Sunday, 6 January 2013

Its 2013 and for many, the world is still viewed in only Black and White terms

Happy New Year to all readers of this blog! I hope you had a great celebration and I wish you all the best for 2013. The 2nd of January and my return to work came around all too quickly. After 10 days of lazy starts to the day, eating more than was good for me, and finding myself being intellectually entertained by ‘Come Dine with Me’, sitting at my desk at 06.00 came as a bit of a shock. However, it was only a 3 day week.

So yesterday it was lovely to get back up into the hills and to be walking with Cello. The sun had his hat on, the Canadian geese were grazing on the grass and all was well with the world. I watched the story of the Military Wives 'wherever you are' song- watch this link – tissues maybe required: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0ah_Yf7ey1Q

Tears might also be in the eyes of poor William Marotta, a 46-year-old Topeka resident of Kansas in the US. This week, William found himself liable for $6000 worth of back dated child support and a liability for future support for his 3 year old daughter.

What caught my eye about this story was the fact that William had been declared liable for his daughters support by a Kansas court despite the fact that all he had done was to donate his sperm to a lesbian couple. The case hinges on the fact that no doctors were used for the artificial insemination. The women handled the artificial insemination themselves using a syringe, and one of the women, a lady called Jennifer Schreiner, eventually became pregnant. Many shades of grayness here I think.

William had answered an on-line advertisement in 2009 from a local couple, Angela Bauer and Jennifer Schreiner, who said they were seeking a sperm donor. After exchanging emails and meeting, the three signed an agreement which was believed relieved William of any financial or paternal responsibility. However, the State argues that because William didn't work through a clinic or doctor, as required by a 1994 law, he is responsible for the state benefit support the child's biological mother received through public assistance – as well as future child support. The case only came to the States attention when the couple’s relationship broke down late last year and they separated, and Jennifer applied for state benefits.

I mention this story as last week David Cameron announced that the 'Friends and Family Test' will be in operation in the NHS by April. This is a quality assurance evaluation that asks the question: 'would you recommend this service to friends and family?' A great question to ask, but the NHS guidance for implementing this test requires that patients should be surveyed on the day of discharge or within 48 hours of discharge. It's said that this will ensure that the answer given reflects the patient's informed opinion, based on their recent experience.

However, there is much evidence to suggest that the nearer to the event a survey is carried out, the more likely it is to overstate reaction. Plus, if undertaken whilst the patient is still in hospital, most answers (particularly among older patients) will be positive for fear of retribution or reprisal and the wish not to be critical, face-to-face, for fear of confrontation. This approach will almost certainly distort and skew any results because of a lack of consistency in question framing, timing and environment.

And a lack of consistency seems to be at the heart of the most distressing story this week. Of course it is the UK Education Secretary, Michael Gove's, announcement last week to remove the country’s most celebrated black historical figure from the national curriculum. It was Mary Seacole, who cared for soldiers on the front line during the Crimean War between Russia and an alliance of the French, British and Ottoman empires, and who is as equally famous in the nursing profession as Florence Nightingale. Mary Seacole’s efforts in the Crimea earned her the adulation of thousands of ex-servicemen. However her contributions to nursing and health care were largely forgotten after her death in 1881, before a successful campaign was launched to ensure that her story was taught in primary schools.

Why anyone would want to deny our children the story of this heroic woman on a battlefield is a complete mystery to me. Mary Seacole’s story is one tiny but symbolic example of the healthy diversification of the UK national curriculum. The Horrible History clip: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SBF3X2vkK7w is an example of how today we are enabling children to access the wonderful story of women's involvement in our history. Whether Michael Gove or William Marotta like it or not, the history of the world we live in is not white, male and medieval. It is mutli-cultural, in race, gender, class and orientation.