Archive for the ‘Hospitals’ Category

Excellent News! Labour Plans to Abolish Fees for Dental Check-Ups

November 17, 2019

This is another really great policy from the Labour Party. They’ve announced that they plan to abolish the £22.70 fee for dental check-ups, and Corbyn has said that the ultimate aim is to abolish all fees for dentistry.

According to a piece Mike has reblogged from elsewhere, the fees were first introduced in 1951 to pay for the Korean War. It notes that one in five adults puts off going to the dentist because of the cost, and that ‘worrying numbers’ are turning to the internet for kits for scaling and makeshift fillings, which can cause serious problems.

515,000 patients a year go to A&E or their GPs for treatment for toothache, which costs the Health Service £38 million a year. Over a hundred children have rotten teeth removed in hospital every day, and decay is the leading cause of hospital admissions for children aged from five to nine. Ninety per cent of those cases can be prevented by early treatment.

In addition to abolishing the fees for ordinary check-ups, Labour also wish to remove them for oral cancer examinations, X-rays, clinical scaling and polishing and emergency treatment.

Mike adds that it would also be great if Labour could also ensure that everyone has access to an NHS dentist. He hasn’t seen one since June last year, 2018, because the dental service in mid-Wales was handed over to a private company. He concludes

Health service privatisation – it will always leave us short-changed. 

See: https://voxpoliticalonline.com/2019/11/16/great-labour-election-promises-theyll-scrap-fees-for-dental-check-ups/

Mike’s right again, and this is an issue that goes back years. I’ve read a number of newspaper reports about people missing out on dental treatment because they can’t afford it. And there is a crushing shortage of NHS dentists. We’ve had problems finding suitable dentists in my part of south Bristol, as a number of them went private and immediately put their prices up. Some of this problem comes down to the profit motive at the heart of any system of private healthcare. Where it exists, there will always be the motive to charge inflated fees and concentrate on those, who are better health, rather than those who need much more treatment, because the latter aren’t as profitable.

And like the other issues with healthcare in this care, it was caused by Maggie Thatcher. I can remember how there was a massive dispute between her government and the dentists over funding, with the result that many split off from the NHS and went private. They claimed that they simply couldn’t survive with what the government was prepared to pay them. Thatcher, I remember, put the blame on them for demanding too much. I don’t know which side was right, but instinct tells me it wasn’t the Tories. Thatcher was determined to privatise the NHS in toto, but was prevented by a cabinet revolt. She carried on, however, with a campaign to encourage 10 per cent of the British population to take out private health insurance, and a programme of limited privatisation. Some of the auxiliary services for the NHS were opened up to private contractors. The department specialising in in vitro fertilisation – test tube children – was privatised. She also introduced fees for eye tests at the opticians.

The Tories are past masters at creating an industrial dispute, which will allow them to attack a particular industry and the trade unions or professional associations for its workers. We’ve seen how she did it to the miners, in order to break the NUM and close down most of the mining industry. I think she did something similar with the dentists. She manufactured a dispute with them, so that she could force some at least out of the NHS and created a private dental service.

And thanks to her, people are missing the dentist and their health is suffering.

Labour’s plan to abolish dental fees are needed. People really do need proper dental examinations. A few years ago I was diagnosed with a mouth condition that could have become serious and which needed monitoring, and I’m very sure I wasn’t alone. People are damaging their health, possibly seriously, by not going to the dentist and having the examinations and work they need done.

And it is the fault of the Tories.

Thatcher and her legacy have been catastrophic for this country, its industries and working people. But she’s still a molten idol to the Tories, Lib Dems and the Blairites. They have to be defeated, and Thatcher’s vile legacy consigned to the dustbin it deserves.

Our health, and our Health Service, cannot afford not to.

 

Beeb’s John Sweeney Attack Parliamentary Lobby System as Source of Fake News

November 14, 2019

Very interesting article in next week’s Radio Times for 16th-22nd November 2019. John Sweeney, a former journo with the Corporation’s Panorama, has written a piece attacking the parliamentary lobby system, ‘Time to name your sources’, on page 9. The subtitle states very clearly why he objects to it ‘Why are political reporters feeding us fake news?’

The article runs

As the country gears up for a general election, TV viewers and newspaper readers are being lied to from within a secretive system that reduces political journalists and Westminster correspondents to underbutlers, protects power and poisons our democracy. It’s called the lobby and its two most powerful players are a career psychopath (Conservative) and a neo-Stalinist (Labour).

The lobby was created after an Irish terrorist bomb in 1885 caused MPs to lock out the journalists who used to mingle freely inside Westminster. Reporters complained and a permitted few were allowed back, so long as they followed rule number one: when a source says a story is on lobby terms, you don’t identify that source. 

