Monday, 6 August 2012

Olympic Deployment Centre - London Ambulance Service

Back in May as Chair of the London Ambulance Service Patients Forum, I attended Operation Amber, along with Malcolm Alexander, one of the Forum's Vice Chairs. We visited the Olympic Deployment Centre in the Docklands, which is currently being used to operate all of the emergency ambulance functions for all of the Olympic venues. The LAS are operating together with other ambulance services drafted in to support over the period, including West Midlands Ambulance Service. We were quite impressed with what we saw. Here are some photos from the day.

Green Party Leader Election - Guest Post from Alan Wheatley

Having resigned from the Green Party 6 months ago on a point of principle regarding the introduction of a cuts budget by the Green led council in Brighton, I have not commented on the election for Leader or Deputy Leader of the party. I have given my endorsement, as Chair of the London Ambulance Service Patients Forum and a health activist to my friend and colleague on the Coalition of Resistance, Romayne Phoenix, who is also Chair of the Coalition fighting cuts and austerity. I am, of  course, following the campaign with some interest, as the outcome will be important for politics and the fight against cuts and austerity in the UK.

I have agreed to post the following from my friend, Alan Wheatley, with whom I have worked closely on disability and welfare issues, as Alan does not have a blog and wishes to make his comments on one of the candidates public. I am not aware of the background to the issues which Alan raises and would point out that the view expressed is Alan's and not mine as I have not been involved in the party over the period which Alan refers to. Alan has already put these comments on the blog of Stephen Wood, a Green Party blogger here.

I am one of those who will be giving #1 vote to Romayne Phoenix, having worked with her on anti-austerity measures. As well as being a great speaker, Romayne is a very caring person and great encourager. She is also a survivor who can lend her experience of hard times to helping build bridges with working class people and disability benefit claimants. I give my own statement to this effect at the Romayne & Will website.
And as an ex-member of Camden Green Party who has transferred into Haringey Green Party without moving out of the Borough of Camden, I note that Natalie Bennett's behaviour as Chair of Camden Green Party was one of the cues for me to leave Camden Green Party. For in the London Assembly elections, I observed that Haringey Green Party welcomed Enfield Green Party member and Enfield & Haringey constituency candidate Peter Krakowiak to their meetings from the time that he was elected for the two seat constituency. But Camden Green Party seemed to ostracise candidate A.M. Poppy from Barnet Green Party, giving her minimal exposure. As a Camden Green Party member at the time, I objected to the way that Poppy was not even invited to the launch of the Camden Green Party campaign. Natalie Bennett responded to me, "Poppy will be included later." Of all the Camden Green Party leaflets for the London elections, not one had a photo of Poppy, and a Camden Green Party member told me this week, "The reason Poppy was sidelined was that she was seen as too abrupt and abrasive for our borough."
I believe that what Natalie achieved by sidelining Poppy was more space to raise her own profile as parliamentary candidate -- eg, her own face alongside that of mayoral candidate Jenny Jones on p. 4 of eve-of-poll leaflet. She was arguably desperate to raise her profile after getting fewer votes for the whole parliamentary constituency in 2010 than Cllr Maya deSouza got for one electoral ward. That was also after Natalie had replaced Adrian Oliver as parliamentary candidate in mid-term, apparently finding it easier to replace him with herself than to support him.
These are my own views and observations and I would encourage Green Party members to do thorough research on all the candidates before voting.

Alan Wheatley
Ex-Spokesperson on Social Security & Social Care,
now with Haringey Green Party while also a mainstay of Kilburn Unemployed Workers Group.

Monday, 23 July 2012

Press Release on Healthwatch from NALM

PRESS RELEASE                                                                         July 23 2012

Healthwatch must be the peoples’ independent, powerful, public watchdog in health and social care

A report by NALM analysing the results of FOIs sent to 152 Local Authorities in England has explored progress with development of Local Healthwatch (LHW), following Royal Assent of the Health and Social Care Act 2012. The survey explored funding, transition of LINks to Healthwatch, involvement in Health and Wellbeing Board and public engagement in the development of Local Healthwatch.

The survey showed many local are authorities are doing excellent work in collaboration with Local Involvement Networks (LINks) to establish Healthwatch, but that only 58% of local authorities were able to confirm that resources were in place for LINks to continue their work until abolished in March 31st 2013.

