in the ocean compared to the money spent treating UK residents.

And one has to consider the consequences to such up front costs. The government is talking about putting sick people in need of treatment out on the curb, or perhaps detaining those who are given emergency treatment and putting them in the equivalent of a debtors prison. We are talking about going against every principle the NHS was founded on, sinking the UK to Dickensian levels. Yes the Tories are going to turn the clock back post-brexit to the 19th century.

 And what’s the bet that the Tories will float off the unit responsible for this treatment and sell it in the private sector? Remember, many in the Tory party want to privatise the NHS (and they’ve been quietly privatising bits of the NHS), so one does have to worry if this is merely the first step on a slippery slope.

And worse, what happens, as I considered in a prior post, if a foreigner comes down with some sort of new virus or infection. Stopping any pandemic requires swift action, you need to get that person to a hospital as early as possible. Outbreaks have been avoided where healthcare could be given swiftly to the patient zero and a cordon put up around those inadvertently exposed to the virus. However, in other cases, where such action wasn’t taken (generally because the patient zero didn’t get treated swiftly enough), the virus has spread around the world with frightening speed. Consider that the bulk of the deaths related to the SARS outbreak of 2002, can be attributed to a single sneeze in a lift lobby.

So this policy will not help plug the NHS funding gap, it will be a drop in the ocean. Refusing treatment is not only morally bankrupt but puts the health of everyone in the country at risk. And it is being done purely to the benefit of the Daily Mail reading UKIP types.

Why UKIP is seriously bad for you’re health

Among the more controversial comments from last week’s political debate was Farage’s comments regarding HIV and his suggestion that we should “treat British people first” and that it would be “unchristian” to do otherwise. Of course he offered no evidence to back up his claim (same as his previous attempts to claim 80% of pickpockets were Romanian, again no evidence given to support this), so I think we can dismiss it as more ramblings of a one balled racist loon.

However I would argue that what this comment does is to betray a dangerous flaw in both his, and the Tory party’s, policy of denying NHS treatment to non-nationals. For disease and viruses do not respect economic nor political boundaries. Such a policy therefore puts many UK citizens at grave risk and threatens to undermine the UK’s entire healthcare policy, which has stark implications for us all.

Let me illustrate my point by us imagining the following scenario. We have a woman, who works in London as a short order cook, whom we’ll call Eve. She’s recently arrived to the UK and therefore does not qualify for NHS treatment (or at least she’s unsure and reluctant to go to a hospital and be presented with a bill). She could be from Eastern Europe or beyond or perhaps even a British born person (or the spouse of a brit) whose given up their citizenship while living abroad and is one of many who fall through the cracks in the UK’s immigration system.

Either way, she starts to feel ill. But as she’s on a low wage and her boss doesn’t give sick pay (which is illegal but still goes on). So she continues working, potentially infecting others in work or on the commute. When she gets sufficiently ill that she thinks of going to a hospital, one of her friends text’s her a link to a Daily Mail article, which convinces her not to go, besides she’s starting to feel better again. Unfortunately, this apparent improvement, is merely because the virus has entered its final more critical stage. Within 24 hrs she starts to get very ill and ends up collapsing in a convulsing fit in the middle of a packed London tube train.

What Eve did not realise is that she was in fact patient zero in a new viral pandemic. It could be a new more deadly variant of pandemic flu, or some other form of respiratory infection, perhaps a form of Ebola or HIV that’s developed the capability for airborne transmission, or it could just be a new virus that’s managed to jump the species barrier. It sort of doesn’t matter. Either way, the point is, we have a new viral infection and thanks to the policies of the Tories and UKIP it would potentially be now out in the open and spreading rapidly.

Should you think the scenario I’m painting sounds a little far fetched, well you see that’s the scary thing – it isn’t! New viruses do pop up all the time, some are pretty harmless, others have killed millions. And one common start point for such events, as portrayed in the scarily scientifically accurate film Contagion, is when animals are slaughtered and in the handling of raw meat, as this presents an opportunity for a virus to jump species and start infecting humans.

