Sunday, December 21, 2008

Failure to consult

Local NHS bodies are not fulfilling their legal duty to consult the public according to a new study by the NHS Support Federation.

Darzi-inspired health centres are being introduced nationwide, but a survey of Primary Care Trusts found that plans have gone ahead without meeting legal obligations to inform the public and include their views.

Given the scale of the failures the report recommends that the Department of Health should drop its 31 December deadline for contracts to be signed (outside London), allowing more time to ensure that the public has been given full information about the plans and a genuine opportunity to influence them.

PCTs have also been given specific advice from Department of Health lawyers on how to consult, but the report compares this with what PCTs actually did and found that many fell short of these recommendations. Examples from the study are being sent to the DH with a request for them to investigate.

Part of the report contained a study of 40 PCTs that were consulting and found that:

- 2/3 of PCTs do not ask local people whether they agree with the overall plan for a GP-led health centre
- 42% make no reference to the fact that a new health centre could be run by a commercial or voluntary sector provider. Legal advice issued by the DH clearly states that consultation should cover “the approach to selecting the preferred bidder and the proposed contractual mechanism”
- 16% provided less than 12 weeks for responses - the minimum set out in the cabinet code on consultation
- only 16% of PCTs asked about the importance of the distance of travel to the new health centre

“The public must be given a genuine influence over their local NHS. There is real danger that the public will become cynical about consultation and not take part. The public can help to develop better services and their support is crucial for the future of the NHS and its funding.

“Major change is occurring to primary care without public knowledge or consent. We are very concerned that the introduction of commercial interests to run health centres will be damaging, but this and other important aspects has been missing from public consultations.”

- said Paul Evans NHS Support Federation director

full report -

The NHS Support Federation is an independent organisation that works to protect and promote a comprehensive NHS, with equitable access and active public involvement. Our supporters and affiliated organisations are drawn equally from the health profession and the general public.

Friday, December 19, 2008

EU working time directive

I have no idea what the Lib Dems were up to with the opt out vote on EU working time directive.

The Tories voted to keep it, i.e. they are happy for people to work ridiculous hours, much of it unpaid - I'd expect nothing less from them.

Labour MEPs rebelled against Gordon Brown who also wanted to keep it and voted to end the opt out.

Obviously Green MEPs voted to end the opt out!

But I don't understand what the Lib Dems were playing at by voting to keep the opt out. The comment in the Guardian was a euro skeptic, 'who do they think they are telling us what to do?'. Personally I think the EU has every right to protect the people of Europe against bad employers and practices. Claiming that the opt out is essential in a downturn is equally bizzare. Why should we employ someone to work for 50 paid hours each week plus 10 unpaid hours when we could employ two people?

The implications of the end to the opt out are probably the greatest in the NHS. It will give managers a bit of headache when trying to cover rotas, but the solution is to grown more clinicians, not work them into the ground. Of course that takes money and time, but so be it.

I also think it is important that the unions take note about what LDs did.

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Safe as airlines

Lots in the press about the NHS killing people through errors. This is from the Torygraph and this from the BBC after the head of the Healthcare Commission has said that the NHS in England and Wales is failing to ensure patient care is "as safe as it reasonably could be". Cue lots of tabloid headlines and industry rebuttals.

Richard Branson complained that the NHS doesn't have air industry safety standards a few months back. Well that is hardly suprising given that it isn't the air industry.

The National Patient Safety Agency have claimed that the actual number of deaths due to errors last year was around 3500. Whatever the number we all want healthcare to be as safe as possible, however with the vast number of humans working in it, it will never be as safe as the air industry.

For me, governance is key. Multiple providers all running as independent companies don't lend themselves to slick processes where patients cross company borders (as is almost always the case in health care). Commissioners have a much harder time governing the safety through contracts rather than through direct management. Patients fall between contractual gaps. Ending the market is not a panacea but it would help.

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

To vaccinate or not to vaccinate

The recent measels outbreaks in Manchester and London, which include the death of one child, have prompted calls for compulsory vaccination and the BMA has a very useful piece on this.

The benefits of vaccination to the individual are well established and should those benefits just sit with the individual, I suspect calls for compulsion would fall on deaf ears. The issue gets heated for four main reasons:

1. The benefit of immunisation is even greater for society than for the individual - herd immunity is a major goal of immunisation programmes.
2. Scare stories have abounded about side effects, most notably with MMR. While it is possible for most medical interventions to have side effects, vaccines are considered very safe and the autism and crohns links have been discredited.
3. Personal choice on how children are raised and treated. Nobody likes to be told what to do, and compulsion of this sort is felt to be an infringement of human rights.
4. Profit driving vaccination programmes, both profit for BigPharma and for GPs who get paid for high vaccination rates.

Personally I think that the human rights issue is the key. We must not make vaccination compulsory, but we must promote it as much as possible. Vaccination should, once again, become part of the routine of bringing up children - that is not to say that it should not be questioned. Parents should be able to make decisions on their child's health, but the information that they base their decisions on must be clear and unbiased. Promotion is the key to herd immunity.

Monday, December 1, 2008

Compulsive vaccinations

Rumours abound about compulsive vaccinations for children. There is a number 10 petition which closes today. Compulsory vacinations are completely wrong. While I think that every effort should be to promote vaccinations, forcing them on people is immoral. It is a fundamental infringement on our civil liberties and yet another step towards the medicalisation of life.

Psychotic pharmaceuticals

The European Commission have slated Big Pharma for blocking cheap medicines by using legal action and multiple patents. But who can blame them, they are in the business to make a profit and they are clearly good doing this.

The NHS spends £10 billion each year on medicines, all of which are produced by companies that exist to make a profit. They have backed pressure groups against NICE's decisions (Remember that NICE are there to make independent decisions about the efficacy of medicines). But who can blame them? These companies are designed to make the biggest profit that they can. Joel Bakan described corporations as psychotic. Maybe the government will nationalise, like the banks, them when they get into trouble...

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Branson on MRSA

Letter sent to the Torygraph today in response to:


Branson's claim that the air industry is safer than the NHS could be construed as a deliberate attempt to advertise his new health care enterprises. His claim that the NHS is too dangerous compared to the private sector ignores that fact the most private providers do not admit unwell or infectious patients. Private hospitals mostly provide routine operations on patients in moderately good health and who have been screened first. These patients are also admitted for a relatively short time.

Branson also seems to forget the damage that the air industry does. While direct deaths from accidents are rare, the impact of air travel on the climate is large and growing. In the near future, the deaths from the climate crisis will far outweigh those from hospital infections.

The NHS can and must do better to reduce the level of infections but Branson should not use his elderly father to drum fear into people and cash into his pocket.

Stuart Jeffery
Health Spokesperson for the Green Party

Sunday, November 9, 2008

BigHealth Privateers

The letter below is from Wendy Savage, Chair of Keep Our NHS Public. As I have stated, we should refuse treatments to people who want to pay for ineffective top-up treatments, but the discussions are clouded by the NHS's refusal to pay for effective care, which is in turn muddied by the enormous profits of the drug and private health care industry.

Post Script: There should be a NOT inserted above between the words we and should... sorry!

Branson was in the press yesterday slating the NHS as dirty and incompetant. Apparently he couldn't find an NHS hospital with no incidences of MRSA or CDiff. He has now persuded his father to have his hip done privately. Given that Branson has set up his own health care business, is this a deliberate attempt to drum up business using his father for publicity?