Government policy that LINks should go through a transition to Local Healthwatch whenever possible was not evidenced by the survey, which showed that whilst 51% of local authorities were working closely with the LINk to establish Local Healthwatch, there were few examples of genuine transition – notable exceptions were Islington and Hertfordshire. There was little evidence of plans for LINk legacy to be carried forward to LHW and little evidence of public participation from children and young people in the development of LHW. Leading edge examples of public participation were found in Suffolk and Plymouth.

Evidence of local authorities unlawfully taking over the running of LINks (Swindon) or attempting to control the LHW were also revealed, e.g. one local authority is consulting the public on what priorities LHW will have before it even exists.

Malcolm Alexander, Chair of NALM said: "our survey shows great progress in some parts of the country. But, Healthwatch must be an independent of the system it monitors and a powerful public watchdog in health and social care. It is a complete waste of time and money to establish a system of public involvement that is toothless and beholden to the local authority that funds it. We need Healthwatch to be democratic, led by its members, with ring-fenced funding and able to monitor and lead the development of local needs-led services. Local Healthwatch must be able to blow the whistle when services are failing local people. We have made 10 recommendations to Ministers and local authorities".


1)     A renewed government and local authority commitment to the transition of LINKs into Local Healthwatch (LHW)

2)     Use of grant-in-aid by local authorities to enable genuine transition from LINks to LHW

3)     Active public engagement of the community to ensure inclusive and diverse approaches to involving people in the development of the LHW.

4)     Involvement of children and young people in the development of LHW.

5)     Ensure that LINks continue to monitor and influence health and social care with local people until abolition on March 31st 2013.

6)     Ensure LINks legacy carries over to LHW to avoid the loss of experience and knowledge – new organisations usually take two years to establish.

7)     Training for all LINks members in all areas, to ensure that the usual mass migration of volunteers that accompanies the abolition of community organisations is stopped.

8)     Support for LINk members on Health and Wellbeing Board to that they can carry their experience forward to LHW.

9)     LHW should include advice and information services and the Independent advocacy service as an integrated model. Subcontracting bits of LHW will be inefficient, expensive and a waste of time and resources.

10)  Healthwatch England should to advise LHW how to access critical information to assess the safety and quality of local health and social care services.


Malcolm Alexander is Chair of the National Association of LINks Members. He can be contacted on: 0208 809 6551 or 07817505193   -

Ruth Marsden is the Vice Chair of the National Association of LINks Members. She can be contacted on: 01482 849 980 or 07807519933 or

Local Involvement Networks (LINks) were set up by statute in 2008 to give citizens a stronger voice in how health and social care services are delivered.

NALM is the national organisation of Local Involvement Network members and was formed on April 1st 2009. NALM aims to stimulate more powerful approaches to public and user involvement and build a major grass roots movement of LINks and LINks’ members which can influence government policy.

The Health and Social Care Act 2012 abolishes LINk and replaces them by Local Healthwatch in 2013. Many of the duties of LINks and LHW will be similar.

The Local Government and Public Involvement in Health Act 2008 established Local Involvement Networks (LINks) to promote and support the involvement of people in the commissioning, provision and scrutiny of local NHS and care services. They do this by monitoring services and obtaining the views of people about their experiences of care   and making reports and recommendations about how services should be improved, to persons responsible for commissioning, providing, managing or scrutinising local care services.

Note of the development of Healthwatch

Local HealthWatch will take on extra duties such as providing information and signposting to the public who need help with understanding how the NHS and social services structures work, and potentially supplying advocacy for those who need help complaining to the NHS about poor treatment.

 LINks are made up of volunteers, supported by a small professional team. They have responsibility for scrutinising all health and social care services in a local authority area.  They are tasked, by statute, with providing the voice of those who use our health and social care services.

It is intended that Local HealthWatch be the voice of the user and patient, and a guardian of patient safety. LINks and Local HealthWatch should be the first line of defence against another Mid-Staffs, they have a right to inspect services.

