Category Archives: health

Jeremy Hunt – looking after your NHS

It’s obvious what the worst thing about the NHS is – it’s the doctors. For a start, wherever there are doctors, there are ill people. And often people who die were ill prior to dying. And there are an awful lot of doctors (150,273 in 2014) too, and that costs money. So health secretary Jeremy Hunt has come to the rescue and is attacking doctors. In fact he has attacked them so much that they are going on their first ever all out strike today.

Why are the doctors striking?

Jeremy Hunt wants to impose a new contract on all doctors which will change the way they work and the way they are paid. He wants to dilute safeguards that prevent doctors from being overworked, which doctors are concerned will impact patient safety. He also wants to cut doctors pay. His way of doing that is to expand the number of hours in the week which are considered normal working hours by 50%. At the moment 7am to 7pm Monday to Friday is considered “plain time”. He wants to expand this to 7am to 10pm Monday to Saturday. That doesn’t mean working longer,  it just means that 10pm on a Saturday doesn’t qualify for any pay difference compared to working at 3pm on a Wednesday. That will result in up to 50% lower pay for some doctors, who are already amongst the lowest paid professionals. Mwhahaha.

What has Jeremy Hunt done to avoid this?

Nothing. The thing that has really annoyed the doctors is the way Jeremy Hunt has behaved. He has consistently waged a media campaign of half truths and deceptions to try and discredit the doctors instead of working with them to resolve their concerns. Some examples are;

  • He claimed to be prepared to negotiate with doctors. But he refused to negotiate on any of the key points that doctors were concerned about.
  • He claimed to be offering an 11% pay rise. But in fact he’s offering an 11% increase in basic pay, only until 2019, which is more than offset by the changes in the hours, resulting in a net pay cut.
  • He implied that if there was a terrorist attack, striking doctors would not help out.
  • He implies that doctors don’t work 7 days a week and patients are dying as a result. His evidence for this was a study which in it’s conclusion explicitly stated that that wasn’t the case. Also, as doctors point out, we already have a 7 day NHS.
  • He ordered the supposedly non-political director of the NHS, Sir Bruce Keogh, to “sex up” a letter telling the doctors not to strike.
  • He claimed that the dispute is just due to political elements in the British Medical Association who have it in for him. The 98% support amongst doctors would certainly imply that is not true.

As doctors have pointed out, if Jeremy Hunt wants more operations at the weekend, he either needs to shift work to do less operations during the week, get more doctors, or get the doctors to work more hours for no more money. Guess which one he is aiming for. Mwhahaha.

What next?

Not only is Jeremy Hunt a stirrer of trouble, he’s also completely unaware of how modern medicine works. His strong stance pushing for discredited alternative medicines such as homoeopathy to be provided under the NHS has earned him the label Minister for Magic by New Sceientist;

As long as David Cameron leaves Jeremy Hunt in charge of health, we look to be heading towards a period of strife in the NHS. But is this what David Cameron wants? It’s no secret that the Tories want to privatise as much of our health as possible, and striking doctors could be just the ticket for pushing that agenda.

DWP assessments cost more than the benefits

For disabled people, there is no bigger evil than the work capability assessments that the DWP inflicts on them. In March 2011, the Department for Work and Pensions started to remove disability benefits from people that independent assessors deemed fit for work. It sounds sensible in theory, but in practice it was executed in a most evil manner, with independent contractor Atos subjecting disabled people to the most humiliating experiences, and having people with no medical experience decide on whose benefits to remove.

The National Audit Office have now released figures that show that this degrading debacle in fact cost the country far more than it saved;

Unbelievably, the cost of paying private contractors to do the assessments is £1.6bn over 3 years, with savings failing to reach even £1bn by 2020. So the government is on balance paying private contractors millions of pounds simply to inflict misery on disabled people. Mwhaha.

And the misery should not be underestimated. Over 60% of people assessed say that their examinations by the unqualified examiners exacerbates their illnesses, and several university studies have shown that the assessments have led to a statistically significant increase in suicides. And not only are we paying private contractors a fortune, they are not reaching the correct assessments, with the DWP overturning hundreds of thousands of cases of Atos claiming people were fit for work. When you measure evil done for pounds spent, this has to be a winner.

Food banks aren’t needed because some people are obese

Lord Prior of Brampton, Minister for NHS Productivity, has been quoted as saying that there is no link between between food bank use and the changes in benefits policies. He has also noted that it’s strange that people are using food banks while so many people are obese.

Former investment banker, Lord Prior, was taken to task by numerous food banks and the Arch Bishop of Canterbury, who noted that between 35 and 45 percent of visitors to food banks said that they were there because of benefit cuts or sanctions leaving them without any food to eat.

