Monday, 26 January 2015

Letter 138: Lynton & the SpAds think the PM's not up to GE15 televised debates

'Dear Dave,
I was reading the Guardian last night and came across yet another article on your reluctance to take part in the televised election debates. Is it true that your aides think that the last tv debates were such a disaster for you they're now doing their utmost to keep you out of the 2015 ones? Tricky if it is true, because according to an independent ICM poll, the public think you're not up to much if you take your aides advice and stay away. The suggestion is, voters will punish anyone who chickens out of taking part. Have you heard that there's a call for non attenders to be refused the chance to air party political broadcasts? That seems fair - after all, you're constantly saying you're the man for the job and if you don't take the chance to prove it, your Party's election broadcasts would seem little more than propaganda you're unable to back up

 But that can't be true surely? What have you got to hide? This could be THE chance for you to stand by your pre election words of 2010: 

"I want to, if I'm elected, take the whole country with me, I don't want to leave anyone behind. The test of a good society is that you look after the elderly, the frail, the vulnerable, the poorest in our society. And that test is even more important in difficult times, when the difficult decisions have to be taken, that it is in better times."

Some have said that you might be too far outside your comfort zone. After all, PMQs is such a different kettle of fish; backbenchers behind you, cheering on the appearance of Flashman whenever a difficult issue surfaces, while week after week so many voters tune in, craving a direct answer to a direct question only to be disappointed. The electorate want to see how you stand up to scrutiny and if you could openly defend your current policies and future plans without the protective shield of the House of Commons panto, Lynton and the SpAds.
 Think about it: a televised debate would be the ideal opportunity to explore why there seem to be bigger cuts imposed on deprived areas than affluent areas. Did you know that Britain is the only G7 country with wider inequality than at the turn of the century? Maybe the TV debate could dig deeper into the privatisation , cuts and crisis in the NHS , or discuss whether people (including those with mental health issues) are being bullied off benefits... or explore the full effect of food bank poverty and how tax and benefit changes have hit low income families, or look at whether or not in terms of finances, the DfE is meeting the requirements of Parliament  for a bit of light relief.

Blimes, so much to talk about Dave - and that's just off the top of my head! You really ought to be there - otherwise all these difficult issues will be discussed and you won't be able to put the record straight... Unless of course an empty chair says it all for you?

Yours, etc'

Tuesday, 13 January 2015

Letter 137: What happens when ideology & self interest are put before patients? An A&E crisis of course.

'Dear Dave and Nick,
As an asthmatic who recently had an emergency admission to A&E, I naturally have great admiration for the doctors and nurses who choose to work there. I could talk as a patient about my concerns regarding the news of the current crisis, but sometimes I think it's best to leave it to the people who are there day in and day out. You may have seen the following letter before, but I know that you have a tendency to ignore unpalatable truths when they don't back up Coalition policy, so forgive me if I place it under your noses once again. After all, you both declare your commitment to the NHS. And no doubt, as the election races towards us, you'll both make promises and present figures to attract votes. Before you do, re-read this letter to remind yourselves of the facts:

