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Hospitals

OK Theresa and Jeremy and Tim and Nicola and Leanne and all the other pavement walking, door knocking, Manifesto-pledging Parliamentary candidates currently pounding our Nations’ streets, I have some questions for you. And, as a disabled person, I’m pretty sure there are many others from my community who have questions for you too. Why are you not speaking to us? Don’t we count? Don’t our votes matter to you? I hope not.

What I want to know, exactly, is what the political big-wigs and hard-hitters and movers and shakers in this country can offer to us? What promises can you give to all of us. What promises or pledges will you make to us? According to all the statistics I have been able to find, there are around 12-13 million disabled people in this country, what are you going to do to our lives any better for us? Are you totally disregarding the collective power and magnitude of disabled people’s votes and the votes of our families and friends? I hope not. Do you really think you can continue to either demonise us or watch others doing the demonising without us noticing? I hope not. Are you going to continue putting our needs to the back of the queue? I hope not. Are you going to go on ignoring us? I hope not.

Well, here are my questions at any rate.

We are told that Social care in this country is in crisis. That there is not enough money to pay home-carers and unpaid carers a decent wage or benefit that reflects what they do to support and enable us. What are you going to do about it? We are the net users of that care, what are you planning on doing to alleviate the situation and ensure that we get the care we want and need to allow us to live our lives to the full?

What are you going to do?

Many of us need to use aids and adaptations in our daily lives such as hoists and wheelchairs and hearing aids and aids for people with visual impairments. What are you going to do so that we can all get the best equipment we need to live without having to fight for every nut, bolt, screw, , plug, cable and electronic component?

What are you going to do?

Then there is the constant battle to find a home, a place to live which can cater for our access needs and accommodate us properly and in comfort. It’s often one of the greatest obstacles we face but one where we appear to get little or no help in getting what we need. What are you going to do to ensure that there are houses and flats and bungalows available which allow us to live in the community with our families, alongside our friends and neighbours without having to fight for funding for alterations and adaptations?

What are you going to do?

How are you proposing that your party will ensure that disabled children and young people can receive the education they need and deserve alongside their non-disabled compatriots? How are you going to try to ensure that they can all study together and not be segregated due to an impairment meaning the school or college is physically inaccessible for all?

What are you going to do?

Everyone falls sick at some point in their lifetime, what are you going to do to ensure that everyone can access the healthcare we all need and not find it being rationed according to how much we need it and how expensive it is? How are you going to give us access to the doctors and specialists and the nursing professionals we need in our hospitals? Are you going to ensure that these professionals receive salaries that reflect their skills and dedication? Are you going to make sure that they have working conditions such as hours and breaks that allow them to do their jobs to the best of their ability and not want to leave?

What are you going to do.

Then there the employment thing. We are told that everyone must work and get a job. What are you going to do to ensure that disabled people who can work get the support they need to do so safely and successfully and that those that can’t work due to their impairments are not demonised and punished for daring to be sick and disabled. Many of us would like to have the opportunity to do something, however small, what are you going to do to help us? How are you going to promote disability in the workplace so that those of us who can work and want to work get the support we need and the opportunity to do so?

What are you going to do?

Talk to us and tell us how you are going to help and support us. Why should we vote for you and your party as opposed to the other parties and their candidates? What are you going to do that will make a difference for us? Don’t write off 13 million potential voters. Please talk to us and tell us what you’re going to do to help us. If you want my vote give me a reason to put my cross next to your name on the ballot paper. What difference are you going to make to my life? Why should I vote for you, please tell me.

What are you going to do?

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I’ve been pondering.

Dangerous, I know, but the Daily Politics Show and the lunchtime news has got me thinking. Again.

And, today’s muse has led to me wonder what will be my, and our nation’s, enduring memory of our current Conservative Government.

What will we remember in the years to come.

What will be their legacy.

Good, bad or indifferent, what have Mrs May and her compatriots done that will stay with me past the end of her tenure in Number 10? What have they done which will leave lasting impression?

And I have just realised what I think it is.

Crisis after crisis. A never-ending stream of crises. My life, the lives of my friends and family, the lives of so many people in this country, appear to be doing little more than lurching from one crisis to the next. And the Government and its policies are largely the cause of this.

