Posts Tagged ‘Multiple Sclerosis’

Jeremy Corbyn: The Tories Created A Hostile Environment for the Disabled

September 27, 2018

This is a very short video, of just over a minute, from Guardian News on YouTube. It’s a section from Corbyn’s speech at the Labour party conference in which he states plainly that the Tories have created a hostile environment for disabled people, and describes the anxiety and misery they are put through by the assessment tests, citing letters he has been sent. He said

For too many people, social security is become a system of institutionalized bullying and degradation. The Tories have created a hostile environment for disabled people. Hundreds of people from all over the country write to me about it every week. People like Richard, who says this,

‘My wife was diagnosed with progressive multiple sclerosis twenty years ago. A few months ago we were told she needed to reapply for Personal Independence Payments. She had an assessment by somebody who was not medically trained. We’ve now been told that all her medical benefit would be stopped, and yes, I have tried to be her rock, but the stress and suffering I can see my wife going through, is so very cruel and I’ve had to be put myself on antidepressants.’

These are human consequences of a Tory government that puts tax cuts for the wealthy ahead of care for the disabled people of our society.

He ends his speech to massive applause.

He’s absolutely right, but it’s not just the Tories, who are to blame. The assessment system was brought in by New Labour on the advice of the private health insurance company, Unum. It was based on a series of papers by one of their pet scientists about the role of the mind in illness, which has now been discredited as utter bunkum. It was also based on other, discredited studies that assumed that most people on sickness or disability benefits were malingerers. At the same Blair, like the Tories, loudly proclaimed that working was good for the long-term ill and disabled, even when it was obviously making their conditions worse. Since then we’ve had scandal after scandal of the terminally ill and those, who are clearly too disabled to work, being found ‘fit for work’ and having their benefits stopped.

It’s now time to end this vicious, unscientific, degrading and cruel system. The Tories must be thrown out of power, and the Blairites from the Labour party. After all, there are still Blairite MPs who believe that conditions should be made harder for the unemployed so that Labour can win over Tory voters.

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Robohunter: 2000 AD’s Warning about Crazed Robots?

December 29, 2017

Now for something a bit lighter. What struck me watching Six Robots and Us on BBC 2 last night, was how similar the real robots given to the six families to help them with their problems resembled the demented machines drawn by art robot Ian Gibson for 2000 AD’s ‘Robohunter’ strip. Written by script droid John Wagner, who was Pat Mills’ partner in crime behind Judge Dredd, ‘Robohunter’ was about a future private detective, Sam Slade, who specialised in hunting down rogue robots. In his first adventure, Slade is sent to Verdus, a planet colonised by robots ready for eventual human occupation. But the robots have developed so rapidly, that they now exceed humans in strength and intelligence. Programmed to regard humans as their superiors, they simply don’t recognise the inferior organic beings that turn up as humans, and so incarcerate as experimental animals in concentration camps.

‘Robohunter’ was one of my favourite strips in 2000 AD. It was Science Fiction, but had the wit and style of an old-fashioned hardboiled detective thriller from the thirties or forties. Slade – ‘that’s S-L-A-Y-E-D to you’ was something like a futuristic Sam Spade. Which meant that he was frequently being beaten up by the villains, before fighting his way out with a few laconic witticisms. And the robots drawn by Gibson were imaginative and convincing, with the same type of cartoony features as the robots used in Six Robots and Us.

And like very many of the other strips in 2000 AD, ‘Robohunter’ was also sharply satirical. Here’s Wagner’s and Gibson’s take on the British parliament, from the collected strips Robo-Hunter: Verdus, by John Wagner, Ian Gibson, Jose Luis Ferrer and Jose Casanovas, published by Rebellion/ 2000 AD.

Okay, so the robots sent to the families weren’t demented killing machines intent on enslaving us. In fact the Shopbot sent to a supermarket in Glasgow offered people hugs. One of the store workers observed shrewdly that he had nothing against the machine, as long as it didn’t put human employees out of a job. Quite.

And some of them actually didn’t work very well. The Carebot sent in to look after a lady with MS, thus allowing her husband some time away from looking after her, actually couldn’t physically help her. It could only remind her and her husband when she needed to take her medicine and to call him on the mobile if there was something wrong. Unfortunately, it used the internet, and so the moment the husband was out of wifi range, the connection went down and it was more or less useless.

So they’re not quite like the robots in ‘Robohunter’ just yet. But we have been warned!

