Category Archives: Health

Health or profit?

We are consulted widely on health issues and what we want, but as with City Hospital the whole charade appears to be costly and a sham. Patients used to using City Hospital on Dudley Road now find that they may be transferred to Sandwell Hospital, part of the same trust. Part of the promise of moving the hospital further away was that there would be local facilities that would reduce the need to use such facilities as A & E.
So the Heart of Birmingham teaching Primary Care Trust started taking information so they could start to provide some 24 polyclinics across their territory, an area where multiple deprivation means there is significant need. Heart, diabetes, mental health all figure here.
Lord Darzi was charged with writing a report which came up with the findings that access to GPs was uneven and that the deficit was precisely in those areas showing deprivation resulting in poverty, poor health and a low life expectancy. Curiously most of the meetings to find out what people want have been conducted in the wealthier part of the Handsworth Wood Ward with a chartered accountant leading the presentations! It is the part of the ward already better supplied with GP practices, one of which is virtually a polyclinic with 11 doctors and an array of back up staff.
The PCT was previously awash with cash, but the recession has brought about a sharp u-turn so the prospect of 24 new facilities has gone. The arguments are purely in terms of cash with the health needs of those identified by Darzi receding by the minute. That is if they were ever up for consideration by the new elite now running health and other essential services. Commissioners have sprung up everywhere but you try approaching them as one of the “great unwashed” members of the community. Again government rhetoric stressed to this group the need to work with the community to improve health. The commissioners will only go to the big tried and (un)tested monopolies. Although report after report has talked of vast inequalities in health and advanced the “Delivering Race Equality” Agenda this has made little impact on the new army of highly paid gatekeepers set loose to make sure money doesn’t go to where it is most urgently needed.

Being Black in Britain still damages your health

Whenever you approach the statutory health services they say how well they are doing in working with the community to tackle seemingly intractable problems in health and wellbeing. The alarming figures for mental health are not going away and if you’re from the black and minority ethnic communities services are not meeting needs by a long way.
In response to this voluntary organisations have set up services. However with the demise of grant giving in favour of commissioning many are struggling and going to the wall. The Government has made enough noise about the need to target this section of the community setting up the Delivering Race Equality agenda. However the report below indicates little is changing.
Commissioning has mushroomed and a new breed of commissioners are legion. They seem typically complacent to justify the position they find themselves in. That is they are handling dwindling resources so their main function is to act as gatekeepers. This effectively ensures that not much can happen to make much difference.
A project was set up in BIrmingham and the West Midlands earlier in the year to address the problem that small organisations have in competing for commissions. Personnel from CSIP commended the proposals but commissioners have declined to meet us to discuss a way forward.

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Making a killing – in and out of the NHS

NICE has made a ruling that some drugs are too expensive, so some patients are expendable. Big business is making a killing by overpricing pharmaceutical products to maximise profits. The issue is raised in the Observer lead today, 17/8/2008.
An awful lot of spam that arrives in my mail and on this website are people pushing some kind of drug, I guess most of which is totally unnecessary if not outright harmful to our wellbeing. The question of whether prescribed drugs are always the best forms of treatment has also come under scrutiny. This is particularly the case in the treatment of depression where talking therapies can be equally valuable at least.

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Cuban medical aid to China’s earthquake victims

While US Cuban sources try to rubbish Cuba’s achievements in health, the following suggests that those achievements are real and benefiting many from poor regions across the world. Although not a Muslim country Cuba is included in Bush’s “axis of evil” category, a clear case of “mote and beam”!
While we were visiting the Santa Clara region of Cuba in May this year we were given a comprehensive overview of Cuba’s health provision at home and abroad, and as far as we can see it stands up to close scrutiny, something Bush’s claims about WMD etc. manifestly don’t!
Fidel sends message to Hospital No. 1
in Chengdu

