Monday 5 March 2012

A Busman's Holiday

I did mean to say I was taking a break, but I was a bit too tired to type it properly and, you know, think much.

All the time I was working on the Responsible Reform report, my kids, my husband and I were counting down the days til "Mummy Holiday". I promised faithfully that I would take February off, lock my laptop slavedriver in a cupboard or something and go all Nigella on our neglected home life.

I know this sounds utterly naive, but I honestly thought that I'd be able to turn off the tech on the 10th January, snuggle up under a duvet for a week or so and then fix my broken life. We'd been ignored for so long - in the media, by politicians, by the public - I never once considered that anyone might actually start to pay attention. I never in a million years thought I'd be fielding calls from Newsnight and the BBC. If you'd told me a UK welfare report would trend globally on twitter, I'd have laughed.

Well, that's what happens when complete novices learn as they go along.

So, I'm on holiday! As Kaliya said, it feels like the first week of school holidays! AND I get the added bonus of watching Workfare crumble spectacularly, A4E fall apart at the seams and Chris Grayling stuttering like an indignant toddler caught with his hand in the sweetie jar.

Just for the record, I give ESA about another 4 months before that too collapses, groaning, under the unprecedented incompetence of it's own design. Can't wait, can you?

But last night, tweeting a bit with friends, and reading a few "Save our NHS" articles, I got to thinking about what had made the Spartacus campaign so powerful? What on earth made welfare sexy? And I remembered that it was the personal stories. The One Month Before Heartbreak Twitter campaign and Left out in the Cold. The #fitforwork tag and the #DLAstories.

We, as people, or "the public" are constantly de-humanised by our political system. Claimants in need are referred to as "Stock", numbers claiming as "flow rates", patients as "clients". We forget all too often WHY we are fighting and who we are fighting for.

So I asked people : Has the NHS ever saved your life? Really think about it? Even if you were immunised, there's a good chance that it did. Nasty broken bones used to kill people, and flu and tonsilitis and even a dog bite. Most of us were born in a hospital if nothing else. Even that nasty chest infection you got last year could have seen you off if it had been left to develop into pneumonia for want of the money to pay for antibiotics.

How many children did your Great-Nan have? How many survived? We can go back you know. We can always undo the great good work we've done over the years to make the UK the most equitable health nation on earth - yes read it again, the UK is the world leader in treating conditions on need, not on the ability to pay. We are the best at something.

Oh, of all people, I know the faults of the NHS. But I'm still here to write about it.

Within minutes, @concrete_sky had suggested a hashtag - #nhssavedmylife - and this morning it was trending No1 in the UK. The stories are heart warming, harrowing and sometimes challenging, but they remind us that come what may, we have something precious that is worth fighting for.

Join the fight, tell your story. If you can say the #nhssavedmylife add your voice.

Let's remind Andrew Lansley why reform must always be responsible. And let's remind him exactly who the NHS is there to serve - the patients.


  1. I was there last night and saw it happen.....and it was wonderful to see people PRAISING our NHS instead of trying to rip it apart.

  2. 13 blood transfusions mean I'm alive...thanks NHS!

  3. Here's a list to be getting on with:

  4. Agree with all you say Sue. Tesco's have decided to create more jobs again but no one knows how many will be part time or paying the minimum wage(as opposed to a living wage)but though he has nothing to do with it our PM is praising what is happening and sounding as though he's taking the credit.

    Also the jobs will take 2-3 years to happen. They say it will 20,000 jobs but You and Yours just as I write this are asking if the figures are exagerated. And someone thinks they need some scrutiny. A while ago this person guesting on the programme suggests they said 30,000 jobs would be created and in reality it was 12,000.

    One of the firms I did a work programme with and obtained some qualifications some years ago folded as soon as I finished the course and there was questions over how it had been run.

    1. I used to work for Tesco and still have many friends and family working for them. Over the last few years they have had cut backs and tightened their belts in order to fund their American adventure, when people leave they invariably are not replaced.
      American Link

      So when I heard about these 20,000 jobs on the news I immediately thought they wouldn't be creating 20,000 jobs at all.

