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By David Vance On April 9th, 2012 at 9:57 am

I suppose I tend to be quite confrontational when it comes to the uttering of Trade Unionists but on this occasion, I entirely with them!

Northern Ireland’s largest union says the health service has plunged into major crisis, branding the management system “not fit for purpose”. The stark warning from Unison was made as a damning report was published this week after an outbreak of pseudomonas, which claimed the lives of four babies. Among the bleak findings of the Regulation and Quality Improvement Authority (RQIA) review was the recommendation to replace the neonatal unit at the Royal Victoria Hospital, where three babies died in the outbreak. The review stated that the Belfast Health Trust should have declared the pseudomonas outbreak sooner, and criticised a lack of communication between health officials. Unison, however, said this is just the latest in a long line of problems in every health trust in the province. Patricia McKeown, Unison regional secretary, said there is an immediate need to overhaul the management system across all the five trusts.

Patricia is absolutely right. You may recall that during the 2010 and 2011 elections, I almost stood alone as a voice criticising the deplorable management within the NHS here and forecasting that they would sacrifice front line services to protect themselves. This is exactly what is happening and yet people seem surprised about it! The need is to make management more accountable and make it slimmed down, more efficient and more effective. I believe that the change Patricia asks for is needed but that our political class is also not fit for purpose so they will equivocate and dissemble, courting good publicity whilst ensuring as little as possible changes.

your number is…..1.1.1.

By Mike Cunningham On February 17th, 2012 at 10:14 am

Realistically, I do not feel that I shall have a need to dial the strangely-titled ‘phone number for non-emergency services’. As a well-educated and responsible husband, I reckon I am up to speed in the diagnosis of any problems which may arise in my own life, as well as that of my wife. I have managed for over forty-four years, and can safely state that the only times I have contacted the Emergency Services was when their attendance was urgently needed. The only thing which I would alter is the opening sentence from the 1-1-1 caller, which should always be “Am I speaking to a medically-qualified professional, or a unqualified person seated before a computer with a set of screen-based questions?”

I did call the police when a drunken group was staggering about in the road in my small close in the small hours of the morning; as one of the males in the group was busy trying to strangle his ‘partner’. The only jarring point in that rather surreal interlude was when the Police operator asked if the male who was doing the strangling had any weaponry?

I had a vision of this man seated in front of a computer screen, hand on mouse, busy clicking boxes as he spoke:-

  • Is there an assault in progress   Yes….No………….Yes
  • What is the nature of the assault   (Operator must choose one only from the options)…………Boots on head, boots on body, fists on body, strangulation,….etc.
  • Option selected…..Strangulation
  • Sub-options available………….Methods of strangulation   Manual (using hands)    Manual (using weaponry)
  • If Manual (using weaponry), operator must indicate how the weaponry has been selected and further, using only Sub-sub-options available on screen, ascertain if the weaponry is naturally-produced rope, or a plastic or polyethylene equivalent.

My answer to the Police operator’s enquiry was to state that the strangler was doing quite nicely by himself, and he didn’t seem to need any mechanical assistance at all!


By David Vance On January 10th, 2012 at 10:08 am

Once upon a time, nursing was considered a caring profession. But that was then...and this is now;

Nurses in the NHS too often lack ability, compassion or even the simple desire to work in the profession, a report warns.


In some cases staff lack basic skills, have a poor grasp of maths and do not understand the values of the health service, according to the NHS Future Forum. (How about their grasp of English?)

The independent advisory panel, set up by the Government last year to examine the NHS, says there is “almost universal concern” about the “huge variations in quality” of education and training for nurses and midwives across the country.

NHS hospital managers are failing to take responsibility for the poor quality of some nurses, it says. It also accuses nurse training schools of failing to recruit the right type of student to ensure patients receive a good standard of care. The report adds to growing concerns that nurses’ training has become too academic to prepare students properly for the realities of the job and makes them less willing to carry out practical care.

There is resonance in this report. Nursing has become far too academic and the essential caring skills seem to have gone. This is obvious to anyone who has had the misfortune to have been in  an NHS hospital in the past ten years or so. Nursing is about caring and that needs restored to the centre of the profession.


By David Vance On January 6th, 2012 at 9:32 am

Socialised healthcare has several fatal flaws but perhaps the greatest is that it enables POLITICIANS to direct medical priorities. Just think about this for a moment;

Nurses will be told to do regular ward rounds and patients encouraged to carry out inspections as part of a drive to improve hospital standards in England. They will form part of a package of measures announced by the prime minister to tackle what he sees as a “real problem” with patient care. David Cameron told the BBC problems in some hospitals had been overlooked out of respect for the nursing profession.

This new move has come after a series of critical reports in the past year. The patient-led inspection regime will see members of the public invited to assess cleanliness, food, privacy and dignity on wards alongside official teams. Mr Cameron believes there is too much bureaucracy and wants nurses to spend more time with patients.

OK, I can see the aim Cameron has in mind but surely there will need to be additional bureaucracy put in place to ensure that the objectives he wants to see achieved actually happen? And isn’t micro-managing the NHS one of the charges Cameron labelled against Labour? And WHY have Nurses to be told to talk to patients and treat them with dignity?


By David Vance On October 24th, 2011 at 9:59 am

I think this is a great idea, don’t you?

Patients suffering minor injuries will now be able to bypass hospital accident and emergency departments – but at a price. A consultant-led unit has opened at the Kingsbridge Private Hospital in Belfast. Initial cost of treatment is £25 when triaged by the nurse practitioner. Treatment includes limited traumatic head, facial, ear, nose and throat conditions as well as eye injuries, cuts, burns, wounds and bruises. If you need to see a consultant, the cost is £90. A sliding scale of charges depends on tests, scans or X-rays and treatment required.  The unit is led by emergency medicine consultant Duncan Redmill, who says the unit is not in competition with the NHS. Mr Redmill said: “I believe that the growth of this kind of service from the private sector may ease the burden on the NHS.”