7th January 2015
Dear Mr Cameron and Mr Hunt
As someone who works in A&E, I hear with interest that you have sad that things in A&E are just busy and we are performing well and not in a crisis.
I though would disagree. Maybe it is just your sense of reality, which has made you say this or perhaps a lack of comprehension of the words busy V crisis.
Is it not a crisis that up and down the country thousands and thousands of patients are being looked after in corridors because there are no free cubicles for them to be seen in?
Is it not a crisis that many hospitals are declaring major incidents ( to just cope with normal winter pressures) and some are having tents built in their car parks? 
Is it not a crisis that patients who need discharging from hospital can't because social services can't cope with the demand? This mean there are no free beds for the patient to go to and so they stay in A&E for hours upon hours.
Is it not a crisis when thousands of patients are having their operations cancelled because there are no beds for them to get into?
Is it not a crisis when everyday A&E staff up and down the country think it is a good shift if we get a cup of tea, no member of staff is in tears and no-one dies in the corridor on our watch? ( As opposed to deliver the standard and dignity of care we wish).
Or are you saying it is not a crisis because you don't want to admit the real problem and you are a tad embarrassed by your mistakes? Because when you came to power you promised to invest in the NHS and not reorganise it. But actually you lied.
Health and social care are inextricably linked and you stripped money away from social care whilst still finding the money for tax cuts for millionaires. But worse still, instead of trying to modernise and improve the NHS ( which it needs) and working to prevent an absolutely predictable crisis, you spent the time and billions of wasted pounds on an ideological drive to increase the role of the private sector in the NHS, which has just put profits before patients.
The reality is that the crisis ( yes it is a crisis not just busy) in the NHS, is shown in the corridors of the A&E departments.
And if you don't believe me, please join the thousands of A&E staff up and down the country whom are all going through the same problems.
Then reality might kick in; seeing people in their 90s lying in a corridor as there is no bed to go to, patients who need to go to intensive care staying for hours upon hours in A&E whilst their condition deteriorates, ambulance staff not being able to get to 999 calls because they are waiting to get their current patients into A&E, nurses not having time to care for patients - just provide treatment, and for consultants on the shop floor trying to create order and safety in a chaotic environment.
We are so lucky to have the training and skills to do the job - but we just need you to make it possible for us to perform the job we love to appropriate standards.
It may be hard for all of us who work in A&E, but it is nothing compared to what our patients have to endure. But amazingly it is them who keep us going  - with humor and goodwill and not complaining about us despite everything going on, along with a diabetic inducing amount of chocolate being bought for us.
Mr Hunt and Cameron - I also want to ask you why you think we are performing well? You say it is because around 85-95% of patients get seen and discharged or admitted within 4 hours ( still the worst figures since we started recording this data).
But that hides the reality. It is easy to boost this percentage with easy patients with cuts and colds and minor injuries but what about the care for patients who are genuinely sick - the ones who need admission. How quickly to they get seen and admitted? That is the figure that should be made available but isn't. I don't know what the numbers are, but from recent experience from up and down the country, I doubt that at the moment half of patients who get admitted do so within 4 hours of when they arrive; remember delayed admission leads to worse outcomes. Please start releasing this important figure as it will give a much better barometer for how the NHS is doing.
So Mr Hunt and Mr Cameron - come down to any A&E and see the crisis/'just busy' and when you do so, listen to the staff who can explain what needs to be done, as opposed to listen to your political advisers.
In A&Es throughout the country, we are buckling under the strain and it is only because of everyone's hard work and dedication that patient care is being maintained to the extent it is and morale hasn't yet cracked.
It feels that we in the NHS ( from porters, to managers, to nurses, to support staff, to paramedics, to hospital doctors and GPs) are lions being led by donkeys. We are facing 1930s public sector cuts driven by politicians with the mentality of World War One generals.
So in summary - please Cameron and Hunt, stop thinking about your political ideology and start thinking about our patients, Remember the NHS was set up after World War Two during a period of unprecedented austerity - stop destroying it under the name of austerity.

Rob Galloway
(A&E Consultant)

P.s. it must be quite easy going on question time and the likes debating fellow politicians and public figures who everyone knows have their own agenda. But the shop floor workers in the NHS have only one agenda - our patient care: so the debate may not be quite so easy with us, I would love to debate with you about the NHS crisis and offer some solutions. Are you up for it?"

There's too much in this Consultant's letter to refute or explain away with statistics re-framed, or blamed on the previous government. You have both asked to be judged on your achievements. What will it take for you to put patients before ideology and self interest?

Yours, etc '

Thursday, 18 September 2014

The Indyref - forcing more accountability in Westminster?

