Thursday, 31 May 2012

Near or Far - No Difference if your ill

It was sad to see all the dissillusioned people from Llanelli and the outlying rural areas ( where the Deer and the Antelope play ) rightly protesting at the expected closure of the A & E department of Prince Phillip Hospital. These are to be replaced by "Urgent Care Centres" ( whatevere the blazes they're supposed to do ) but no one in the Hywel DaDa Health Board has even tried to offer any details of what these 'Urgent Care Centres' will do - apart from sticking plasters on grazed knees. I sympathise with our far away bethren, because I thought it was only us urban citizens that faced bad service from NHS Wales. For instance, I live only 700 yards from Llandough Hospital ( no A&E Dept but...... ) and seven miles from the University Hospital in Cardiff, yet - incredibly we seem to have been getting worse service here than our rural cousins. Apparently, St Phillip and Withybush offer excellent A & E facilities, and have done so for years. I've always been envious of my good friend Diana in St David's as she always speaks of quick A&E treatment and wonderfully consistent inpatient services. This is a far cry from what us City folk have been experiencing - 5 hour waits ( if your lucky ) at UHW A&E, with even longer waiting times for those who have been diagnosed as in need of hospital inpatient treatment. I've been a trolley-dweller at both hospitals and it's impossible to say which is worse. I mean to say, what is the point of someone ill being rushed in a 'Blue Light' ambulance to a hospital when you cannot get treatment or a bed ? It's got so that, when my GP says I should go in for assessment, I say that I'd rather take my chances staying in my flat. At least I can get a cup of tea when I want and use the 'Powder Room' whenever I feel the urge. Most importantly, the chances of my getting an MRSA. or C-Diff. infection are non existent. Also, my GP knows what's wrong with me, so I don't have go through Triage like an illegal immigrant, as my doctors don't have to wait 3 or 4 hours for my file ( which is huge ). However, I can't complain about the Outpatient Services, because I use them regularly, and the girls might take revenge on me at my next visit. No, outpatient services are pretty good.

Aneurin Bevan set the National Health Service up to provide healthcare at the point of need. Now, the people in Llanelli will have to travel 70 miles in an ambulance, only to be stuck in a trolley queue that takes no account of the seriosness of your condition. For years now, the Health Boards have been rationalising and centralising our essential services, as though we all lived in a ring with a radius of under 7 miles. Now that the Health Boards have been rationalised ( and a good job too ), we learn that the 7 remaining Boards are all meeting together - NOW - to agree further ways of rationalising and centralising essential services. There won't be any public consultation, and all protests and objections will be ignored ( as per ruddy usual ). In Week in Week Out this, 'meeting of the Boards' was supposed to be in the autumn, but the reality is that all the decisions will have been taken by then with absolutely no consideration to the public and patients in rural areas ( as per ruddy usual ).

I used to envy the people of St David's and their superb health service. Now I feel sorry for them because their service is about to become as bad as us 'locals'. No body answers the questions - "Why do we have to cut these services ?" or "Why isn't there enough money made available to provide proper health care 'at the point of need ?" All we get is lies and over-inflated cost or budget figures as though we are all stupid and can't work out the difference between a mental health unit that cost £7.155m and one ( a tad larger ) that we're asked to believe will cost £90m.

To conclude, I have two friends awaiting surgery at Llandough, only to be told 'There are no beds available for them." They have no idea when their 'planned Admissions' will take place. How is that 'Providing Health Services that are 'fit for purpose' ? When will our government start being honest with us, or Open and Transparent' as Rhodri Morgan promised 13 years ago ? Your guess is as good as mine. Meanwhile, stock up on bandages and leeches - you'll need them ! R.W.

Sunday, 20 May 2012

Frenetic Search by Minister uncovers 83,000 publicly paid NHS employees !

"NHS staff must encourage Healthy Lifestyles"

Friday 18th May 2012 - South Wales Echo

A shocked Minister has just discovered that NHS Wales employs over 83,000 employees - all paid for by our money - which is 2.5% of the total population of Wales. Along with this fact is the realisation that they're all involved in something to do with improving the health of the rest of us - shock, horror, probe ! Poor Leslie Griffiths - months of working at learning to be a Health and Social Services Minister - and then she finds all these colleagues who ( apparently ) play a part in our health and wellbeing. So now this highly paid trainee Minister of ours is urging all employees of the NHS to use their interactions with us - the long-suffering patients - to promote health ! Most NHS staff don't know who Leslie Griffiths is, let alone what her job is supposed to be, yet they are being driven to encourage us to achieve more healthier lifestyles ( beyond what they're already supposed to be doing to help us with our health problems, of course ). Obviously, she must have been shown a copy of the letter to the Echo from that other 'gem' of a leader, Tony Jewell, who claims that most of the population are living unhealthy lifestyles ( his survey claims ). NHS employees, encouraging healthier lifestyles - whatever next ?