For example, while we don’t know where exactly the 1918 “Spainsh flu” pandemic started (called so because wartime censorship stopped media outside of Spain from reporting it), but its likely it started off in the US. Indeed some even go so far as to pin point one cook’s assistant Albert Gitchell in Fort Riley, Kansas as the likely patient zero. It should be noted that on this base the Army kept and slaughtered pigs, and kitchen staff such as Gitchell would have contact with the animals (both before and after slaughter), and we now know that the virus in question was a variant of H1N1, a form of swine flu.

So suffice to say that anyone involved in the handling of raw meat or the slaughter of animals is a very likely candidate for patient zero in the case of any new infection. And the bad news is that lots of those involved in these industries, but in the UK, the EU and in the US, tend to be migrant workers. People who both Farage and Cameron are on record of wanting to strip of their access to medical care.

And incidentally, many HIV or Hepatitis victims got sick from things such as blood transfusions so infection isn’t their fault and I fail to understand why they should be punished for it.

So denying anyone treatment creates a major weakness in our healthcare system, for in the event of a new pandemic the first few days are crucial in determining whether a ring fence can be thrown up and the infection contained. Its a bit like defending against an amphibious assault, the first 72 hours can determine whether the invader will be held at the beach and then thrown back into the sea, or whether they’ll be able to push deep inland and break out of their landing zone. Furthermore while a few dozen men can defend a beach against attack, if the enemy breaks in land you’re going to need alot more troops, at least a 1:1 forces ratio to stop them. Similarly with medicine a handful of doctors and nurses can contain an outbreak in its earliest stages, but if it breaks out into the general population its very possible the healthcare system will be overwhelmed by the number of patients.

Previous epidemics have been stopped thanks to good detective work and swift action by healthcare workers. For example, the Nigerian outbreak of Ebola, the 2003 SARS outbreak, which was a very close run thing, as was MERS in 2012. However crucially in many of these outbreaks, the virus had a relatively slow rate of infection and the initial patients arrived in hospitals alive and concious and thus were able to pass on key nuggets of information to doctors, allowing them to diagnose what was wrong (difficult when a doctor is faced with a virus he’s never seen nor heard of) and so that the patients movements can be traced and those who they’d had contact with can be identified and isolated.

In our scenario, our patient now arrives in a London hospital, unconscious and unresponsive. There is a very strong chance of miss-diagnosis. And in any event doctors will be focused on just keeping her alive, not having time to worry about the root cause of the problem (particularly as they don’t know who she is or what she does for a living, so no alarm bells have been set off). Consequently its very likely that the first the NHS will realise what they are facing is when hundreds of people across London and the south east descend on hospitals reporting similar symptoms.

And again if that sounds far fetched, that’s the scary thing – its not! Its believed that the bulk of the victims of SARS, which infected over 8,000 and killed nearly 800 people can be traced to a single sneeze in a hotel lift lobby. And again this is despite the fact that the individual in question, was a doctor who was already on his way to hospital as he guessed he needed treatment.

So in all likelihood in our scenario by the time the NHS wakes up to the crisis, its too late, the virus is out, its not going to be possible to contain it. It will sweep the country and the globe infecting millions and causing all manner of economic chaos, which would make any amount of money spent on “NHS tourism” seem like a rounding error.

Worse still, the fatality rate of many viruses depends on the level of care a patient receives. This is why Ebola has a fatality rate varying from 25% (with good treatment) to 90% (with poor or non existent medical care). But health care workers often make up the brunt of early casualties in any pandemic (with SARS a large proportion of its victims were health care workers). This means that as the numbers of staff drops and the number of patients rises, the fatality rate starts to climb.

Consider that a repeat of the 1918 pandemic would result in 25% of the UK population being infected, with 10% of those being sufficiently ill that they’d require intensive care treatment….but we’ve only hospital beds for less than 1% of those infected! This is why estimates for the death rate of such an outbreak vary from the high tens of thousands, to just shy of half a million perhaps 1 in 12 people in the country!

An if Farage or Cameron thinks they are safe from this hiding behind their private medical insurance, think again. The last think any private hospital wants is a deadly virus running around their place of business bumping off paying punters. They don’t have the resources to cope with such a thing and they’ll be sending anyone with such symptoms down to the nearest NHS hospital, or more than likely some sort of improvised field hospital in a school gym somewhere. And keep in mind that people in the same age groups as many of those inclined to vote Tory or UKIP are likely to make up a disproportionate number of those dying from any new pandemic.

