Tag Archives: health

Health risks of NOT cycling

Just when you thought it was safe to stay in the car…

We’ve heard a lot  this autumn about the dangers of cycling:  enough to return a lot of people firmly to their cars – and discourage others from leaving them.

Will this save lives?

SMallerroad health

It doesn’t look like it, does it?

The health risks of inactivity are gigantic and all-embracing.  Stop the scare stories and concentrate on every measure to support cycle safety and confidence.  We in Suffolk need to get cycling before we kill ourselves by not doing so

Whats happening in Suffolk – Feb 2013

Disgraceful league table results for Suffolk schools, Son of Explore card returns, negotiations with the ‘preferred bidder’ for SCC’s highways procurement falls through 10 weeks before d-day…  

       …and Woodbridge Library needs Friends!


Suffolk Travel Card  On 29th January, SCC’s Cabinet heralded the return of a Suffolk Travel Card for young people.  It will provide uniform discounts and easier tickets, particularly for those young people in the County who need to reach further education establishments and employment.

I and the Lib Dems, welcome this card as we have been campaigning for the Explore card to return for nearly two years – as have many of the young people in Woodbridge affected by the cut.  However, we have a significant number of questions about its implementation given that the Cabinet paper contained little in the way of specific detail.

The card, set up originally for those young people, will most likely provide a 25% discount for travel, but this has yet to be confirmed and discussions with all bus providers across Suffolk has not yet taken place.  There is also a lack of clarity about how much the card will cost, whether it will be free or have a £10 charge, and what will happen when they try to widen the scheme to other members of the public in the County.

In addition to backing the Suffolk Travel Card, the Cabinet also backed the Kickstart campaign which aims to help provide access to scooters for rural young people with a grant of £100,000.

Highways Procurement          Although the County Council agreed a contract with Balfour Beatty to provide the highways services across Suffolk we heard last week that this had fallen through, ten weeks before the D-day of April 1st. It has therefore been decided that the procurement process will revert to the previous stage where Suffolk County Council can liaise with any, or all, of the bidders who submitted final tenders (including Balfour Beatty Living Places), before again identifying a preferred bidder.

This latest update casts doubt on whether the savings presented in the budget are going to be achievable for this year, and what is going to happen once the current contracts expire on the 31st of March.  The Lib Dem group  have asked a number of questions on this subject and we are still waiting to hear what exactly the consequences of this will be.

The questions are:

  • What happened since the Cabinet decision on the 11th Dec? What commitments weren’t confirmed, were they not outlined as part of the initial contract?
  • How much is it going to cost the County Council in interim arrangements?
  • What is the duration of the expected delay? When will the next preferred bidder be announced?
  • What is the impact on the staff at IBC now that the timetable has slipped?
  • What is the contingency plan now that contracts have reached their maximum term, will emergency extensions be required? What are the cost of these?
  • Do you envisage a serious risk to the continuity, delivery and quality of the highways service given this delay?
    and last, and possibly most importantly
  • Can SCC continue to be assured this way of proceeding is actually ‘best value’?

As yet we are not much the wiser – but it looks like interim arrangements will have to be made at least until September. I will keep you informed!

Huge drop in Suffolk’s school league rankings  Although it is pleasant to see that our local Woodbridge schools holding their own in the rankings  (at primary: St Mary’s was ranked one of 15 joint first, Kyson four places behind and in the top 200 most improved primaries in the country, and Woodbridge Primary 32nd ,while at secondary level Farlingaye was ranked overall third – ahead of all private schools in the county!). However, the release of this years GCSE grades show Suffolk has dropped to 141st out of 152 authorities for GCSE results. This comes on top of our equally appalling descent to (joint) 148h  out of 152 in the primary school rankings.  Under the previous administration, Suffolk had consistently ranked in the top third of Local Authorities for schools results.

SCC is choosing to claim that these disgraceful GCSE results  can be attributed to the controversial 2012 grade boundary shifts for English and English Language although  the grade boundary shifts affected all examinees nationwide and the tables cover 5 GCSEs.