The lobby’s most elegant defender, Andrew Marr, wrote in his book, My Trade: A Short History of British Journalism, “Sophisticated social animals are necessarily hypocrites… who really wants to know less?”

But Marr wrote that before King Brexit turned everything it touched to Novichok. So where do those political stories based on anonymous oft-quoted “sources close to…” come from?

The PMS (the Prime Minister’s Official Spokesman) is a many-headed beast, but one set of jaws is snapped by James Slack, who, as Nick Cohen pointed out in the The Spectator, in a previous life wrote the words underneath the infamous 2016 Daily Mail headline “Enemies of the People”, attacking three judges. Another set of jaws are those of Rob Oxley, Boris Johnson’s press secretary, but the sharpest teeth belong to “career psychopath” Dominic Cummings. David  called him that five years ago. It was an understatement.

Cummings, Slack and Oxley jointly and separately use reporters in the lobby system to tell unattributable whoppers while the system as a whole is given coverage by BBC, ITV, Channel 4, Sky and the papers. Veteran political reporter Peter Oborne nailed a series of lies about Brexit on “lobby terms” recently. Perhaps the most poisonous was the “lobby terms” claim, reported in the Mail on Sunday in October, that Remainers Dominic Grieve, Oliver Letwin and Hilary Benn were being investigated by the government because of their involvement with foreign powers. The story was a lie. The BBC, etc, didn’t tell that lie. But they prop up the system in which the lie could be told.

That system also encourages acquiescence among political hacks. If you don’t toe the line and ask awkward questions instead you are excluded from the regular drip-feed of anonymous briefings. It was reported that Boris Johnson when Foreign Secretary was considered a security risk by MI6 because of his dodgy private life. But has the lobby asked if Boris will launch an inquiry into himself? Nyet.

Another potential security risk is Jeremy Corbyn’s spin commissar, Seumas Milne. He oversees Labaour’s lobby operation but the system shields his shenanigans behind the arras. In 2014 Milne appeared on a panel at a summit in Sochi alongside Vladimir Putin. Milne, a former Guardian journalist, has in the past bigged up both Stalin and East Germany. Creepy.

Has the lobby asked Putin’s pal Milne if he is a security risk? Again, nyet.

In these toxic times, the lobby has become a lie factory. We need to scrappy “lobby terms”. If power speaks with a forked tongue, we need to know whose tongue it is that’s lying.

Okay, Sweeney’s correct to call out the lobby system. I’m irritated myself by stories that begin ‘sources close to the Prime Minister’ or ‘Ministers are considering’, as quite often this means that the source is sounding out a policy. And that policy is quite often something monstrous. I remember a story in the Sunday Express back in the early 1980s, when AIDS first appeared and everyone really was afraid it would decimate the global population like a new Black Death. It was so strongly associated with gays that a Beeb science documentary on it had the title ‘AIDS: The Gay Plague’. In this climate of fear, the Sunday Depress announced that ‘ministers’ – who were never named – were considering a radical solution to the problem. This was the construction of an ‘AIDS island’ following the Swedes’ example, where AIDS victims could be isolated and treated. It harkens back to the location of lazarettos – leper hospitals – on islands. But it was also frightening coming as it did from a government that had very far right tendencies and a reputation for aggressive homophobia. Maggie had just tried to introduce her law banning the positive teaching of homosexuality in schools. To many people, this seemed like the beginning of a campaign against homosexuals and the left which would end up with internment camps. The nightmare Fascist Britain of Alan Moore’s and Dave Lloyd’s V for Vendetta, running in the comic Warrior, seemed all too possible.

Others have also challenged the very close relationship between the press and the political class. When David Cameron was PM, it was pointed out that many leading journos, including editorial staff at the Guardian, I believe, also lived in Cameron’s village of Chipping Norton. Over on the other side of the Pond, some of the left-wing news shows on the Net, like The Young Turks, Sam Seder’s Majority Report and the David Pakman Show, have also commented on the way the press is content to parrot stories and claims by right-wing politicians, because they’re afraid that if they start challenging them, those politicians will simply stop talking to them and they’ll lose their stories. The result has been a decline in journalistic standards, as papers no longer attempt to hold politicos to account, but simply repeat their lines and lies. I’ve no doubt that this also partly accounts for the utter complicity of the press in repeating the claims and assumptions of the neoliberal right over here.

But this also doesn’t exonerate the Beeb. Despite the protestations of its political editor, the Beeb does platform right-wing figures over the left. Mike put up a graphic from Tory Fibs a few days ago, which showed very clearly how massively biased the Beeb was in its inclusion of figures and spokesmen for the right on its news shows and panels. Its newsroom is stacked full of Conservatives, like Nick Robinson, and Fiona Bruce and her producers on Question Time scarcely hide their right-wing bias. And the Beeb is still under investigation for the massive bias in its Panorama documentary on anti-Semitism in the Labour party.