And should you think the scenario I paint seem bleak, lets repeat the exercise in the US. While Obamacare has ensured most Americans now do have access to healthcare, there are some who are falling through the cracks….and there will be even more of those if the Republicans have their way. And again those who aren’t receiving coverage are the most likely to be infected first should a new virus emerge. But as viruses don’t respect economic boundaries, all it takes is one sneeze over a few cheese burgers in the back of a fast food joint and suddenly many middle class Americans are getting more than they bargained for with that happy meal.

And how would the US private healthcare system cope with a new pandemic?…probably very badly if the evidence from Ebola in the US is anything to go by, where a host of amateurish screw ups nearly led to disaster. And naturally the panic in America (Americans not exactly known for calm and rational reaction to a crisis, again look at the US media reaction to Ebola) will be all that greater.

I’ve long assumed that the US private healthcare system will last up until the next major pandemic. Because after tens of millions of Americans submit simultaneous claims in the order of tens of thousands each, at the same time hospitals are reeling from the billions in losses from patients whom they treated who weren’t covered (they are legally required to stabilise any patient who comes in) and the insurance industry is facing a few million simultaneous life insurance pay outs. Its possible that the whole US insurance industry could well be driven to bankruptcy, likely prompting a bailout of the US healthcare system by the US government that will make the 2007 bank bailout seem small. And result in de-facto state funded universal healthcare in America in all but name (perhaps they’ll called it “Freedom Care” or “Patriot Care”) ;D

So given these facts should we pay for these HIV treatments, something that would cost (at worst) about 0.18% of the annual NHS budget? Well of course we should! Any amount spend on treating non-residences healthcare is going to pale in comparison to the incalculable costs if a pandemic were to be allowed to get started.

Like I said at the beginning disease, cancer and other health problems do not respect economic or geopolitical boundaries. I always view healthcare as being like insurance, you don’t want to pay it, but you know you’re screwed if the worst happens without it. So literally trying to save a few pennies that amounts to a rounding error (in the grand scheme of things) would be madness, immoral and definitely “unchristian”.

Across the pond

A couple of stories from across the pond in America have caught my eye recently, the sort that may have been overlooked by the media over here…

US Cadbury ban
Ex-pats and other fans of UK made Cadbury’s chocolate products are currently stockpiling large quantities of their favourites, as a ban on the British made stuff is about to come into effect to prevent “brand confusion”…or perhaps because the leading US firm Hershey doesn’t want to face up to any competition.

You may enquire, don’t we have a free trade agreement with the US? How can they just ban stuff like this? Well because there are loopholes in such trade agreements covering issues such as health regulations, corporate branding and environmental legislation. And suffice to say, there ain’t a lot a lawyer needs to drive a bus thro such rules.

If you think they’re being a bit hard on Cadbury, try buying Haggis in the US or Marmite and Irn Bru! It is literally easier to buy crack cocaine in parts of the US, given the consequences of US government regulations. Yes, to the yanks an AR-15 or uzi can be safely handled by a 11 year old, but letting people eat offal or drink a can of ginger is just downright reckless endangerment. :??:

Americans like to pride themselves on being the land of free enterprise and small government, however the reality is that they are nothing of the sort. Many of the same Tea party type who wave their “get big government off my back” placards will be the first to start whinging if foreign or out of state competition threatens their jobs. Congressmen in Washington therefore come under enormous pressure, both from well funded lobby groups for one industry or another, as well as from their constituents, to try and protect jobs within their state and free markets be damned.

Good examples include the US steel industry, the debacle over the KC-X tanker aircraft (where a European aircraft beat a US designed one to the contract, prompting congress to restart the competition & re-write the rules to make sure the “right” aircraft won), generous farm subsidies (which makes it almost impossible for other food producers in Africa or South America to compete on grain prices) as well as the Medicare budget (a massive free subsidy to big pharma) as well as numerous subsidies to the US fossil fuels and nuclear industry.