Budget The County Council’s budget for the next financial year will be set this week.  In recognition of the truly appalling schools results and an increase in road accidents, the LibDem group have put in the following amendments to fund the following from Contingency reserves:

Service Area Total
School Improvement Services – Additional advisors £650,000
School Improvement – Teacher focused support £475,000
Looked after children – County commitment to MTFC £300,000
Five 20mph schemes – Funds to respond to local demand £300,000
Total £1,725,000

I will keep you updated as to the progress of the budget.

Health  Emergency heart attack care in Suffolk was examined at the recent Health Scrutiny. It  was revealed that whilst survival rates were greater than 95%, the target time of 150 minutes to one of the three treatment centres in Basildon, Norwich or Cambridge was exceeded for a quarter of Suffolk patients. The Health Scrutiny committee recommended continuing education for ambulance staff in the management of cardiac emergencies, and national and regional campaigns to educate the public about the need to dial 999 as soon as possible if someone experiences chest pain.

I have not been informed as to how the recommendation for national  and regional campaigns would be taken forward.

Additionally, a new £5m heart treatment centre is being built at Ipswich hospital for routine heart operations, including the insertion of stents.

Friends of Woodbridge Library I spent Saturday morning – National Library day – in Woodbridge library raising awareness of a need for a Friends Group.

After the fuss we made – in Woodbridge and elsewhere –   about how much we loved and needed our librariesSCC backtracked on its original proposals and threat of closures – which is  a (at least  temporary) relief. Instead it has divested all Library services to an Industrial and Provident scoiety, which is rather like a co-operative.  However, each of ourLibraries needs to make 5% savings on top the savings that are already embedded in the proposals via an increase in volunteers, more fund-raising events, or changing suppliers for maintenance contracts. Funding is onlyguaranteed  by SCC for the first two years.
Additionally, those libraries that do not have community groups are run by the IPS and have considerably less autonomy, because they have no representation on the board. This is becoming a problem in Woodbridge.

Because Woodbridge Library is  run by the IPS , decision-making occurs without any local involvement . A notable example is the matter of the moving in of Suffolk Coastal District services to the Woodbridge Library premises without consultation or consideration of local wishes or requirements.  All moneys earned by the Library go back to the IPS, rather than being spent at the discretion of  us locals.  In the case of the Tourist Information point, neither Woodbridge Library or the residents of Woodbridge were even consulted as to the amount of rent SCDC should be paying(!).  Indeed the whole issue appears to have been discussed between officers without any input from or reference to elected local councillors or the Library itself.

Woodbridge Library now needs to have Friends. Contact the Library directly if you want to help.

Negligence, amnesia and epilepsy: remembering Labour’s NHS truthfully

Lets start by saying I love, respect and am deeply grateful to the NHS.

I’ve watched one partner progress from medical student to senior consultant, other friends journey to many different medical destinations – and all of us ending up as NHS patients.  I’ve had three children (one by crash caesarean), and an arm reconstructed with 32 pieces of metal during the Winter of Discontent. I’ve supported most of my family in hospital one time or another. When my brother died of cancer, I’ve devoted time  to replacing the countless pints of blood he needed (currently 130plus donations, and rising).

So, yes, like 95% of the people in the UK I love, support and am deeply grateful to the NHS.

But this doesn’t mean I buy into the current myth being foisted by those who know better onto those who don’t. That there was a glorious golden age of unprivatised efficiency in the NHS, brutally drawn to a close by the last election. That the only people to be trusted to run the NHS are the Labour party. Oh no.

A good friend – a retired and leftward leaning hospital consultant -said to me last week,”there hasn’t been any time in the last 20 years when I haven’t been very depressed by where the NHS is heading”. He has a point.

These days the opposition, with consummate hypocrisy, bangs on about the prospective horrors of Tory privatisation. Do they think we’ve forgotten? Lets not talk about all the services that WERE privatised under the last Labour government (GP Out of Hours Services, and Sexual Health are two ones that come immediately to mind). Lets not talk about buildings in hock to PFI and how much they are used/how long they will take to pay back. Lets talk instead about the huge gap between rhetoric and reality that underpinned so much of this untruth.

In 2007, during a period of supposed national wealth, the All Party Parliamentary Group on Epilepsy published Wasted Money Wasted Lives: The human and economic cost of epilepsy in England.

