PFI – Politician’s Foolish Idiocy !

We are surprised by the extent of the widespread revulsion at the latest claptrap of The Sun. Surprised because we hadn’t imagined that after its treatment of Liverpool supporters in the wake of the Hillsborough tragedy and its subsequent grotesque coverage of so many other issues, anyone takes anything it does seriously.

Faced with the need for some quick damage-limitation the Editor has claimed that the pictures of the Queen as a 7-year-old were obtained in a legitimate fashion, and were not intended to discredit the monarch. Pull the other one – it has bells on it. And does anyone seriously believe that pictures of a child horsing around is any reflection of the adult they eventually became. I still have a photograph of myself and what looks like Just William’s gang strutting around with arms raised and a finger under our noses. For its usual astronomic backhander the comic is welcome to a copy.

But as we codgers performed our usual hen-rituals this morning our attention quickly moved on to a grown-up topic. As on almost every other morning the less insane newspapers are giving the NHS their latest brickbats. Admittedly this morning brings news of a promise to cut cancer waiting times, but we didn’t give that much heed given that the promise made during the election campaign to cap self-contributions to elderly care has been kicked into the long grass.

In all the political finger-pointing about the cash crisis in our health service there is little mention about the basic cause. Yes we know about the increasing population and the Coalition’s ruinous so-called reforms, but these pale into insignificance against the horrendous impact of PFI. The Private Finance Initiative – known by us as the Politicians Foolish Idiocy – was a wheeze dreamed up by ministers as a means of keeping capital expenditure off the national balance sheet. At that moment of madness by the Blairites the seeds of the destruction of the NHS were sown. And the present government continues with the lunacy.

In our doughnut-eating headquarters of the intellectual world we keep many statistics – a habit perhaps subconsciously aimed at deflecting our minds from the England cricketers. Allow us to share one or two with you. Remember that under PFI deals, private investors take on the building and operating of new hospitals, and in return receive payments spread typically over 25 to 30 years that far exceed the original costs of the project.

Department of Health figures show that in this year alone 104 NHS trusts will have to pay private companies £1.96 billion – enough to pay for treatment of cystic fibrosis patients for 20 years. The 20 most expensive deals will cost the NHS £970 million this year. Four private companies will pocket £39 billion over the course of the PFI deals, and almost £1 billion this year. A typical example is the Barts Health NHS Trust which faces payments until 2049. The privately financed rebuild cost £1.1 billion, but by the time that the last instalment is paid over £7 billion will have been handed over.

A Sunday Telegraph investigation has revealed that one investment firm alone can expect repayments totalling almost £18 billion over the lifetime of the 18 deals handed to it. Innisfree Group Ltd employs just 25 staff. According to the latest accounts, its highest paid director, other than the chief executive, was paid more than £2 million last year – a rise of £500,000 on the previous year. Innisfree’s chief executive, South African-born David Metter, is said to be worth at least £80 million.

Many of the Trusts now handicapped by enormous PFI debts are labelled as unsatisfactory by regulators. Their debts are mounting, their numbers of doctors and nurses are heading in the opposite direction.

It may be only a small consolation but at least we know who caused the ruination of our NHS. Jeremy Hunt and the rest of the political classes should stop berating clinitions and should reach for self-flagellation equipment instead. And they should at least stop this ruinous practice right now!
QUOTE FOR TODAY: ” Bills for PFI deals have grown so large that they would pay for the wages of all qualified midwives for two and a half years”…. Sunday Telegraph, 19/7/15.

Criminals love the new Police !

Oh dear! After the Cardiff thrashing of the Aussies the allotments rang to claims that this old enemy are a mere shadow of their former self, but this morning the resident ‘experts’ were strangely silent. Today we will find out just how bright is “the dawn of a new era of English cricket”. As at this moment it looks as though the sun has decided to remain behind the clouds.

But, as we cleaned out the hens this morning, we noted that the other Sun – the comic variety – is up to its old tricks. ‘Exclusive’ – the Queen has given the Nazi salute. At first glance it seemed that the Philip tendency has finally rubbed off, at second glance we learn that it happened when Her Maj was a little girl. Anyone who grew up before and during World War 2 knows that every kid in the land emulated the mocking Hitler satire of the day. If this is the best that the Murdoch brigade can manage it is surely time for everyone with half a brain to Shun the Sun.