CDiff and MRSA are prevalent on medical wards that admit emergency patients and patients with infections. There are virtually no private hospitals seeing this class of patient, they can also pre-screen patients and admit them for short periods - no wonder they have low HCAIs compared to the NHS. Obviously we all want the NHS to do better, but Branson's comparisons with an airline is bizarre.

The letter from Wendy:
Mark Lawson (A poisonous prescription, December 7) rightly identifies the threat to the basic principles of the NHS that allowing those who can afford it to pay for extra drug treatment poses. However we dispute that "the NHS could not have afforded this" (ie expenditure on expensive life-prolonging drugs). From the figures given in Professor Richards' review, Improving Access to Medicines for NHS Patients, we calculate that the cost of providing unapproved drugs would be £120m a year, which is a tiny proportion of the £110bn NHS budget.
The NHS has not overspent this year and foundation trusts are sitting on surpluses of £400m. The international evidence is that the introduction of top-up fees increases inequality and that the poor suffer most - surely not what Gordon Brown with his "war on poverty" wishes to happen. The review is out for consultation until January 27, but does not give the option of paying for these drugs. We will be mounting a campaign to fight this proposal.
Wendy Savage
Chair, Keep Our NHS Public

Cancer drug consultation flawed

Keep Our NHS Public are an excellent group. Below is a press release which adds to the recent news about top-ups. The two tier service that is emerging is fundamentally against the founding principles of the NHS. We shouldn't ban people from having NHS treatment because they try additional drugs, but neither should we stop effective drugs from being available on the NHS. The NHS should be able to clearly demonstrate that any treatment that is not available is not effective and is a waste of time and money. Sadly this is not the case at present.

Press release from KONP:

There is no reason why the best drugs cannot be available to all NHS patients, the Keep Our NHS Public campaign has said, but the Government has wrongly excluded this option from the current consultation over cancer drugs.
Following the report by Professor Richards, the Government’s clinical director for cancer, Keep Our NHS Public said the consultation was flawed as the consultation document accepts that private drugs are acceptable alongside NHS care but does not ask the fundamental question of whether this is appropriate.
In his report Prof Richards states that ‘I believe that the option of NHS top-ups should be rejected,’ yet his recommendations accept this in practice, despite the fact that the number of patients requiring such treatment is small and the cost negligible in the context of the NHS budget.
Professor Wendy Savage, chair of Keep Our NHS Public, said:
This undermines the key principle of the NHS – that a patients’ wealth should have no bearing on the quality of the care available to them. It introduces a two tier system and already the private insurance business is welcoming the profits they can make.”
“There is no justification for a situation where desperate families have to use life savings to afford effective drugs denied them by the health service. But the option of providing all necessary care on the NHS is not mentioned in the consultation document. No figures are given for the cost of equitable NHS provision, which on the basis of the available evidence is likely to be less than 0.001% of the annual NHS budget.”
“The Government’s policy, while appearing compassionate on the surface, is in fact deeply disturbing. We call on all concerned citizens and organisations to respond to the consultation on these lines and involve their MPs to fight this dangerous move that threatens the very basis of the NHS.”

Green spaces improve health

Fascinating piece of research published last week in the Lancet on the connection between green spaces and health. It's all pretty obvious stuff really, the closer you live to the natural world the healthier you will be. A bit of a no-brainer really, but the research gives us a useful reminder about how we should design our living spaces.

Plant more trees should now be on the lips of every public health professional!

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

Top-up payments

The issue of top-ups is a tough one. The key problem is that this decision could open the door to the government making decisions more on price than effectiveness, which goes contrary to the NHS principles. It could easily mark the end of free health care at point of need. That said, how can the NHS refuse treatment to someone who wants to add expensive treatments that would not be particularly effective?

The NHS now needs to be far more careful that it provides the most effective care and not dumb down the level of interventions on the basis that people can top-up. They should ensure that no-one has to top up care, but with the proponents of high cost interventions hard selling their services, the public are unlikely to get good information to base decisions on.

Meanwhile the right wing health capitalists intent on making huge piles of cash are laughing all the way to the Leeds...
Interesting press release from the NHS Support Federation below:

NHS Support Federation News release Immediate:

4 November 2008 NHS top-ups a victory for the individual, but what about the rest?

Reacting to the plan to allow patients to top-up their NHS treatment with private care the NHS Support Federation said

“This is a victory for individual patients just trying to get themselves the treatment they want, often in tragic circumstances. But the obvious question is what about the patients with similar illnesses that can’t afford to go private.”

“The NHS was born out of the need to give everyone equal access to healthcare. Safeguards to protect these principles are essential. How far can we go without this defining principle of the NHS becoming meaningless in reality.”

“NICE will come under pressure to reassure the public that NHS patients are not being denied access to effective treatments. And if treatments are held back because of their cost it should only be after the public have had their say.”

“We need NICE to continue to help ensure NHS treatments are safe and effective. Their role in establishing affordability is less well understood by the public. The NHS itself needs to be more accountable. We cannot off load this responsibility.”

Paul Evans, director NHS Support Federation

Sunday, October 26, 2008

Report from the National Association of Links Members

A damning report was published by the National Association of LINKs Members (NALM) this month. Local Involvement NetworKs (LINKs) were set up to replace Patient Fora, which in turn replaced Community Health Councils. Each iteration has reduced the say that patients have over their local health services. The CHCs has some reasonable powers.

LINKs have been going for 7 months and I'm sure everyone across the country has heard of them and is itching to get involved...

The report from NALM has shown just how badly some councils have been at setting LINKs up. Members have not been paid expenses, some councils have top sliced high levels of funds and there appears to be a lack of training for members.

I am writing to Alan Johnson to express these concerns, I would encourage others to do the same.

Tuesday, October 7, 2008

Drugs in the water

Health Care Without Harm's latest newsletter has an excellent piece on the disposal of medicines and how they are contaminating water supplies.

Some of the effects of this problem have been known for a while, such as the effects on fish of the hormones in effluent. It is easy to suppose that this is just another in the long list of environmental polluters that we have to put up with - in the past we suffered with lead in the paint and the air, and there are plenty of more recent pollutants.

On of the frustrations with drugs being added to the list of environmental hazards is that they are not being disposed of / collected properly. HCWH state the low percentage of drugs being collected back when not used and it is reasonable to speculate that much of the rest is flushed down toilets.

The other key issue is the over reliance of drugs. I have blogged before on the problems of polypharmacy - which are many. Interactions are clearly the main issue but aside from increasing the profits of BigPharma we ought to add the pollution to water supplies to the list of problems.

Monday, September 15, 2008

Lib Dem health policy... to tax the poor?

The latest wheeze from the LibDems is for tax breaks for people leading healthy lifestyles. I assume that this is to penalise those who don't follow them, so why do the LibDems think this moves them away from a 'Stalinist' approach?

Norman Lamb seems to be looking for health care taxation that is heading towards insurance based systems.

Health and healthy lifestyles are correlate closely with wealth, i.e. the richer you are the healthier you will be and the more likely to have the appropriate health behaviours that will attract lower taxes. Lamb is talking about a points system for check ups, screening and exercise taken.

This seems completely regressive, and while I'm sure the Lib Dems think it will change behaviours (and it would have a small effect initially), this tax regime would predominately give tax breaks to the rich. The rich get richer and the poverty gap widens from its already yawning chasm.

Poor health is influenced heavily by the relative gap in wealth. Widening it will make the health gap bigger.

Sunday, September 7, 2008

Postcode Lottery

The report from the Kings Fund today tells of the differences in spending across each Primary Care Trust in England against a variety of illness categories. The differences are stark and on the face of it worrying - they certainly make for interesting reading.