The lobby system is a major part of the problem, but not the whole. The whole journalistic system and its cosy relationship with right-wing politicians is rotten, and needs to be overturned. And the Beeb is very much part of it.

JOE’s Satirical Video about Farage: ‘I Would Tell 500 Lies’

November 7, 2019

Here’s another video from those merry funsters at JOE. It’s old, but still very, very relevant: their song about Nigel Farage and his plans for Brexit ‘I Would Tell 500 Lies’. It’s an attack on him and his vehicle, the Brexit party, AKA UKIP: the Reboot through a parody of the Proclaimers ‘I Would Walk 500 Miles’. It comments on their anti-immigration policy, which means that African and Syrian refugees wouldn’t be welcome. This would mean that the British public would have lots of low paid work for them to do, as all the immigrants that do them would have been deported back to the EU. It says there wouldn’t be enough medical professionals and hospital workers, because they would have been deported too. And if you’re sick, you’d have to wait for your medicines and there’d also be food shortages. It states very clearly that he would tell 500 lies to stir up hate and xenophobic bile, and reminds everyone that the squalid little liar has been campaigning for Brexit and stood for parliament many times since 2004, but has never been elected.

All this is true. The Yellowhammer Report stated that the government should act to avoid shortages of food and medicines created by Brexit, or at least a no deal Brexit. When he was head of UKIP, Farage proudly unveiled that post showing a line of refugees from Syria and north Africa, which was almost identical to one used by the Nazis in Weimar Germany to work up hate against Jewish refugees. And I understand that there really is a shortage in medical and ancillary staff in Britain’s health service thanks to the Brexit and anti-immigration policies Farage demanded.

Farage and his ilk, include the Brexiteers in the Tory party, like Boris Johnson, lied to us again and again. They told us we were paying £350 million to the EU. We weren’t. They told us that if we left Europe, that money would spent on the NHS. It wasn’t, and they’ve tried to deny lying to us, saying that they just meant it as the kind of issue we could spend the money on.

As for Farage himself, he has never won a parliamentary seat, which no doubt explains why he isn’t standing in this election either.

And his party’s candidates themselves are as noxious as he is. Despite the party’s attempts to win over Labour heartlands, no one from the working class should touch them with a barge pole. There are some, I’ve no doubt, who are decent individuals with moderate views. But very many of them have been revealed to be extreme neoliberals wanting even more privatisation, including that of the welfare state, the removal of environmental protections for the benefit of the oil industry, the abolition of the welfare state and further attacks on workers’ rights.

The line from JOE’s song is absolutely right: when you’re suffering, he isn’t going to be suffering along with you.

Don’t listen to them, and vote for Corbyn instead.

 

‘I’ Article on McDonnell Receiving Death Threats

November 7, 2019

Also in Tuesday’s I was a brief article by Patrick Daly reporting that McDonnell had told a meeting of NHS workers that he receives death threats weekly. The article ran

Labour’s shadow Chancellor, John McDonnell, said he regularly receives two death threats a week, as he called for calm as the general election campaign gets under way.

He said politicians had “exploited” the Brexit result to “unleash forces” that were “dividing society”.

He made the comments after being told by a migrant NHS worker how he and a surgeon colleague had been verballed abused following the 2016 referendum decision.

Speaking to London NHS workers at Unison’s headquarters, Mr McDonnell said he wanted more politicians to “follow the advice” given by the Archbishop of Canterburty. The Most Rev Justin Welby warned the Prime Minister and MPs last week that it was “extraordinary dangerous to use careless comments” in what he described as a “very polarised and volatile situation”S.

Mr McDonnell said: “We’ve all had continual death threats. I usually get about two a week now.

“That’s the sort of politics we have got at the minute.”

This potentially explosive situation has been fanned by Johnson’s own highly inflammatory rhetoric and that of the Tory press towards anyone, who dares to oppose Brexit, or their version of it. Remember how the Fail slandered the judges, who declared one of their Brexit initiatives illegal, ‘enemies of the people’. Which mirrors exactly the rhetoric used by the Nazis against the democratic Weimar authorities before they seized power in Germany.

But it’s also a notable for a number of other reasons. The first is that it contradicts the Tory, Blairite and media narrative a few years ago that Corbyn’s followers were evil, raging misogynists sending abusive messages to ‘moderate’ – read Thatcherite – Labour women. Like Luciana Berger and the rest. This gave the misleading impression that only these ladies received abuse. But as the I also revealed a few days ago, half of the abusive messages sent to Labour politicians go to Diane Abbott, a close ally of Corbyn. And while I’ve no doubt that some of they did receive abuse and threats, some of the messages they claim to have received, on examination, didn’t exist. But I have no doubt that McDonnell’s statement is absolutely true.