Sunday, 8 July 2012

The Afghan Solution - Meeting on Wednesday

I will be going to this meeting on Wednesday. The war is far from over and the casualties continue to mount. Always good to hear what is happening from informed sources rather than establishment media.


organised by Afghanistan Withdrawal Group of MPs

supported by Stop The War Coalition

Wednesday 11th July 2012

18.30 to 20.00

Committee Room 21, House of Commons, SW1A 0AA

via Portcullis House Entrance* (next to Westminster tube station)


How Western Hubris Lost Afghanistan

Speaker: Lucy Morgan Edwards

Co-chairs: Paul Flynn MP and Caroline Lucas MP

m  Lucy Morgan Edwards is author of The Afghan Solution: The Inside Story of Abdul Haq, the CIA and How Western Hubris Lost Afghanistan. A former political advisor to the EU Ambassador in Kabul, Lucy has been an election monitor, and a correspondent for the Economist and Daily Telegraph. She spent seven years in the region, including in Jalalabad and Kandahar. Lucy has written papers on post-9/11 Afghanistan, and made presentations on Afghanistan at Chatham House, the Royal Society of Asia Affairs, and the Frontline Club.

m  Afghanistan Withdrawal Group of MPs was launched to press for British withdrawal and consider constructive ways in which the conflict might be ended. The group is co-chaired by MPs Paul Flynn and Caroline Lucas.  Supporters are drawn from across the political parties.

* IMPORTANT: There are likely to be long queues for public entry to the House of Commons via St Stephen’s and other entrances. Please assemble at Portcullis House at 18.15 where parliamentary staff will be waiting to take you to the meeting.

Wednesday, 4 July 2012

A Pride which is a Shame - excluding older and disabled LGBT people

This email from Age UK London's Open Door Coordinator to older LGBT members in London sums up the sheer anger and frustration from many older and disabled LGBT people who are being excluded from Pride this year. We are either a community for all or we are nothing.

Dear friends and colleagues

Further to the e-mail sent on Friday which contained the July edition of the Opening Doors London newsletter.  As advised, due to the changes and cancellations announced by Pride London, Opening Doors London has had to cancel the brunch (our planned start time for that conflicting with the new start time of the “procession” at 11am), and similarly with the changes in times to other events for the day, we have had to cancel the older LGBT community space at St Anne’s.

In regards to the parade itself, Pride London has announced an exclusion of vehicles from the procession, so we no longer have the Older LGBT Community open decked bus serving as an access vehicle for those wishing to take part but who wouldn’t be able to walk the parade route.

However we also had the Older LGBT Community booked in as a walking group.  Age UK Camden’s Opening Doors London project, although lead agency for involvement at Pride, has maintained this space to allow for other older LGBT groups and individuals taking part.  We HAVE NOT cancelled the Older LGBT Community walking group allocation.  Whilst we are totally opposed to the decision made to bar vehicles from the parade, effectively preventing less mobile and/or disabled people taking part, after much discussion and consideration of all options available, we believe that the older LGBT community still demands a presence and a voice and their rightful place at the front of the parade..  There wouldn’t be a Pride without our older LGBT men and women.

On speaking with several of the members, many are still planning on coming along and taking part in the procession anyway, so Opening Doors London will be there unofficially/officially.  Pride London has stated “let’s take the parade back to its roots”.  Well, we intend to do just that, with a few well worded placards and banners too… Please feel free to bring your own, lets really show Pride how LGBT veterans campaign!!  We just regret that many of our friends won’t be able to join us on the day due to the cutbacks and not having our bus!

Pride has advised us that we will be in the Red Section Number 21 in the parade. Line-up is in Baker Street with the red section being between Fitzharding Street up to George Street and you should arrive from 10:15am to 10:30 am for an 11am start. We will have our usual “Older LGBT Community” banner.  But like I said please feel free to bring your own banner.

As you know, months have gone into planning our celebration of World Pride, not just for the older LGBT community, but for LGBT groups and individuals everywhere, at considerable investment in time and money to groups and to individuals. This has now been LOST!   To have the parade scaled down, vehicles barred (especially our older LGBT access bus) and whole sections of the day is a total disgrace.  We assure you that we at Age UK Camden’s Opening Doors London, along with colleagues throughout the LGBT sector, will be pushing for an investigation into how we were allowed by different organisations involved to arrive at this shambolic affair.

Maybe see you on Saturday.