Two key questions stick out. Firstly should we be concerned? If one PCT prioritises care in one disease area over another in response to local need, surely this is what we would want? PCTs will almost always spend all the money they are allocated on health care so one assumes that demands for different types of services differ in different areas. I am also sure that PCTs have not got the balance of spending right (not that they ever could - this is a complex and fluctuating need) and they certainly don't alway take local preferences and issues into consideration.

Secondly, if there is reason to be concerned what should be done? One of my key issues with PCTs is their lack of accountability to local people. They act to serve local people and have a duty to commission care for local people but the are accountable to the Secretary of State only. Locally ellected representatives don't get a say. Sure they can make a lot of noise but that is all.

Theer seems no reason for PCTs to remain like this. It would be a very simple move to put the under the same line of accountability as social services (generally county councils or unitary councils) and ensure that local democracy has a say.

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Fluoride and sugar

The fluoride fight continues, congratulations to Pendle district council for rejecting calls to fluoridate their tap water yesterday. Mass medication is illegal and immoral. Any benefit of fluoride in the water has not been shown to outweigh the risks. What is needed is a reduction in the vast levels of refined sugar in processed foods - as exemplified by Angus Deaton last Friday when he quipped that breakfast cereal companies wanted to find a way on increasing the sugar content above 115%.

Refined sugar is a truly crap invention, no food value, addictive and teeth rotting. Mind you jam would be difficult to make without it...

We need more education on health in our schools and for parents. We don't need people medicated against their will.

Wednesday, August 6, 2008

Tory pests

Yesterday's press release by the Conservatives that there have been 20,000 infestations in the NHS is a poor piece of spin. They do not suggest what level of infestation is acceptable or whether rates are rising or falling. Of course it would be interesting to repeat the exercise when / if the Tories are ever in government! The Times sees straight through it suggesting a complete lack of context and says that the results 'do not appear remarkable' - you have to question the editorial decision to publish unremarkable news in a national daily paper...

What is remarkable is that the Tories were responsible for outsourcing cleaning in the 1980's and cannot be trusted with the NHS, despite their rhetoric.

Of course hospitals will have infestations of various insects - they are on a planet that is crawling with insects. How Andrew Lansley can expect them to be pest free.

The funniest comment was posted on The Times's website in response to their article: "...not to mention the IT consultants, who have a voracious appetite, multiply like mad, eat through the budget and leave a trail of wreckage. (Frank Upton, Solihull)".

Also - sorry for not blogging for a while!

Saturday, July 19, 2008

Ritalin, the new Soma

There is a piece in this week's Health Service Journal on the level of prescribing of Ritalin. The area with the highest level of prescribing has a rate 23 times higher than the area with the lowest level. This means that in the Wirral, 144 out of 1000 children were prescribed Ritalin in 2007 - that is one in seven. Isle of Wight was second with one in nine. The lowest area will have a rate of about one in 160 children.

There is no way that this drug is being used to treat a medical condition for most of these children, it is being used to treat a social condition. This is straight out of Brave New World.

If there really was this level of ADHD in these areas then this should be treated as an epidemic with the seriousness of Avian Flu or Foot and Mouth. Of course there is no such problem, just a lost generation.

Friday, July 18, 2008

Reducing the NHS's Carbon Footprint by clamping

This was in the news earlier this week and I should have blogged it then. It does make you wonder what planet some people are on, clamping ambulances at the hospital will not solve the parking problem, bring in more revenue and it will not reduce the carbon footprint of the NHS...


Sunday, July 13, 2008

Richard Smith on Comment is Free

Richard Smith, Chief Exec of United Heath Europe has a piece on the Guardian's Comment is Free site. He is, of course, putting the case for companies like his to get more profit from taxpayers. Advertising they used to call it... Anyway his posting does not mention his vested interest at all and has sparked a deluge of criticism.

This is a selection:


Richard Smith is executive director of Unitedhealth Europe, a private healthcare provider seeking to make huge inroads into the UK NHS 'market'.

Yet again the Guardian has somehow decided to give him a platform to tout for business.

n.b. Unitedhealth in the US (tha parent company) don't do universal provision, have a record of trying to wriggle out of treaing those taking up its policies, and in February 2008, New York State Attorney General Andrew M. Cuomo announced that he was conducting an industry-wide investigation into a scheme by health insurers to defraud consumers by manipulating reimbursement rates. The announcement included a statement that Cuomo intended "to file suit against Ingenix, Inc, its parent UnitedHealth Group (NYSE: UNH), and three additional subsidiaries."

Just what the UK needs. Richard Smith can dress it up all he likes, and theorise that the private sector can do public service ethos, universal provision, all cheaper, and still return a profit for shareholders. The specific corporations looking to storm into the UK do NOT have a track record to justify this idealised view that the private sector is always best.

BishopHill (this is brilliant):

Private companies undoubtedly improved delivery of gas and electricity services.

viridios (me):

I must say firstly that the lack of acknowledgment of Richard Smith's position in United Health is bizarre. It took me two clicks to find the page where his seriously vested interest is shown. While the bias in the article was clearly evident, there was no clear declaration of the interest behind it. CIF should do better than this.

To suggest that the NHS is inefficient and needs propping up by bringing in the private sector is simply untrue. The lack of historic investment has meant that the excellent service the NHS has provided over the last 60 years has been done so on a fraction of the funding of most comparable countries. Low levels of funding are not indicative of inefficiency of the organisation - in this case the opposite is of course true.

Private provision of health care is wrong for many reasons, most of which have been covered already (cost, profit, inefficiency - I smiled at the comment that the electricity is supplied more efficiently now that it is privatised, I noticed such an increase in the quality of the electrons coming out of the fuse box!!!).

If anyone wants an example of a world class health care system that is completely state funded and state provided, yet spends less as a proportion of GDP and far less in cash terms than the UK, then look at Cuba.

Two issues need further highlighting in this debate. Firstly the lack of accountability already in the NHS suffers further erosion with private companies. For example, who is held to account for the problems that United Health may cause for patients? The professional bodies are certainly still there and do a useful job, but what if it is a more systemic issue - how can people effect change?

Private provision adds another barrier to an already unaccountable system. What people want (and need) is more of a say in local health care services not less.

Secondly, the principle of what health care should be has received little attention. Are we looking for cash cows for shareholder? Do we want to buy and sell bits of health care? Do we want to know that part our care comes from one provider and another part from another company, neither of which share information? Do we want to accept that taxes go to shareholders? Do we want health care to be a commodity to be bought and sold?

I want health care to be focussed on providing effective, efficient and seamless care to those who need it. You don't get this with the private sector.

Monday, July 7, 2008


The Chairman of the British Medical Association, Dr Hamish Meldrum, has called for an end to "the damaging market in healthcare once and for all," at the Association's conference in Edinburgh. The Greens are the only major party to have consistently opposed the internal market, and today Principal Speaker Caroline Lucas MEP welcomed Dr Meldrum's comments.

Dr Lucas said:

"The BMA and the Green Party want to see the founding principles restored to our National Health Service. It was built on an understanding that caring for the sick is a shared national endeavour, not a battleground for competition and profiteering. But the marketisation instituted by the Tories and extended by New Labour has begun to undermine those foundations.

"Dr Meldrum does not exaggerate when he calls the internal market a 'shoddy supermarket war'. And as with supermarket wars, shareholders benefit while customers - patients - suffer.