The statistics they quoted were – and remain – shocking:

• 990 epilepsy related deaths annually (365 being children/young people). This does not include eg drowning and RTAs
400 avoidable deaths per year
• 69,000 people living with unnecessary seizures
• 74,000 people taking drugs they do not need
• £189 million needlessly spent supporting this tragic state of affairs each year.

Most shocking of all is that these statistics have not altered since this time. It as if that report never existed. So what did it say? (italics mine):

“ During the course of this Inquiry, it has become clear that the National Health Service (NHS) is failing people with epilepsy and that a much improved service can be delivered at the same time as making significant cost saving.  The All Party Parliamentary Group on Epilepsy therefore calls upon the [ then, Labour] Government to recognise the benefits of change, accept the political, administrative and ethical duty to implement these changes, and to take positive action for the benefit of both the patient and the taxpayer.
Government has devolved much decision making to local Primary Care Trusts. It was not the purpose of this Inquiry to examine that policy. It does, however, sometimes give rise to a gap between stated Government policy and actual delivery. It can also lead to a postcode lottery, abhorrent to Government, where patients in one part of the country receive a significantly worse service than elsewhere. Again, this will be clearly shown to exist in the case of epilepsy.
Government must take care to avoid the criticism that admirable policy developments on paper without targets for implementation or powers to roll out the policy are seen as no more than Government “wish-lists”, and of little use to patients facing critical service failures on the ground.

This report concluded

“ the numbers experiencing seizures unnecessarily and the numbers taking anti-epileptic drugs for which they have no need is a national scandal… It is about time that people with epilepsy received for the first time ever a health service that meets their needs, at least to the standard available to patients with other conditions. ”

Four years on, it is as if these words had never been written. It shocks me to the core that our current Labour opposition use every opportunity to imply that the NHS was safe till it left their hands and yet the ‘national scandal’ to which Health Secretary Alan Johnson was alerted and Andy Burnham inherited was as nothing to them. This was heralded as a time of economic prosperity – a time when government increased GP salaries to double their French equivalents’ while cutting their responsibilities. Clearly the notion – of decreasing cost while increasing the standard of care at least to the standard available to patients with other conditions – was unimportant to health secretary Alan Johnson, and his successor Andy Burnham.

Forgive me if I write about this bitterly. I feel very bitter. In the same year in which this report was published my adolescent child faced damage and death over and over again because she lived in a county with no specialist provision and no expertise or interest in managing difficult epilepsy. And no steer from a disengaged and totally uninterested central government to provide it. Epilepsy isn’t sexy, is it, Mr Johnson, Mr Burnham, you Labour amnesiacs and apologists one and all? And its not insurable either.

When I talk about facing damage and death this did not mean she fell over occasionally.

During 2007 she had 200 major (damaging) seizures, and innumerable minor seizures. On 90 occasions these developed into status epilepticus (results in brain damage/fatality if not stopped). Over 2007 she was taking 9 separate drugs in various suck-it-and-see combinations (many of them with toxic side effects) in an attempt to control her epilepsy or rescue her from status epilepticus.

(Can I repeat a sentence from the report ‘the numbers experiencing seizures unnecessarily and the numbers taking anti-epileptic drugs for which they have no need is a national scandal‘ . Quite).

Over 2007 she spent 45 whole days as emergency admission in 4 separate hospitals in 4 separate parts of the country. 67 further days were spent in a state of confusion so extreme she couldn’t string two words together.

Imagine what an effect this had on her life! On her social life! On her education! On her self esteem! On the life of me, her sole carer 24/7. On the life of her siblings.
And 2007 was a doozie in comparison with the horrors of 2008.
I cannot describe what it feels like to cope hourly, daily, monthly, yearly with this level of anxiety, difficulty and stress and then discover that those running the NHS – that was YOU Alan Johnson and YOU Andy Burnham knew about it, and just couldn’t be bothered to act.

So when I now hear you and your apologists complacently posing as the protectors of the NHS and those who use it, I have to remind you that you cannot expect to win the hearts or minds of those half million you failed. Or the families you wracked, and the education and careers you ruined in the process.