Pardon me for falling about laughing, but most of the doctors and nursing staff I've known realised this remarkable part of their work years ago so, perhaps, the porters and maintenance staff will be given new scripts to recite to their patients, whilst wheeling them about or repairing their beds. Like the Royal College of Nursing, all nurses already know that a lot of them are going to be royally shafted ( once again ) over their pay and pension entitlements. Yes, that'll improve their morale and encourage them to do more for us, won't it ? The solution ? Blindingly obvious really, we'll all be even more reliant on our GPs ( assuming we can get an appointment ) and we'll all have to find more innovative ways of curing our ills. Perhaps more street stalls, full of witch doctors, medicine men, and miracle healers, will be cluttering up our streets, whilst the old man pushes his cart between them shouting "Bring out your dead".
Sorry to be cynical ( who me ? ) but isn't that what 'Care in the Community' is meant to be in future ??? R. W.

Wednesday, 16 May 2012

Urgent - Health Board needs a 'Truth Sayer'

Health Board to save cash by rise in operations - Echo 7th May 2010

In 2012, it is unbelievable that the Universally Inept Health Board cannot do the simplest of sums. According to this article, the health Board have saved £290m last financial which - according to them - is "over 5% of budget, similar to previous years". So, if £290m is 5% ( say ), then 100% is 20 times that amount, or an incredible £5.8bn !!!. Yet this article says ( repeatedly) that their budget is £1.1bn, So, confusingly, the £5.8bn must be the entire budget for the NHS Wales. This must beg the question - "What happened to the years of savings of £292m p.a.and where have they gone ?" Also, their brilliant plan is to increase the number of operations which, (they claim) will reduce costs. If their were any logic to this theory, and assuming that they have the ability to do this, why has it never been done before, when hospitals were given waiting time targets which they consistently failed to meet ?

Then, Mr Hollard states that "if we don't do anything about our defecit, if growth continues ( in what ? RW) without us taking action, then there will be a gap of £66m ". LIke I said, brilliant - except for the fact that he, nor the Minister state what the amount of the defecit is - either in total, or at any particular time. So how does he know that 'there will be a gap of £66m' ? Neither of these deceivers EVER say why they have to make the savings i.e. What was the original budget and where ( specifically ) do these savings have to be made ? After all. their annual budget has been 1 or 1.1bn for years, so why can't we have an explanation as to WHY the Universally Inept Health Board and the NHS HAS to make these cuts, and how they arrived at the precise figures ?

Of course, they and the Government work on the assumption that we are all stupid and couldn't possibly understand the complexities of funding allocation, so we all dumbly accepth any B.S. ( business statistics ) they choose to throw at us. And, the suggestion that they're incompetent managers couldn't possibly be true because of their complete openness and transparency ( yeah right ). Also, we should never lose sight of the fact that we're all to blame for the apparent overspend, because we become ill so often. The truth is that neither the government, the NHS, nor the Health Boards behave responsibility by admitting that any perceived defecit is due to their mismanagement. And why ( you ask ), because none of the people involved have ever done an honest days work in their lives. Instead, they 'role play' at being managers under this ridiculoius notion that because they are appointed to a position, they suddenly know everything about doing the job at hand - perfect exeamples of the Peter Principal.
Obviously, there's no need for me to ask the obvious question - "How does increasing operations save money ?" It's a good job I'm so stupid that I haven't the intelligence to challenge their brilliant planning ( heavy sarcasm ). Over to you, Magpie. R.W.

Tuesday, 8 May 2012

May Day Bank Holiday Blues

For me, the weekend started poorly, and finished with me feeling deeply depressed, reminding me that, no matter how well I manage my physical chronic illnesses and mental anxiety, there are many triggers for a return to that vortex of despair that can lead to suicidal thoughts. The first news came from Pembrokeshire when I was trying to get more details of the suicide of a 14 year old girl. My friend Diana told me of another 14 year old girl, named Seren Pritchard who had hung herself from a treee in a well known beauty spot. Seren lived with her grandmother, under the care of Social Services because she was a 'very difficult child to control'. The people in the area treated this matter-of-factly, saying that her death was inevitable. How sad that a sick girl in need could not be given the help she deserved, to avoid such a well signposted tragedy.