And if you think that Congress is bad, the individual US states are even worse. Take for example, the recent banning of sales of electric cars from Tesla Motors in several US states. In part this was due to the pathological hatred of many Republicans for anything green, but mostly it was done to protect vested interests in the established auto industry, as well as jobs in local auto dealers from an upstart company like Tesla.

These policies are so engrained in the US political system it can lead to all sorts of laughable absurdities. Such as arch-climate denier Rick Perry talking up the success of Texas wind farms in reducing America’s carbon footprint (Texas has more wind farms now than any other US state). The rest of the GOP seems to develop selective deafness whenever this comes up. Same as the Democrats will ignore one of their own from a coal mining state voting against the president on any climate change issue. As its assumed that he will do whatever needed to protect local jobs, regardless of the implications for party politics….or the polar bears!

I’m reminded of the situation in Nigeria, whereby corruption is so endemic within the country, its simply assumed that any politician who wins office will “share the cake”, i.e. reward his friends and family with cosy jobs and kick backs. A politician who actually tried to tackle the country’s corruption would likely be in for a very short stint in power and likely be ostracised by his community afterwards.

Anyway, I bring this matter up as it does represent one of the dangers with UKIP and the Tory proposals for leaving the EU. Crucial to such a move would be securing a free trade agreement with both the EU and most of the rest of the world (as existing treaties with other trading blocs would have to be renegotiated). And much like the SNP seemed to assume they were entitled by right to sharing Sterling, there is no guarantee whatsoever that UKIP will get what they want here.

But as events in the US show, even if they get a free trade agreement with the EU, it will be all too tempting in many situations for politicians, either side of the channel, with jobs in their district under threat, to try and find loopholes in any such trade agreements allowing them to restrict the sale of UK goods (or visa versa).

As one libertarian blogger points out (hardly the sort of person we can accuse of pro-EU basis) if a company ships its goods across the channel and the French ceases them (for a perfectly legal custom’s inspection….which they are then very slow to complete), what is he supposed to do in a Brexit situation? Well at the moment he could go directly to the EU or failing that his MEP…hoping and praying that MEP isn’t a member of UKIP, as they aren’t terribly active in their jobs. With the UK outside of the EU, it has to be raised with the department of Trade, who talk to Foreign affairs, who would then talk to the EU (possibly via the WTO), who would then pass it down the food chain the other side. And knowing how governments work that means it would be six months to year before anything gets done (in the best of circumstances), by which stage most SME’s will have run out of operating capital and gone bust, rendering the whole argument moot.

So anyone in UKIP deluded enough to think that leaving the EU won’t have a negative economic impact (for some crazy reason some seem to think it will have a positive impact!) is living in cloud cuckoo land.

Climate liabilities
Its becoming increasingly difficult for climate change deniers to counter the weight of evidence in support of anthropogenic climate change. Increasingly deniers are forced into relying on crack pot conspiracy theories that often accuse scientists of being part of some giant global conspiracy. When its pointed out to them that such claims are libellous, they promptly retreat behind the bastion of free speech, that they are usually very quick to deny their critics, on issues such as gun control for example.

However, a court in Canada has now ruled that no, this isn’t a free speech issue, such comments are libellous and has awarded a cash settlement to a climate scientist who had been accused by a tabloid of having “a warmist agenda”. This case does have much wider implications, notably as a much larger and more significant case is looming between Micheal Mann and the Republican CEI and National Review.

It is perhaps worth reflecting on the fact that what shut the tobacco lobby up wasn’t government legislation, but a constant barrage of expensive litigation. Could we be seeing the start of the same for the fossil fuel lobby?

US Measles epidemic
There’s a measles epidemic ongoing in the US. While infection rates are low so far (as in “only” a few thousand) but one of the problems with this disease is its highly contagious nature and hence its ability to spread like wildfire. This is having all sorts of implications, with health advice to avoid bringing kids to parks, public areas or daycare centres.

And just so we’re clear, measles is not a harmless disease. While many of those reading this blog, who got measles before vaccines were widely available, may not have suffered serious ill effects. Keep in mind that globally, measles kills tens of thousands per year. So the advice would be, vaccinate you’re kids and get vaccinated yourself if you’re not sure you’ve had it.

