Fox and Angel, Creative Partnership

Higher energy bills

February 12th, 2018

Since privatisation the energy companies have carried out policies of deliberate obfuscation offering a plethora of tariffs supposedly offering value for money but in fact they simply deceive and confuse. They have pushed prices up to what the market can bear and then some more. It is not just the poor and the elderly who have suffered but those “just managing hard working families” that Theresa May is said to champion.

Everyone in the country should be allowed access to energy at a reasonable price and this is not the current state of affairs. All successive governments have done is hand-wringing. Bills are still over-complicated and it remains impossible to compare like for like. Also swapping suppliers is an arduous process and one simply cannot be sure of getting a better deal since the parameters are constantly in a state of flux.

The regulator’s admission that they “should have done better” (The Times January 22) is an understatement. If he cannot do better for the whole electorate he should be replaced by somebody who can. It is that simple. Otherwise what is he there for?


February 12th, 2018

A Royal Commission for the NHS would be totally unnecessary since the man on the Clapham omnibus could tell you what is wrong. There is plenty right with the NHS too but the failures are evident for all to see and have been reiterated by health chiefs, doctors and in the press for months and years. No single policy will work. It has to be a mighty effort from all departments as the health of the nation is inextricably linked to housing, education and the environment, to name but three.

To take the pressure off hospitals the model neds to shift towards preventative rather than reactive medicine. Public health  initiatives are needed such as dealing with cheap alcohol and binge drinking, forcing manufacturers to reduce sugar in their products, restricting sale of such products in schools and hospital and so on. The school day should be lengthened to provide time for games, gym and gardening, all once on the curriculum when Britain was leaner and fitter. The mental health of the nation is linked to a speeded up world, poor housing and general deprivation in many quarters. The differential between the earnings of CEOs and the ordinary worker highlight this. A connection cannot be denied.

In addition there needs to be a big recruitment drive for home grown nurses, doctors and mid-wives, whilst simultaneously improving the working conditions in hospitals and surgeries. The shift patterns need changing. Working for more than eight hours at a stretch is paying for poor practise and endangers the health of the work-force. The current working patterns lead to burn out and wastage. The rise in use of locums has been a consequence of deteriorating working conditions. Full time is unendurable, working as a locum part-time you have a better quality of life and earn the same.  However constantly changing personal, (churn), is very bad for patients. Good departments take years to build up.

IT systems need upgrading, clerical departments should be far less amateurish and ad hoc, the system of radiographer taking pictures then the weeks of waiting for the consultant to read them plus further waiting for them to go back to the GP, (the NHS is full of this nonsense) need to be streamlined in this day of instant technology. There should be less hierarchy, and more teamwork.

Hospitals should be encouraged to spread best practise sharing expertise; competition has not worked. Currently doctors and nurses often don’t know their own colleagues, let alone those on a floor below. Good food in hospitals for both staff and patients and statutory breaks should be the norm. The Dilnot report should be implemented for care for the elderly freeing up beds, (what was the point of commissioning this report for it to be kicked into the long grass?).

I could go on stating the obvious. It is a fact of life that any government in this country stands or falls by the NHS. These changes will be costly but I do not think there is a member of the electorate who would not want to pay for this radical programme of modernisation if they knew the money would be ring-fenced. Theresa May cannot avoid witnessing the demise of the NHS: it is crumbling in front of her very eyes. This is not the time to be lily-livered. If she shows moral courage and mobilizes her troops in cabinet she will not only save the NHS but herself and the current Conservative administration.

Overweight nurses and stressed doctors

February 12th, 2018

The issue of overweight nurses and the fact they differ from doctors who apparently lose weight under the stress (not always!) is missing the point, (Letters Dec 6). Besides the fact that nurses are often older and have domestic responsibilities meaning they cannot go out for a run after a long shift, the fact is that the conditions for almost anyone in a NHS hospital are dire and everyone is stressed and overworked. The shift patterns are appalling. Nobody should be working more than eight hours at a stretch; it is deliberately paying for poor performance. There is no slack in the system; in a an emergency nurses having already worked twelve hours cannot be expected to stay on longer and there is no handover time.

