Saturday, 12 April 2014

Hospital watchdog finds 'huge variation' in care

I receive regular enewsletters from The Patients' Association. This week an article entitles - Hospital watchdog finds 'huge variation' in care.

What astounds me when I read, about the appalling lack of care that many patients, especially the elderly, are receiving, is that everyone (Ministers etc.) seems surprised.

It is not rocket science.

My mother worked all her life as a nurse, pre-1948 and post 1948. She once remarked to me, sometime in the 60s I believe it was, when they started bringing in 'Managers' and negating the role of that most feared person, 'The Matron', she said, "this is the end of the NHS". She was most prescient. The final nail in the coffin was the creation of Hospital Trusts which meant hospitals were now businesses.

You cannot run a 'Service' as a 'Business'. Why? A business exists to make profit irrespective of what it is actually doing: that is the nature of a business. So to make profit, you cut costs, and traditionally, any and every business then looks to how they might maximise profits and reduce overheads. The fist answer is, staffing, the most expenses 'cost' in virtually all businesses. Cut staffing, or employ cheaper staffing, and the balance sheet looks so much better.

We are now seeing the result of this business-model, and the result is inferior staff who are less-skilled, cheaper and often come from overseas countries which do not have a culture of care as we know it in the UK. The unsurprising result is that care standards have gone done.

So the question we should be asking is, 'why is everyone so surprised at this lowering of care?' and the second question we must ask, and continue to ask is, 'how long will this be tolerated?'

I could go on, but this is being shouted from a number of different platforms, it's just that the people who can do something, don't listen, because at the root there is not the will to do what needs to be done, rather the underlying motive is a wish to 'sell' the NHS to private healthcare companies, especially some american companies.


My Mother would be turning in her grave!

Friday, 6 April 2012

Making Me Cross

I am a Christian, and I have been since 1966, but I don’t wear a cross. Never have done. Wearing a cross is not a requirement of the Christian Faith. In fact, Christianity is not concerned with the wearing of certain garments or jewellery as a symbol of that faith. We need to be clear, before moving forward, that Faith and Religion (in its many Christian forms), are not the same thing, and much of the religious trappings of garments, vestments, etc., which surround Christianity are man-made and therefore irrelevant to this argument.

What is relevant, in the UK especially, is that there is a clear, deliberate, cowardly and mendacious policy emerging within both personal, corporate and governmental society, to marginalise and undermine the Christian Faith and those who hold to that faith. This is currently focussing on the wearing of crosses as a symbol of a person’s faith.

Now we have already said that wearing a cross is not a requirement of the Christian Faith, so where is the conflict? The conflict is occurring because, whilst the wearing of the cross is not a faith requirement, it is a tradition that goes back more than 2000 years to the very heart of the Christian Faith; the Crucifixion of Christ. From that time the cross, as a symbol of Christianity, was forever implanted within the heart of believers. It became the prime, the foremost and most important icon of everything that Christianity means, of what the Christian faith is, at its heart, and what it will always be about both philosophically, religiously, ideologically and personally.

Which brings us back to the argument. If a Christian chooses to wear a cross, whether as a necklace, badge, brooch perhaps even as a tattoo, they do so as a testimony to what they personally believe, as a testimony to their faith; the Christian Faith. That it is not a requirement has no bearing on the fact that the cross is what it is; a 2000 year old, deeply rooted symbol of Christian Faith, and to strike at its significance, to say that the wearing of the cross means nothing because it is a not requirement of the faith, is to insult 2000 years (and counting!) of Christian tradition, 2000 years of faith and 2000 years of deep, deep significance.

Those who dismiss the cross thus, are insulting 2000 years of Christian faith, all those who would call themselves Christians and the basic belief of Christianity; that Christ died on a cross for the redemption of the human race.

Saturday, 26 March 2011

The Infection of Christian Faith.

The recent High Court ruling against Eunice & Owen Johns, where the judge regarded Christian faith as an 'infection', continues to be extremely disturbing. Although the wording was later, 'regretted', it was said in one of the highest courts in the land, and indicates worrying prejudicial, and legal, bias against the Christian faith in the UK.