Who do we have to blame for this? Well, all of these tinfoil hat wearing anti-vaccine types…who seem to have a habit of also being climate change deniers as well as believing in other crack pot conspiracies (MH17, 9/11 was a setup, Kennedy, etc.). Are they willing to admit their error? well no, of course not!

Ultimately one could argue the real disease here isn’t measles, but a condition called Republican Mental Lock-in Syndrome :crazy:. Whereby, those on the right can’t admit that they are wrong about anything, ever. Even when confronted with overwhelming evidence to the contrary, they will instead perform acts of extreme mental gymnastics to concoct all sorts of outlandish conspiracy theories to satisfy their ego.

Scary Nukes
An ongoing story that’s some elements of the US media have been ignoring is the state of America’s nuclear weapons. Crippled by funding and obsolete and maintenance hungry equipment, questions are being raised as to the safety and reliability surrounding America’s nuclear arsenal. Some stories talk of blast proof doors propped open with a crow bar (as the mechanism has failed), of missile units with only one set of tools (so they can only do maintenance on one missile at a time….they have to Fed Ex the tool kit around and hope it doesn’t get lost in the post when a war starts!). Oh, and apparently the computers that arm the missile rely on floppy disks….and I mean the really big old floppies! 88|

To make matters worse, morale within the US nuclear weapons program is very low. :zz: Largely because if you want to kill your career as a US officer, the surest way to do so, is to go on Armageddon watch. While you’re fellow officers are getting that all important front line experience, or learning new skills (useful in their future career outside the military), you’re stuck in a bunker underneath hicksville, playing solitaire while surrounded by equipment that should have become museum exhibits many decades ago. Indeed one has to question whether its such a good idea to put clinically depressed officers in charge of the nukes? |-|

Either way, so long as country’s like the US choose to have nuclear weapons, they have an obligation to maintain these weapons in a safe and secure manner. And personally I’d question the point of spending hundreds of billions on a weapon system you don’t plan on ever using. And if the US, or other superpowers, are unable to maintain their stockpiles then they have invalidated their right retain them.

Ebola: A tale of health care systems

One could argue that many of the victims of Ebola in Africa are as much victims of poverty, due to the poor nature of health care in Africa. This is threatening to wipe out an entire generation of young doctors and nurses in West Africa. Hence why Western assistance vital, both to contain the virus and stop a global pandemic, but also to prevent any more serious long term damage to already impoverished states.

That said the health authorities in Nigeria and Senegal both deserve quite a bit of credit for their quick thinking and clever detective work, which help halt the outbreak in both countries. In both these nations initial cases were quickly investigated and a ring fence thrown around anyone potentially exposed. Both are on the verge of being declared disease free.

Of course one has to contrasts this with the events in Texas. If you believe the horror stories about US health care they will tell you about paramedics who are more skilled in finding credit cards and checking health insurance than actually treating patients. The tales coming out of the US reveal something of a farce. We hear stories about poorly trained and equipped health care workers, of a person running a fever and prior exposure to Ebola being allowed to board a commercial flight.

In many respects you do have to wonder how well the US health care system would cope with a serious disease outbreak. For as our libertarian tea party types would likely discover, disease does not respect economic boundaries. Indeed we have the irony of ex-US presidential candidate Rich Perry, blaming Obama and the federal government for being too slow. I mean surely Obama should have spent the last few years doing something about America’s chronic health care problems…oh wait he did only it was Republicans like Perry who tried to stop him!

As events in Africa have shown, once a virus takes root, it’s very difficult to stop. Perhaps they might want to think about then when next denouncing Obamacare.

Ebola’s only briefly appeared in any UK patients, generally those flown home for treatment. But it is perhaps topical to bring it up given the release last week of a report on the future funding of the NHS. These suggest that the chronic underfunding of the NHS in recent years now needs at least an extra £8 billion a year by 2020 to set right.

Clearly this means that something is going to have to give. Either cuts in other areas of the sort one doubt even the Tories would be happy with, or taxes going up. But I suppose it boils down to the question of what sort of health care system do you want. While Ebola might be a fairly minor risk to the UK at the moment, there are plenty of other things that are a more serious long term risk (pandemic flu, heart disease, cancer, etc.) and having a robust health care system is therefore essential.