"The modernisation of the NHS should strengthen, not dismantle, its public service ethos. Local health centres should bring more services from major hospitals closer to patients, not hoover up GP surgeries and make services more remote. Co-operation, not competition, should guide the development of our health service, and patients should control their treatment through a genuine partnership with their doctor, not a bewildering and wasteful internal market."


See BMA Press Release

BMA calls to an end to marketisation

Get rid of the market in health care, says doctors' leader (issued Monday 07 Jul 2008)

"A call to get rid of the damaging market in healthcare once and for all came today (Monday 07.07.08) from BMA Chairman Dr Hamish Meldrum in his keynote speech opening the Association’s annual conference held this year in Edinburgh."

Well said! The health care market serves the interest of a few at the expense of the many. The idea that people want to choose between a range of health care providers is simply false, people want to know that the local hospital is clean and efficient and able to treat their problem.

The claim on the HSJ website that competition improves efficiency and can be used as a stick to instigate changes is a self fulfilling prophecy. The purchaser - provider split introduced by the Tories means that health care commissioners have no direct accountability or control over services and have had to invent ways of levering change. The quick solution is to scrap the purchaser / provider split and abolish the market - Doh! (or should that be DoH???)

Sunday, July 6, 2008

Polyclinic doublespeak

Apparently on the Andrew Marr show today: "Lord Darzi said no practices would be forced to shut due to the 150 new centres which will house doctors alongside other medical staff."

Not according to Pulse: "Nearly 40 GP surgeries are set to close in just one PCT in a dramatic illustration of the effect on local general practice of the drive to introduce a network of polyclinics.

"Patients in Haringey, north London, are taking to the streets this week in protest at plans to consolidate 57 existing surgeries into 20 health centres – which came as NHS London formally decided to press ahead with its polyclinic plans across the capital."

The rhetoric / reality gap widens...

Friday, July 4, 2008

SOCPA, 42 days and the Department of Health

Have just returned from a successful demo outside Richmond House, the headquarters of the Department of Health. The Greens were out in force and our principle speaker, Derek Wall was interviewed by the mutlitude of press.

It seems that the police hadn't been told about the protest in advance and this was my first time breaking the law on protests within the vicinity of Parliament. Does that make me a terrorist or just an anachist? Anyway the police turned up quickly rather than detaining us all for the next 42 days they were happy for us to continue protesting for nearly an hour.

As any reader of this blog knows, we want an end to the creeping privatisation of the NHS and a return to public ownership. We don't want a big centralised monolith though, the NHS should be accountable to local government (I think it should be renamed the Local Health Service).

The event was organised by the Keep Our NHS Public campaign, and my thanks to Wendy and Alex who drive the campaign so effectively.

Thursday, July 3, 2008

Branson Pickle

Branson Pickle has been created by John Spenser following his short time with Virgin Healthcare, one of the new bread of BigHealth companies.

"This web site covers a number of areas of concern relating to Virgin Healthcare and the wider Virgin Group and is written by John Spencer who worked for Virgin Healthcare until his resignation in February 2008.

"If there is any doubt about the accuracy or truthfulness of the contents of this site, (including the transcripts of covertly made phone calls) you might ask why Virgin have not produced an injunction aginst this site."

He goes into fine detail about the ethical problems he faced at Virgin - it is fascinating reading.

Wednesday, July 2, 2008


On the 60th anniversary of the NHS, the Green Party has called for a return to its original principles of public provision of healthcare, run for patients not profit, and free at the point of need. Greens will be joining the Keep Our NHS Public protest [1] outside the Department of Health at Richmond House on Friday 4th July at 4pm.

Green Party Principal Speaker Derek Wall said:

"Nye Bevan's legacy is being dismantled slowly and deliberately under New Labour's privatisation agenda. Brown has mortgaged our health with PFI, and handed cash intended for healthcare over to corporate shareholders. His latest idea of closing GP surgeries and replacing them with privatised polyclinics is shocking but not surprising.

"Our birthday present to the NHS must be to turn this around, restore its founding principles, and kick out the corporate profit makers. That means keeping our hospitals public, ending the closure of GP surgeries, and properly valuing the staff of this defining public service.

"The modernisation of the NHS should strengthen, not dismantle, its public service ethos. Local health centres should bring more services from major hospitals closer to patients, not hoover up GP surgeries and make services more remote. Co-operation, not competition, should guide the development of our health service, and patients should control their treatment through a genuine partnership with their doctor, not a bewildering and wasteful internal market."

Friday, June 27, 2008

Nurses, the new capitalists

Lord Darzi has announced that nurses are to run the NHS, but not in the traditional matron fashion, but as businesses.

While nurses often make reasonable managers (I include myself in this...), as I have repeatedly said the NHS should be a public service not a private company. Darzi seems as intent on privatisation as the ultra right-wing Doctors for Reform. These people are supposed to be in a caring profession, yet they are championing private profit over public service.

What is more, without democratic control of local services, the NHS is rudderless and providers will gravitate to the easy pickings in the market of healthcare, cherrypicking easy, profitable work at the expense of people in need.

And what really hacks me off is that crap that the right-wingers come out with. They can spout anti-tax and privatisation of health care, but to be paid for out of taxpayers money. THEY DON'T EQUATE!!! Either you have a for-profit system based on insurance, such as the US and leave millions to suffer and die or you have state provision through taxation and universal coverage, such as Cuba and er... the UK until 20 years ago.

Sunday, June 22, 2008


The debate on co-payments has increased again over the part couple of weeks and it seems to need exploring further.

The current debate seems to focus upon the Tory policy of top up health care, i.e. creating a two tier health care system that effective excludes people who can't afford to pay from receiving clinically effective treatment - breaking the founding policy of the NHS: health care based on clinical need not ability to pay.

Clearly the Tory policy is barking mad and should be opposed at every turn, however the current Labour policy appears to deny patients NHS care when they opt to have additional care on top of their NHS treatment. Desperate patients are therefore banned from seeking desperate alternative measures.This too seems wrong, but we need to understand why.

The top up rule was alledgely put in place top prevent doctors misusing the system to benefit their private practice and the Department of Health document: "A code of conduct for private practice: recommended standards of practice for NHS consultants"

The relevant section says:

2.13 Where a patient wishes to change from private to NHS status, consultants should help ensure that the following principles apply:
• a patient cannot be both a private and a NHS patient for the treatment of one condition during a single visit to a NHS organisation;

Interestingly this doesn't actually ban patients having top up treatments... although some trusts seem to treat it as such.

The key to the debate is whether or not the NHS can provide the full range of clinically effective treatments that patients need. Clearly the founding principle of the NHS states that it should and it seems that at present this principle is adhered to. The formation of NICE aids this principle (although I have some reservations about the processes behind NICE) providing a clear indication of what treatments are clinically effective and reasonable to be provided by the NHS.

The present system means that the founding principle is adhered to and ignoring that NICE could make mistakes, that BigPharma are great at publication bias, that alternative treatments not backed by BigPharma get little research funding, etc., this should make top-up treatments a complete waste of time and money.

However is people want to waste their time and money on extra treatments, should they be allowed to do this without being expelled from the NHS. I think the answer has to be yes.

Monday, June 16, 2008

How David Cameron can't deliver for the NHS

This is from the Torygraph today: How David Cameron can deliver for the NHS.

Toryboy describes how his party will:
  • increase spending on the NHS
  • to stop it being a political football, by creating an independent NHS board
  • anyone - a company, charity or NHS hospital - who can supply a service at the tariff set by the new NHS board should be free to supply it
Apparently: "The Conservatives can now afford to be radical on the NHS because the charge that they want to dismantle it just won't stick - all they are doing is following through Blair's revolution."

