Friday, 27 February 2015

Letter 141: Ava Jolliffe experiences DWP's compassionate conservatism firsthand

"Dear Dave,

This morning, sixty eight days before the General Election, I read in the national press about Ava Jolliffe, the eight-year-old blind, deaf, mute, wheelchair user (her mother's words, not mine), who has had her DLA withdrawn. Ah me, if only Ava and all those like her, was as important to you and your Party as the wealthy ring fenced pensioner....

Yours with best wishes, etc"

Sunday, 15 February 2015

Letter 140: David Cameron's election campaign; weak against the strong, strong against the weak

"Dear Dave
Whoo! Quite a rollercoaster of a week you've had - it's made a few of us nauseous watching. Who is channelling Marie Antoinette at Tory central office? And what a brave PR stunt, auctioning off luxury villas for the wealthy at the same time as signed copies of budget speeches outlining austerity for plebs at the illustrious Black and White Ball!

Then the next day, there was that strange speech you gave to business leaders urging them to give employees a pay rise. Have you forgotten that for the last five years, your own decision has been to freeze wages for public sector workers?  Or that, so it would appear unemployment has decreased, you've deliberately encouraged an environment in which short term contracts and zero hours are the norm, forcing people to accept working hours and rates of pay that are impossible to live off without recourse to benefits; for which claimants are then pilloried for needing. Come clean; if you really believed in employees having a pay rise and 'making work pay', you'd legislate for a Living Wage.

Is hawking for votes also why you've announced your intention to explore cutting sickness benefits for those who are obese or suffering from addiction issues? Strange that at the same time you're protecting universal credit for OAPs, regardless of their lifestyle or health issues. What's all that about, another expression of compassionate conservatism, or a nostalgic yearning for the return to Victorian values?

You might have to rethink your plans though, Dave. So far it would appear that the Tory campaigning consists of rich people telling middle class people to blame poor people for the greed and wrongdoing of a handful of rich people. Very ugly. Do tell us now if next stage of your reforms include an introduction of the workhouse for the undeserving poor. 

Though you may feel the end justifies the means, it doesn't, especially round complex issues such as addiction and mental health. People do not pull themselves together to tidily suit a political agenda. We'd all be better off, you morally, us financially and socially, if you chose to chase after those billions of pounds of uncollected tax that are owed instead - or is that likely to affect your core vote in an unhealthy way?

Yours, etc"

Monday, 9 February 2015

Letter 139: Here, kitty kitty... fatcat donors are always welcome at the Conservative Black and White Ball

"Dear Dave,
So tonight it's your big fundraiser bash, the Black and White Ball. The big event in the run up to the 2015 general election, where though you will be addressing 'the big donor culture', unfortunately for the rest of us, not in the way you suggested when Leader of the Opposition. But then again, wasn't it you that also promised:

"Our economy, our society, welfare, schools all reformed, all rebuilt with one aim, one mission in mind - to make this country at long last and for the first time ever a land of opportunity for all"
 And look where that's got us eh? 

Let's face it, that Facebook page and the 2015 election aren't going to pay for themselves, are they? Do you not see the irony though, for a Party promising transparent politics, yet again the Tories seem to be excessively secretive about who will be bankrolling you? If there's nothing to hide, why be so coy about who'll be there? If there's no connection between Party donation and cash for access to Ministers, why not show us your seating plans? I dare you,  let those hard working families you love so much put their noses to the window and see who's eating from your table (or lap). Then we might give a little wave to Henry Angest. Is it true that before the last general election Everyday Loans, (the high-cost credit company he controls) gave the Conservative Party a £5 million overdraft facility at an interest rate of just 3.5%. How did you get a better rate than the rest of us? (74.8% if you're asking) 

No doubt you're aware that you've been accused of cynically trying to buy the election several times already, most recently by Mark Littlewood in relation to pensioner bonds. Let's not forget either, that sneaky change in the law in December 2014, which seems to have bypassed the democratic process, to bring about a 23% increase in campaign spending. I heard it was passed without parliamentary debate - seriously, shame on you. (One has to wonder if that's a misuse of the legislative process). 

When you rolled out your austerity plans for, let's face it - those less likely to vote for you, I did say to a friend to put a tenner on the possibility you'd top said miserable time for the scapegoats with tax cuts for the better off, just before the General Election. Sadly, you've proved me right. Yet again, "cuts for the poor, so the rich can have more" strategy seems just too irresistible to you. But note - such policies impoverish ALL of society. Wilful blindness of the effects of Coalition policy on the most vulnerable in our country and a morally bankrupt disregard for just how frayed our social fabric has become is not just a financial issue; it's an ethical one, which any politician who calls himself compassionate must surely find impossible to justify and totally repugnant.

Yours etc" 

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"