NHS A&E’s resemble bedlam more often than not, with a staggering lack of dignity afforded to patients. I had cause to take my father to the local A&E in his final few years and it was a truly horrible experience. Long waits, drunks fighting, foreign nationals arguing…just a MESS. I would happily pay to by-pass the NHS in this area and I wish Mr Redmill and his associates good fortune with their well-timed and welcome initiative. Hopefully other such  private facilities will pop up and we will have the one thing we lack at the moment – CHOICE.

Call me by my name!

By Mike Cunningham On October 13th, 2011 at 8:45 am

Readers of the damning CQC report into patient care in hospitals do not need me to state that this report is neither news, nor fresh. Individual hospital cases, where people have died or suffered terrible neglect, have been reported upon for years; and every time, every case, every distraught relative has been re-assured, ‘we have learned lessons’. And that, folks, is the Standard Response, straight out of both the NHS and Government handbooks.

“Don’t worry, things are getting better!” One can almost see the appropriate NHS Trust executive or hospital administrator flicking over the pages of a large loose-leaf folder to find and state the appropriate, approved, and useless response to be given out via the waiting microphones and cameras to a despondent Nation.

The ‘degree-qualified’ nurses who are too intent upon their tasks, whether to hand out drugs and potions from a carefully-monitored prescriptions list to checking temperatures and blood pressures, to glance at the PERSON in the bed and discover that the Patient has been trying to get a drink of water for half-an-hour or more. The unqualified and untrained ‘Care assistants’ who are employed to do the ‘scut work’ which the Nurses are now too grand to do, are themselves working to a schedule which blanks out any mention of the fact that the truly important people on the wards are ignored. Because the lists, the routines, the ‘tick-boxes’ must be filled in, they are oblivious to the fact that the Patients, the reason for their existence and employment, are trying, and usually failing, to get their attention.

To amend this disgraceful state of affairs will not be easy, because it demands change which is almost impossible, in these days of what has become ‘jobs for life’. The NHS can start with one small task, right across every hospital, ward and A&E desk. They should be required to address the patient either as Mr. or Mrs. ‘Everyman’, or Sir or Madam; every time that patient is spoken to. Never mind the familiarity of a first name; ignore the fact that the Nurse, or Doctor, has seen and spoken to that patient maybe fifty times. Every time they speak, they must remember that the man or woman in that bed is an individual, with the automatic right to civility and respect. The supine form in the bed is not an interesting case, or a problem to be solved; the person in that bed, upon that ward is, in fact, their employer!



By David Vance On October 8th, 2011 at 6:55 am

If this was the private sector, people would be sacked. But because it is the State – and the NHS in particular – ho hum, nothing will be done.

Nearly half of NHS hospitals visited by undercover inspectors are failing to meet basic nutrition standards, a damning report has warned. Elderly patients are routinely left without anything to drink for hours, with some so dehydrated they are being put on drips. Other patients found themselves regularly being fed by their relatives because nursing staff were too busy to help. Other concerns highlighted included hospitals slipping Do Not Resuscitate orders inside patients’ notes without telling them or their families.

The envy of the world? Tell it to the next of kin…

We hardly knew him!

By Mike Cunningham On June 7th, 2011 at 12:15 pm

If your newly-born child is, or seems to be in distress, any mother or father alive would rush to gain medical help and advice at a hospital, especially the hospital where the infant had just been born. We here in Great Britain, although we might moan and complain about some decisions made whilst running the NHS, are rightly proud of the people behind the infrastructure, the nurses, the doctors, the specialists and the consultants, because we know that we have the best.

Here in Britain we have the foremost surgical teams in many specialities, people who are welcome in advanced hospitals and facilities all over the civilised world, because they come with built-in credibility, with the knowledge that in Great Britain, they have received the best training in the world.

With the knowledge which should have been available, with the experience which is a birthright of every patient as they either walk or are wheeled through any British hospital, what should happen to the eleven ‘Midwives’ who conspired to falsify the records following the tragic death of Nine-day-old Joshua Titcombe?

Charges of Manslaughter? Not Murder, because there has to be planning and motive to be Murder! Yep; definitely Manslaughter, for all eleven!



By David Vance On April 3rd, 2011 at 8:44 am

Cameron backs off NHS reform for political reasons;

The Prime Minister is drawing up key changes to the flagship Health and Social Care Bill which will see his reorganisation of the NHS watered down. Under the terms of the compromise deal, GPs who do not want to take charge of the health service budget for their area will not now be forced to do so. The Government is also planning amendments to limit the market proposed in health care, with safeguards which will attempt to prevent private firms “cherry-picking” the most profitable services and leaving NHS hospitals at a disadvantage.

The issue is simple. IF Cameron thought his reforms were necessary a few months ago, why are some not relevant now? The NHS is there to function for PATIENTS, not the bureaucracy or the political needs of on the make politicians.  It seems to me that continued political interference in health makes things worse!


By David Vance On March 10th, 2011 at 9:16 am

As you know the NHS needs every penny it gets. This is particularly true when we discover that it pays people who do not work for it!

The BBC has learned that a health trust mistakenly continued to pay one of its workers for eight years after they had left. The support worker was employed by a Belfast health trust until they left their post in 2001. It has emerged that despite having moved on they continued to receive a salary until late 2009. The amount they received because of the mistake added up to about £84,000.

Has anyone been sacked for this gross error? I bet that it is more likely they have been promoted!