To take the last point first... how is radical simply following the current direction??? How can the Torygraph claim they won't dismantle the NHS when they are following Labour's policy of dismantling the NHS?

I'm sure spending on the NHS will increase, not matter which party is in government. The population is aging, inflation is rising. I doubt the Tories will increase spending in real terms - I'm sure that will decrease. Labour claim to have tripled spending on the NHS in the past 10 years, but it really just amounts to a 40% increase in real terms (not that I'm knocking that!).

The Tories are also backing Brown when it comes to independence for the NHS. For independence, read unaccountable. We need more accountability, not less! We need an NHS accountable to local people through local government.

Cameron's final policy is the continuation of Labour's market in healthcare providers.

These are the same policies as New Labour's. Now that's radical...

International Journal of Cuban Studies

The International Journal of Cuban Studies has been launched this evening:

Useful insights into Cuban society and how it could benefit the West. There is a particularly useful and well written piece on health care in Cuba...

Thursday, June 12, 2008

A week in the NHS

What a week.

Firstly, the government is against the wall on polyclinics with a million people signing the BMA's petition. Polyclinics, per se, are a good thing, the UK has had a form of them for some time (many community hospitals are in fact polyclinics). The problem comes when you attempt to build polyclinics to be run by 'for-profit' commercial BigHealth companies which replace and centralise local GP surgeries. (Not that there isn't a problem with GP surgeries being independent businesses anyway, but this is not the way to tackle it).

The pay ballots have been interesting to watch. The government has offered 8% over 3 years (pay increase of 2.75% from April, followed by further increases of 2.4% in 2009/10 and 2.25% in 2010/11), i.e three years of pay cuts to NHS staff. Unison and the RCN have accepted the deal but UNITE have rejected it. The RCN and Unison say that the deal is the best in the public sector! Doesn't say much for the public sector.

The RPI is running above 4% and you only have to look at energy and food prices to know that the real cost of living is going through the roof. Gordo's view is that public sector pay rises should be kept low to control inflation... i.e. stuff the nurses.

Sunday, June 8, 2008

Support your surgery!

This petition is from the BMA who seem to be up for a fight with Labour. Today's Observer spells out some of the rhetoric... I bet the Tories are rubbing their hands with trouble being caused while secretly being envious that they didn't think of it first.

Of course we don't want to see the closure of GP surgeries but remember they are currently run as small businesses anyway, but the petition below calls for them not to be sold to BigHealth - so please sign it!

Petition is here:

In the 60th year of the NHS, we, the undersigned, petition the Prime Minister to:

• Continue to support our existing NHS GP surgeries
• Improve services to patients by further investment in existing GP surgeries

We also urge the Government to halt its plans to promote the use of commercial companies in general practice because this risks destabilising our local surgeries and threatens the comprehensive, high quality care we receive from our GPs. We don't want public funding to move from GP practices to commercial companies who are accountable primarily to shareholders rather than patients. We want to be treated by GPs who see us as patients, not as customers.

Tuesday, June 3, 2008

Failing hospitals

Yesterday we heard how the majority of consultants were against the privatisation of the NHS. Today we are to learn that 'failing' hospitals are to be handed over to private companies...

Of course the government listens to clinicians: it listens and then heads off in the opposite direction.

So what is a failing hospital, why has it failed and what should be done about them? Answers on a postcard - or better still post a comment below!

Saturday, May 31, 2008

Peak Oil - Radical Change Req'd

Letter in this weeks Health Service Journal:


The article in last week's HSJ (15 May) on rising fuel prices and its impact on hospitals was timely and welcome. However, it only scratched the surface of the issue.

Peak oil, the main cause of the continuing rise in fuel and energy prices, has arrived. Its impact on healthcare over the coming years will be more disastrous and cause more instability than we can possibly imagine.

Peak oil is the phenomenon caused when the extraction rate, i.e. supply, of crude oil reaches its maximum and begins to slow, unlike the demand for oil which continues to rise. Rather than just scratching the surface of finding slightly cheaper suppliers, the end of cheap oil means that we need a fundamental rethink on how healthcare services are provided.

Oil sits not only at the basis of energy supply but also at the basis of food, medicine and transportation. There is a need to completely reshape how we provide healthcare, reversing centralisation, privatisation and marketisation and focusing properly on public health and public provision.

Stuart Jeffery
Health spokesperson for the Green Party

Friday, May 30, 2008

Chan Wheeler Extradited?

Probably not.. but news that Chan Wheeler has resigned have apparently thrown into question the future of his 'Commercial Directorate' - hurrah!

The government were paying him around £200k a year plus accommodation just to help privatise the NHS despite the fraud enquiry about his dealings in the US.

Well he has left for 'personal reasons'. It would be very remiss of anyone to speculate what those personal reasons might be, but would extradition for fraud count as a personal reason?

Whatever his reasons for leaving may be, the country needs to sell off the NHS to the highest bidder as much as it needs to start illegal wars in the middle east that kill 650,000 people; or build nuclear power stations to ensure future generations really suffer; or to build more airports, roads and to drill for more oil so that the climate is truly buggered.

Sunday, May 18, 2008

Migrants and health care

This is from an email from my friend:

This article, from Wednesday's Guardian, is highly relevant and the policy (RA405) adopted at Spring Conference this year states our support for the rights of migrants to healthcare regardless of status:

RA405 The Green Party will oppose any person being left destitute after a failed asylum claim or if deemed to have not applied "appropriately". Any person in the United Kingdom should be entitled to the basic necessities of life, including but not limited to food, shelter and medical care, by legal means, whether this be achieved through employment rights or public funds.

Moyra Rushby, quoted in the article, spoke at a well attended fringe meeting held by GPTU on migrant workers at that conference.

What is happening (as given in the example near the end) is truly inhumane treatment by the NHS of vulnerable people who suffer because of a system that is chronically underfunded. It is a small step from this to the idea that 'if you haven't put into the box, you aren't allowed anything out'. If undocumented migrants can't get healthcare while they remain in the UK, why should someone who has never paid taxes? Once healthcare is not seen as an inalienable human right, we are on a very slippery slope indeed.

Health, Trade and Human Rights - Theodore H MacDonald

Just finished reading this excellent book by Theo Macdonald. Somehow he had passed me by until recently, but researching Cuban health care I kept coming across his name so I thought I ought to read what he has to say.

The book deals primarily with the structural adjustment programmes enforced by IMF / World Bank. These have had devastating consequences as market based solutions have been foisted on the developing world (effectively stopping them develop). He shows the economic, environmental and social devastation caused by these programmes.

MacDonald talks of three broad areas of solutions covering political alternatives, community organisation and environmental sustainability. He covers the Red and Green agendas well in his discussions.

Friday, May 16, 2008

Publication Bias

It seems that Herceptin is not quite as good as it was made out to be. It appears that, yet again, unpublished data has been found that counteracts some of the positive results that were published. Unpublished research, sometimes know as grey research / grey data amounts to bias in the evidence.

When I put out a press release urging caution on Herceptin a couple of years ago, I received an interesting letter from Roche telling me how wrong I was!

This is from the Guardian and the article in The Lancet

Monday, May 12, 2008

Greens label Labour MP's inoculation proposal a breach of fundamental human rights

Green Party health spokesperson Stuart Jeffery today condemned a Labour MP's proposal to force parents into inoculating their children as 'shocking' and 'inherently discriminatory', accusing the Mary Creagh MP and the Labour affiliated Fabian Society of running the risk of 'holding a child's future to ransom'.