By creating these conditions, recruitment is down and staff are not retained; there is far too much churn. Good departments are created over months and years and need stability of personnel on whom they can rely. Many doctors and nurses prefer to work for an agency or as locums to get a better work-life balance. This is expensive and not in the interests of hard-pressed departments and patients.

There are many changes required in the NHS but shift patterns are the first thing that should be radically improved. No patient wants to be seen by an exhausted doctor or nurse at the end of an unreasonably long shift. It is not surprising that nurses reach for a chocolate bar as a quick energy boost to get them through the last two hours of an overlong day or night.

When the furore dies down

February 12th, 2018

Like many other older feminists I struggle to see the connection between the brush of a leg at a dinner party and the more serious crimes of rape and rape as a weapon of war. Sexual crimes are on a continuum, but when all the furore about Harvey Weinstein et al has died down I feel that the UN and other world leaders should urgently address the recent atrocities carried out by soldiers in Syria and among the Rohingya. This  should be the priority.

Re the lesser crimes, however repugnant to women, I am afraid to say that while men are in charge of the life force, there will always be those with an eye for the main chance. It is sensible for women to walk against the traffic, always carry a spare pair of flat shoes, not get too drunk and understand it unwise to go back to a hotel with a footballer or a media moguls. It is not anti-feminist or anti freedom to look out for yourself and take simple precautions.

Utility companies

February 12th, 2018

Paul Johnson, (Monday October 2nd) doubts that things would be better if utility companies etc. were brought back into public ownership. However it is right that at last we have an effective opposition to draw attention to this important issue. Since privatisation extra revenue has had to be found to satisfy shareholders and in order to do this all companies to a man, (rail, telecoms, gas and electricity & to a lesser extent water), have engaged in deliberate obfuscation presenting incomprehensible bills with over complicated tariffs. The consumer does not want marvellous “offers” of which they are quite rightly sceptical but a straightforward deal when paying bills which cannot be avoided.

The regulators have done little to force the companies to make things clearer because the government has not given them the powers. Regulation was never going to have enough teeth and this the enormous flaw with privatisation in general.

Under public ownership bills and tickets were transparent and fair. If the Conservative government does not get traction on this issue it cannot blame the public for voting Labour.

In defence of Theresa May

February 12th, 2018

I did not vote for Theresa May but believe she has been statesmanlike in dealing with London’s recent atrocities. Surely the last thing victims want is more empathy, hugs and candlelit vigils. It is not the job of governments to hug or emote. Also I do not think a male prime minister would have been subjected to such vitriol. What is needed is more stiff upper lip and practical help. Since Kensington council have been unable to offer the necessary assistance, (to be also fair to them, a disaster of this magnitude could surely not have been envisaged in peacetime) the army  should have been brought in to set up field camps and co-ordinate operations. This would have been a reassuring and neutral presence. Using Theresa May as a punch bag is not the answer. Since Tony Blair called Diana ‘ the people’s princess’ there has been a seemingly unstoppable shift towards wailing and keening as the first line response to any disaster which  only exacerbates the sense of grievance and does nothing to address the problems. We need more pragmatism and good sense. If Theresa May wishes to restore her image she should call in the armed forces now. It is not too late.


February 12th, 2018

It has been thought an astute political move by Theresa May to call an election, but it is nothing other than a bid for personal power and may well backfire. It will clarify nothing and could simply muddy the waters. It will achieve little for the people of this country but will certainly dilute the energies of everyone at Westminster, taking time away from the important issue of Brexit. It will not help the group whom she apparently wishes to champion – those ‘just about managing’. This group is less concerned about Brexit and elections than low wages, lack of housing, cuts in the education budget and a failing NHS. Any prime minister would find handling these issues quite enough without adding to their workload. Everyone in Whitehall will be run into the ground after the election and will coast until the recess. After the holidays will be the Conference season. All true endeavour will now be in hold until October. Every hand is needed at the pump, not to run about the country shouting “Vote Conservative” but to sort Brexit and build the economy so that public services can be properly financed. This election is a vanity project – a surprise from a woman who at first seemingly just wanted to get on with the job.