It is only a very small step away from the rhetoric employed by the Nazi party in 1930s Germany, regarding the Jews. In many Nazi writings, the Jews were referred to as an infection. An infection that needed to be 'cured'.

Horrific and unthinkable as it is, has the judiciary in the UK, made a step along that road, in its decision to deny Eunice & Owen Johns the legal freedom to foster children?

If this were an isolated incident, we could, perhaps, simply regard it as the mendacious ramblings of a semi-senile judge for whom retirement should have beckoned some years ago. But this is not an isolated incident.

In March 2010, a Christian nurse, Shirley Chaplin, was barred from work for wearing a cross. She won support from seven senior Anglican bishops. Dr George Carey, said this was a fresh example of discrimination against their faith.

Interestingly, but unsurprisingly, The NHS trust involved allows exemptions from its uniform policy to other faiths, including allowing Muslim nurses to wear headscarves.

In October 2006, Nadia Eweida, a Christian employee of British Airways, was asked to cover up a necklace which depicted a Christian cross. She was wearing the necklace on the outside of her uniform, contravening BA's uniform policy, and yet Sikh and Muslim employees are not prevented from wearing religious garments at work.

There are numerous other examples where, in small, but increasingly common ways, Christian Faith is being marginalised.

The problem is not confined to the UK. Across Europe, Christians find that expressing their faith as part of their everyday life, in public, his become more difficult.

A new report has voiced concern over the ability of Christians in Europe to publicly express their faith.

The Nov 2010 report from the Vienna-based Observatory of Intolerance and Discrimination Against Christians in Europe, warns that discriminatory laws were preventing the equal exercise of freedom in the areas of speech, conscience and religion, while the introduction of equality legislation was leading to “side-effect discrimination”, against Christians, and that, “Hate speech legislation has a tendency to indirectly discriminate against Christians, criminalising core elements of Christian teaching”. read the article here

A here are a couple of other articles.

Street preacher wins wrongful arrest case

Council worker looses appeal

What therefore should we say to this. Religious persecution, in a sense, comes with the territory of faith. Indeed, history records that at various times, different branches of the Christian faith were at each other's throats. In the 16th Century, Protestants and Catholics were, by turn, burning each other at the stake. Indeed, religious persecution has been, and continues to be, so wide-spread that countless books have been written and websites put online.

What makes the events of the last few years deeply significant, is that the marginalisation of the Christian faith is taking place in, what used to be called, a Christian country whose very basis of law is from the Bible, the Christians' Holy book. And also, that the marginalisation is isolated to the Christian faith; no other UK faith group being treated in such a way.

This is completely unacceptable. This concerted marginalisation, persecution and anti-Christian discriminatory ideology must end.

The DEDD Blog calls on the Government, the UK judiciary, and faith leaders to take action to end this situation.

Sunday, 29 August 2010

Faith Journey

A piece I wrote on the Faith Journeys website.

It's the early 60s. The Beatles were the new kids on the Merseysound block, I had just started an engineering apprenticeship and had met my first Christian. Of course, I didn't know he was a Christian. As far as I was concerned he was a religious nut who blathered on and on about God and Jesus. However, although I didn't realise it at the time, meeting him put my feet firmly on the faith path, and my first destination was just over the horizon.

Two years later he had nagged me into submission and I went along with him, and a whole coachload of young people, to hear Billy Graham at Earls Court, London. It is 1966, and reluctantly I find myself standing in front of the charismatic American saying the sinner's prayer. The Holy Spirit had fished another one from the waves.

Going to the small Brethren hall for the first time was a cultural shock. I managed a few weeks, but I didn't own a suit, and I felt uncomfortable in this weird environment. I left and joined the young conservatives (not such a cultural shock!) learned guitar, formed a folk duo and managed to avoid God stuff for a year. But the Holy Spirit still had his fish-hook in me and began reeling me in. The folk duo split and the attraction of the Young Conservatives faded. So after a year of invites to a young people Bible study, I RSVP'd a, yes, and got back on the faith-track.

It was at that Bible study I began to learn what being a Christian was about. It was also the place where I met my future wife,Jan. At the time of writing (2010) we have been married 38 years! Nice one God!