Mr Jeffery spoke out after Ms Creagh MP suggested that, in order to increase the uptake of the MMR vaccine, children who have not received all their vaccinations should not be allowed to start school. On top of this, public health expert Sir Sandy Macara wrote in the Fabian Society's magazine that the Government should consider linking child benefits to vaccinations. (1)

Mr Jeffery said

"Coming from a Labour minister and Labour affiliated think-tank, this proposal is as shocking and surprising as it is inherently discriminatory against children from less wealthy backgrounds.

"Child benefit is a life-line for poorer families. Reducing this for whatever reason simply increases child poverty, and will serve only to penalise children for the actions of their parents.

Commenting on the ethical and moral implications of the proposal, Mr Jeffery added

"A child's access to education is a fundamental human right, and one that must not be based on any external conditions, such as medical intervention. This proposal would effectively be holding a child's future to ransom.

"An effective programme of vaccination is a key plank to improving public health, and should be achieved through good clinical evidence, scientific persuasion and public trust. Forcing parents to have their children inoculated through fines and conditional terms is discriminatory and an infringement of human rights."


Sunday, May 11, 2008

Vaccine opt-out penalty

News from the BBC website this morning talks of a call by the Fabians and a Labour MP to impose fines on children who do not have vaccines.

They are suggesting the children should have to prove they are vaccinated before they start school and that child benefit is linked to vaccinations.

Surely this breaks a whole host of ethical and moral codes. Child benefit is a life line for poorer families and reducing this will simply increase child poverty, penalising children for the actions of their parents. Immumisation rates for MMR are lower in more affluent areas, where reductions in child benefit will make no difference anyway. So we have a policy that discriminates against the poor and against children.

And as for denying children the right to education - this is a human right, not a right based on some medical intervention. What next? Children excluded from school if they are not electronically tagged? Parents filmed by over 300 CCTV cameras each day... oh they already are!

Effective levels of vaccination are one of the key planks in improving public health, but should be achieved through good clinical evidence, persuasion and trust not fines, discrimination and infringements of human rights.


Saturday, May 10, 2008

Peak Oil and electronic health records

Dan Bednarz is continuing to do a lot of good work in the US spreading the word about peak oil and its relationship to health care. This piece is from a talk he gave to a group of nurses. In it he mentions that electronic healthcare records might not be possible in the future... obviously a US thing - electronic records are quite a way off all together here!

Given the need to reduce our energy use in the face of peak oil, and given that electronic records will only add marginal clinical benefit to patient care (the talk of clinicians knowing about your medical history through access to an electronic health care record is of great use in a small number of cases, but for many patients could detract from useful assessment and diagnostic thinking), do we really need to continue with them?

His main points are summarised below and the full article is available from The Oil Drum:


1. I feel safe observing that the vast majority of insurance companies, medical associations, HMOs and other hospital associations will resist facing the stark consequences of peak oil because they are benefiting from the status quo. On the other hand, those hospitals with a mission for stewardship of the earth and charitable activity are likely to be among the first to recognize the need for radical change in medical care.

2. In the same vein, it's obvious that nursing is not prospering even though it is in some ways the backbone of the system. Your profession's main themes for reforming the healthcare system should center-–I hate to use the word "should"--around radical resource conservation and efficiency, and the elimination of wasteful and environmentally harmful practices. In other words, reduce, reuse, recycle, and repair.

3. Simultaneously, there will be a political struggle for the soul of healthcare: We will look to other nations with decent health systems where three core values predominate: 1) no one goes bankrupt due to medical status; 2) no one is denied treatment for any reason, and 3) preventive and treatment medicine are integrated. This means one response to energy downturn leads to healthcare for all. The alternative to this is medicine becoming something for the wealthy few, with the rest of society receiving what amounts to triage-–or, alternatively, home care or "folk medicine." In some respects these alternatives represent the familiar themes of the Jeffersonian/egalitarian and Hamiltonian/elitist traditions.

4. By forming a coalition with public health and even some of the growing number of doctors who favor a "single-payer" system, nursing can shape the transformation of our healthcare system.

Monday, May 5, 2008

Monbiot on polyclinics

Great piece by Monbiot in the Grauniad last week. Monbiot exposes the government's drive to centralise and hand GPs over to 'BigHealth', the corporate health care companies such as United Health, Netcare, and more latterly, Virgin.

This policy screws patient care, sticks two fingers up at local communities, puts more traffic on our roads and hands vast profits to BigHealth. I acknowledge that GPs have always been outside of the NHS and have reaped gross profits in recent years, I also acknowledge that they need tackling - but not like this... GP should be brought into the NHS and paid a fair salary and surgery staff should be paid a fair salary too.

Polyclinics that consume local GP surgeries are wrong. Polyclinics that provide an additional layer of health care, such as in Cuba, are what we need. In Cuba, GPs have small practices, often single handed and looking after around 700 people (compared with perhaps 2000 per GP in the UK and 6000 per practice). They then have polyclinics to provide out of hours GP services, XRAYs, minor injuries, therapies, consultant outpatients etc. These form a bridge between hospitals and GP surgeries - this is the model that we need. Cuba has the most efficient health care in the world.

However, Labour want to make sure that their BigHealth friends rake in huge profits and stuff real people (and of course the Tories are furious about this as they never had the balls to do it, but you can be certain that despite the 'safe in their hands' crap, they would be selling the NHS off just as fast now).


By George Monbiot. Published in the Guardian 29th April 2008.
Everything is getting bigger and further away. Hospitals, post offices, schools and prisons are being “rationalised” and “consolidated”. The government says that this process improves efficiency. Instead, it outsources inefficiency: we must travel further to use public services. This is bad for the environment, bad for community life, bad for universal provision. But we haven’t seen anything yet. We are about to be confronted with the biggest shutdown of all: the government has started the process of closing England’s network of doctors’ surgeries.

Saturday, April 12, 2008

Bighealth - the corporate invasion of the NHS

The take over of GP surgeries by bighealth continues to anger people. This is from the Evening Standard, usually noted for its right wing opinions - yet discussing the opposition to corporatisation of health care.

"The deal with United Health Europe opens the way to the privatisation of family doctors' practices. It comes after a government push to put primary care into corporate hands.

"Doctors have warned that patients could suffer as conglomerates offer "cut-price deals" to win contracts. Health trusts are already under pressure to keep costs down after two years of tackling debt."

Of course the debt argument is no longer valid with the NHS heading for a £1.8 billion underspend at the last estimate. Remember this is £1.8 billion that should have been spent on patient care...

More here from the Camden New Journal. It is bizarre, but welcome, that the Tories and LibDems are fighting this as they are both supportive of bighealth. No hint of nimbyist politicking there!

On a similar vein, this piece (again from the Evening Standard - not a paper that I read very often really!!!) shows one of the real problems with corporatisation - this time the take over of the UK by TESCOs and its effect on the economics and lives of local people.

These takeovers must be fought. We have to reverse the bland and destructive forces of these corporations that benefit shareholders not local people.

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Camden GPs

The fight to save Camden GPs is hotting up. There is now on online petition which I urge people to sign:

Big business has its sights on all aspects of healthcare provision and will be disasterous for us - just look at the US model to see how bad it can be.

Also, Monbiot's article last week was, as usual, brilliantly incisive.

Friday, March 7, 2008

Right lurch for Lib Dem health policy

Another lurch to the right from the Lib Dems. They look set to follow the Tory and Labour policies of taking work out of the NHS and sending it to the private sector paid for by taxes. More shrinkage in the NHS, less money for a service that has suffered greatly and needs support - why would any sane party back this?