      They will merely be finally getting around to replacing all those people who have left over the last few years. And it's not because they want to do their bit it's because they have to.

      Tesco has tried their hand at being a discounter on a skeletal staff and it has backfired and shares are way down.
      Share link

    2. They can create 20,000 new jobs because they no longer have enforced slave labour to use. Seems us "trots" and "communists" have created more jobs in 2 weeks than A4e in its lifetime!!!

  5. What do you think that the Spartacus Report actually achieved? What has any of this really achieved?

    1. What strategies would you like to suggest, Anonymous? Assuming you're prepared to dedicate your life to protecting sick and disabled people, as Sue has done over the past few months, just let us know what your plan is and we'll do our best to follow you.

    2. hey anonymous 04.37

      you're not the practice manager from my surgery are you?

      a more patronising, misguided idiot would be hard to find!!

    3. If it hasn't achieved anything, why are you here?

    4. What did it achieve?

      It won hearts and minds.
      It rocked the Governments complacancy.
      It won support from the Lords.
      It put the Government on the back foot.
      It made the Government realise that this is the democratic and nice approach, and that there is always the options of direct action that may not be so nice.
      It brought many disabled people and their supporters together in a unified front.
      It got many disabled people to actually "do" something, as opposed to leaving it to others to do it for them.

      Ok, it didn't get the trains to run on time... but at least now we know we can get the trains seriously delayed.

    5. I agree, also I would say the report sent out an SOS to the wide public. Those with a soul will listen and take note and try and save us, those who are evil will ignore and dismiss.

      The report told us who in society cares about the critical situation us disabled are in :)

  6. "I got to thinking about what had made the Spartacus campaign so powerful?"

    Numbers and effort I think! People didn't stop at emailing MP's and Lords - they emailed friends, family, doctors, health centres, day centres, social services, local councils, commented on newspapers and called in favours from people hidden in the depths of (very old) little black books. The effort was huge, and started on a promise that there would be a report produced.

    Bloggers and Blog followers, websites, tweeters and commentators all were prepared to push like crazy - retrospectively the miracle is that people believed and trusted in a report that they may or may not have seen!

    "What on earth made welfare sexy? And I remembered that it was the personal stories. The One Month Before Heartbreak Twitter campaign and Left out in the Cold. The #fitforwork tag and the #DLAstories."

    Yes, we already had the proof, people just needed an opportunity to combine all the "little things" into one great big avalanche of information - factual and personal. The joy was that all that information already existed - people could pull up old posts, old blogs, old emails and send them off - it was still an effort, but the groundwork, or rather "grunt work" had been done.

    What made it happen though was having a focal point to unite around, and the Responsible Reform Report was that focal point.
    It was our "Olympic moment" when all the training and effort of years comes together.

    I also think that having Sue as the visible front person was PR genius - even if Sue hadn't been central in the production of the report, we had someone who was not a grey haired old man or a ranting, dribbling crip (no offensive to men, grey hair, ranters or dribblers - I tick 3 of those boxes myself).
    PR is everything in winning hearts and minds, and we cannot deny that - we have to ape those who we are fighting, and for every emotional, or shiney, or attractive MP argueing against us, for every ordinary person in every demographic who doesn't believe us, we have to have intelligent, articulate people, and we have to have heartbreaking people, and we have to have attractive people, minority group representation.
    Having someone as articulate, attractive and intelligent as Sue up against the goblin faced morons was, in my book, PR genius.

    1. Well, thank you very much.

      Hoddylass puts it better than I've been trying to for weeks - particularly the bit about a report they "may or may not have seen"

      There was a buzz, an excitement, I clearly remember the night before the release a few "spills" as ppl were straining at the leash to let go of all the work THEY did. Thousands of people, everywhere, all over the country made it happen.

      When the #nhssavedmylife thing trended this morning it lasted about an hour. #spartacusreport trended all day long. You don't get that without thousands of dedicated people all coming together at once. And carrying on and on and on until they are heard.

      As for the anonymous above who wants to know what it achieved, perhaps you only know the tip of the iceberg?