Other News of the Week

The Dictator’s Daughter in trouble
Last week I made mention of Gulnara Karimova, the daughter of Karimov, the Uzbek dictator, aka “the dictator’s daughter” or according to wikileaks diplomatic cables “the most hated person in the country”. Anyway, the BBC revealed a letter from her, allegedly smuggled out of prison, that suggests a spectacular fall from grace.

Gulnara, never shy of publicity, has been noticeably absent the last few weeks. Her twitter feed went dead a few weeks ago. She also made the unprecedented move of openly criticising her father a few weeks back. Anyone else who’s remotely thought of doing that has been killed or arrested. All this suggests a feud going on, possibly even a power struggle between dictator and his charismatic daughter.

Now while one cannot help but be sympathetic to her plight, they are probably more than a few who will conclude that what goes around comes around. Gulnara cannot feign ignorance as to the crimes of her father, not least because she’s been intimately involved in more than a few of them! Evidence suggests that she has been directly involved ibn racketeering, bribery and general acting like a spoiled despotic bimbo.

Indeed, what may well have triggered this whole sequence of events was her implication in a massive bribery scandal in Sweden and in Switzerland, one which involved hundreds of millions of pounds (possibly the biggest ever in Sweden). Its possible that the excesses of his daughter simply became too much for the despot.

Or equally its possible that she tried to move against him (rumours suggest he’s not well and might be dying). Indeed the BBC have a series on right now about the Plantagenet kings. One unfortunate trend for the Plantagenet’s was how king after king, no sooner had he the crown on his head, but his own relatives, often his own sons and wife, were plotting his overthrow, often helped out by the king of France. Such is the way of any despotic government, which is why we need to do everything possible to topple such regimes.

Farage v’s Clegg on Europe
Speaking of authoritarian, right wing nut jobs, I missed the whole Farage v’s Clegg debate. But that wasn’t so bad, for as I predicted would happen a few weeks back, the debate was ruined by Farage repeating the old nazi trick of telling big lies often enough such that people start to believe they are true :no:.

According to Farage, 29 million Romanians and Bulgarians (or was it 500 million!) are about to descend on us (btw that’s more than the entire population of both countries!), 120% of the UK population are now immigrants, 98.7% of whom are only here to claim benefits, steal our jobs, commit crimes, butcher horsemeat, spread diseases and commit terrorism in what little free time this busy schedule allows :)).

It is no use “debating” something with someone who is going to rattle off a load of bullshit. We see the same thing when scientists try to debate creationists or climate change deniers. The only situation where a debate with Farage would be acceptable would be if we had a moderator able to act as fact checker and call out Farage’s porkies and half backed myths as he goes along. Otherwise its like wrestling a pig, you both get dirty and the pig seems to enjoy it ;D.

TB in moggie’s
Of course the tabloids soon had another thing to obsess over other that the EU debate, the fact that TB might have spread to cats, possibly from Badgers and then to humans. I would note the risk of infection is pretty low, but then again when have you known the tabloids to let a few “facts” get in the way of a good story!

I would argue that this shows the faults in the government’s policy on Badgers. That a policy of vaccination of badgers and cattle is better than culling. As you can never be sure to get all the badgers and inevitably disrupting an eco-system by killing badgers in the area can have all sorts of consequences…such as badgers from neighbouring areas moving in and spreading new diseases too that area. Now while this is unlikely to have been the trigger for this outbreak, a future TB outbreak could easily be triggered by such a sequence of events.

In short humans meddling with nature rarely has the consequences we intended. And if you don’t believe me about that, go ask the Australians about toads and rabbits.

NHS budget’s under pressure
One of the big Tory lies promises was that NHS spending would be safe under them. Well we’ve seen yet more evidence that this simply isn’t so. A report suggests that many NHS trusts are now in deficit. I suspect this may have something to do with the Tories ridiculous policy of allowing doctors (hardly the best people to put in charge of a budget, that’s why we have accountants for!) greater control over budgets, apparently so that we the health care users get more “choice”.