Mirror: Farage Wants to Wealthy to Abandon NHS

March 18, 2015

Yesterday’s Daily Mirror carried the story UKIP leader Nigel Farage wants wealthy to abandon NHS and advocates two-tier health system reporting that the Fuhrage had urged those who could afford to do so to opt for private healthcare. The Mirror also reported that on Pienaar’s Politics’ on Radio 5 Live, the Purple Duce claimed that private healthcare offered a better service than the NHS. He also supported foreign private healthcare firms entering the country, on the grounds that they brought a lot of money into the economy. The article states that this is just the latest attack on the NHS by Farage, and cited the video of Farage’s speech way back in 2012 in which he stated he’d rather see people pick up private health insurance than have £100 million in tax annually spent on the NHS.

The article also notes that Farage wasn’t the only one to attack the NHS. Bill Etheridge, one of Farage’s Euro MPs, had stated that certain elective operations should not be performed by the NHS. This would cover non-essential and cosmetic surgery and fertility treatment.

He also claimed that only 20 per cent of the country’s top youngster should go to University. These kids would then have their education totally financed by the state.

The Labour MP John Spellar attacked his recommendation, saying that it would mean that higher education was reserved solely for the elite from private schools. It would also wipe out some of the new university towns such as Wolverhampton and Birmingham City.

And he also made the point that if Etheridge and Fuhrage had their way, non-essential but nevertheless important operations like hip replacements would be very difficult to get.

The article began:

Mr Farage said: “If people can afford it, should people go private? Yes… private medicine brings a lot of money into this country and is no bad thing”

Wealthy Nigel Farage today called on people to abandon the NHS and use private health firms instead.

The UKIP leader said anyone who can afford private healthcare should pay for it.

Furious critics said it proved he supports a two-tier health system.

“If people can afford it, should people go private? Yes,” Mr Farage said.

Grahame Morris, a member of the Commons health select committee, said: “Nigel Farage has let the cat out of the bag.

“UKIP are proposing a break with the fundamental principles of the National Health Service.”

The article’s at http://www.mirror.co.uk/news/uk-news/amazon-review-nigel-farage-book-5352039

I blogged earlier in the week about the profound disadvantages of private medical insurance. Rather than being more efficient than the NHS, it is more expensive, more bureaucratic and specifically excludes certain, expensive conditions that are difficult or impossible to treat, such as arthritis, multiple sclerosis and muscular dystrophy. Or at least it did when Robin Cook published his own pamphlet attacking the marketization of the NHS nearly thirty years ago. I really don’t think much has changed since. The people, who really benefit from private medical insurance are the wealthy and the well, the two sections of the population, who really don’t need it.

Robin Cook’s Attack on Private Health Insurance for the NHS

March 15, 2015

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I’ve blogged several times about the threat to the NHS from the Tories and the Lib Dems. There are 92 Conservative and Lib Dem ministers, who advocate the privatisation of the Health Service, and who stand personally to gain from it. They include Iain Duncan Smith, the current minister for culling the poor, the sick and the old. Andrew Lansley, the current health minister, has openly stated he is in favour of privatising it. So has Nigel Farage, and the Unterkippergruppenfuhrer, Paul Nuttall.

I blogged earlier today about the Fuhrage’s forked tongue about the NHS, and how he follows the Tory policy going all the way back to Thatcher of promising to defend it while secretly plotting how to sell it off. In the 1980s, Thatcher set up a review into the NHS and its funding. This so alarmed Labour’s Robin Cook, that he wrote a Fabian pamphlet, Life Begins at 40: In Defence of the NHS, attacking possible proposals to privatise the Health Service.

Previous reviews had given the NHS a clean bill of health. The extremely high quality of the NHS and its doctors was recognised by the heads of American healthcare firms: Dr Marvin Goldberg, chief executive of the AMI health group, told a parliamentary select committee that the Health Service provides ‘outstanding health care and British NHS hospitals are at least as good as those in America while British doctors are better.’

The then Conservative MP for Newbury, Michael McNair-Wilson, also testified to the effectiveness of the NHS. He had suffered kidney failure. He had private health insurance, but it did not cover operations such as the one he needed because of the expense. He said ‘I have cost the NHS tens of thousands of pounds – much more than I could have afforded privately … Had my treatment depended on my ability to pay, I would not be alive today.’