As is the statement by the migrant NHS worker about the abuse he and a surgeon colleague received after the 2016 Brexit referendum.

Not everyone, who voted for Brexit are racist or xenophobic by any means. Some Labour voters did so in some communities because European policies has harmed their industries. The British fishing industry is a case in point, and used as an example of destructive EU policies by the Times sketchwriter, Quentin Letts, in his book Fifty People Who Buggered Up Britain. Some Old Labour voters no doubt voted for Brexit because of the way neoliberalism and privatisation are written into the EU constitution and economic structure. But many others did. They were lied to by the Tories and UKIP, told that by leaving the EU there would be less foreigners taking their jobs and pushing down wages. And that meant Black and Asian immigrants. One of the most noxious examples of this was Nigel Farage and his wretched UKIP poster showing a line of immigrants from Syria and North Africa, which exactly matched Nazi posters against Jewish and eastern European immigration.

Last year I went into hospital for treatment for a form of blood cancer here in Bristol. I received excellent care, as I have done through the process generally, from the doctors, nurses and other medical and ancillary staff. Very many of these are foreign workers, not just from other parts of Europe, but also Africa and the Caribbean. They were conscientious in their care, and in my experience, had an excellent and supportive attitude towards the patients. We are very fortunate to have such people working for us.

But they are being abused. There was a piece on the local news for the Bristol region, Points West, the other day, reporting that one of the city’s hospitals in Southmead has been forced to put in place a zero tolerance policy because of people abusing staff, including, I believe, threats of violence. Threats and abuse to hospital workers and medical professionals isn’t new. There have been posters up warning patients against it for years, as well as reports and denunciations in the press and media. But now it seems it’s becoming particularly serious.

This is disgraceful. It needs to be stopped, now. Before there’s another assassination like that of Jo Cox.

 

Medical Stunt Tells BoJob his Hospital Visit is a Publicity Stunt

November 5, 2019

As Mike posted a few days ago, BoJob was booed out of Addenbrook’s hospital in Cambridge, when he turned up for a visit. And one medical student, Julia Simons, was so disgusted by this blatant piece of electioneering that she confronted him with it. This video from the Groaniad shows her trying to question our disaster of a PM as he walks out of the hospital to his limo surrounded by his bodyguards and minders, pointedly refusing to answer her questions. She also gives a brief interview explaining her attempt to confront him to the Groan’s reporter afterward.

She asks him, ‘I’d also like to ask you about your awareness of the health crisis and the climate crisis? I won’t be working in a system like the one today … Have you read the IPCC report? Do you understand that? Have you read it? Do you understand the IPCC report?’

She gets no answer, and slams the car door shut.

She says to the reporter afterward:

Basically, I just came out of clinic and I was told that Boris Johnson was coming, and I was like, ‘Oh my goodness’, like as a normal person you never get that opportunity to say something to someone like that. I really want to ask him, ‘What’s next?’ And I was told I wasn’t allowed to ask him any questions. Which is a really good sign, I think, that this is a PR stunt. People who work in this hospital know the reality of cuts, like I’m a medical student, I don’t know the cuts in the way these people do. They were all really angry to hear he’s coming here for a PR stunt, ’cause we know what cuts have done to our NHS. We know the NHS is being privatised even if it’s not explained in explicit terms.   

The reporter asks ‘What’s the mood among the staff at the hospital having had Boris Johnson come in?’

She replies

Oooh, we weren’t told he was coming, which is a really big sign. As a Prime Minister you should be proud of how you’re leading your country. We were told that we weren’t allowed to know he was here. But I think it’s one of frustration because, as doctors we practice evidence-based medicine and politics should be evidence-based too. And yet the health outcomes from his policy changes evidence-wise, that doesn’t work and we shouldn’t keep doing that. And he’s too much of a coward to talk to any real members of staff rather than some random medical student, who happened to get in front of some cameras about the reality of those cuts.

Very well said!

Of course it was a publicity stunt, just as all the Tories’ visits to hospitals and doctors’ surgeries have been. And I’m not surprised that the staff were told to keep schtumm. They know perfectly well that the Health Service is being privatised, and that it is all driven by ideology. The neurosurgeon, Humanist and philosopher Ray Tallis and Jackie Davis make this absolutely clear in their book, NHS-SOS. Despite all the verbiage about introducing private sector discipline and skills into the NHS, the reality is that private medicine and hospitals actually provide a poorer service than state medicine. But Tory ideology, plus their class interest as people with private business interests themselves mean that they are promoting the privatisation of the NHS for all they and their backers in private healthcare companies can get.