This is from the BBC:

Nick Clegg faces a fresh test of his authority as Lib Dems prepare to vote on plans for a more personalised NHS.
The Lib Dem leader is seeking to put a bruising revolt over Europe behind him as he gears up for his party's spring conference in Liverpool.
But his plans for a decentralised NHS - with more private care - are expected to spark a grassroots rebellion.
It comes as the Tories accuse Mr Clegg of stealing their policies. Labour has also proposed a "personalised" NHS.
The Lib Dems' NHS shake-up plans include directly-elected local health boards and greater use of the private sector.
Mr Clegg is also proposing a "patient guarantee" - which will allow people to go private if they can not get the treatment they need from the NHS.
He denied this was the same as the former Conservative policy of a "patient passport".
'Vulnerable people'
The Tory policy was a "passport out of the NHS," he told BBC News, but the Lib Dem proposals only came in when the NHS had failed to provide.
He told a rally in a room at the new Liverpool arena, as the conference opened on Friday evening, that the proposals were about putting patients first.
"When the health service fails to meet the standards to which vulnerable people are entitled, they should be allowed to look elsewhere for the treatment they need," he told a packed room.
But some activists are concerned about proposals to give local authorities the power to take over the provision of health care and the greater involvement of the private sector.

Sunday, February 17, 2008

Kick out United Health Europe

An emergency motion to Green Party Spring Conference in Reading has voiced strong opposition to the inroads of health privateers such as United Health Europe into UK public healthcare:


The Green Party is extremely concerned to learn that a private American health firm (United Health Europe) has won control of three GP surgeries in London. We fear that this is the first step in an attempt to corporatise health care in the UK.

We believe that this is being done without any proper consultation with the citizens of the UK, who as stakeholders are the true owners of the NHS. We also fear that this paves the way to monopolistic malpractice and profiteering if it allows retail and pharmacuetical conglomerates such as Boots and Tesco to have any control over the salaries, judgements and activities of GP's and other primary health care providers.

We pledge our full support to opposition to this disgraceful step and any others like it by Gp's patients and pensioner groups and trades unions in the health sector.

We call on the Green party spokespersons nationally, locally and regionally to promptly issue public statements condemning this corportatisation and call upon the Green Party press office to give such statements maximum promotion.

Thursday, February 14, 2008

Virgin Births and Private Polys

Green Party health spokesperson Stuart Jeffery will launch the Green Party response to the NHS reports by Lord Darzi this Friday (15th February) at Green Party Spring Conference in Reading, warning that the increased provision for private companies in the NHS will spell only fragmentation and centralisation for the health service.

The two reports by Darzi over the last 6 months sets out the agenda for future of health care in London and the rest of England. The reports attempt to address accountability, access, public health and safety in the NHS. They key recommendations set out by Lord Darzi promotes the increased capacity of private providers in the NHS and calls for a creation of polyclinics to replace local GP clinics.

Entitled 'Virgin Births and Private Polys', the Green Party response will criticise the report on several keys aspects:

1) The support of private providers, creating an 'inflexible, unaccountable and expensive' NHS.

2) Strengthening the 'marketisation' of healthcare through the 'choice' agenda.

3) Encouraging fragmentation of healthcare through private providers.

4) Centralising GP surgeries into polyclinics and the centralisation of hospital services

5) Backing the corporate health care providers to take over GP surgeries, end of life care, secondary care and other services.

6) Failing to understand the wider connection between society and health, promoting a medicalised approach to health promotion rather than addressing the real issues.

Commenting on the Darzi report, Green health spokesperson and author of 'Virgin Births and Private Polys' Stuart Jeffery, said

"Darzi's reports are more of the same privatisation, privatisation, privatisation agenda from New Labour. It is fragmenting health care and costing taxpayers millions, and must stop. Darzi's reports are lackluster, and fail to understand many key issues affecting the people's health and also what people want from their NHS.

"Darzi thinks he can fix health problems by some old style health promotion, whereas Greens are aware that society, poverty and the environment are the major determinants of health. Darzi thinks that people want distant specialist hospitals to choose from whereas we know that people want, and need, good local services that they can trust.

"The proposal to introduce polyclinics to replace GP surgeries is appalling. Polyclinics should be introduced as an additional layer of care, rather than as a centralisation of services. Darzi also mercilessly promotes private providers, who have been shown to fragment care, be expensive, and remain unaccountable.

"Richard Branson has now entered the health care market, with the opportunity to run public services such as GP surgeries and maternity units. It is only a matter of time before we end up with expensive Virgin Births."


Notes for editors:

Launch of 'Virgin Births and Private Polys' will be on Friday 15th February, at 18.00 at Green Party Reading Town Hall.

Thursday, February 7, 2008

Fluoride, poison in our water


Green Party health spokesperson Stuart Jeffery today slated controversial Government plans to fluoridate national water supplies, claiming that medicating people without permission breaches European Human Rights conventions.

With Health Secretary Alan Johnson's recommendation that fluoride should be routinely added to UK water supplies, Green Party health spokesperson Mr. Jeffery said

"Besides the reality of negative health effects, this is an issue of medical ethics. Fluoridating water is essentially medicating people without their permission, and the European Convention on Human Rights and Biomedicine distinctly states that individuals have the right not to be medicated without their consent.

"Poor dental health is a complex public health issue. The root causes are poor diet and inadequate dental hygiene. Typically the government seems more concerned with dangerous knee-jerk action and to be seen 'doing something', rather than confronting the real causes of the problem.

"While we continue to feed refined sugar to our children in schools, efforts to reduce tooth decay will be in vain."

Mr. Jeffery continued

"The health case for fluoride has been far from made. Claims about the effectiveness of fluoride simply do not stand up to close scrutiny. While topical fluoride on teeth does help prevent tooth decay, there is simply no good evidence that systemic fluoride does.

"Fluoride is a known poison if ingested over a long period of time, even in small daily doses. Its consumption has been linked to a range of medical afflictions including severe skeletal problems, fluorosis (discoloration of the teeth), osteosarcoma (a rare form of bone cancer) in boys, and problems affecting the central nervous system.

"Most European countries have managed to reduce levels of tooth decay in recent years, in almost all cases without fluoridation.

"The Green Party wants to see a programme of education for children and adults regarding proper dental hygiene and a healthy diet, a health warning on all sources of fluoride intended for human
consumption, and a ban on the fluoridation of drinking water."

Tuesday, January 29, 2008

Social care - or lack of it.


Green Party Health Spokesperson Stuart Jeffery today responded to the annual 'State of the Nation' report from the Commission for Social Care Inspection.

The report has, for the first time, explored the experiences of people not deemed eligible for state-supported social care - either because their need is not considered critical enough or because they are found to have sufficient funds of their own to provide to pay for their own

Mr Jeffery said:

"Today's report is a damming inditement of the state of social care in England.

"Recent local area settlements and last year's comprehensive spending review have combined to force local authorities to cutback on vital services, and some of the most vulnerable people in our society are feeling the effects.

"The number of people receiving support from their local council has fallen in recent years. Seven out of ten councils now restrict their services to those people whose needs are defined as 'substantial' or 'critical'.

"Government care minister Ivan Lewis has responded - announcing a fundamental review of eligibility criteria, but an enormous amount of the problems that people are experiencing on the front line are just to do with a dearth of funds."

Pointing to the green paper due for release later this year, Mr. Jeffery concluded

"The Government has a tremendous opportunity to re-frame the whole social care system, ransforming it into one that reflects our aging society's hanging needs.