I know that we are in the midst of seismic political change in this country, with last year’s Referendum and the imminent triggering of Article 50, and that will crtauinly be unforgetable, but I don’t think that’s what I am likely to remember the most. I think the thing I will remember is the never ending series of crises we appear to be having. Day after day, week after week, month after month.

We currently have a major crisis in the NHS, due to a lack of funding, and our hospitals are struggling to deliver the medical treatment we all need.

We currently have a crisis in Social Care, due to lack of funding, and our Local Authorities are struggling to ensure that our disabled and older people receive the care in their own homes they need to live the independent and stress free life we all deserve.

We currently have a crisis in our education system, due to a lack of funding, thanks to a teacher supply shortage, unmanageable workloads and serious underfunding placing an insurmountable pressure on teaching staff in schools and colleges

We are now told we have a crisis within our Police Service, diue to a lack of funding, where forces nationwide are having difficulty recruiting and retaining detectives, which is harming response times and there has been an erosion in neighbourhood policing.

And what is it that all these crises have in common?

Funding, or rather, a lack of it.

Our health service is underfunded. Our Social Care Services are underfunded. Our Police Force is underfunded. Our Education System is underfunded. Underfunding seems to be the cause of crisis after crisis and this serious lack of money across the board will mean, in reality, that things can only get worse. Our services cannot continue to be run on a negative bank balance. Things need to change and they need to change fast. I’m not an economist, a financial whizz-kid or a politician but, even I can see that more money needs to be found, from somewhere, and it needs to be found soon if we are to avert a cataclysmic crash. And, finding that money, may be the greatest legacy this Government could leave both us and the generations to come.

There must be a way we can be led back from the brink of disaster and, as far as I am concerned, it’s up to Mrs May and her cohorts to do it if this plethora of problems is not going to overwhelm us and ruin our lives, and the state of our nation, for generations to come.

Finding the solution to all these crises would be the greatest legacy this Government could leave. We can only hope they find that solution soon, before it’s too late. .  

Anyone who has ever received any treatment whatsoever, in hospital, must surely be grateful for and appreciative of the work of all the wonderful junior doctors we have working in the NHS. A service that is free at the point of use and whose  medical staff are professional and dedicated.

For most of us, our first meeting with doctors and nurses would have been before we were even born when our mothers would have received ante-natal treatment and our final meeting will be close to, and probably even at, the very moment of our deaths. In between these two events the vast majority of us are likely to see the inside of a hospital more than once. And every time it will, almost certainly, be a junior doctor who treats us. The work these people do for us is immeasurable and we should all be so thankful for the men and women who dedicate their working lives to looking after the health of the entire nation. No task is too small, no task is too difficult, they will do their best to help every single one of us from the moment we go to a hospital for treatment until, hopefully, we are ready to leave, significantly better if not cured. And these are the people who are about to have a new contract forced upon them. A contract which will be detrimental to the entire profession. A contract that is making so many consider resigning and moving to work abroad where doctors are properly appreciated and valued.

As a disabled person I have had call to use the services of my local hospital on many occasions, maybe more than average, and on each of those occasions I have received the most wonderful care and compassion from all the doctors I have seen. As a parent I have had even more reason to see the work of our junior doctors first hand and, never once, in more than fifty years, have I ever heard any of them complain or say they can’t or refuse to help. As far as I am concerned they are all wonderful people who do their best from the second I first meet them until the second I say goodbye. When I had my first child they were admited to the special care baby unit at birth and treated there for a week before I was able to take them home. They were treated by junior doctors. When my younger daughter had some major asthma attcksas as a small child it was the junior doctors in my local hospital who treated her so she could come home later, fit and well. When my ex-partner had a motorcycle accident and was taken to Accident and Emergency he was treated and his life saved by junior doctors both there and on the ward. When my elderly father was in a nasty accident and broke his neck it was junior doctors who worked tirelessly to save his life and his mobility. Last year I spent several weeks as an in-patient and every day I saw the dedication displayed by these men and women as they worked tirelessly to help and treat every one of us on the ward. I saw the way they would stop and smile and talk to every patient, even the ones they weren’t about to treat themselves. I heard the abuse that some of them were subjected to by some very ill people and people in tremendous pain who, almost certainly, would not have behaved the way they did or said the things they said if they hadn’t been so ill. Not once did these professionals bat an eyelid or say anything back, they just went on doing their best for us all. They were polite and dedicated at all times, however tired they may have been, however many hours they may have just worked, however many more hours they still had to work before they got their next break. They were amazing.  