When Simons talks about evidence-based medicine, she means, of course, treatment that has been subject to thorough scientific testing and proper statistical analysis. But these are alien to the Tories, who lie through their teeth and won’t release proper statistics on anything whatsoever, because in healthcare, and so often generally, the proper stats flatly contradict their lies. See Mike’s experience of how Iain Duncan Smith and the DWP tried everything they could to refuse him the stats for the number of people, who had died after being declared fit for work by Atos, then handling the fitness to work tests.

Julie Simons is obviously an extremely conscientious student, who cares deeply for the NHS and the care it provides. She should make an extremely good doctor. She also joins a long line of other doctors, surgeons and medical professionals, who’ve also tried to confront the Tories about the catastrophic effect their vile policies are having.

But I am also afraid that, by daring to confront BoJob, she will also have her card marked as a troublemaker and will be subject to some of the appalling harassment and abuse that the Tories and their troll army have inflicted on others, who have confronted them like this.

The only politician and party that will keep the NHS publicly owned, providing free medicine at the point of use, is Jeremy Corbyn and the Labour party. Vote for them, and get the Tories and Lib Dems out.

Does Anybody Really Believe the Tories’ Fracking Halt Isn’t an Election Stunt?

November 5, 2019

I know this story is a few days old, but it bears repeating, if only only to remind everyone that Tories are flagrant liars. On Monday, Mike put up a piece commenting on the Tories’ decision to stop fracking. But only for the moment. It’s just a temporary halt, while they consider the situation. Both Andrew Adonis and Jeremy Corbyn called it out as an election stunt. Adonis said that the ban would last all the way until December 13th, the day after the election. Corbyn added that Labour really would ban fracking. And that would be the real change. He also reminded people that BoJob had called fracking ‘glorious news for humanity’ and that we couldn’t trust him. No, we can’t. And certainly not the people in the areas where they’re drilling for shale gas, who’ve suffered earth tremors and other disastrous environmental effects.

And Labour’s Rebecca Long-Bailey made some very acute observations on the way Andrea Leadsom had phrased the news. She described fracking as ‘a glorious opportunity’ and the decision to halt it ‘a disappointment’. Long Bailey said that usually the Tories wait until after an election before breaking their promises, but this time they’ve made a U-turn within hours of announcing it. She also concluded that this showed they had no intention of stopping fracking, and it was all an electoral stunt.

As did Mike, who wrote

So the choice is simple: A makeshift, make-believe, pretend freeze on this dangerous process under the Tories that will last until just after the general election – or a genuine ban under Labour.

Boris Johnson is a proven liar. Jeremy Corbyn is known to keep his word.

Who do you believe?

Election 2019: Tory halt on fracking condemned as a lie and a stunt

There shouldn’t be any question about it. Johnson’s a liar, and the Tories have lied again and again. Johnson said that the NHS was not on the table in his Brexit negotiations with Donald Trump. Except it was, and there were six secret meetings about it between British and American negotiators. He has said that the Tories intend to build 40 new hospitals, but they’ve only got real funding for six, and about 120 hospitals are also set to close. They’ve also claimed that they’re not privatising the NHS, but the majority of services are now contracted to private healthcare companies. Tweezer lied so much that a London Ska band released a song attacking her for her mendacity, suitably called ‘Liar, Liar’.

And remember when Dodgy Dave Cameron and Iain Duncan Cough were campaigning for the 2010 election, and were leading campaigns to save hospitals from closure? That lasted all the way until Cameron got into No. 10. As did his promise to lead the ‘greenest government ever’. The environment was going to be protected, right up to the point where he became Prime Minister.

And this is another empty promise from a government known for lying.

Tories Planning to Sell Out NHS to Trump

October 31, 2019

Mike covered this story a few days ago, but it’s another one that bears repeating: the Tories want to privatise the NHS and sell it off to American corporations.

This was revealed on Monday night’s Dispatches programme on Channel 4, broadcast at 8 pm. The description of the programme in that day’s I ran

Earlier this year, Donald Trump sparked a row when he said that the NHS would be “on the table” in any future trade talks between the UK and America – swiftly performing a U-turn over his comments. Now Antony Barnett shows that US drug giants are busy lobbying trade negotiators in Washington and London to make the health service pay more for their medicines and to ban cheaper alternatives.