Pre-NHS Britain: Some Areas Completely Without Hospitals

Cook’s pamphlet also graphically described the patchwork state of healthcare in Britain before the NHS. In London, where there were plenty of paying customers, there could be hospitals in neighbouring streets. Out in the poorer British provinces, there were hardly any, and many operations were carried out not by surgeons but by GPs. He cites Julian Tudor Hart’s book, A New Kind of Doctor, to show how bad this could be. Hart described how he joined one of those practices in Kettering. One patient was left under anaesthetic as the London specialist operating on him was called away to continue a stomach operation on a London patient, which the operating GP had been unable to complete.

Cook was deeply concerned that the Tories’ review would not be at all interested in improving quality, only in opening up the NHS to the market and privatisation.

Cook on Private Health Insurance

One of the issues he tackled in the pamphlet was the possibility of the introduction of private health insurance. This covers two pages and a column and a bit in the original pamphlet. This is what he wrote, though emphases and paragraph titles are mine.

The mechanism proposed to square the incompatibility of health care with the market is insurance. All market approaches to the NHS submitted to the Review stress the case for much wider private insurance and almost as frequently propose subsidies to boost it.

Insurance-Based Systems Encourage Expensive Treatment

The first thing to be said is that private insurance does not offer to health care the alleged benefits of the discipline of the market place. At the point when the individual requires treatment he or she has already paid the premiums and has no incentive not to consume as expensive a treatment as can be reconciled with the policy. The position of the doctor is even more prejudiced in that he or she has every incentive to obtain as much as possible from the insurance company by recommending the most expensive treatment. Both patient and the doctor are in a conspiracy to make the consultation as costly as possible, which is a perverse outcome for a proposal frequently floated by those who claim to be concerned about cost control.

Insurance-Based Systems Encourage Unnecessary Surgery

The compulsion in an insurance-based system to maximise the rate of return is the simple explanation why intervention surgery is so much more often recommended in the United States. For example, the incidence of hysterectomy there is four times the British rate. This is unlikely to reflect higher morbidity rates but much more likely to reflect the greater willingness of doctors on a piece-work basis to recommend it, despite the operative risks and in the case of this particular operation the documented psychological trauma. I can guarantee that an expansion of private insurance will certainly meet the objective on increasing expenditure on health care, but it is not equally clear that the money will be spent effectively.

Insurance-Based Systems Require Expensive bureaucracy to Check Costs

One direct diversion of resources imposed by any insurance-based scheme is the necessity for accountants and clerks and lawyers to assess costs and process claims. The NHS is routinely accused of excessive bureaucracy, frequently I regret to say by the very people who work within it and are in a position to know it is not true. Expenditure in the NHS is lower as a proportion of budget than the health system of any other nation, lower as a proportion of turnover than the private health sector within Britain, and come to that, lower than the management costs of just about nay other major enterprise inside or outside the public sector. I am not myself sure that this is a feature of which we should be proud. ON the contrary it is evidence of a persistent undermanaging of the NHS, which is largely responsible for its failure to exploit new developments in communication, cost control and personnel relations. Nevertheless, there is no more pointless expansion of administrative costs than the dead-weight of those required to police and process and insurance-based system. These costs would be considerable.

Forty per cent of personal bankruptcies in the US are attributable to debts for medical care

Part of this additional cost burden is incurred in the task of hunting down bad debts, which does not contribute in any way to the provision of health care. Forty per cent of personal bankruptcies in the US are attributable to debts for medical care, a salutary reminder of the limitations set to insurance cover. These limitations have three dimensions.

Insurance Cover Excludes Chronic and Long-Term Sick, and the Elderly

First, insurance cover generally excludes those conditions which are chronic and therefore expensive or complicated and therefore expensive. Standard exclusions in British insurance policies are arthritis, renal dialysis, multiple sclerosis or muscular dystrophy. Most people do not require substantial medical care until after retirement. Most insurance cover excludes the very conditions for which they are then most likely to require treatment. Short of retirement, the most expensive health care required by the majority of the population is maternity care, which is also excluded by the majority of insurance policies.

Private Healthcare Limits Amount of Care due to Cost, not Need

Secondly, insurance cover is generally restricted by upper limits which are arbitrary in every sense other than financial. I recently met a psychiatric consultant to a private clinic, who was prepared to discuss candidly the ethical dilemmas of treating patients whose financial cover is fixed at five weeks of residential care, but whose response to treatment may indicate that a longer period of hospitalisation is desirable.

