Wednesday, 27 June 2007

Call for Doctors to fight Westminster by elections

I have just received this by email re the parliamentary by-elections coming up in Sedgefield (Tony Blair's seat) and Ealing.

"RemedyUK are looking for doctors with local connections to either of these two constituencies to stand as candidates to highlight the threats to the NHS. If 'your' doctor fills that criterion and would like to find out more, do get in touch."

RemedyUK is the organisation of junior doctors founded in February to help highlight the crisis facing our doctors. They now have over 9,000 members.

Back in March when I tried to get junior doctors to speak out about the problems of the NHS they were told that if they got political in the media their jobs would be on the line. Now they are hoping to fight what may be the most media intense election battle ever seen in the UK.

Thursday, 21 June 2007

What the Doctors said

Yesterday the Conservative party announced their policies for the NHS. I had been invited to the Royal College of Physicians. What do the doctors have to say?

At dinner I sat amongst consultants, all in their 40s – the new generation of senior doctors. An oncologist (cancer), cardiologist (hearts), gastroenterologist (tums ‘n bums), and a leading businessman who, as a volunteer, has spent the last 6 years on the board of his hospital trust.

“What’s wrong with targets?” I asked.

“They’re not all bad” said the Guardian reader. “Waiting lists are shorter – patients have to be treated within 18 weeks – soon it going to be 11 weeks. That’s much better than it used to be.”

“But they are easy to manipulate” said the heartman “If I see a patient in my clinic 6 weeks after the GP wrote to me I can give them a simple drug and tick, the “treatment” has started. I haven’t cured him but I’ve met my 18 week target. The patient still waits 6 months for the proper treatment that they really need but that doesn’t appear on the target”.

“Those long hours in casualty waiting rooms have gone. Now everyone is seen in 4 hours” said another.

“Yes but…” said the businessman “my hospital used to see everyone in 4 ½ hours anyway. The doctors said there was no medical benefit from cutting the 30 minutes off the end, but the government said we had to. It cost us £16 million to meet that target. We could have spent that money on making real differences elsewhere.”

“So what do you want?” I asked

Here was the list… at least part of it.

Managers and Politicians who listen to the doctors, Fewer central government directives, More local and regional decision making, More front line professionals involved in those decisions, Doctors to be involved in the design of their buildings and resources, Less rigid targets instead more flexible “thresholds” that really make a difference to whether patients get better.

At the weekend I met a group of leading Surgeons. “I had dinner with Andrew Lansley this week” said one “He knows his stuff. He really listened.” It’s a long time since anyone said that about a Health Secretary.

As for what they said about MTAS – that’s another story.

Saturday, 16 June 2007

Too English for my own Country

A Cambridgeshire MP has just revealed that local people are being turned away from local jobs because they cant speak Polish ... so they won't be able to fit in with the other people on the assembly line. See Here.... This has to be wrong.

Monday, 11 June 2007

Saving our Open Spaces

Since December I've been spearheading efforts to find a new owner for our Country Park. Many people have worked hard, 10,000 have signed a petition, funds have poured into our parking collection boxes.

I'm delighted that we have now narrowed negotiations down to 3 potential "owners" - the National Trust (who manage other open space nearby), The local Cambridge Preservation Society (who have been looking after local green areas for 80 years) and the Sports Lake Trust (who are fundraising to build an Olympic size rowing lake and running local sports charities --- gold medals will come from them). There could not be a stronger group. There is still a lot of work to do and funds to raise but protecting our green spaces for the future is vital so it's worth the work!

Wednesday, 6 June 2007

Aid to Trade

As the G8 leaders get together again two years after their pledge to fight world poverty it is time to reflect on whether western governments have even started to meet their ambitions.

This morning I was listening to a debate on the Today Program between Bill Nighy, who had just returned from Tanzania and Professor Paul Collier the Director for African Studies at Oxford.

They agreed that aid is key but only part of the solution, aid helps prevent people from dying today but we also need to help people to help themselves, to help them set up sustainable economies. Trade Policy, governance (ie preventing corruption) and security were described as the "Big 3" problems that we in the west need to help.

12 years ago, after the fall of apartheid, I led the first financing of a South African company by the international banking community. Getting money out of banks then for African companies was like pulling teeth - but we did raise £100 million for Eskom, the electricity company. The money was earmarked to spend on bringing electricity to the townships to enable people to start to set up their own small businesses. Over a decade later this company is the 7th largest electricity producer in the world, but it still has problems meeting demand in the winter and there is still terrible poverty even in parts of South Africa let alone the continent.

I am ashamed that, like many, I don't know much about aid, trade and life in some of our poorer countries today. That is why I'm delighted to be travelling to Rwanda this summer with a group of other Conservative MPs and party members who want to learn more. I will be helping to build a pre-school at an orphanage.

The trip is entirely self funded - when I went to get my jabs at the clinic today I was asked if I needed a receipt .... what for? this is a voluntary project. I don't expect the taxpayer or a worthy charity to pick up the bill for me. I will give my time and come back with invaluable experience that I hope to be able to share.

I would also like to travel out with a back pack of kit for the pre-school to help it become more than just a building. If any reader would like to make a donation towards toys, games, books and balls then please do contact me.