This is another story which Mike covered on his blog, reproducing the tweets issued by Dispatches showing that there had been six secret meetings in both London and Washington about this, and that they began under Tweezer. See https://voxpoliticalonline.com/2019/10/29/shock-revelation-liar-boris-johnson-has-been-secretly-selling-out-the-nhs/

This should come as no surprise. The Tories voted against Labour’s bill setting up the NHS, even after claiming that they welcomed it. A few years later under Harold Macmillan, the Tory Right tried to privatise it on the grounds that we could not afford it. And Thatcher wanted to privatise it, but was prevented by a cabinet revolt. Since then there has been an encroaching privatisation of the NHS by both the Tories and New Labour. It’s described in Ray Tallis’ book, NHS – SOS, and I’ve self-published a book on Lulu and a small desktop pamphlet discussing this. There have also been a series of short videos presented by Stephen Fry on YouTube against the Tory attempts to sell out our NHS to the Americans. In one of them, the former presenter of QI tells you that under the American private healthcare system, simply being taken to hospital in an ambulance can cost you £200. The Tories have been lying for years that the NHS is safe with them, but the truth is that they have consistently run it down, closing hospitals and A&E departments, all while claiming that they are doing no such thing. Or are actually going to reverse this policy. Remember when Dave Cameron and Iain Duncan Smith were running around protesting against Blair’s hospital closures when they were in opposition? Soon as Cameron got his foot in the front door of No. 10, that policy was reversed and they went on closing hospitals and outsourcing services to private healthcare companies.

You cannot trust the Tories with the NHS – not now, not ever. If you want to continue having a National Health Service that provides everyone in Britain with healthcare, free at the point of service, you have to vote for Corbyn and Labour.

If you vote for the Tories, you are voting for a private system, which will profit the big healthcare and pharmaceutical companies, but will be unaffordable to a large part of the British people. Can you afford private health insurance?

 

French Scientists Help Paralysed Man to Walk with Robot Exoskeleton

October 6, 2019

Friday’s I, for 4th October 2019, also carried the astonishing news that a paralysed man had been able to walk and move his arms using an exoskeleton developed by scientists at the university of Grenoble. The article, ‘Paralysed man walks with help of exoskeleton’ by Rhiannon Williams and Tom Bawden, on page 5 of the newspaper, ran

A paralysed man has been able to move his arms and walk with the assistance of a robotic exoskeleton suit controlled by his thoughts, in a breakthrough that could revolutionise the lives of patients around the world.

The 28-yeard-old man is paralysed from the shoulders down with only partial movement in his biceps and left wrist, meaning he is classified as a tetraplegic and operates a joystick-controlled wheelchair.

Over the course of a two-year trial conducted by French researchers including the University of Grenoble, he was able to move all four of his limbs through brain signals recorded and interpreted by the robotic suit.

The team implanted a recording device between the patient’s brain and skull either side of his head, containing electrodes to collect brain signals and transmit them to a decoding algorithm. Those signals were translated into his desired movements and communicated to the exoskeleton suit to move it, after activating a brain-operated “on” switch. The suit was suspended from the ceiling to allow it to balance correctly.

The patient trained the decoding algorithm to understand his thoughts by using it to move a digital avatar in a video game before raching out for 2D and 3D objects while wearing the suit. He spent 95 days training the algorithm at home playing the game and teaching an avatar to walk onscreen, and a further 45 days operating the suit in the lab. In the first two months, he was able to activate the switch 73 per cent of the time over six sessions, while over 39 sessions he was able to walk over a total of 145m.

The study, published in The Lancet Neurology, has the potential to enhance patient autonomy and quality of life. “Our finds could move us a step closer to helping tetraplegic patients to drive computers using braini signals alone, perhaps starting with driving wheelchairs using brain activity instead of joysticks and progressing to developing an exoskeleton for increased mobility,” said Professor Stephan Chabardes, a neurosurgeon  from the CHU Grenoble-Alpes teachinig hospital. The trial is continuing with three more patients as researchers seek to remove the ceiling-mounted harness.

While the study is a “welcome and exciting advance”, its findings are a long way from reality, said Professor Tom Shakespeare from the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine. “Even if workable, cost contraints mean hi-tech options are never going to be available to most people with spinal cord injury,m” he said. “One analysis suggests only 15 per cent of the world’s disabled population have access to the wheelchairs or other assistive technologies they need.”

A related peace, ‘Success: Real-world results after months of training’ adds

Robotic exoskeletons have been touted for years as a way to increase the mobility of elderly people and those who have limited movement, with global companies such as LG, Honda, Panasonic, Audi and Hyundai among the investors.

The trial’s exoskeleton is operated by a semi-invasive brain-computer system, and is the first of its kind designed for long-term use to activate all four limbs, according to Professor Alim-Louis Benabid, from the University of Grenoble.

‘Previous brain-computer studies have used more invasive recording devices implanted beneath the outermost membrane of the brain, where they eventually stop working. They have been connected to wires, limited to creating movement in just one limb, or have focused on restoring movement to patients’ own muscles’, he said.

