Saturday 9 June 2007

Pray you don't get burned in Cornwall

With the ongoing deterioration in funding for non-profit making hospital services like 'Burns Services' in the Westcountry, people with serious burns must now travel all the way to Bristol to get life saving treatment.

This means that a child that burns itself in Penzance must travel 190miles, a journey of at least 3 hours 30 minutes on a good day.

What do I mean by 'non-profit making services'? Well, the NHS is now a market. Procedures that make a profit for the hospitals include cataracts and small lump removals - they can be done quickly and the patients don't take up a bed. A burn patient might lie around for days, costing a fortune in nursing staff time and drug prescriptions, ignoring the basic daily cost of occupying a bed.

Is it any coincidence that, as profitable services like hip and knee replacements have surged ahead at the independent treatment centres that are popping up like mushrooms around our big hospitals, less profitable services have been downgraded and vandalised by the government bean counters.

Westcountry people deserve better than this.

Friday 11 May 2007

Easy Come, Easy Go

Well folks, we're living through the greatest display of HMG waste and mismanagement of taxed funds the UK has probably ever seen.

They get away with it because the sums are so eye-wateringly huge. It's difficult for the average tax payer to comprehend.

Average Tax Revenue from Joe Bloggs Average (based on the average UK salary of 24,000)


Recent Government Waste
1 - £2 billion Gold Sales Loss
2 - £12 billion NHS IT system - still not up and running!
3 - £500 Million NHS 'Choose and Book' system - unwieldy and not fit for purpose
4 - £1 billion Millenium Dome
5 - £5.4 billion 'proposed' cost of national ID card scheme

Percentage of total governement annual revenue (~£400 billion) - 4%

That's just a quick, of the top of my head figure for waste. It doesn't take much digging to find out more examples of horrendous waste.

How do we make the treasury accountable for this scandal, and make sure this doesn't happen again?

Friday 27 April 2007

The Power of the Blog

MTAS is a government computer project that, as usual, has gone horribly wrong. MTAS has been used to centralize and streamline the way doctors apply for their jobs. The result is the creation of some kind of lunatic, with doctors having to re-apply for the jobs they had found quite nicely under the 'read a job advert - send in a CV - get an interview' method.

Channel 4 revealed this week that the computer system was wide open to the public with details such as names, addresses and sexual orientation of doctors on display. Not only is this dangerous, it is totally illegal, and raises serious questions about the other New Labour IT disasters that just seem to be mounting up.

The MTAS website is now 'closed for essential maintenance' - that's convenient!

Is it anything to do with Dr Crippen, a widely read GP-blogger:

It is, I suppose some sort of journalistic coup that, shortly after Dr
Crippen phoned Mike Clement, the MTAS Project Manager at the DoH, the decision
was taken to close down the MTAS site.

There was no alternative.

'Today's news, revealed in NHS BLOG DOCTOR, that it was possible for doctors to access each other's applications and personal information by simply inputting a random number was a gross breach of data security. The MTAS site had to be closed to protect that information, to protect the doctors.A lesser concern, but still an
important one, is that this breach of data security may result in a criminal
prosecution against the MTAS administrators.

Maybe even against the blessed Patricia herself.

And now a trivial matter. Or a matter that seems consistently
to be treated as trivial by the department. What happens to the doctors? MTAS,
for all its failings, is their source of information about forthcoming
interviews and appointments. There is nowhere else for them to turn.'

Monday 23 April 2007

Out of Hours - OOH

The penny pinching and stealthy privatisation of critical health services continues with the Cornwall 'OOH' or Out of Hours GP contract being awarded to Serco in 2005. It's all going horribly wrong.

Patsy Hewitt was surprisingly honest, recently describing the Serco operation as 'very poor'.

For ten years, the people of Cornwall would reach an employee of 'KernowDoc' when seeking urgent medical care out of normal office hours. Kernowdoc lost this contract to 'Serco', a company that was considerably cheaper.

I believe you get what you pay for, but the 'PCT' or local Primary Care Trust, when deciding how to spend the cash, didn't think urgent medical care was worth the expense.

This from a BBC report in 2005:

KernowDoc executive director Phil Trevail said he was extremely disappointed by
the decision and hoped that the new company would be able to provide the same
level of service his company had for the past ten years. "Unfortunately
they came in cheaper than us," said Dr Trevail. "Serco have a big
infrastructure and are able to do the job cheaper than we are able to. We feel
we produced a realistic price to give a safe, responsive service. "We feel
very disappointed. We feel we have given a quality service over the past ten
years but we are glad Serco have said they will take on our staff.

Serco is a huge, faceless international company that aims to fill in the gaps left by the relentless withdrawal of the state from the public sector. Kernowdoc aimed to provide out of hours GP services to the local community and concentrated on those aims.

Write to Ann James, Chief Executive Cornwall PCT, The Sedgemoor Centre, Priory Road, St Austell, Cornwall, PL25 5AS and let her know what you think about the decision to farm off vital GP services to the cheapest bidder.

Saturday 21 April 2007

Bernard Matthews Compensation

I, like many MPs that were uncomfortable with the bootiful Bernard Matthews payout this week, couldn't help thinking back to the summer of slaughter during Foot and Mouth. It was also 'uncomfortable' to see the apparent glee with which MAFF (now DEFRA of course) set about slaughtering millions of livestock using dodgy science. This sort of thing has typified the Blair era, although that's another story.

Not Foot and Mouth, but equally ridiculous was the story of David Dobbin, as told by Chris Booker in the Sunday Telegraph recently. This poor chap lost £500,000 worth of livestock, his entire herd I believe, with not a sniff of compensation.

Bernard got £600,000. All this while he is allegedly under investigation for breaches of bio-security!

Wednesday 18 April 2007

1st Annual WesternBlog MP Awards

It is with great anticipation that I open the nominations for the WesternBlog MP awards 2007.

The award will go to one of our regional MPs (in Devon or Cornwall) that readers think spends the least amount of time actually in the West Country.

Yes folks, the worst 'absentee MP in the region' is to be honoured for disservices to the community.

Send in your nominations now! or comments under this post.

Tuesday 17 April 2007

Westcountry Politics on the Web

It's surprisingly hard to find any decent output from local politicians or bloggers in the region, but it's not for a lack of material!

Here's a list of websites and blogs that are flying the flag for the Westcountry online political community. Together, and with our help, we can build up a thriving community of bloggers and activists that can knock some of these crusty, dusty or just plain lazy MPs and councillors from their well worn comfy armchairs.

In no particular order!

- Peoples' Republic of South Devon - a community based blog with big plans..
"With the conurbation that is South Devon set to become a megalopolis in the next 20 years (well over half a million new homes are to be built in the South West), it’s reassuring to find a new report claiming that the region could become a world leader in providing zero carbon housing."

- Stand up for Seaton - A campaign blog, they are currently supporting local people standing as independant councillors in disgust at dodgy redevelopment deals that threaten to vandalise the local landscape - great stuff!

- Devonport Column - A highly promising site that seems to have many birdies in hard to reach places.

- Cornish Forum - Busy forum that gives an insight into what goes on in the minds of our Cornish friends. "What is Cornishness? Who is real Cornish? How many Cornish are there? If a cat is born half in Cornwall and half in England then blah blah blah (sic) ?"

Last and probably least,

- Cheddar Vision - Watching a Westcountry cheddar age in front of your eyes. The cheese has over 500 friends on MySpace. Poor Menzies Campbell, Liberal Democrat leader, has only 48. Not such a big cheese after all. Sorry, couldn't resist.

I've surely missed some important sites out, and I'll make it my mission to find them over the next few weeks.

email any suggestions to