"Dear Dave,
How long has it been since I've been in touch? Ages, I know... I'm sorry, but can you blame me? The last few PMQs before the Summer recess were SO depressing - all those dodged questions and dodgy statistics, instead of the transparency you keep promising. Then there's the continued dismantling and sale of NHS and education, plus the only banking initiatives you've successfully delivered involve food handouts - who wouldn't be feeling down?
Do you want to guess what nearly made me throw the towel in completely, Dave? It was the news that Boris is back (well have you seen THAT Eddie Mair interview?) and as your partner, in a tennis match bought by the wife of Putin's former deputy finance minister. All to bankroll your election campaign. Shameful. You know the Conservative Party Summer Ball gives one a real sense of the decline in UK democracy and the value of my vote. You very nearly made me cry.
But thank God for the Scottish people - what an inspiration!!! Turning out in their millions they've given me renewed hope, as has the sight of Westminster's three main Parties sweaty attempts to lovebomb Scotland to keep us together. What's so exciting, regardless of whether or not Scotland gains independence, is that the Referendum has brought the possibility for change to all of us in the UK who want a political system based on equality and social justice rather than the Market, cash for access and the Finance Sector. Scotland has reminded the rest of us of the power of each man or woman's vote. Once the count is over, maybe England will start asking more of Westminster. Just imagine how accountable you'd have to be if England woke up to that power the way Scotland has. Wouldn't it be fabulous if 97% of the English population registered too and engaged with the political debate? You guys would have no time for tennis then.
Yours etc,"

Thursday, 19 June 2014

Letter 135: The uncomfortable truth; Tories believe in free speech, unless you're Oxfam or the Trussell Trust

"Dear Dave,

Did Conor Burns get your blessing to refer this poster to the Charities Commission on the grounds that it was too political? Do the Conservatives expect charities to stop drawing attention to poverty and the causes behind it, simply because it embarrasses your government? Seriously, what's politics coming to - next we'll be hearing that someone at the DWP could turn ugly and threaten to close down the Trussell Trust over campaigning on food poverty. Now that really would be bullying behaviour, wouldn't it?

Yours, etc"

Tuesday, 10 June 2014

Letter 134: Transparently, it's time for Dave's tax returns to be published

"Dear Dave,
In the name of transparency, please won't you publish your Tax Returns, so I won't have to sign this e-petition: to encourage you to do so? Surely you've nothing to hide...
(After all, if we're all in it together, what's 50p between friends?)

With best wishes, etc"

Friday, 6 June 2014

Letter 133: Yes, the Coalition has increased growth, but in all the wrong areas.

"Dear Dave,
You probably don't want to hear this, but there seems to be real confusion over the speech you wrote for the Queen. Is it as you say, "the packed programme of a busy and radical government", or as the Leader of the Opposition claims, evidence "that you are presiding over a zombie parliament which has run out of ideas"? This morning I listened to Radio 4's Today programme, in the hope of some clarity. Pundits there described it as "Queen's Speech lite" suggesting that you're playing safe because there's so little that the Coalition Government can agree on having fallen out on so much already.
There is one thing both sides of the Coalition cling to, which is your claim that through commitment to austerity we can have growth. But in all honesty, growth could be problematic for you too. Back in April the Huffington Post highlighted a few awkward facts about your GDP growth figures. Employment is also troubling, as your boasts of job growth aren't what they seem. Though you insist that the best way out of poverty is work, since 2010 the number of people working zero hours contracts has increased to 1,000,000, three in four housing benefit claims are now made by people in work and the surge in self employment you so proudly announced recently masks the decrease in traditional employee jobs. It would seem that the growth you prize is to be found in the increase of working poor and children living in poverty. Maybe it's Ed who's right after all; those 11 Bills in your Queen's Speech don't begin to address the UK's problems at all.  

Yours, etc"

Wednesday, 4 June 2014

Letter 132: Universal Credit woes swept under Election14 woes.

"Dear Dave, 
So your plans for the Coalition's final year in office were set out today in the Queen's Speech... Forgive me if I don't give it my full attention, something else is distracting me...
What's all this about bad news regarding Universal Credit that Iain Duncan Smith was accused of hiding whilst the local and European elections were taking place? There was a report published - described by The Independent as "damning " I believe, which showed that Mr Duncan Smith's project isn't going as well as he'd like us to think. Is it true that Downing Street released the Major Projects Authority report on the day of the local election results to minimise adverse publicity? Surely not, when you aspire to be the most transparent government. Ever. 
Has the MPA rated Universal Credit as "red" and does this signify that it is"unachievable within reasonable timescales and to a reasonable budget without urgent remedial action"? Lots of questions I know, but then UC will cost a fair whack to implement won't it? There was some suggestion that it would be £12,800,000,000 - over £10.000,000,000 more than the DWP said in 2010. Taxpayers have a right to know what's going on - after all, they're paying for his folly...

Yours with best wishes, etc"