The exoskeleton in the trial has 14 degrees of movement, meaning it can move in 14 different ways. Over time the patient progressed from reaching towards targets on cubes using one hand to using both hands to touch targets including rotating both wrists after 16 months. On average, the patient was able to perform tasks between 10 per cent and 20 per cent more successfully with the exoskeleton than by controlling the digital avatar, suggesting he received richer feedback in the real world.

Here’s the picture that accompanied the article of the man wearing the suit.

As the article says, there have been designs for robotic exoskeletons for some time. IN the 50s – 60s American scientists had plans for one. However, only the claw was built because the motors that they were using were so powerful they would have shaken the whole suit apart. Then in the 1990s there were designs for robotic leggings very much like those in the Wallace and Gromit film, The Wrong Trousers. They were designed to help paralysed people to walk. Driven by electric motors and with a computer learning system, the trousers would have first been worn by an able-bodied person. They would have walked about to teach the machine how to do it. After the machine had taken in this information, they would have been passed on to the disabled people needing them. A similar machine appeared in the I a few weeks ago, when it reported the development of robotic shorts.

At the moment, I’m afraid Professor Shakespeare is right, and such exoskeletons are too expensive for general use by the disabled. But hopefully if this technology is improved and developed, the price will come down and something like this machine might become affordable. It would certainly improve disabled people’s quality of life. In the meantime, we could do much by giving far more disabled people throughout the world access to the devices and machines we have now, like wheelchairs, so that far more than 15 per cent of the global disabled population have them. 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Cameron Blames Lansley and Lib Dems for His Act Promoting Privatisation of NHS

October 3, 2019

This fortnight’s issue of Private Eye also has a few choice things to say about David Cameron’s new book, For the Record. This seems to be largely his attempt to justify his wretched tenure of 10 Downing Street and the havoc he caused. The book’s reviewed, and comprehensively and thoroughly trashed, in their ‘Literary Review’ column on page 34 in a piece titled ‘Shed tears’. It’s a long review, which can be summed up by saying that Cameron keeps trying to claim that his government left Britain stronger, more stable, and more prosperous. To which the Eye’s answer – and just about everyone else’s – is Brexit, and a few telling details refuting the Old Eton’s bogus claims.

The magazine’s ‘Medicine Balls’ column also attacks some of Cameron’s claims. It begins by refuting BoJob’s claim that he’ll build 40 new hospitals, before going on to tackle Cameron’s little stories. Including the former PM’s claim that he wasn’t really responsible for the Health and Social Care Act of 2012. This is a nasty little piece of legislation which, behind its convoluted verbiage and tortuous clauses, exempts the Health Secretary from having to provide Brits with universal healthcare which is free at the point of service. It’s a piece preparing for the wholesale privatisation of the NHS, and is duly attacked as such in the book NHS – SOS. As Prime Minister, Cameron is responsible for the Act. Except he claims it’s all the fault of his Health Secretary, Andrew Lansley, and the Lib Dems. The Eye writes

Then there is the small matter of repairing the disastrous Health and Social Care Act, a Trojan horse for outsourcing NHS services to the private sector via an astonishingly wasteful process of repetitive, competitive tendering. David Cameron, in his autobiography, places the blame for the act on his health secretary Andrew Lansley, the Lib Dem coalition partners and the British Medical Association (BMA): “Andrew Lansley … was too submerged in the detail. The jargon he’d use was baffling. I remember sitting in cabinet when he shared his reform white paper. it was like an artist unveiling a piece he’d spent years on, and everyone wondering what on earth it was.” So why did he allow such chaos to progress?

It was the Lib Dems fault, claims Cameron, that he was forced to abandon his pre-election pledge of “no top-down” reorganisation” of the NHS, because they insisted that primary care trusts should be abolished rather than left “wither on the vine”. Then there is the BMA, which Cameron declares “will oppose anything, whether it is a good idea or not.”

(Eye page 17).

From this it’s clear that there was little ideological difference between Cameron and the Lib Dems. Both wanted the primary care trusts to go. It was simply a difference of the means.Cameron wanted them to decay quietly, the Lib Dems wanted abolition.

The column also attacks Comedy Dave’s pledge to support the NHS:

But he also promised to “always support the NHS with the funding it needs”, which he manifestly failed to do. And the promises in his 2015 manifesto – “to make the NHS the safest and most compassionate health service in the world” – were always phoney given the lack of resource, capacity and staff.

The article does admit that Cameron did some things right, such as highlighting the dangers of anti-microbial resistance, but attacks his role in provoking the junior doctor’s strike by demanding they work weekends, based on flawed, decades-old statistics.

