Tag Archives: NHS

The partially privatised NHS patient transport system is failing us all

This article was published on Open Democracy.

Sat in the waiting room of Cheltenham Hospital with my Dad I started to google ‘Arriva NHS patient transport’. I had already read all that Hello magazine had to offer, what else was I to do?

And so, I read to fill the time. I read about the company that many local NHS Trusts have contracted to provide patient transport. I read with bemusement about their commitments “to the highest quality of care” and about how patients “inspire” them “to achieve excellence” and laughed to myself about how this failed to tally with my experience. I also started to read alarming numbers of patient testimonies describing being let down by them. About how the most vulnerable were being left for hours with no adequate care.

That morning I had sat by myself for hours as my Dad failed to show up for his appointment. He was coming from Cirencester, less than half an hour’s drive away, but finally arrived close to 2 hours late. They had picked him up 15 minutes after his appointment time and then proceeded to pick other patients up on the way meandering through Cotswold villages.

In that time, I rescheduled his appointment, twice. The receptionist was wonderfully understanding and yet deeply scathing about Arriva. She gave me their direct number saying that the dispatch office of Arriva no longer listened to her. “It shouldn’t but it happens all the time, where we can we will always try and fit people in. Often, I end up having to book patients taxis, it’s not right that people should have to wait around like this” she said.

She was apologetic, nice, but in her mind, unable to help or affect the system that was failing patients.

After the appointment was over Arriva informed me that they were, once again, running late. I rang them directly. They apologised over the phone to me and said that there would be an hour delay in getting my Dad picked up.  This was at 12:15, about the time I had originally agreed to take over looking after my 5-month-old baby, and about 1 hour after my 2-hour parking ticket had run out.

What happened next was bordering on the farcical. To be exact:

  • I rang at 12:15 to be told they would be there by 1:15.
  • I rang at 1:30 to be told they would be there by 2:00
  • I rang at 2:15 to be told they would be there by 2:30
  • I rang at 2:45 to be told they would be there by 3:00
  • I rang at 3:10 and they arrived a few minutes later.

When they did arrive, they apologised for being late by saying “we weren’t sure which department you were in”. I didn’t quite have the emotional energy to respond. I had arrived that morning at 10:30 to support my Dad through a 5-minute routine appointment. I was leaving close to 5 hours later.

Sadly, though this seems far from unusual. As one nurse who came out to see us still waiting retorted, “why am I not surprised to see you still here?”. My cursory google search gave dozens of comparable stories. 67-year old Brian Cropton from Stonehouse commented that “it’s just getting worse and worse” after he found himself regularly let down by them being left for hours and on occasion completely abandoned.

This chimes not only with the experience of the NHS staff who I spoke to, but also one of the official records. Last year in July members of Gloucestershire County Council’s Health and Care Overview and Scrutiny Committee told Arriva its performance was not good enough. One local Cllr commented that “Arriva have patently failed in a number of areas and it simply isn’t good enough” and that “[The] report is full of excuses”.

This came a year after an official warning was issued in late 2015 for “consistent failure to achieve a number of required Key Performance Indicator standards”.

I write this now not just because my own experience was awful but because it fits into a wider pattern – not once since Arriva Transport Ltd took the Gloucestershire NHS contract have they hit their own target of 95% of patients being dropped off between 45 minutes before and 15 minutes after their appointments. Pause on this point for a minute. Even if they had hit their targets, 1 in 20 patients would not be dropped off within an hour slot of their appointments. Can you imagine the logistical and financial impact this is having?

With one year left on their contract, I wonder if anything will change. Will it just be renewed? Is the NHS in a financial state to pay for better services? Is there any reason not to bring the service back in-house?

I don’t know. What I do know though is that the receptionist I spoke to told me about an elderly man who cried in her waiting room because he just wanted to get back to his bed and I know that is not OK.