The next few years saw me involved in a coffee-bar evangelistic team, a couple of local churches, getting engaged, an outreach rock band, getting married, buying a house and then.....

..... all our furniture is stacked around us. We're sleeping on the floor of an old house in Birmingham. Our house is sold, the bridge is burnt and we're at Bible College. How did we get here? Another destination along the path, and this path is straight up a really steep learning curve. The journey along this bit of the path was, and remains, 30 years later, a priceless spiritual experience at the feet of men and women of God who led us to places we would never have visited in a local church situation.

Faith in God is easier when things are going well. Real faith grows when you have nowhere to turn, except toward God. Many times at College we find ourselves praying that our Father will meet our different needs. Money to buy food; we never go hungry, healings, guidance, spiritual insight, courage.

The water of a number of different jobs and different churches flows under the bridges over the next few years. We now have a Son, Joel. We work together at a Christian outdoor centre and then we move to the North-West, to the Wirral, and I work for a few different Christian charities. In the local church we belong to, we are involved in home-group leadership, diaconate, worship group, worship leading, preaching, teaching, sunday school. The steep learning curve in Birmingham pays dividends.

Then the local church falls on hard times. There are three huge leadership splits and traumas. We wonder should we stay. God says stay. We stay, but often find ourselves caught in the middle as people take sides. But from the middle, sometimes, the view is clearer. We are able to see things others don't, but it doesn't prevent the traumas, but God does reveal some of the spiritual truth behind what is happening. At the end of it all God says it is time to go. We join with the ex-Pastor building a new fellowship; a fellowship which will do things differently. The difference lasts a few months. It isn't working. We leave.

But now our pathway starts to lead in a strange direction. For the first time in decades we realise our path is leading away from the institutionalised church we have been used to, have been an integral part of, and could never imagine being outside of. And this is where we find ourselves now, still continuing along the path of faith, still following Jesus, still fellowshipping with other Christians, but not aligned to a building, denomination or institution. We are openly involved with the body of Christ - which is what 'Church' really is - but not behind brick walls, not under some man-made idea of 'church'.

The journey continues. Already there have been new and interesting destinations, but the ultimate destination is still over the horizon. But in the dark sky of this fallen world, its glow is now brighter as each day passes, and we keep our eyes fixed in that one direction. End of the path? The New Jerusalem!

Wednesday, 28 July 2010

The Question Of Visibility.

I've already nailed my colours to the mast in regard to being a Biker.

However, being a Biker also means accepting the fact that riding two wheels is more dangerous than driving four wheels. It's just the way it is. However, there are ways to be safer on the road; extra training like BikeSafe Courses, is a very good way. Taking Advanced Training is another. But one of the accepted techniques, received wisdom if you like, is that by having your headlight on during day-light hours, makes you more visible and hence, safer.

I want to challenge this because I believe, in some circumstances it makes the situation worse.

When I started riding a Motorbike in the mid-1960's, the issue of having your headlight on during the day never arose; you didn't have it on. Nobody did.

Then there was a time when you rode with your headlight on but covered with an orange diffuser. This was the beginning of the move towards full headlights during the day. It wasn't questioned because, of course, having your headlight on means you are more visible and so, more likely to be seen, and so.... safer.

However, over the last 2 years, I have been riding a Honda Deauville, and have found that there seems to have been a rise in the number of drivers who pull out on me, particularly, from side-roads. The scale of the problem was that, on a eight miles commute to work (16 miles round) there was a 100% certainty that at least one driver would pull out on me on each leg of the trip journey. When I say 'pull out' I mean a potential collision situation, not a mere nuisance.

This came to a head in April 2010, when a woman in a white convertible pulled out on me, at a bad junction, when I was about 20 feet away. Because it was a bad junction I was going cautiously. So when this half-blind Muppet pulls out, I braked and sounded the horn. She is, by now, completely across my side of the carriageway. At the sound of the horn she visibly jumped and her eyes widen in shock as though I had been suddenly beamed down from the Enterprise. What was even more disturbing was that all the while she had been looking directly at me and my bike. But she simply had no idea that I was there. At least, as I later thought about the problem, I believe she had seen my headlight but had no idea I was as close as I was.