From this it’s very clear that, whatever he says about Lansley’s Health and Social Care Act, Cameron was in favour of the privatisation of the NHS. No surprise there, then. He’s a Thatcherite, and Maggie Thatcher wanted to privatise the NHS. She couldn’t, because her Personal Private Secretary, Patrick Jenkin, found out how awful the American, insurance-based system was, and there was a massive cabinet rebellion. But she was determined to open it up to private industry. This was taken over by Peter Lilley and John Major, who introduce the Private Finance Initiative, and then by Tony Blair and Gordon Brown, who expanded it in their turn. It was then taken up, once again, by David Cameron, Nick Clegg and Tweezer. And I’ve no doubt Johnson also wants to privatise it, after he gets through ruining the country with his assaults on the sovereignty of parliament and a ‘no deal’ Brexit.

And the Lib Dems share the Tories’ determination to destroy the NHS. At the last election, Nick Clegg stated that he wanted to open the NHS up to private industry, as those countries, whose healthcare had a mixture of state and private provision had ‘better outcomes’. It’s a flat-out lie, or it was until he and the Tories started their disastrous campaign of trashing the NHS. And Swinson shares his goal of privatising it. She consistently voted for the government’s bills, and supported them far more than some front bench Conservatives.

Despite this, she claims that she and her party are ‘progressive’, solely because it ostensibly supports ‘Remain’. But this is sheer opportunism. When it came to the referendum, she issued a single, lukewarm tweet and was nowhere to be seen, while the Labour leader she reviles was travelling up and down the country. As for her party, the proportion of Lib Dems who support ‘Remain’ is only two per cent higher than that of the Labour party. Her whole pro-Remain stance is a lie, as is just about everything she says.

Don’t be fooled. Both the Tories and Lib Dems want to privatise the NHS. The only person who doesn’t, and will block it, is Jeremy Corbyn.

 

Video of Jeremy Corbyn Pledging to End Universal Credit

October 2, 2019

This was put up on the official Jeremy Corbyn Channel on YouTube three days ago, on the 29th of September, 2019. In it, Corbyn states that Labour will end Iain Duncan Smith’s flagship policy of Universal Credit. Corbyn says

Our social security system should support people back into work, not punish them and their families. The Tories’ flagship policy, Universal Credit, has caused an explosion of people going to food banks, pushed children into poverty, and even resulted in people dying at the hands of this cruel system. In government Labour will scrap Universal Credit. We’ll end the inhumane sanctions regime. We’ll do away with the ridiculous five-week wait for payments. And never again will any woman have to fill in a form to prove her child was born as a result of rape. Universal Credit is a heartless and cruel policy based on a lie. It wasn’t the sick, the disabled or the vulnerable who caused the financial crash of 2008. It was the bankers. But the architect of Universal Credit, Iain Duncan Smith and the Tory party, chose to give tax cuts to bankers as they dismantle our social security system. Things will change under Labour. We’ll build a society which is compassionate, where support is there for all of us when we need it. And where people come before privilege.

The video shows Corbyn filling boxes in a food bank, as well as the exterior of a jobcentre, snaps of the City of London, and, unfortunately, shots of Iain Duncan Smith in parliament. Viewer discretion is advised.

It’s the same message Corbyn gave at his speech this weekend in Chingford, IDS’ constituency, that provoked the vile little liar, whose policies have killed tens of thousands of disabled and other people, into a ranting reply on YouTube. He claimed that Corbyn’s policy of restoring Social Security would be unjust to taxpayers – this was his first priority – and that it ignored the fact that work is still the best way out of poverty. This is, simply, a lie. It’s based on discredited, bogus research produced by Unum’s pet scientist at their funded centre at Cardiff University. There is a mountain of proper scientific evidence very loudly refuting it. I’ve published some this on my blog, from material put up by Mike over at Vox Political and Kitty S. Jones and other great disability activists. IDS himself has no understanding of poverty whatsoever. He’s an Eton-educated Toff with a country mansion and acres of land in Scotland. Well, actually, it might be his wife’s, but it’s still his.

Despite the press claiming that the Labour party is behind the Tories in the polls, Corbyn’s policies evidently have the Tories rattled. Boris Johnson has started lying again about building 40 more hospitals – in fact only six, and at least one of those isn’t a hospital. Sajid Javid is claiming that he’s going to build up Britain’s infrastructure. All lies, or at least what Mike Yarwood famously called in one of his impressions ‘election promises’.

Don’t be taken in by Tory lies, and the murderous deceit of the right-wing press and Beeb. Universal Credit is a colossal failure and the cause of more grinding poverty. It is there not because it works, but because it keeps the poor down and so cements the wealthy elite, from whose ranks BoJob and IDS come, in their wealth, power and position. Get them out, and Corbyn in.