On the same day, 2nd May,The Western Mail reported the double suicides of two girls, 15 and 14 who jumped to their deaths from a bridge The Coroner's court ruled that 'Extra Care' could have saved Georgia Rowe and Niamh Lafferty. So. where was that much-needed care - of all four young girls ? It seems as though we have become so immune to tragedy that we all adopt the attitude, 'At least it wasn't MY child'. In the same edition of the Echo, Kathryn Williams reported yet another suicide, in her article "I saw Man jump off multi-storey" Owen Wyn Pritchard, jumped from the 12th floor of the Cardiff Bay car park, in sight of workers across the road. IN a letter to his wife, found on the seat of his car, he apologised, saying "I've managed this ( Anxiety Depression) for over ten years", when he was a teenager in 1992. His problems centred around his Obsessive Compulsive Behaviour, for which he was seeing a Behavioural Therapist. He was said to 'not to have expressed any suicidal thoughts' ( yeah right ). Coroner Mary Hassell returned the verdict that "Mr Pritchard had taken his own life".

This wasn't to be the end of my sorrrow. In the Sunday Express (May 6th), after being enraged by Ian Duncan Smith's statement to seriously handicapped Remploy employees that they "Should Get a Proper job". I read on to the most upsetting report on the treatment of the mentally ill. - "7000 shock treatments on NHS condemned for brain damage'. How is Electro Convulsive Therapy still in use today ???? It'a barbaric practice, that the worst horror movie could only do this any justice. A very dear friend of mine was given this therapy, contrary to my wishes. She was one of the survivors who was left reasonably well yet very vulnerable. After years of abuse and theft of money by her alcoholic 'partner', she suffered a manic episode where she would keep saying to me "Robin, I'm going to jail, I have to kill him, he's destroyed me". After being sectioned, she was given ECT, with the result that it appeared as though all the pain and suffering had been erased from her memory. I was horrified to hear her say she was going back to her 'partner' who, unsurprisingly, continued to abuse her and rob her until he died in a drunken stupour. Everyone who knew her loved her, and she helped me ( and many others ) for years.

I only mention my dear friend, and her experiences with ECT, because - to my absolute horror - the final episode of 'Homeland' ended with the star, Carrie, being given ECT, showing the awful procedure in detail - from anaesthesia, having a rubber gag shoved in her mouth and then the electrodes placed on her temples, prior to the awful visible sight of an electric convulsion.
I am sorry to be so maudlin, but I did not enjoy any of these horrors that many mentally ill patients resort to in in an effort to escape the pain.

I pray that mental health services will receive huge financial reparations for all the delberate destruction that has resulted in patients being deprived of the 'Extra Care' that could prevent more tragedies in future. We must provide more accessible help to those poor souls who suffer from a mental illness. R.W.

Friday, 4 May 2012

"Same Horse - Different Jockey"

With some trepidation, I welcome the arrival of Adam Cairns the latest Chief Executive of the Cardiff and Vale Health Board( Echo 04.05.2012 ). In particular, I welcome the fact that he is a Law graduate, particularly in view of the Health Board's 10+ years history of ignoring government legislation completely. Instead, as we know to our bitter cost, the Welsh government has allowed the NHS to create a mountain of quasi-legislation that has proved to be as useless as udders on a bull to the Public and Patients it purported to serve. To say that his new position is "probably the best job in the NHS" is, I feel, somewhat over-optimistic as the people available to delegate his mission statement "We'll put the patients at the heart of the NHS" are, largley incompetent. From my personal perspective, this mission statement ( in one form or another ) has been one of the greatest lies ever to be uttered by anyone in the Health Board, NHS Wales, or our incredibly short-sighted Welsh Government.

