Sunday, 1 April 2012

H&SCB Becomes Law, Never mind Petrol, Stock up on Peanuts or Pasty’s, and That Red Bikini Again

Last week there was so much going on that at times it felt as if I was caught up in a whirlwind of change, and with some of these changes passing me by completely. One change I did notice as it occurred was noting that some 2 years after first seeing the light of day as Equity and Excellence: Liberating the NHS, the UK governments sometimes controversial Health and Social Care Bill was finally passed into law. Getting to this point broke many records. The bill had been in parliament for some 14 months, and endured 50 days worth of debates – this was by far the greatest time given to scrutinizing a new Act of Law. It took longer than the time taken to ban fox hunting with dogs, and like that Bill, at times, tempers often ran high. The Royal Colleges for the various Health Care Professions were universally opposed to the proposed changes. The Times newspaper ran a story that reported several Conservative MPs as saying Andrew Lansley should ‘be taken out and shot’.

Following the H&SCB becoming an Act, the man himself wrote to all the NHS staff thanking them for their hard work over the past year. In the one and half pages long letter, he reminded them that the Act ‘explicitly supports the core principles of the NHS’ – care provided free at the point of use, funded from general taxation and based upon need, and not ability to pay.

The letter also referred once more to the ‘no decision about me, without me’ principle. I am a member of the Citizens as Scientists Steering Group. This group aims to involve individuals of all ages from all communities, (that is the man, woman and child on the Salford Tram), in health and social care research. This group is not just aiming at involving people in large trials, but also in smaller more qualitative research projects. At last week’s meeting, we were looking at the website being developed, and I was reminded that we had adopted the Lansley NDAMWM to use as a principle for the groups work: no research about me, without me’.

One change that passed me by somewhat was the panic buying and stocking piling up on petrol. My daily routine means that on my journey into work I tend to listen to Farming Today, and most days reach work just as the 06.00 am BBC Radio 4 News headlines come on. This week, I must have been travelling slightly faster, because I missed the news. So on Thursday morning I was surprised to find the local garage coned off. However, listening to the news coming home that night, I became aware of the fuel crisis gripping the nation. Strangely when I called at my local garage I didn’t find any queues, and was able to fill up without problem.

The same news programme also talked about the other major news story gripping the nation, the new tax on pasty’s and other hot take away food. Yesterday I read an amusing story in the Guardian that speculated on how unworkable this new law was likely to be (the Pasty Tax not the Heath and Social Care Act), but it is too complicated to present here. Ann Muller has run a pasty shop in Helston, Cornwall, for more than 25 years. She claims this is basically a tax on the ‘working man of Britain’ (maybe women don’t eat pastys) and for the many elderly and unemployed people who come to her shop very lunchtime for a pasty. Mrs Muller intends to put a sign in the window proclaiming ‘hot for the rich, cold for the poor’. Interestingly I could not find any commentary on the potential positive impact there might be of the Pasty Tax on the UKs growing obesity problem.

The real ‘shortage’ story of the week was peanuts. I buy peanuts for the birds by the sack. Yesterday my local pet store didn’t have any, and advised even if they did, a sack would now cost £37! Off to the Tesco’s (yes there are other supermarkets that also sell pet products) but they only had 2 small bags priced at £10 each, Pets R Us had many even smaller bags of peanuts, but at £6.99 I thought these uber expensive. It appears that a combination of drought and failing crops across the world has meant peanuts are in very short supply. The price has tripled since October 2011 - which is just as unfortunate for people living in the US, where $800 million worth of peanut butter is consumed every year, as it is for my garden birds and squirrels. But again, in a perverse way, the shortage might be beneficial in terms of the world’s obesity problems.

Someone who clearly doesn’t have an obesity problem is Helen Mirren. Yesterdays Telegraph ran a story on the dispute she is having with a neighbour in Puglia, Italy. This revolves around renovations and a new garden wall being built to a house she has there. However interesting this story may have been in its own right, the Telegraph took the opportunity to reproduce that now iconic picture of Helen taken in 2008 when she was 63, wearing that Red Bikini. She later donated the bikini for auction as part of the Age UK’s Spread the Warmth campaign. This campaign aims to help prevent the deaths of up to 200 older people a day during periods of cold weather. And unfortunately, the wonderful sunshine of last week has once again given way to some bitingly cold days here.