So, why was this? Here is my theory.

A single point of light, which is the Motorbike's headlight, makes the judgement of distance from source very difficult. For example, an experienced road-user, if seeing a car in the distance with its headlights on, has the distance between the left and right light to judge width of the approaching vehicle and therefore the spatial ability to judge distance from source reasonably accurately. This is not true for a single point of light.

Of course, I can hear you say, 'but a motorbike is not just a headlight, it's a large lump of vehicle with a person riding on it,' and of course this is correct. But it is only correct if it can be seen so that road-users can then spatially judge how far away it is because people know how big humans are and roughly how big a motorbike is. But if the headlight dazzles the road-user (even partially) they are no longer able to clearly see the bike or rider and there is then no way for the road-user to accurately spatially judge the distance between them and the motorbike.

I believe this is the problem. So to test this theory, on 6th March 2010 I started riding during daylight hours, with the headlight off. Since that time, on my regular commute, and on other trips, I have covered (to date: 27-July-10) 1025 miles and only experienced 2 pullouts as against an estimated potential 104; an approximate reduction of 98%.

I think that is very interesting.

Of course, there have been studies in America and other countries which suggest that riding with a headlight on is safer. But there never seems to have been a definitive study carried out in the UK, and road conditions and road attitudes in other countries do not translate accurately to this country. Also, headlight positioning on motorbikes is a factor concerning dazzle.

What I have found is not necessarily true for other motorbikes; I can only relate what I have discovered experientially. On these grounds I want to challenge the notion that riding a motorbike with your headlight on is always going to mean that you are going to be safer.

So, if it is not necessarily safer to ride with your headlight on, what can be done to make motorcyclists more visible? Well for one thing, it would help if other road-users learnt to improve their observation. Then the old excuse, 'Sorry mate, I didn't see you', might become a thing of the past.

Co-incidentally, the latest knee-jerk ideology within certain police forces is that bikers need to be more visible and should all wear Hi-Viz at all times.

But it doesn't matter how visible you make yourself if other road-users simply don't look.


Sunday, 2 May 2010

Of Course It Isn't!

Having been made redundant three times in the last 22 years, and had fairly long periods out of work as a result, I have a reasonable knowledge of the disagreeable experience that is known as 'signing on'.

However, I don't want to dwell on the debilitating and humiliating nature of this experience. I want to look at one aspect of the mechanism which kicks in to action once you do sign on; the mechanism of re-training.

The subject came up whilst talking to a friend who is currently out of work and being processed through this re-training mechanism, and we both thought it would be a useful insight into the current policies of dealing with the unemployed, through the eyes of someone who is immersed in it. So here, in his own words, is his experience.


I have found most government courses a complete waste of time. Each time I have to attend one I think to myself "Is this going to be another one of those useless government schemes" and then I think, "Be positive, this one could be a good one and hopefully I will get permanent employment through it". But no surprise it ends up the same as the majority.

One thing that annoys me is when you first register with these schemes you are told that there will be work placements available and the possibility of employment at the end of the course. But in reality they don’t have enough work placements for everyone and the employers who use these schemes very rarely offer employment as it suits them financially to take on another placement. This inevitably leads to the majority of the unemployed having to spend several months going to the organisations offices where they have to spend the day from 9 am till 4 pm Monday to Friday job searching. This consists of searching through the internet and the local freebies. Occasionally they buy the Liverpool Echo on Thursdays.

Now with the unemployment situation the way it is, there are very few vacancies and sometimes they are repeated on more than one occasion so as to make the job situation look better than it is. This occurs mostly on job centre sites.

As this to me is a complete waste of time as I already job search on my own initiative I do not see the point of going to a special building to do the same but to also spend the rest of the day bored stiff as there is nothing more to do. The atmosphere in these government scheme offices is very depressing and it is obvious that a portion of these people are not interested in finding work as it suits them to be supported by the government and to spend the day doing whatever they please.

The government thinks up these schemes so they look as if they are doing something positive to reduce unemployment by keeping the numbers down as when one is on one of these schemes they are not classed as unemployed. But in reality these schemes are a sham as they are run by incompetents who are only interested in getting sufficient numbers to fill their quotas and keep themselves in a job.