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Filed under Gloucestershire, Health

The NHS and the blaming of rape victims

 

This poster was produced in 2006 and serves as one of many examples of institutionalized forms of ‘victim blaming’.

victim blaming

I was slightly horrified to see this poster re-circulating on social media this morning. It is yet another example of ‘victim blaming’ – the suggestion that a victim of rape was somehow at fault because of her behaviour. 

This poster becomes that bit more shocking when you spot that it is produced, published and distributed by our own government.

‘Victim blaming’ is one of those myths that I spend so much of my time trying to counter. Simply, a rape is never the victims fault – the blame always ultimately rests with those who put their penis inside someone without that other persons consent. 

Simple.

Or, in the words of the NHS (in a separate campaign to the ‘Know your limits’ campaign):

“If you have been sexually assaulted, remember that it wasn’t your fault. It doesn’t matter what you were wearing, where you were or whether you had been drinking. A sexual assault is always the fault of the perpetrator.”

If the NHS did want to draw some connections between alcohol consumption and sexual assault though without slipping down this dangerous road of victim blaming, they could have made the exact same poster with the words:

“approximately one-half of all sexual assaults are committed by men who have been drinking alcohol.”

One study on alcohol and sexual assault concluded it’s literature review saying:

“Depending on the sample studied and the measures used, the estimates for alcohol use among perpetrators have ranged from 34 to 74 percent”. 

The same study estimates that at least 20 percent of American men report having perpetrated sexual assault and 5 percent report having committed rape. The obvious conclusion to this is that 10% of American men have committed sexual assault after they have been drinking.

This issue is a serious one that involves facing up to taboos as well as a very well funded drinks industry. Our safety, not just of girls, but all of us depends on tackling this. I don’t think it is hyperbole to say we are in midst of an unspoken epidemic.

Sadly this contribution from the NHS to the debate adds little but does reinforce an incredibly negative persistent perception that the victim is somehow to blame for being raped.

 

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Filed under Beer, Health, Politics

Booze Britain – The new Beer Barron!

When did it end up like this? Thanks to Bistrosavage (flickr)

Today the Barron’s report on how to tackle the UK’s drinking problem (which one?) was released with much media fanfare. Kevin Barron (the Chair of the Health select committee) proposes in this report two main policy idea’s on how to tackle “Booze Britain”. Idea Number One, he suggests a minimum charge of a 50p per unit of alcohol. Idea Number 2, he suggests a reversal of the 24 hour licensing that came into effect in 2003.

Firstly, let’s get it on the record, that I, steve4319 think that Britain has a serious alcohol problem. We can see hundreds of drink drive related deaths per year, billions of pounds spent annually by the NHS on alcohol related illnesses and this is without mentioning the personal horror stories that many have witnessed from alcohol abuse and dependency (note they are two separate things but are often confused). Something has to be done. Yet, this piece of social policy seems about as sensible as downing a tequila slammer just after “bottle rocketing” some stellar (believe me it doesn’t end well).

Let’s take the proposed 50p minimum charge for a unit of alcohol. This would mean that you could still get 1 pound pints, 50p shots of vodka and (if so wished) a 50p shot put into the top of a pint of larger (yes this is common practice in Weatherspoons up and down the country). Essentially, it would not tackle those slightly disgusting scenes of fully grown men vomiting on each other’s shoes in the early hours in town centers. It would not stop the cat fights that break out between inebriated girls. Most importantly, it would not put a dent in the business plan of J.D Weatherspoons of “buy cheap, sell cheap”.

What it would do is hit the supermarket drunks. It would hit those who buy bottles of wine (it would mean each bottle would be at least 4-5 pounds), those who buy crates of beer (your looking about 24 quid a case) and the bottles of spirits (for a 70 cl bottle expect to pay at least 14 pounds) – assuming I have done my math’s right! When I use the phrase supermarket drunks, you imagine a homeless guy with a can of special brew…think again. The supermarkets are being hit by a respectable wave of middle classes consuming incredible amounts of alcohol. It is a hidden face of alcohol abuse in the UK. Your doctor, your teacher and the nice man in the bank are probably going home every other evening and consuming a bottle of wine (each). OK, they do not end up urinating on war memorials but they are still doing serious damage to themselves.