But our main interest today was focussed on a rather more serious article by Janet Street-Porter. Last week she phoned the police at 3.00am when three “hoodies” dragged a stolen scooter to the rear of her house and proceeded to smash the chain off it. Nobody came. The next day she phoned again to report the incident – same result. A police chief recently said that bobbies on the beat are a luxury that the police can no longer afford. The head of Greater Manchester police said something similar, but added that the further 2,000 officers he has to axe will inevitably lead to a further increase in violent crime.

What he didn’t mention is that those that remain are now using Twitter as part of their new-age crime prevention. Really? Check that out and you will find that they are spending an inordinate amount of time tweeting jokes and promoting embarrassing acts of self-aggrandisement. That apart they fill the net with reports of celebs opening this or performing that. The only logical justification for police use of social media is to seek help in finding wanted suspects, but the fact of the matter is that the police have lost track of their core task; dealing with and preventing crime.

The only people happy with the surrender of our streets are the criminals, and whilst the continuing cuts to manpower are undoubtedly putting the public increasingly at risk the attitude of the residue is equally disturbing. Bobbies on the beat provided a conduit of information and maintained a vital link between protectors and protected. Sadly ministers who live in secure mansions seem incapable of grasping this. Bobbies on the tweet is a poor substitute.

As we settled in the hut for our undeserved break to defy the latest edicts about the consumption of sugar, we presumed to wonder if there is a trend here. We all know that the ever-rising national debt calls for economies. But are they correctly identified. We hear little about the increasing use of expensive management consultants in Whitehall, our spiralling EU contributions, the freedom of retailing giants such as Amazon to avoid tax, or whopping pay increases for MPs. Instead the axe falls again and again on the likes of policemen, social workers and doctors.

The latter is a classic example. Everyone agrees that hospitals should operate on a 24/7 basis but if surgeons are forced to attend at weekends won’t that result in gaps during the working week? And aren’t these the self same surgeons that man up the increasing number of commissioned private providers? If you stretch even an elastic band too far it breaks. Only an increase in numbers will make change possible. Services that directly affect public safety or well-being should surely be the last to be emasculated.

Economists tell us that the total loss to the treasury of tax avoidance and EU donations alone dwarf any savings resulting from cuts to essential services. Perhaps that mad guy who is threatening to take over the Labour Party has a point?
QUOTE FOR TODAY: ” Coppers use social media to follow celebrities when they should be preventing crime”…. Janet Street-Porter.

And then it is winter!

We so enjoyed a piece forwarded to us by a reader that we decided to share it with you. The odds are that you are a good deal younger than us, but remember that we all age a little every day!

” You know…time has a way of moving quickly and catching you unaware of the passing years. It seems just yesterday that I was young, just married and embarking on my new life with my mate. Yet in a way, it seems like eons ago, and I wonder where all the years went. I know that I lived them all. I have glimpses of how it was back then and of all my hopes and dreams.

But here it is…the back nine of my life and it catches me by surprise. How did I get here so fast? Where did all the years go and where did my youth go?

I remember seeing older people through the years and thinking that those older people were years away from me and that I was only on the first hole and the back nine was so far off that I could not fathom it or imagine fully what it would be like.

But, here it is…my friends are retired and getting grey…they move slower and I see an older person now. Some are in better and some worse shape than me…but, I see the great change…Not like the ones that I remember who were young and vibrant…but, like me, their age is beginning to show and we are now those older folk that we used to see and never thought we’d become.

Each day now, I find that just getting a shower is a real target for the day! And taking a nap is not a treat any more…it’s mandatory! Because if I don’t on my own free will…I just fall asleep where I sit!

And so…now I enter this new season of my life unprepared for all the aches and pains and the loss of strength and ability to go and do things that I wish I had done but never did. But, at least I know that though I’m on the back nine, and I’m not sure how long it will last…this I know, that when it’s over on this earth …it’s over. A new adventure will begin! Yes, I have regrets. There are things I wish I hadn’t done…things I should have done, but indeed there are many things I’m happy to have done, It’s all in a lifetime.

So, if you’re not on the back nine yet…let me remind you that it will be faster than you think. So, whatever you would like to accomplish in your life please do it quickly! Don’t put things off for too long! Life goes by quickly. So, do what you can today, as you can never be sure whether you’re on the back nine or not!