This is why I will continue to support the industrial action our junior doctors are being forced to take, I know they wouldn’t be doing so if they didn’t feel they had no other option. Junior doctors are the lifeblood of our National Health Service and their work should be valued and applauded by all of us who have ever had to use hospital service and that, I suspect, is most of us.  

To all the Junior doctors working in the United Kingdom, from one of your many patients, thank you, I would not be alive without you.

It’s funny. Everyday there is something in the papers or online that rattles my cage and makes me want to write stuff. And, almost always, it’s something the Government has done, is about to do or is thinking seriously about doing that gets me incensed enough for me to get itchy typing fingers and for the words to flow. I sometimes wonder if I should write David Cameron a thank-you note. Honestly. if it wasn’t for him I’d find myself with very little to say.

Yesterday, I wrote my blog about bed-blocking in hospitals due to the paucity of Social Care in the community. Today my ire has been raised by the Government’s plans to deport people who are not EU citizens, from the start of April. Two different topics but topics that are, none the less, inter-connected. Many of the dedicated men and women who are employed by agencies nationwide as home-care workers are the non-UK nationals and are the very people who are likely to be affected by this deportation policy. Just thinking about the dedicated team of ladies who come, every day, to look after and help me. They are from many different countries that are not part of the EU. Somalia, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Jamaica, Malaysia, Nigeria. All wonderful, caring individuals and none of them an EU citizens. Granted, several are married to British citizens and, granted, some of them may have ‘Indefinite Leave to Remain’ status but, I’m equally sure, some of them don’t. They have work permits and visas that allow them to work, I’m certain none of them are here illegally, but, at least some of them, have not, as yet, achieved British Nationality  

And this, as far as I am concerned, is the problem. So many people who work for the many agencies we have, nationwide, that provide home-carers, are not British or EU nationals. They, invariably, work for a low wage, well under the required £35,000 per annum that is the cut off point in this policy, so their continued stay in this country must be under threat. They may well find that they are going to be deported because they don’t earn enough. Over the past year I have been cared for by people from all over the world and now they are all under threat. How is the Government planning on alleviating the problem of bed-blocking in our hospitals if they are going to be deporting the very social care workers who will be needed if patients are to be discharged and allowed to return to their own homes? What are they going to do?

As always, I believe Mr Cameron and the Tories have failed to consider the longer term implications of the policies they are proposing. Everything is connected and our politicians need to think about these connections when they propose new legislation and before it is enacted. How will the situation that is causing us a problem today be affected by what we are thinking about doing tomorrow. How is the legislation that was passed yesterday going to affect our proposals for the future. Day after day we see the possible difficulties that might be caused by a knee-jerk reaction to something or other. One policy affecting another and causing more problems than it solves.  

I believe that there needs to be a rethink the deportation of non-EU citizens and this rethink needs to happen fast. We have all seen the stories about the teachers, health care professionals and charity workers who are going to have to return to their countries of origin if this legislation continues without reform but we also need to think about all the other, lower paid jobs that non-EU citizens are employed to do. We need to think about how we will cope if they all have to go. We need to think about how our lives will be affected. We need to think about who will do the work they are currently doing if they are not here. What will happen to us all if they are forced to leave.

We just need to think.

So – Lord Carter has said in a report published today that hospitals need to find a solution to ‘bed blocking’. Now, that’s an easy one. I know what needs to happen. Four words – sort out social care! If the Government was prepared to spend some money on doing this rather than cutting services left, right and centre, otherwise healthy people could be discharged safely from hospital as soon as they are better, freeing up their beds!

Sorted.

How do I know this? Because I was bed-blocker myself. Last winter I became ill. Very ill. I had to be taken into hospital for, what proved to be, a lengthy stay due to having developed a seriously infected pressure sore. Now, I am more than prepared to acknowledge that, initially, hospital was the best place for me. I need IV antibiotics and thrice daily dressing changes and specialist treatment and stuff like that, but I was, to all intents and purposes, ready for discharge three or four weeks before it actually happened. Sure the wound from the sore was still there but the infection had been dealt with. The PIC line, the way the medics were getting the IV antibiotics into me was removed and I was given tablets to take instead. I was ready to go. Well, I say I was ready to go but that didn’t actually happen. Not then, anyway. I continued to lie in my hospital bed in the ward, for several weeks, after I had been told I could go home.