Elderly parents

February 12th, 2018

The health minister and others have come to the conclusion that it would be better for the country, i.e. more cost-effective, if families looked after their elderly parents. This is the most dreadful cop-out and not practicable in many ways. As Janice Turner says, students priced out of the rental market with nowhere to live come home to roost, families live in smaller and smaller homes due to the burgeoning population and the need to be near employment. Apart from the problem of space, caring for elderly parents is a full-time job seldom shared. Moreover the care almost always falls onto the woman. There are financial matters, hospital appointments, shopping, personal care, cleaning, alarms in the night, GPs with too little time, protracted waits for operations: all and sundry to be dealt with. Elderly people often have a myriad of problems and it can go on over two decades. When my own parents were in their eighties I was working from home on a speculative basis and could take time off, although my work undoubtedly suffered. It is usually one family member who bears the load, others use ‘work’ to absolve themselves of responsibility, or are too far away, or deliberately do not understand the problem and that help from outside agencies is almost nil.

There is another question never discussed and clearly taboo. Whilst some elderly people are biddable and compliant, others are cantankerous, difficult and querulous: such nascent personality traits worsened by age and illness. It is a truth seldom told that older people can be devious and manipulative and wreak havoc in a family causing trouble between husband and wife and many intergenerational tensions. Even when my parents were finally in care, after I had coped for several years, there was still much to do: support and vigilance was still needed. I also was involved helping my mother in law. Arguably I was being financially supported by my husband at the time but also busy with my teenage children and running my own household. I did everything I could, first with love and then with duty, but It took its toll. I admit compassion fatigue set in. Women in the fifties and sixties are already bearing a huge unpaid burden, more cannot be put upon them and the question of caring for older people is not a simple matter of transferring back responsibility to families from the state. It is certainly not a case of job-done-hooray!!


January 10th, 2017

Sir: Everything Mike Adamson, (Jan 9), says is true. The NHS is always nominally ‘in crisis’ but is currently heading for a major crash in real time. None of the shake ups of recent years, many costly and in the case of the Lansley reforms unproductive and wasteful, have led to improvements in the service. It is underfunded but the main problem is a poorly motivated workforce, punishing shift patterns, and appalling working conditions. Junior doctors firefight instead of treat. Departments cannot be properly built because of the churn in staff; it takes years to put together excellent departments, not days and months. Sometimes staff do not know members in their own departments, let alone those on other floors. Patients go missing. Paperwork is lost. There is chaos, duplication and confusion which de-motivates further.

Staff are ground down and exhausted; there is an unspoken “not my problem” hanging in the air. Bright eyed and bushy tailed junior doctors and young nurses opt for locum work to give themselves a break. The lethargy is manifest by workers of all grades arriving late with no hand over time and disappearing the minute their shift is over. Things have reached an all-time low.

Only when hospitals are made better for the staff will things improve for patients.

Jeremy Hunt should go. Imposing a new contract on junior doctors has made nobody safer at weekends and, as was feared, has merely spread a thinning staff ever thinner.  A new Health Minister is required who is capable of obtaining more money from the Treasury, improving conditions and getting management to sharpen up. He or she must not be afraid to roll up their sleeves and sink deep into this most challenging job. This is a task for an exceptional individual and Theresa May must find someone fearless and energetic who is truly up to the monumental task.

Job creation

December 10th, 2016

Sir: My heart sank when I read, (The Times Dec 9), that Yvette Cooper is arranging a tour to find out what people think about immigration. The people have spoken in the Brexit vote and we know their views. Her time should be spent far more usefully trying to work out how her party can be re-energised so as to be a credible opposition or working in her constituency helping the people she actually represents. Another ‘listening to the people’ exercise is the worst form of job creation.