CHENGDU, China, May 27 (PL). — “Cuban leader Fidel Castro sent a message today to Hospital No. 1 in Chengdu, in Sichuan province, to tell staff there that they could count on the island’s medical brigade for as long as necessary.
Doctor José Rodríguez, head of the brigade, transmitted that message during a meeting with the hospital’s director, Doctor Li Yuan Feng.
Fidel also assured the hospital authorities that Cuba has well-trained medical personnel, who are desirous of supporting their brothers and sisters in China in the Chengdu region if the Chinese government finds that useful.
Dr. Rodriguez, who is leading the group of 35 doctors and paramedics that arrived on May 23 in China, thanked Dr. Li for the warm welcome and attention given to the Cuban personnel.
The hospital where the Cuban internationalists are working is the largest in this province of 90 million inhabitants, and is considered to be among the 30 best in the country.
Rodríguez also expressed the brigade’s willingness to remain in China to help attend to victims of the recent earthquake for as long as necessary, and to work wherever and under whatever conditions to help the Chinese people.
Dr. Li thanked Cuba and its leadership for the aid provided during this difficult situation caused by the earthquake, and said he would pass on Fidel Castro’s message to top authorities. Dr. Li also commented on the excellent relations between the two countries and their strong historical ties, which have been expressed particularly during difficult times.
Dr. Li recalled that during his visit to the hospital last Saturday, Prime Minister Wen Jiabao spoke for all Chinese people in thanking Cuba, and especially charged Dr. Li with taking care of the brigade members.”

Translated by Granma International

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Sikh man from UK cheated by Surat priest

Express News Service reported from Surat on March 18, 2008:
“A Sikh man of Birmingham in the United Kingdom came to Surat and handed over an application to Surat police Commissioner about a priest from Suratwho allegedly had conned him in the United Kingdom.
Karnail Singh, a shopkeeper in Birmingham, came to India to attend some function at his native Jalandhar in Punjab a couple of months ago. After completing the function, he came to Surat and met Surat Police Commisiioner and handed him an application about a priest. who had come to the United Kingdom in 2004and had cheated him to the tune of £15,000.
Singh later also contacted Umra police inspector and explained the details of his case.
According to Singh, he came in contact with Kandarp Kumar Joshi, a resident of Harihar Park at Althan Road at his friend Naresh Kumar’s house in Birmingham on December 11, 2004. Joshi, reportedly a priest, then visited Singh’s house and told him that something is wrong in his house and his daughter will not get married unless and until some holy work is done. Joshi, posing himself as a preacher, charged him £8,000 for getting his house free from black magic.
Joshi later told him that fro continuation of the work he has to go back to India with the money. Singh kept faith in him and also gave him air fare.
Later when inquired about the work, Joshi asked Singh to remain tension freeas the work was under progress.
Singh said ‘After waiting for a long period and seeing no progress in the work we understood that we have been cheated. After that he did not pick our calls. My relatives in Punjab found out his residential number and called him to ask him to return the money or they will take the matter to the police. We asked him to deposit £15,000in our account. But he only deposited £2,294 in my account on 25th March, 2005 and asked for some months’ time to make the rest of the payment. After waiting for a year, we learnt that he had shifted to a new place. We located his new residential address and tried to contact him but he never took our call.’
Surat Police Commissioner R.M.S. Brar said ‘I have told him to explain the entire incident to Umra police inspector Ramesh Patel and that we will decide our course of action later.’ “

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G.Ps The story is out

George Monbiot has been thinking just what I’ve been thinking. It’s just that he’s come at it from another angle. It’s about GPs and their opening times. Rememer I had a phone call asking me what would make me change my GP. But I DON’T WANT TO CHANGE MY GP.
According to George the government has embarked on a programme of change on the basis that many said they wanted a more convenient opening times like evenings and Saturday mornings. Except that the document cited never mentioned these supposed wishes at all. Monbiot likens it to the “dodgy dossier” which claimed the weapons of mass destruction were upon us.