Of the several courses I have been on I have only been on two good ones. One was working in a council library helping customers with any problems they may have while using the computers. At the end of the course there was no vacancy as the local council decided to use another government scheme and as that particular scheme did not have enough people to supply this service throughout the borough I volunteered to carry on for over a year till the council sorted itself out but it had no intentions of offering employment as it was financially better for them to keep using the government schemes I enjoyed the work and only offered to work on a voluntary basis because the staff in the library were really nice people.

The other good course I was on was working for the NHS as a clinic clerk. They were very happy with my work and the Section Head suggested I apply for a vacancy that had arisen. I did so and the interview went very well but unfortunately I was in competition with two very qualified applicants. My section head told me that for all they were more qualified the interviewers preferred me but the management would question their choice.


There really isn't much to add. That training courses are used to remove people from the unemployment figures is well known. It is also true that these training courses do sometimes lead to people gaining useful employment. However, over-riding this all, it would seem that in many situations, it is more about massaging figures and ticking target boxes rather than any real attempts to get people back to work.

But, of course, training courses don't create jobs. Ticking boxes doesn't create jobs. Only a growing economy creates jobs, and that isn't happening at the moment, nor does it look likely to happen in the near future.

Sunday, 28 February 2010

The Government would like to apologise but 1984 is running a little late.

In the UK, we now live in the most comprehensively surveilled society ever. It is something even George Orwell didn't fully foresee. In his book, The Road To Southend Pier, Ross Clark sets himself the challenge to travel from his home in East Anglia to the end of the eponymous pier, avoiding, if possible, the all-seeing cameras which now pervade our lives; a journey of about 50 miles.

He fails, quite comprehensively. And he fails because it is now almost impossible to go about out daily lives, our innocent daily lives, with being caught on CCTV many times.

Of course, we are told that crime is being prevented, and criminals are being caught as a result of this increased intrusion into our private lives. Whenever questions are raised as to the efficacy of the burgoning CCTV culture, the grainy, low quality footage of Jamie Bulger's kidnap is rolled out and paraded as a trophy to assure us all. But unfortunately, it is not reassuring. If the only piece of evidence of the effectiveness of increased CCTV is video footage from February 1993, then we are in deep trouble.

The very fact the whole TV programs are now being produced, for our delight and delectation, from CCTV footage, is proof, surely, that CCTV is not reducing crime. Rather it has made thugs, vandals, and the anti-social into TV stars, albeit anonymous ones because they are rarely caught.

So, what then is the point of all this expensive hi-tech equipment? Well, it is proving its worth, but not in catching thugs and criminals, but in reaping large financial rewards for local councils who are using it to catch motorists parking illegally. Yes, you will be pleased to know that while many of our city centres have become virtual no-go zones at certain times, the forces of law and order and catching errant car parkers. It makes it all worth while! Doesn't it? Well, no it doesn't.

Why doesn't it? As a society we are being routinely spied upon by our government, and its various agencies. Those who were traditionally there to protect us, are now those who are watching our every move, not for our good, but because we are all now regarded as potential criminals, and worse, as potential and possible terrorists.

Section 44 of the Anti-Terrorism Act is now, routinely and on a daily basis being evoked against the innocent citizens of the UK for all manner of minor things. For instance, point a camera at a building in London, and there is a very good chance that you will be approached by the forces of law and order and challenged under Section 44. This is happening regularly. Watch this video from the BBC and wonder what is happening to this country. You will note in the video that the Police Officer states that they had stopped lots of people.

So, next time you are snapping a few photos for the family album, be aware that your government, and the forces of law and order, will now be regarding you as a possible terrorist.

The final irony in all this is that anyone planning a terrorist attack has no need to wander the streets with a camera. They have only to go online and all the major cities can be viewed in excellent detail, with photo-quality images and in some cases, stunning 3D, on the internet.

Expect the government to announce very soon that, because anyone using the Internet could be a potential terrorist, it will be monitoring Internet usage on a daily basis.

Oh, wait a minute, they already do that.