Private Health Care Geared to Selling to Healthy not Sick

Thirdly, insurance cover is further limited by exclusion of those most likely to claim on it. I am often struck at the sheer healthiness of the patients who illustrate the promotional literature of BUPA and PPP who appear in such pink of good cheer and fitness that it is difficult to figure out why they are in a hospital bed. These models are though in a sense most suitable for the purpose as the objective of insurance companies is to attract the healthy. They therefore claim the right to screen for the unhealthy and reject them from cover. This discriminatory approach was defended earlier this month by the managing director of WPA, Britain’s third biggest health insurer, on the principled grounds that it meant ‘essentially healthy people are not penalised by unhealthy people.’ This statement has the advantage of originality in that it perceives healthy people as the vulnerable group and proposes a market remedy that protects them from the inconvenient costs of the unhealthy.

Given this limited character of health insurance in Britain, the private sector is patently not in a position to substitute for the NHS and to be fair most directors of BUPA or PPP would be horrified at the notion of accepting the comprehensive, open-ended liabilities of the NHS. It is therefore perplexing that so much effort in and around the Review appears to be addressed to the issue of how the private sector may be expanded rather than how the public sector may be improved. Two major devices are being canvassed to boost private cover-tax relief on private cover or opt-out from public cover, or for all I know both of them together. Both would be a major mistake.

Tax Relief on Private Healthcare

Tax relief is open to the obvious objection that it targets help most on those who need it least – the healthy who are most likely to be accepted for private cover and the wealthy whose higher tax rates make relief most vulnerable. These are curious priorities for additional health expenditure.

Tax Relief Does Not Create Higher Spending on Health Care

Moreover, even in its own terms of stimulating higher spending on health, tax relief is likely to prove an ineffective mechanism. If for example the average premium is £200 pa the cost of tax relief for 6 million insured persons will be £300 million. The numbers under insurance need to increase by a third before the increased spending on premiums matches the cost of the subsidy and provides any net increase in health spending. Up to that point it will always produce a larger rise in health spending to increase the budget of the NHS by a sum equivalent to the cost of tax relief.

It is apparently being mooted that these objections could be circumvented by limiting the tax relief to the elderly. At this point the proposal moves from the perverse to the eccentric. This restriction targets help for private insurance on the very group for whom private cover is most inappropriate as their most likely health needs are the ones most likely to be excluded from cover. Only a moment’s reflection is required on the multiple ways in which we need to expand our health provision for the elderly to expose the hopeless irrelevance of tax relief as the solution for them.

Opt-Out Penalises those who Remain in the System

Opt-out is even more objectionable. The basic problem with opt-out is that it requires the payment towards the NHS of every individual to be expressed in a manner that gives him or her something to opt-out from. The principal attraction to Leon Brittan of his proposal for an NHS insurance contribution appeared to be precisely that it paved the way for opting out ( A New Deal for Health Care, Conservative Political Centre,, 1988). Nor is this inconvenience confined to the need for a whole new element in the tax system. If one in ten of the population chose to opt out, it would be remaining nine out of ten who would have to prove they were not opted-out when they went along to seek treatment. With the new contributions comes a requirement to maintain a record of payment of them, and presumably a mechanism for credits to those not in work but who do not wish to be counted has having opted out of the NHS.

Private Healthcare Undermine NHS as Universal System

The more fundamental objection both these proposals is they explicitly threaten the NHS as universal health service catering for everyone. Moreover, they threaten its universality in the worst possible way, by encouraging those with higher incomes and lower health needs to get out, leaving behind the less affluent and the less fit. In this respect such an approach to the NHS would be a piece with the Government’s strategy of erosion towards the rest of the social services-housing, pensions, and now education, where the Government has encouraged those who could afford it to opt-out of public provision, leaving behind the poor who could be expected to put6 up with a poor service.

This is the reality of the private healthcare system which Cameron, Clegg, Farage and the rest of the Right wish to introduce. It is expensive, bureaucratic, does not stimulating further spending, and excludes those with the most acute and expensive medical need, especially the elderly.

And the Tories and their counterparts in UKIP and the Lib Dems know it. Why else would the Tories spend their time trying to deny what they’re doing? Why does Farage appear to be advocating retaining the NHS, while arguing for an insurance based system, like America? It’s because they know that private medicine does not provide the solutions they claim. It is only source of further enrichment to them and their corporate donors.