      The report was just a focus point. Hence Spartacus. Spartacus isn't the reprot. Few had seen him, no-one knows where he is now, but they TRUSTED him and he gave them HOPE. The two most important things in any campaign.

  7. Is Grayling telling more porkies? He seems to be saying that no one has completed an appeal against the WCA test since last summer? Implying it is all working so much beter now.

    Westminster Hall Debate on the WCA on 1st February. (Column 289WH)

    "I am almost certainly right in saying—I could not swear to being absolutely, 100% right, because there may be a small number of exceptions—that since the Harrington changes were introduced last summer, not a single appeal has been completed."

    On Benefits and Work, a cursory glance shows someone won an appeal only 4 days ago.

    1. earthtoplanetgrayling5 March 2012 at 16:29

      WEll planet grayling is obviously a wonderfull place to be as everything he does is right and there is no dissenting vioces.
      SINCE the harrington report no appeals well maybe his minions are not passing on the bad news.I would say they have gone UP not down as affter all under Pathos you have to appeal to get anywhere at all so what the hell does he think people are going to do.What a bloody pointless thing he is.I can hear the jaw hiiting the floor from here on PLANET EARTH as he realises he is not even anywhere b loody near right but 100% wrong.....If they aint appealing how come they have increased the number of judges sitting on panels....what they doing there then...MAYBE he is spending time looking at Tesco share prices or figuring out how to get the lady of sweet f**k hall out of the a4e shit she is in cos one thing is for sure he aint looking at the figures that matter....

    2. Now, he explained this very specifically to me.

      I hesitated and said (I quote) "I'm a detail girl and that is a detail I find very hard to believe. I always check everything or I'd have no credibility"

      I believe the smoke-and-mirrors in this particular statement is that Harrington reported Nov 2010. Since then, there is a 13 week assessment phase, then a reconsideration, then you lodge and
      appeal, then you wait etc etc. (If I got those actual detail wrong you get my drift)

      So basically it takes at least a year to get an appeal outcome.

      He says "COMPLETED" So NOT that no-one has appealed, simply that since Harrington, no-one has had time to get a verdict. That must mean the appeals process is running at way BEYOND one year. Nothing to be proud of at all Mr Grayling.

      He is really saying "We have no figures on that yet" NOT no-one has appealed. See? Sneakiness.

    3. yep sue...sneakier than a big bag of sneaky things dipped in old sump oil....

    4. The reconsideration part of appealling ESA is very confusing. When I've spoken to the DWP on the phone regarding my own failure to qualify for ESA I've been told that you only have four weeks to apply for an appeal. This means that you have to ask for the reconsideration and appeal simultaneously. Then they completely ignore your reconsideration request and your pleas and cries for their decision, even when you ask them very nicely and ask for an explanation in writing. They shrug their shoulders and say they 'assumed' you have failed it whilst sending out 'they'll be in touch with your appeal documents soon letters and repeated demands for medical certificates you've submitted three times already and after yo-yoing back to your GP.

      They forgot to mention to me that in order to get some money at the appeal rate (same as JSA) you have to submit a medical certificate signed by your GP. Which they lost, twice, ooops no money for me for six weeks!

      They are so overloaded and bogged down in appeals that I don't believe the staff know whether they're coming or going. Everyone tells you something different. In the meantime you're left in limbo, still unwell and facing that long term condition that they say doesn't hinder you from working. I've never experienced stress like the sort that comes from being put through this process. It has your stomach in a constant knot, you feel as if a bomb exploded nearby and knocked you dizzy with your head constantly ringing and you worry worry worry, what will the future hold? What if I lose and have nothing to live on at all?

      I hope and pray the appeals system collapses. Putting people with mental health and physical problems through this kind of torture is cruel in the extreme. Chris Grayling can go take a running jump...

  8. Well Grayling is lying wow now what a surprise that is. My wife who was put in the wrag group who is blind has heart disease and suffers depression has just had her appeal date set for 2oth march and might i add this appeal date has taken since october from last year.

  9. I know its anecdotal but a taxi driver I know told me his wife is virtually blind(you have to stand nose to nose for her to see you)she has a condition that has her in pain most of the time and on morphine and her organs can pack up in minutes. She has the backing of a consultant and Dr but Job Centre+ or whoever is dealing with her are trying to say she's fit for work!