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Secrecy in every corner, and we still preach “democracy

After the findings that drugs commonly prescribed for depression are not only useless for many people with mild to moderate illness but actually harmful, we find that the pharmaceutical industry cloaked in secrecy. Once again the profit deity holds sway. This comes at a time when the government is told to make cabinet papers available regarding the decision to go to war in Iraq.
The need for secrecy it seems is not there in the interests of people. Each time it is there to protect powerful interests who have come to dominate. Globalisation is put forward as a desirable goal under this pattern of thinking, and it is the logic which has underpinned the European Common Market.

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City Hospital and Human Rights

A claim is being made that the proposed plans for City Hospital in West Birmingham will put an ethically diverse area at a great disadvantage (the area is already high on many indices of deprivation).
I visited Handsworth Wood Ward Sub-Committee this week. Only two councillors were present while the turn out of residents was pitiful. There was a speaker from City Hospital speaking about the proposed new hospital in Grove Lane, Smethwick which is the next step in the merging of two hospitals, City and Sandwell. At present it seems that anyone from this part of Birmingham being taken by ambulance to hospital for emergency treatment will be ferried to Sandwell Hospital. This is highly inaccessible for Birmingham residents, greatly so if relatives and friends rely on public transport.
THe fact the the trust is called Sandwell and West Birmingham suggests which is the dominant partner, and as I pointed out before there have been no voices on the Trust from Birmingham Bill Thomas, Leader of Sandwell Council is a member. Bill and some of Sandwell’ MPs have close links with the New Labour leadership. including Gordon Brown.

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Alan Johnson upsets Birmingham residents Big Time

City Hospital Demo, January 2008
Some forty to fifty people turned up at City Hospital today, New Year’s Day, 2008, to make it clear that they were very unhappy with the Secretary of State’s decision to down grade City’s Accident and Emergency Department. After all when this happened to Kidderminster when their A & E went to Worcester resulting in one of the protesters being elected to Parliament.
These protesters are unhappy that Birmingham residents’ views have been discounted by Alan Johnson. They made their feelings known at a public meeting called by the Evening Mail in January, and again several thousand people signed a petition in May. The Trust Board of Sandwell and West Birmingham Hospital remained unimpressed and nodded the plans through. In response Birmingham’s Social Care and Health Scrutiny Committee requested the Secretary of State review the Trust’s decision. Not only did he ignore Birmingham residents, he issued his decision prematurely before Christmas contrary to assurances he had made to Cllr Deirdre Alden that he would make his announcements in the New Year.
Cllr Alden visited the demonstration along with her husband Cllr John Alden. The assembled group chanted “Fight back, not cut back” and spoke to reporters from press, radio and t.v.
City Hospital has already lost services as uncertainty for the future has led to key specialist staff moving elsewhere. The longer term plan is to build a new hospital in the Cape Hill area of Sandwell, not something which Sandwell residents will find attractive either since the existing hospital is in a central location. Two hospitals to close, one to open. This is a hospital closure!
Then there is the financing of the new build. The Private Finance Initiative (PFI) has proved costly elsewhere and hospitals have found themselves going into deficit to meet repayments. Improvements in patient care has become a lesser priority.
The problem for Birmingham people is that they have not had support from their elected representatives. While Khalid Mahmood, MP f or Perry Barr, attended the January meeting when he was asked where he stood on the plans, he replied that he would follow his constituents’ wishes. Residents of Handsworth Wood Ward and Lozells and East Handsworth made it very clear hat they opposed the plan in May. Khalid’s response to Alan Johnson’s announcement is awaited. None of the City Councillors for these wards, all New Labour, has been seen or heard.

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Private practice

Why it is this New Labour Government persists in privatising everything it can, undermining public services is inexplicable to Labour supporters. The only way it can be understood is by seeing Labour as a party hijacked. It took over Tory policies implementing them in ways unimaginable under the Thatcher government. Health, education, legal services are all fair game. Although time again privatised services have come to grief and proved costly. there seems to be no let up. Since New Labour came to power a number of businesses have flourished. Those like Capita have grasped local government contracts and flourished. They have acquired a power which is not in the public interest. They have been able to acquire profit even when they have provided less than adequate services.