And since Cook wrote that pamphlet, more than 20 per cent of all Americans can no longer afford their healthcare. It’s why the firms are trying to get their feet under the table over here.

Don’t let them. Miliband has promised to reverse the privatisation of the NHS. Support him in the coming election.

Tory Chequebook Euthanasia: ConcernedKev’s Experience

December 8, 2014

Yesterday and today I posted a couple of pieces reporting posts over at Mike’s site, Vox Political, on the way ATOS/ Maximus staff are asking ESA claimants with depression why they have not committed suicide during their assessments.

So many of Mike’s readers have commented on the piece, reporting that they too have been asked the same question that it seems to me that it is no longer due to callousness and irresponsibility on the part of individual staff members, but actually part of the script handed down to them to follow by the DWP and the wretched think tank that formulated the whole foul process in the first place.

Several of Mike’s commenters have medical experience, and state that if a nurse or doctor asked this question of mentally or emotionally vulnerable people, a question, which could very well lead to that person taking their own life, they would be disciplined and struck off.

One of the commenters to this blog, Concernedkev, raised the same point with regards to his personal experience with his nephew after he was asked the question at his ESA assessment. Concernedkev’s first comment ran:

My nephew was told by an assessor that he could not be suicidal otherwise he would not be here now as he would have done it. This in front of his mother. This person was not trained in mental health but on the General Register. If I had my way she should be struck off.

He later expanded on this comment, giving further details of his family’s experience at the hands of the DWP, in a subsequent comment on my second piece about this. He said

Hi I left a comment yesterday about my nephew. I also stated that the so called nurse should be struck off. I did not state that I am a qualified mental nurse (retired) and if I had been known to have asked the question like she asked when I was working, then I would have been suspended then sacked following a disciplinary hearing. I would then have been reported to the Nurses and Midwives Council with a view to being struck off. The event was a major setback to my nephews recovery and the local mental health services were less than supportive having no emergency beds or qualified community staff to cater for his needs. My sister, his mother was tearing her hair out trying to get help as the nature of his condition was a dual problem being bi-polar he then, because of the stress, went high and his behaviour was irrational and unpredictable. I took the liberty of medicating him myself, as I too am a sufferer, so I used my own medication which got him back in a reasonable state of mind to be able to manage him safely. He was lucky to have me as his uncle. We eventually got him the right help. How many thousands of sufferers out there are not so fortunate. I know from personal experience how hard it is to cope with the present system as I have to protect my wife from it as she has Multiple Sclerosis and had a battle to get into the ESA support group and despite it being a progressive and eventually terminal illness the DWP (Gestapo) will be putting her through the indignity of reassessment next year. In her last assessment the nurse who allegedly filled out a report without seeing her, omitted vital information that would have placed her automatically in the support group. If we had not challenged them she would have gone unpaid. In the case of those who are isolated without support it is easy to see why suicide is inevitable. Ian Duncan Smith and Freud et al know this and in my mind this makes them culpable of assisting suicide which still carries a 14 year maximum imprisonment.

Concernedkev’s nephew was indeed lucky to have an uncle with such training in psychiatric care, and who was able to give him the right medication to control his mood swings.

It is absolutely disgusting that this happened, just as it is that Concernedkev’s wife has to be reassessed for her benefit, despite suffering from a progressively degenerative condition. Sadly, she is not alone, and many others have reported having to suffer the same repeat assessments. The situation is so scandalous that I believe some of the more notorious examples have been reported in Private Eye.

Doctors have already reported a rise in mental problems amongst those with mental health issues due to the stress of the assessment process, including instances where the sufferer has had to be hospitalised because of the extremity of their distress. Private Eye a little while ago reported a case where a severely depressed young woman, with a history of suicide attempts, did intend attempt to take her own life after an ATOS interview. The Eye explicitly stated in their report on this that ATOS therefore explicitly broke the law, and quoted chapter and verse of the regulation that states that no questions may be asked which would lead the vulnerable to harm or kill themselves.

Now this has gone on long enough. No more vulnerable people should be put at risk through this. I have no medical knowledge or experience myself, so I am appealing to anyone out there who has the relevant knowledge: is there a professional body or ombudsman to whom we can complain about this? I realise one starting point would be Iain Duncan Smith as the head of the DWP itself, but is there anyone else, who may be appealed to, in order to stop this?