You have no promise that you will see all the seasons of your life…so, live for today and say all the things that you want your loved ones to remember…and hope that they appreciate and love you for all the things that you have done for them in all the years past!

‘Life’ is a gift to you. The way you live your life is your gift to those who come after. Make it a fantastic one. Live it well! Enjoy today! Do something fun! Be happy! Have a great day! Remember it is health that is real wealth and not pieces of gold and silver. Live happy in 2015!

LASTLY, CONSIDER THIS: #Your kids are becoming you…but your grandchildren are perfect! #Going out is good. Coming home is better! #You forget names…but it’s OK because many forgot they even knew you! #You realise that you’re never going to be really good at anything like golf! #The things you used to care to do, you aren’t as interested in any more, but you really do care that you aren’t as interested! #You sleep better on a lounge chair with the TV ‘ON’ than in bed. It’s called ‘pre-sleep’! #You miss the days when everything worked with just an ‘ON’ and ‘OFF’ switch! #You tend to use more 4 letter words …’What?’…’When?’ #You notice everything they sell is stores is ‘sleeveless’! #What used to be freckles are now liver spots! #Everybody whispers! #You have 3 sizes of clothes in your wardrobe…two of which you never wear!

But OLD is good in some things: Old songs, Old movies, and best of all, OLD FRIENDS. Stay well old friend! Send this on to others and let them laugh in agreement. It’s not what you gather, but what you scatter that tells what kind of life you have lived.


With thanks to reader G, 16/7/15.

Pray for those who rely on mental health services!

Up with the lark this morning. Not that there were any larks in evidence on the sunlit allotments – just the usual mob of pigeons who outnumber the hens at the seed-troughs, But on quiet peaceful mornings such as this we codgers tolerate even them. With the warmth on our backs, and the prospect of a full days play in he second Ashes Test, we shared peace of mind. Not Albert of course, but that is another story altogether.

It has to be admitted that the news of ice mountains on Pluto has had little impact on us. Yes it is an impressive scientific achievement but we cannot avoid wondering if mankind has lost all sense of priorities. Cancer research relies on charitable donations, half the world is engaged in barbaric conflict yet the big money is devoted to establishing the condition of a planet some nine years speed-of-light distance away. Perhaps we have all gone mad.

Hopefully not, for our mental health services are another example of the neglect and destruction of a resource that should provide hope to those for whom the dark night of the soul is infinitely more important than the dark side of a place so far removed from our reality.

We all fear something. But few afflictions are as terrifying as mental illness, a condition that can, to a greater or lesser degree, hit very one of us. At such a time of crisis we can only turn to the NHS mental health services, unless we happen to be wealthy in which case the Priory stands ready. And at such a time we need the comfort and love of family and friends. Both are now unavailable.

Over the past few years the number of mental health beds has been slashed. It is no longer unusual for a patient to be transported hundreds of miles to a hospital beyond the reach of relatives. Having arrived the tortured soul is likely to be crammed in amongst others who, through no fault of their own, are a danger to themselves and to others. Whilst the attitudes of society – fear and stigmatisation – have improved the service has deteriorated beyond belief. Local services aimed at rescue help before hospitalisation is inevitable have all but disappeared. Children’s mental health referrals involve a wait of months. Successive governments have treated mental health as a ‘Cinderella’ affair, now they have destroyed the only lifeline.

This is scandalous, incompetent and cruel. It may be of little interest to the posh boys of Westminster, whose idea of a priority relates to switching their house status to ensure that taxpayers and taxman alike contribute to their well-being. But it is a betrayal. It is also economic incompetence – axed local walk-in services were infinitely less costly than inpatient services.

We cricket buffs know only too well that mental health problems such as those suffered by the likes of Marcus Trescothick and Jonathan Trott can be cured by brave people supported by skilled clinical help. Sadly all that most people have now is the bravery.

As we mulled this over in the allotments hut we reflected on the dangers of complacency. This can’t happen to us. Oh yes it can. And we have a choice. Either allow people such as Andrew Lansley and Jeremy Hunt to persecute desperate people or join the chorus of protest that is mounting right now.

We prefer the latter option. Cost? If we can afford to help pay to bail out Greece we can afford to bail out people nearer to home who didn’t contribute to their own collapse!
QUOTE FOR TODAY: “If you would know the depth and meanness of human nature, you have got to be a prime minister running a general election!”…. John.A.MacDonald