    We had a new carer today to look after Mum(our usual carer is on holiday)she told me today she's worked for two care companies and conditions are bad. In a month she leaves to work in a residential home and is doing so for regular hours and so she knows where she will be but will be working for a minimum wage, she admits it will be a struggle and it is not a "Living " wage.

    In some ways it was good to bring in a minimum wage as some employers really exploited their workers but now they have an excuse not to pay any more if they can help it.

    And of course the government then usually has to make the wages up so people are still claiming benefits though working, the system is skewed.

  10. Well, I appealed my WCA back in December, the 12th I believe. Haven't heard anything back yet but am on the assessment rate.

    Just mentioning that fact, there are many people out there appealing the reports done by the frauds called Atos :)

    His not a single appeal has been completed line could be done to the DWP dragging their feet. I swear how can it take over 3 months, almost 4 now to tell me the status of my appeal.

    1. My parents who are acting on my behalf were told by DWP staff that the system is on the verge of collapse due to the sheer number of appeals.

      My GP also said that there have been a huge increase of people requesting sicknotes for their appeals.

      The JCP staff when my parents faxed my first sicknote were told there were huge numbers of appeals too.

      All this said within the past few months.

      Chris Grayling has his head in the sand, or is in denial if he thinks no one is appealing, everytime my parents deal with the DWP the staff seem to mention they have a HUGE workload with the appeals.

      One word used was meltdown. In that DWP centre anyway.

  11. I was actually staggered to find there were people on my timeline who supported the NHS bill; wronged patients who thought the NHS changes would mean that things would improve. However they seem pretty taken into the pretty language of the bill and don't really understand what it says. I'm still alarmed though that people believe so readily in the legalese and are then staggered when the reality hits them.

  12. The NHS saved my son's life twice: once, as a baby with bronchiolitis; once as a child with appendicitis.

    My husband has ME and related conditions; his life would be even more miserable than it is now if we could not have afforded to visit a doctor or buy pills.

    Free antiobiotics stopped me getting septicaemia from an infection.

    The NHS is flawed, yes; but wonderful.

    Keep up the good work - but not until AFTER you've had your rest. :)

  13. Mr Ed(The Labour Leader)is on Radio 5 approx 11.15am today supposedly answering any question put to him. I so hope he gets a hard time over his stance on the Welfare bill/Atos/DLA/The Disabled and carers/ESA/PIP/unemployed/low wages where it has to be made up with help from the Government so you are still on welfare, housing benefit etc...

    I know numbers are against him because of how Parliament is composed at present but he has virtually gone along with all that has been said and done and has used similar language about fiddlers and scroungers and seems to think the worst of people who claim(when we know fraud is small and most people are genuine)and would not choose such a life out of choice.

    It will be more of the same if he is elected. I suspect few people will get through with any points related to the above and he'll not give any real answers.

  14. Well, that was a waste of time. You knew it would be, he was there promoting a speech he'd geiven earlier about patriotism and supporting British firms(Yawn)but the questions were not very good(nor were the answers)and we have no idea what the editor on the programme did not let on air.

    Most seemed to say they felt Ed will not succeed as leader of the party and that he will not be the PM.

    But no real discussion of any policies...

  15. I wouldn't be alive without the NHS...3 hospital dashes in Ambulances from September to January in need of oxygen. I am reliant on inhalers most days. My 9 month ear infection seems to be finally under control. It may not be perfect and indeed it has got worse, longer waiting times etc since this gov got in, but dismantling it and taking it away from us is not the answer, unless the question is how do we kill lots of people off and make Britain into a far worse country than it has been for decades?

  16.  "Save the NHS" day of protest TODAY:

    -See UNITE website

    -The BMA is marching from its headquarters at 5.15

    -There's a parallel march from ULU student union about 5.

    -There's a mass Lobby of MPs in parliament and

    -a human chain around St. Thomas' Hospital at 2,

    -with a rally at 6 in The Library, Central Methodist Hall, Westminster. Spread the word too please!

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