"This is an open and shut case - budget cuts at a national level mean some of the most vulnerable in our society are not receiving the support they desperately need at a local level.

"The Green Party want to see all social care provided free at the point of need. If there is dispute between the person requiring care and the local authority there should be an independent assessment and appeals process. This is the best way to ensure equity and the best way for us to care for the vulnerable members of our society.

"We desperately need to see this and future governments commit to spending a higher proportion of public money on social care - as a matter of urgency."

Thursday, January 24, 2008

Health Service - Lib Dem Style

I sent this to the Guardian a couple of days ago after the announcement of the LibDem health service plans:

Dear Editor,

It seems that Nick Clegg's 'policy on the hoof' approach to NHS would simply undermine an already fragile system. The Lib Dems clearly havenot thought through their ideas and considered the impacts.

For example, directly elected health boards are a waste of time and money - there is already a system of local government that the NHS should be accountable to, why does he feel the need to reinvent the wheel?

As for individual budgets, these are an appalling neo-liberal concept that will simply increase inequalities. The whole point of the NHS is that it is based on need, not want; next he will be advocating top up payments! And how will £2 billion cover the care budget for the elderly,
he obviously hasn't done his sums. Personal care should be free, Scotland have managed to do it, but England couldn't do it with just £2bn.

The LibDems have really shown that they do not understand health care with these announcements. What is needed is an end to private sector provision and an end to the healthcare market economy, this will really free up cash to be invested in high quality services for patients. Astonishingly, The Green Party remains the only major party to say NO the privatisation of the NHS.

Stuart Jeffery
Health Spokesperson for the Green Party

Sunday, January 20, 2008

Lib Dem health policy takes a lurch to the right.

Firstly, accountability for health care services to local people is Green Party policy too, but we say accountable to local government, not a separately elected board. Loads of cross over benefit with public health measures would be possible having both under one roof.

Secondly, if patient's needs are not being met then the NHS needs to meet them, not give the money to corporate fat cats.

Thirdly, if local people can increase their contribution to health care spending, surely that will increase inequalities with poorer areas losing out.


Lib Dem leader Nick Clegg has launched an attack on the way the NHS is run, describing it as a service in "crisis".

He told the BBC he would hand control of the NHS to local people

The Lib Dems would introduce locally elected health boards, Mr Clegg told the Andrew Marr show, and if patients' needs were not met they would be able to have private treatment paid for by the NHS.

The party would also scrap centralised targets and give people the power to raise cash for health services through a local income tax.

"If you are going to give local communities more say over health services, they should also be able to vary, maybe raise extra money," said the Lib Dem leader.

Thursday, January 17, 2008

Green light for hybrid research

This is quite revolting and should not have happened. We screw around with nature like this at our peril. I find it hard to believe that the public were fine with this idea - we only have to think about the public reaction to GM food. Also killing off the embryos after 14 days, not that they would be viable, but really - the whole area is simply macabre.

Hybrids are made using an animal egg mixed with human genes
This is from the BBC:

Regulators have given scientists the green light to create human-animal embryos for research.

The Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority granted permission after a consultation showed the public were "at ease" with the idea.


Scientists want to create hybrid embryos by merging human cells with animal eggs in a bid to extract stem cells. The embryos would then be destroyed within 14 days.

The cells form the basic building blocks of the body and have the potential to become any tissue, making them essential for research.

It is already illegal to implant human-animal embryos in the womb or bring them to term.

Saturday, January 12, 2008

Save Henderson Hospital

The campaign is growing to save Henderson Hospital: there is an online Prime Minister petition here.

This is what the BBC had to say today:

Lawyers are planning a High Court challenge to the proposed closure of a hospital which helps people with complex mental health problems.

Solicitors acting for in-patients at the Henderson Hospital in Sutton, Surrey, said its closure would have a serious impact.

They estimate it would halve the number of beds available to people with personality disorder.

Friday, January 11, 2008

Nuclear power and cancer

Channel 4 have reported on further evidence on the link between nuclear power and cancer:

"Channel 4 News online exclusive: Leukaemia risk "doubled" for children who live near nuclear power stations - new German research. 'The finding cannot be dismissed' Professor Anthony Thomas, Dept of Public Health Sciences, University of Toronto"

The Low Level Radiation Campaign has been researching this for years and their site contains very useful information.

Estimates of the death toll from Chernobyl range up to 500,000 and don't forget that hundreds of UK farms are still affected by the fallout from Chernobyl.

So all that it needed is for our government to back a new generation of nuclear power stations that will not provide energy security and will be too late to reduce our carbon footprint to make a difference.

Monday, January 7, 2008

More privatisation of the NHS by Brown

In response to Gordon Bush/Blair/Brown's announcement on the future of health care, this went out from the Green Party yesterday:

The Green Party have today hit out at Gordon Brown's plans for the
expansion of preventative medicine, accusing the Government of
creating a smoke screen for more stealth NHS privatisation and further
opening up NHS funds for private profit.

Green Party Member of the European Parliament, Jean Lambert, said:

"Brown's announcement that his Government intends to shift the focus
of the NHS towards preventative medicine would be warmly welcomed if
we thought that this was more than him just trying to shift the public
focus away from his agenda of rampant privatisation.

"Gordon Brown doesn't even seem to understand what prevention is. He
is suggesting that screening is preventative; it is not, of course. It
simply picks up an illness earlier. Better personal and public health
is the key to prevention of illness, not early detection. If Brown
was sincerely committed to disease prevention he would be rejecting
new nuclear power builds, coal-fired power stations and Heathrow
airport expansion to avoid the potential ill-health effects of the
resulting pollution.

"Brown is overseeing a radical privatisation of NHS services that
Thatcher could only dream of. The announcement of these screening
initiatives must not divert attention from his plans to boost
corporate profits at the expense of our health service."

Saturday, January 5, 2008

Peak Oil - Public Health is Fundamental

Dan Bednarz is the leading writer on Peak Oil and Healthcare. The challenges faced by health care are perhaps greater culturally than in other sectors. Our entire health care system is built on oil and writers generally consider that we need to radically rethink our approach. However we tackle it we need to rapidly improve public health...

This is an excerpt from Bednarz's latest offering, this time with Kirsten Bradford:

"With few exceptions, medicine is not preparing for global warming and the approaching zeniths in the extraction of oil, natural gas and coal from the earth (often referred to as peak oil). The implications of these intertwined socioeconomic and geopolitical perils are stupefying, with global warming calling for radical reductions in the use of fossil fuels to reduce carbon emissions – most estimates calculate 80% or more by 2050. "

Thursday, January 3, 2008

Conservatives - the party of the NHS

This is from the Tory party, the party that wants to make itself the party of the NHS. I could have sworn that this was New Labour policy...

"David Cameron yesterday pledged to dock payments to NHS trusts for every patient who is infected with MRSA or other hospital-acquired superbugs." Guardian 3rd Dec

I sent a response to the Guardian:


The Conservatives want to be the party of the NHS yet they seem to backing the most bizarre of recent health care ideas. Taking money away from hospitals that need it to improve infection control is the most counter-productive measure possible and will endanger the lives of thousands.

If Cameron's health ideas are that strapped for cash, a better idea would be to fine or prosecute the drug companies whose products cause in excess of 3000 deaths each year while making huge profits.

Stuart Jeffery
Health Spokesperson for the Green Party

Wednesday, January 2, 2008

Most Astonishing Health Disaster of the 20th Century

I haven't been able to verify the statistics quoted in this video by Dr Mercola (see but the message is certainly one that rings very true.