I became a bed-blocker.
The thing that stopped me and delayed my discharge was trying to organise a home-care package for me. I needed two things, medical attention to continue with changing the dressings and ensuring the infection didn’t come back and a care package so I could have people coming into my home every day to help wash, feed and do some cleaning for me. Medical care was easy. District nurses and my GP could deal with that. It was the home-care package that was the sticking point. It was only after I had made many several tearful phone calls to a contact I have on my local council that Social Services got their act together and a package was agreed so I could leave. Social Workers did their best but found it nigh on impossible to sort out an agency to provide the carers I needed. Three visits, with two carers each time, every day. A grand total of 31.5 hours each week.

As far as I can make out the major issue was the amount of money carers are paid. Considering the things they are expected to do their rate of pay is derisory, under ten pounds per hour. That’s all. They get no money to cover the time they spend travelling between jobs, under ten pounds per hour for the time they spend with an actual client. Most of the ladies that come to me have several clients they are paid to see but they get nothing for the travel time between us all. This can amount to two or three hours travelling time every day but they get nothing for it. And, there should be sufficient money in the budget to allow carers to spend the necessary time they need with clients as well. Fifteen minute visits need to end now. How can anyone be expected to care for someone properly in just fifteen minutes? Short-cuts will happen and people with suffer.  

The Government really does need to take a long, hard look at social care in this country. Social Services should have sufficient funds to be able to pay carers a reasonable sum for what they do. Carers should be recompensed for the time they have to spend travelling if they are visiting several people every day. Salary levels should be increased so that more people can be attracted into, what can often be, a very difficult role. If we are entrusting the care of our older and disabled citizens to an under-funded service. What can we expect apart from people left languishing in over-stretched hospital wards for far longer than is needed. Bed blocking is a problem that is only likely to increase as our population ages. Until there is enough funding for proper social care, we can expect more and more otherwise healthy people to be left in our hospitals far longer than is needed. There may currently be a cash-crisis but, unless our Government starts looking for a longer term solution and increases funding for social care improvements, things are only likely to get worse. People who have no need of a hospital bed will be left on our wards for weeks whilst people who are in urgent need of treatment will have nowhere to go.

Listen to the professionals who know what they are talking about. Stop the penny-pinching and start investing. Bed blocking shouldn’t be allowed to happen any longer. Act now before it’s too late and a fixable problem becomes an insurmountable crisis. Fund social care properly and stop expecting home care professionals to work for nothing.

Touchy subject today but so vital for so many.

Organ donation.

According to reports I have been reading online, one in seven families are currently going against a deceased loved one’s express wishes and vetoing the donation of their organs for transplant. We’re not talking about doctors hovering round a patient on their deathbed then just taking what they need without a by-your-leave, no we’re talking about people who have said they want to donate their organs when they die whose relatives then say no.

Why? What’s the problem?

The person who has died must have thought about it if they bothered to register and fill in a card. It’s what they wanted, so why? Why not save someone else’s life if it’s possible? Why condemn another family to losing their loved one too? What’s the point of burning or burying something that could give so many a possible future by refusing to do what a family member wanted? In my view, that’s just selfish.

When I die I will no longer need my body. I will no longer need any of my organs. I will have become no more than a piece of meat. I will have no further use for them. The essential me will not be there any more. I will either have vanished into the ether or met my maker and gone to heaven, hell, Valhalla, wherever. The key point is that I will be gone. If my choice is that my organs should be passed on to someone who needs them rather than being wasted, isn’t that good? Shouldn’t my wishes be abided by?

Several years ago I did what nearly everyone else does and wrote my will. I made a decision about what I wanted to happen to all my property, my personal possessions, what little I have when I die. I made a list of my things and said what I want done with them all. And, when I die, my family will inherit those things. They are unlikely to refuse them, few that there may be. Why then, if they extremely unlikely to refuse to abide by my wishes concerning the distribution of my goods and chattels, should they have the right to go against my wishes when it comes to my body? In many ways, isn’t that the most valuable thing I have? Which is more important, a few bits and pieces of jewellry and a pile of bricks and mortar or the gift of life to someone else who will die without my organs? Isn’t that precious gift the best legacy I could leave?   