So, I hear you cry…surely if this 50p a unit idea helps tackle this, it must be a good idea. I will explain why it is not on two levels. Firstly, this catch all policy disadvantages the majority to help the minority. As a rule of thumb that is not a good piece of social policy. It depends though, how much it disadvantages some in relation to helping others. In this case, due to the middle class nature of those it intends to help, it would not significantly help those it is aimed at. On the other-hand, it will hit the poorest section of our society that spends literally a few pounds a week on alcohol. It will not affect all you who appreciate a good 2001 Rioja, but it will affect those who appreciate the 2.99 specials!

Secondly, I wish to question whether it is up to the state to moderate self-harming practices (which is different to public issues such as town centers on Friday nights). Most ordinary people would not advocate complete prohibition (enjoy it in moderation blah blah), but feel as though alcohol can, and should be enjoyed in moderation. In a free society should this balance not be left to the individual to reach? While 3 pints of beer is considered (including by Her Majesty’s government) to be “binge drinking”, I would personally consider it a good night down the pub! On the other-hand we can see that 3 pints would leave some people on the floor. I think that alcohol consumption should be like other aspects of adult life where we learn (through experience and advice) how to live as functioning people. In the past I have drunk too much too often, now I only occasionally drink too much – job done. This however, has to be accompanied by sufficient support mechanisms (provided by the state) to help those in need with serious problems (that represent the minority). This idea of the state trying to force people to drink less through economic sanctions is surely mislead.

There is then the issue of the reversing of the 24 hour licensing law! I still feel that one of the main problems with drinking is the associated problems (the vomiting on each other’s shoes scenario, the street fights etc). The staging of club dispensing is a good thing in terms of public order. There is nothing more terrifying than looking down a high street (sober enough to remember it) at 2-3 AM on a Saturday morning. It makes the police lives easier if they can focus on a hand-full of establishments at a time. Equally, the strict licensing times do not tackle the core of the problem, why people are drinking themselves unconscious every Friday and Saturday night (and causing all the health implications).

The idea of not being thrown out of a pub at 11 is a great idea. We no longer live in an era when we have our supper at 6:30 and are in bed by 11. I think by opening later, the bars and clubs are simply reflecting this. To suggest that by limiting the amount of time people have to drink that they will drink less is ludicrous. We can see the real problems starting when people are restricted in the amount of time they have to drink (the “downing culture”). Indeed, we can see through examples across Europe, that it is not the opening hours that are the issue; it’s the “way” we drink.

I am not pretending to hold a solution to this one. Our drinking culture is a complex one. I will however, state that I can see alcohol as part of a functioning society. The idea of going down the pub with your mates is a healthy one that should be supported. We have been enjoying a good tipple for centuries. I do not want to see this being disadvantaged because of an over-zealous government trying (but failing) to help the minority. Here are some initial observations that might highlight why we have such a problem in this country…feel free to add any I have missed:

 • The round system – our stingy nature means that if you buy one drink, you basically commit yourself to four (or five or six) to get your “money’s worth”. Also, the rounds get purchased at the rate of the fastest drinker. Due to the Brits inability just to chat, we have to have a distraction (a drink to slurp). The moment your glass is empty you have to utter those magic words “another drink anyone”. If you say no – you lose!
 • The pint culture – by the very nature of drinking 568 ml of beer in a sitting (compared to the 250 or 330 norms in most of Europe).
 • The 7:30 culture – we start a lot earlier than most of Europe, and now we no longer stop much earlier. We are effectively drinking for 7-10 hours often!
• The strange green thing on the top shelf moment – thanks to advertising and a serious commitment to getting off our faces we regularly think it is a good thing to buy a “round” of those bright green things that taste like a strange mixture of toothpaste and apples.

The Brits are famous for it…we always have been. But how do we try and enjoy it rather than abuse it?

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Filed under Beer, Far-right politics