I am reminded by this of the old joke, "What are the three greates lies in history", Naturally I cannot remember the correct answer ( well maybe the 'clean items' ) but if I had to choose the three greatest lies ever told by the Welsh Government and the NHS, another would have to be, "Our new Welsh Assembly will be governed by Labour with complete Openness and Transparency"- Rhodri Morgan's false promise to the peasants. Choosing a third, out of so many cruel, damaging lies is not an easy task but, for now, I will credit Health Minister Leslie Griffiths with the third, which was "The Community Health Councils are the voice of the people." Long, painful experience has proved the CHC's to be sycophantic lap-dags of the Health Board, instead of the watchdogs that we had a right to expect. Other lies include 'The Status Quo is not an option' and that new favourite, 'We will ensure that the health service is 'fit for purpose' ( whatever the blazes that means.)

Mr Cairns - although experienced by his tenure at Shrewsbury and Telford - seems to be quite adept at shooting himself in the foot when it comes to making promises. "This has to be a dialogue with the public and patients" is a beauty, as is "If we work with our clinicians, they have the answer" ( the operative word being 'If'. ) Continuing in similar vein, he explains "These conversations [ with clinicians ], in my experience usually lead to services that are run more smoothly, are better for patients, and cost less. Well, good luck to the old boy even though he has no idea that he will be firmly guided by his superiors and the limitations of his subordinates. Whereas, I am reluctant to add any criticism, I do feel that a better candidate for Board 'Chair' than Ms Battle whose experience was gained whilst working for one of the most useless quangos, Childrens Commissioner for Wales, could have been found at Office Angels. Her statement is as empty and meaningless as any I have heard from someone chosen to Chair an organisation with a £1bn budget. Let's give her the benefit of the doubt as she probably makes an excellent 'cuppa', even though she will probably will be word perfect in every platitude of her longer-serving colleagues.

It's a shame that Mr Cairns is prevented from reading this blog ( blocked by his Board, contrary to Article 10 of the Human Convention of Human Rights ), as it would provide him with the patient's view of his Board's dismal performance. Magpie and I can only hope that he honours his promise to put the patient first, but we will not be surprised if he gets bogged down in the quagmire of badly planned projects and the morass that is the current 'management' of his Universally Inept Health Board, to date. Still, we live in hope - don't we ? R. W.

Tuesday, 1 May 2012

Barry Hospital downscaling?

I have gotten wind of an apparent plan by Cardiff and Vale University Health Board to downscale services at Barry Hospital, including the Minor Injuries Unit.

I am currently looking into just what that plan is, typically for the Health Board, they have put Barry Hospital in their 'Making a Difference 2' document but just referred to a 'plan' that isn't mentioned in any greater detail.

I have today made a Freedom of Information request here to find out exactly what the plan for Barry Hospital is, and once I get a response I will post the findings here.

Rest assured if there is a plan to close Barry Hospital, at any scale, I will fight it (with the help of Robin, no doubt) and will ensure that the people of Barry are involved and are very much a part of the fight.

Watch this space!

Oh What a Tangled Web They Weave When First They Practice to Deceive


Mental Health Legislation Team
Welsh Government
Cathays Park
CF10 3NQ 1st May 2012

Dear Sirs

Targetting the Weak and Vulnerable

I Refer to your document WG 14017 – a ‘consultation’ document entitled, ‘The Mental Health ( Secondary Mental Health Services ) ( Wales ) Order 2012, and its’ parent document ‘Mental Health (Wales) Measure 2010’.

The latter document was never put out for public consultation, thereby denying the public and patients the right to read this and to challenge any of the contents, if possible. The first document alleges to form a consultation, dated 21st December 2011, and with responses required by 14th March 2012. Unfortunately, this document was not circulated to the public, service users or any Mental Health Service group, their families, legal representatives or their Patient Advocates. Consequently, I am requesting copies of all responses to this consultation in order to assess it’s success or failure.

Neither document is written in Jargon-free, Plain English. From this, we deduce that neither document was intended to me made available to service users, and that neither document was meant to be understood. The intention of the government is clearly to withhold information about changes to legislation that will affect Health Services in Wales, and to deny any subsequent reader any understanding or meaning of the contents of these documents.

Clearly these documents form an undemocratic imposition of these two related pieces of quasi legislation. Therefore, I ( along with my colleagues ) am requesting a simple, understandable translation of both documents in order that they may be properly understood by those weak and vulnerable patients who are already affected by cuts and enforced changes to their services – these documents being merely the most recent examples.

The information requested in this letter constitutes a formal request under the Freedom of Information Act 2001.

Yours faithfully

Robin Williams – Advocate for the Mental Health Service users of Cardiff and the Vale of Glamorgan