Reasons for food bank use – Trussell Trust

Food bank use in the UK has increased massively over the past few years, with the Trussell Trust giving out 40 times more emergency food packages than in 2008.

increase in food bank use – Trussell Trust

It’s not surprising to see the wealthy elite being occasionally ignorant of the use of food banks. For example, Michael Gove claimed that food bank use was just due to poor money management, and Tory Peer Baroness Jenkin claimed the poor should just learn to cook porridge. But for a Health Minister to equate obesity with a lack of poverty is either absurd ignorance or pure evil. Mwhahaha.

Autumn statement has numerous hidden evils

When George Osborne stood up in front of parliament to give his budget speech, he only spoke about the good things he did (or rather the bad things that he had threatened to do but then changed his mind in the face of overwhelming public objection). For some reason, he didn’t mention all of the evil things that he is doing in parliament – instead he published those in an 154 page document. Here’s some highlights of the evil buried deep in the document;

When students took out their loans, they signed up to a set of terms and conditions which described how much they would pay back and when they would pay it back. The amount they would pay back in any year depends on how much they earn above a certain threshold in that year, and that threshold increases with inflation. Except the government announced yesterday that they are changing the terms and conditions for people who already have taken out the loans to freeze that threshold rather than increase it with inflation – resulting in students having to pay significantly more of their wages in student loan repayments. If a commercial company changed loan conditions retrospectively, the FSA would stop them, but the government can do what it likes. Mwhahaha.

Whiplash injuries are thought to be a source of fraudulent insurance claims. Someone takes out their brake light bulbs, then slams on the brakes, and then claims for pain and suffering from whiplash injuries when the car behind hits them. This is thought to cost the average motorist £50 a year. In an effort to stop such fraudulent claims, the government is taking a sledgehammer to crack a nut. They are banning all claims for general damages (e.g. compensation for pain and suffering) in soft tissue injuries, and they are forcing anyone claiming under £5000 for an injury to do so in the small claims court – where they can’t recover any legal costs. So to stop fraudsters, innocent people are going to be out of pocket and under compensated.

Despite the high profile u-turn on withdrawing tax credits, a number of other changes are going on anyway. First of all, the tax credits are being withdrawn anyway, with people being switched over to universal credit, which will leave people £1600 a year worse off. Plus the chancellor will still cap child tax credit at two children, hurting families with more children.

At the moment student nurses get means tested bursaries to help them through their training. Nurse and midwife training takes 3 years, and typically has them working a 37.5 hour week during their training period, spending time working on wards in addition to lectures. So there’s little free time for a part time job on the side. But they can at least walk in to a job paying £21,692 a year at the end of it. However, thanks to changes in the autumn statement, nurses will be forced to pay for their training, so now they will start work with £50,000 in debt to pay off too.

Osborne underfunds NHS by £18bn

In today’s Autumn Statement, George Osborne confirmed that he will in effect be cutting £18.2bn from the NHS budget. This is the same NHS budget that in their manifesto, the Tories said;

We will continue to increase spending on the NHS, supported by a strong economy, so the NHS stays free for you to use, and spend at least an additional £8 billion by 2020 over and above inflation to fund and support the NHS’s own action plan for the next five years

And George Osborne would like you to think that that is what he is doing. He claimed today that he is giving an extra £3.8bn to the NHS budget next year. However, what he gives with one hand, he takes away with the other. The NHS is in huge debt, with every trust over spending this year in a unsuccessful attempt to meet waiting list targets. So far this year, the NHS has spent £2bn more than it’s budget – primarily due to increased spending on agency staff, and to ongoing budget cuts, and despite that waiting lists are growing longer. The NHS has projected that it needs £30bn by 2020 to get back up to scratch. Instead of funding the NHS properly though, George Osborne has told the NHS to somehow make £22bn in cost savings. So the combined result is that he wants £18.2bn less to be spent than is needed.

And the way that he wants the NHS to make savings is primarily by cutting back on the sort of preventative services which cost money in the short term, but save a fortune in the long term. The sort of thing we are talking about is staff training, helping people give up smoking, and sexual health programs. But by the time the impacts of cutting those corners is felt, the Tories may well be out of government, so it’s someone else’s problem. Mwhahaha.

The other thing that the government is doing to hurt the NHS is throwing 30,000 overseas nurses out of the country. And the reason for kicking them out is perversely because the government isn’t paying them enough. Under new rules, any foreign national earning less than £35,000 will be forced to leave after 6 years. Since 90% of nurses would be earning less than that, the NHS will have a staffing crisis, costing even more in recruitment costs (£6,000 per nurse), and in overtime and agency staff. The government’s own immigration rules are going to sink the NHS. But then, given the number of MPs with links to private health companies, perhaps that’s exactly what they want. Mwhahaha.