Alan Johnson, Andy Burnham, 他们的良心被狗吃了! (Though I don’t suppose you’ll think of checking out the meaning of this , either)

DLA: potential discrimination against people with epilepsy

Rt Hon David Cameron
Prime Minister
10 Downing Street,
London SW1A 2AA                                                                  14 February 2011

Dear Mr Cameron

Re: second reading of the Ten Minute Rule Bill on Epilepsy and Related Conditions (Education and Health Services) (Bill 112)

I’ve already written to you personally, urging you to find time for the second reading of the Ten Minute Rule Bill on Epilepsy and Related Conditions (Education and Health Services) (Bill 112) which is scheduled for 4 March 2011.

In my letter I told you about the double whammy suffered by my teenage daughter and many others like her – balancing the effects of severe and hard-to-control epilepsy on the one hand with poorly integrated non-strategically organised services in health, education, and social care on the other – with everyone playing pass the parcel just as hard as ever they can!

I’m now writing to you in my capacity as county councillor, urging you on behalf of the people of Suffolk to make time for this Bill.  As proof that the Bill is needed, I want to highlight a fault in the processes for managing Disability Living Allowance, a fault which provides potential discrimination against people with epilepsy.

Many people with severe epilepsy have no cognitive deficit, but are severely hampered by the effects of medication/seizures. Our teenage daughter is one of these.   On turning 16 , DLA starts to be paid directly to the patient, because the DWP (very properly) considers that the recipient should be negotiating their own services unless mentally incapable. This is admirable in theory!

Unfortunately,  the intractable nature of the epilepsy and the strength of the medicines used to attempt to control it, often have a bad effect on one’s ability to remember, understand and plan things . This is true of my daughter – it is also true of every other person who is significantly disabled by epilepsy.

Because of the DWP’s assumption of independence, in our case it took over a year for any of us to discover that the DWP had cancelled DLA payments to my daughter and that the expenses that the DLA was supposed to be funding for her (personal care, transport costs etc) were in fact being paid for out of her own pocket-money and savings. We supported her to ring and query this – whereupon she was told she had she had failed to fill in a form which had been sent out to her and that she must now reapply (with the clear implication that none of the intervening year’s DLA would be paid to her, despite clear evidence of her significant disability during this period.)

DLA recipients with epilepsy suffer from a condition that severely affects their ability to concentrate, remember, organize and plan. This is the very reason they are receiving DLA. How can this supposedly disability-aware government agency take no account of the very disability from which recipients are suffering when deciding the methods by which the benefit is managed, renewed and in this case, it seems, terminated?

It is clear that if epilepsy is to be supported by state payments like DLA (and as a carer of someone with intractable epilepsy I can confirm just how many adjustments are needed to support even half-way normal living arrangements) the state’s agencies need to recognise some of the limitations of this condition. The DLA paperwork takes account of a recipient who may be hesitent about reading and writing, or who needs help in filling in the forms, but it does not take account of the degree of mental confusion that can accompany regular epileptic seizures and/or heavy medication

If the state insists on dealing directly with DLA recipients from the age of 16, it is clearly discriminatory to fail to ensure that its methods of communication are dealing fairly with recipients and also taking account of ALL effects of disability.   DLA is not pocket money. It is intended to help a disabled person to live as close an approximation to a normal life as possible. Once again people with epilepsy suffer more than others because of the unrecognized nature of their condition

The specific problems caused by epilepsy have been poorly understood by central government in the past, particularly in regard to the provision of educational, medical and social support. Fortunately, the current more enlightened government is finally showing signs of greater understanding. It is social (and economic!) madness to prevent people with epilepsy from contributing to society as fully as they could do. In writing to you I hope that this example of the State’s clearly well-intended yet obviously ineffective interaction with epilepsy will encourage you to make time for the Bill and will strengthen the support that I know you already feel for these measures.

Yours faithfully

Caroline Page

copied to:

Epilepsy Action
National Society for Epilepsy/ Epilepsy Society

Chinese saying of the day:

小事聪明大事糊涂 (xiǎo​shì cōng​ming​ dà​shì​ hú​tu )

clever in trifles but muddled when it comes to huge events

The EPILEPSY Bill needs you to write NOW!

late last year,the first reading of a Ten Minute Rule Bill for epilepsy took place in the House of Commons. We now need your support to make this law!