Ya, that’s the one thing I wanted in an NHS hospital, more “choice”. That way if injured I could choose not to be taken to the nearest A&E but maybe remain in agony a few minutes longer to go to a different one down the road. Or how about a choice between a lime green X-ray machine and a blue one? ;D

As if to compound matters, there are also reports of councils, who have come under severe budgetary pressure from the government, dipping into NHS funds to pay for certain services. Again, given the enormous pressure council budgets are under, this is hardly a huge surprise. In fact it’s a bit like waving a chuck of raw meat in the face of a lion and acting surprised when he bites.

Of course the danger is that the Tories will merely use the failure of any NHS trust as an excuse to try and privatise it.

When elf n’ safety Jobsworth’s kill

I’m all for the benefits of Elf n’ Safety but the problem often is Jobsworth‘s, more interested in protecting their career or engaging in work avoidance strategies. By for example, sticking rigidly to the letter of the law even well past the point where they’ve perverted its original intend while ignoring the most basic common sense. E.g. when once I was in a climbing club some jobsworth in the Student’s Union refused two climbers access to ropes and other equipment on grounds of “Health and Safety”. Consequently they went out and did the route they’d planned without any safety equipment (and without telling me where they were going either!) :no:.

Hence I often refer to such individuals by the acronym SAPS, as in Save Ass Policy Schemes.

And tragically we have a fatal example of SAPS doing the rounds in Ireland. Emma Sloan, who suffered from a nut allergy was at a pre-christmas dinner when she accidentally ate something which contained nuts. She went into shock and began having trouble breathing.

Unfortunately, she didn’t have her critical life-saving medication handy so her parents dragged her to a pharmacy (Hamilton Long chemists on O’Connell street, if you want to avoid the place in future) to get medication, where upon Mr Jobsworth in the chemists refused to sell the medication without a prescription even with the poor teenager literally convulsing on the street outside. Unfortunately she died minutes later.

Indeed the Pharmaceutical Society of Ireland has now stepped in and pointed out that the law allows for exceptions to be made to selling without a prescription in situations that are clearly an emergency (i.e. someone is rolling around on the ground with breathing problems). After all this is why you need a degree to stand behind a chemists counter rather than the five minutes training to do the same job in a corner shop.

While I hate to judge before all the facts are in, but if these allegations are true then the store staff responsible should be charged with manslaughter if not murder. Indeed maybe making an example of them this would send a message out to other Jobsworth’s of the consequences of their actions.

We told you so

As I’ve mentioned in the past the Tories are ideologically committed to privatising the NHS, after all persist the thought of the plebs getting decent health care! Of course outright privatisation is likely to be opposed. The lib dems certainly won’t support it and I suspect focus groups where they’ve floated the idea likely resulted in the Troy drone who asked the public would have had need for NHS services afterwards (to remove clipboard and pen from certain orifices :)) ).

So the Tory plan has been to act more subtlety. Firstly they have cut the NHS budget in real terms (while on paper its up, when you factor in inflation, an ageing and growing population, etc. effectively its being cut). Secondly they have sought to carve away chucks of the NHS services and privatise them.

One of those services was the NHS 111 non-emergency help number. Their plan was to have private companies bid for these contracts and run these services locally on a for profit basis. However, this has largely been thwarted by the fact that the bulk of services are being run by local ambulance trusts. Furthermore the largest provider, NHS Direct, is now looking to pull out of running contracts across a third of the country.

A large chuck of the problem for NHS Direct has been that more calls are coming in to their centre’s than they’ve been expecting and its taking longer to process them. Projections from NHS direct’s own accounts suggest they are loosing money on every single call they receive and are looking at a deficit of £26 million over this financial year.

And if anything we can credit NHS direct for at least putting their hand up and saying that they cannot cope. For as many reports indicate the 111 service is beset with flaws and problems. Channel 4 just broadcast a Dispatches programme that used undercover reporters and showed how many of these 111 service providers are struggling to cope, in particular those covered by the private sector. Indeed it is not an exaggeration to say that lives are being put in danger.

Inevitably, the problems highlighted here mirror exactly what has happened any time the government has privatised a public service. Chaos has reigned, service quality has nosedived and costs have soared. If this is what a privatised NHS looks like, you can count me out. And anyone even thinking of voting Tory next election, all I can say is don’t plan on getting sick…ever!