I understand how traumatic the death of a relative can be, which is why I am a great advocate of having an opt out scheme for organ donation rather than our current, opt in system. Wales now has opt out, why not the rest of the UK? Opt out would take so much pressure off families and off the medical profession. How hard must it be for a doctor to say to a parent or a child ‘I’m so sorry, there is nothing more we can do. Please can we operate now to remove kidneys, lungs, liver, heart so we can give the to someone else?’ It’s not a conversation I would like to start. Given how crucial speed is when it comes to organ removal for transplantation, surely a presumption that donation is the norm rather than the exception is the way to go?

When I shuffle off this mortal coil I would like to think that my family would get more comfort from knowing that a little part of me, a little part that I no longer need, has helped save someone else’s life and lives on in them rather than knowing I have been buried or burned in my entirety and everything wasted. Unless there is a religious belief that forbids it or a valid medical reason such as serious illness, infection or addiction which would prevent donation being a possibility, I feel that most people would prefer to save a life rather than refuse to help. Opt out removes the uncertainty, it should be implemented immediately and legislation passed to ensure there are no more unnecessary, preventable deaths. Doctors should be allowed to take what they need. Very few people would like to have an organ preserved in formaldehyde on their mantlepiece but the knowledge that another family still has a son or daughter, father or mother, brother or sister may, in time, help a lot and keep a memory alive. That is a legacy I can live with.    

OK, so today is the day that junior doctors, all over the country, are on strike for better terms and conditions and I support them all the way.

The TV news and social media are full of reports and pictures from the picket lines. Doctors with stethoscopes around their necks and placards, not syringes, in their hands. Doctors, the beating heart of our beloved National Health Service, who are not where they should be. Doctors, who are not tending their patients in crowded wards. Doctors who are not assisting surgeons with routine surgery in the operating theatre. Doctors who are not examining frightened people attending clinics and consultations which could save their lives. No, instead these consummate professionals are standing outside their hospitals, in the cold and wind and rain, striking over proposed changes to their terms and conditions and I support them all the way.

I am not a medic or a union expert or a politician in the Department of Health but, like most people in this country, just an ordinary person who has used the NHS and who has seen these junior doctors at work. I don’t pretend to understand exactly what it’s all about, far from it, but I don’t think I am unusual in this.

As far as I can see what has happened is that the government, in it’s infinite wisdom, wants to make changes to pay and working hours for junior doctors and that this will not benefit anyone except the government. Junior doctors are going to be working more unsocial hours and will be receiving less pay for doing it. The government are saying that they are doing this so that the NHS is a seven day per week service and so patients get something better that they have at the moment. But I, for one, can’t see what they are talking about. The NHS as far as I am concerned is already a seven day service. Hospitals aren’t a 9-5 thing, they don’t close at the weekend, they are open all the time. Sure, some of the clinics and specialist services are closed at weekends but the core of the NHS, the 24 hour care service we all know and rely upon is open. Accident and Emergency never closes. Patients aren’t sent home at the weekend and told to return to the ward on Monday. Desperately ill people are still taken in, cared for and helped to heal.

As someone who spent several weeks in hospital last year, with a serious condition, I have seen these junior doctors at work, first hand. I have seen them doing ward rounds before breakfast. I have seen them administering analgesic relief when a patient is crying in pain at 2 or 3 in the morning. I have been taken to theatre for surgery both early and late in the day and treated with compassion and concern every step of the way. I have seen junior doctors, exhausted after being on call for 24 hours working with professionalism and humanity for all at every bedside. Yes, I have seen these junior doctors at work and I have the utmost respect for them all.

Sure, there have been times when I would have liked to have been able to have a clinic appointment in the evening or at the weekend so my week was not disrupted but things can’t always be done to my convenience. Consultants and their juniors deserve a home life just as much as everyone else. What I need is a doctor who is not too tired to work. What I need is a service that is responsive and professional. What I need is and NHS that free at the point of use. What I want is doctor who is able have some time to themselves to unwind and relax, not someone who is too exhausted to work. What I want is a doctor who can spend some time at home with their family, just the same as everyone else. What I want are for doctors to receive a salary which recognises and reflects their dedication and skills. What I want are for doctors to know how much we, their patients, respect them, their vocation and their dedication.

So today is the day the junior doctors all over the country are on strike for better terms and conditions and I support them all the way.