The bill is called the Ten Minute Rule Bill on Epilepsy and Related Conditions (Education and Health Services) –  Bill 112, for short.  It  will mean that health and education departments will have to improve services for people with epilepsy and related conditions. This would lead to benefits for the manypeople with epilepsy whose lives are adversely affected by poor health or education provision.This in turn would benefit everyone.

Nearly half a million people  the UK have epilepsy with three people dying from epilepsy-related causes each day:  more than the total of Aids-related deaths and cot deaths combined.

There is an “alarming” rate of failure in diagnosing the condition and better specialist care and treatment is needed, says MP Valerie Vaz who proposed the bill.

A Ten Minute Rule Bill is a potential new bill for consideration, proposed by an MP who is not a member of government. Although not many Ten Minute Rule Bills make it into law, it can happen if the government agrees with the cause or is happy to absorb it into other bills it is passing.

Having passed the first reading, a second reading of the bill has been scheduled for 4 March 2011. The second reading is when these kinds of Bills normally fail. And so both Epilepsy Action  – and I  – are asking your help to make sure this bill is given the time to be heard in Parliament.

Please write to the Prime Minister, David Cameron at 10 Downing Street, London SW1A 2AA.

Remind him that a second reading of the Ten Minute Rule Bill on Epilepsy and Related Conditions (Education and Health Services) (Bill 112) has been scheduled for 4 March 2011;

Ask him to find time for this important bill;

Tell him of  any experiences you may have of epilepsy, either as someone who has it, someone who cares for someone who has it, and/or in the wider context of life in Suffolk . How does epilepsy affect you? How good or bad have you found the services for epilepsy ? What is your experience of the education system and epilepsy? What problems are faced by people who have epilepsy in your school? on public transport? in your workplace?

Although nearly half a million people in this country have epilepsy, it remains a Cinderella condition – kept hidden, inadequately recognised and poorly funded. People are often anxious to keep this condition secret because they fear stigmatisation, ostracism and discrimination. Yet 70%  of people with epilepsy are seizure free and leading ‘normal ‘ lives.

Statistically, there should be at least 4 MPs currently in the House of Commons who have it -and 30 more who will have/have had a seizure at some point in their lives. Yet it was only in this parliament that Paul Maynard became the first MP to be open about having epilepsy!

Suffolk has no specialist epilepsy care within the county – meaning that patients need to travel outside to specialist units. As a result simple changes and ‘tweaks’ to medication (ones that could make the difference between a person functioning and non-functioning in society) may need a six or seven month wait for an appointment to discuss. If the tweak or change is unsuccessful there will then be another wait  to report back, another wait before a new medication is assessed etc. Gaining control of the condition may therefore take years without good cause, years in which the patient and those around them become prey to lower and lower expectations.

As a result local hospital doctors may then have an unduly limited expectation of outcome (suggesting social care solutions rather than addressing the health problems of patients with epilepsy).

And epilepsy impacts on more than just health.  50% of students with epilepsy fail to reach the academic level predicted by their IQ, with effects that can be life-long. This is because a good educational outcome for  students with epilepsy is not just about medical care and risk assessment, but also ensuring that schools and teachers manage the impact that the condition/ medication has on learning.

While some good employers accommodate an employee’s epilepsy – and let’s remember three things here:

  1. 70% of people with epilepsy are wholly controlled by medication
  2. epilepsy is a disability and people who have it should not be discriminated against
  3. a diagnosis of epilepsy per se has no impact on intellectual attainment or ainnate capacity

it is surprising how frequently epilepsy is linked with joblessness

Indeed, when my own daughter was due to do work experience in Y11, no workplace could be persuaded to offer her a placement – with the noble and notable exception of the Hospital Education Service at Ipswich Hospital .

Yet how can anyone learn to support themselves unless they are ‘allowed’ to work?

It costs the health service, central government and local authorities an extraordinary amount of money to support young people with epilepsy to an often low level of attainment. Yet unless they are supported to improve on this they will cost the health service, central government and local authority a great deal more over subsequent years. This is a waste on many different levels and is no benefit to anybody in the equation. Yet what is needed is not more financing, but greater awareness and more appropriately targeted support as laid out in this bill.

Please support this bill by contacting David Cameron NOW!