Best wishes

Nick Maxwell

LGBT Development Coordinator (men)
phone:  020 7239 0446

Age UK Camden
Tavis House, 1 - 6 Tavistock Square, London, WC1H 9NA

Reception: 020 7239 0400

Fax: 020 7383 2550

Now to be known as Age UK Camden

Monday, 25 June 2012

London Ambulance Service Patient Forum's questions to the LAS Board and submission re the LAS's Quality Account.

The London Ambulance Service Patients Forum has listed the following questions for the public board meeting of the London Ambulance Service NHS Trust tomorrow. I am unable to attend the meeting because of work, but Malcolm Alexander, the Vice Chair of the Forum is attending in my place.

We have also issued a response to the London Ambulance Service's Quality Accounts which are going to be passed at tomorrow's meeting and will then be placed on the LAS website and made available to stakeholders. Our own website is here and we will putting our questions there also. We have also sent our questions and the response to the Quality Account to all LINks in London.

Dear Colleagues, please find below and attached our submission to the London Ambulance Service's Quality Account. We have also put the following questions to LAS Board which meets on Tuesday:

1) Is the LAS in negotiations with the directors of commissioning for North East London and City PCT concerning the low availability of HASU (acute stroke) beds, and if so what progress has been made?

2) In view of the overall increase in complaints for the last quarter, and in particular the increase in the number of complaints about delays, will the LAS ensure that lessons are being learnt from each complaint about improvements in response times,  communication with patients about the cause of delays, and the clinical outcome for patients?

3) Will Command Point provide opportunities, in the near future, for 'patient specific protocols' and their wishes about 'end of life' care to be communicated quickly to front line staff?

4) Does the LAS have a plan for the development of a 24/7 bariatric care service and have resources been identified for this service?

5) Will the research methodology for interviews with non-conveyed patients include detailed, qualitative interviews?

6) In view of the abnormally high current utilisation rate of the LAS (22% increase of Cat A), does the LAS Board believe it is sufficiently funded for this level of activity?

7) The data on performance figures given to the Patients Forum contain some concerning figures for the East zone on Category A patients in particular. What is the explanation for this and what is being done to address it? We are putting this question again (having put it at the last Board meeting) as the figures which the Forum has recently received for both the year ending April and for the month of April from the East have given further cause for concern. We are also aware that commissioners are concerned about this also.

Quality Accounts 2011-12 statement

Patients’ Forum Ambulance Services (London)

Forum Officers

Company Secretary: John Larkin


Chair:   Joseph Healy                                          __________________________________________________________________

Vice Chair:                   Sister Josephine Udie   

Vice Chair:                   Lynne Strother             

Vice Chair:                   Malcolm Alexander       

1) Public Involvement

a) The LAS has a strong commitment to public involvement and the Forum plays an active part in the following LAS committees: Patient and Public Involvement, Equality and Diversity, Mental Health, Clinical Quality, Safety and Effectiveness Committee, Infection Prevention & Control Committee Meeting, Clinical Audit and Research Committee, and the Learning from Experience Committee.

b) Questions put the LAS by the Forum are usually responded to quickly and fully.

c) The LAS supports the Forum by providing, information, meeting rooms, refreshments, photocopying and presentations to meetings.

d) The Forum has been unable to obtain a response to the issues it submitted to the LAS for the 2011-2012.

e) Evidence of patient experience having real influence on policy and practise in the LAS is weak.

Recommendation: The LAS should develop a greater focus on collecting detailed qualitative data from service users especially where they have criticised or complemented the service. They should develop methodologies to demonstrate how qualitative data collected from patient groups, individual patients and the public has influenced LAS services. Evidenced based public involvement work in which public influence on the LAS can be demonstrated should be a priority.

2) Corporate Objectives CO2 and CO5 – Equality and Diversity

CO2. To improve the experience and provide more appropriate care for patients with less serious illness and injuries

CO5. To develop staff so they have the skills and confidence they need to deliver high quality care to a diverse population

a) The Forum was pleased with the decision of the LAS to hold a meeting for the public on the Equality Delivery System (EDS) and felt this was an important way of including the public in the developing EDS. 

b) We have concerns about the care of patients with sickle cell disease. We have met with the Sickle Cell Society which is committed to working with the LAS and the Forum to improve the care of people in a sickle cell crisis. We do not believe that the LAS gives sufficient priority to the health needs of black and ethnic minority communities and strongly recommend that a focus on the care of people with sickle cell disease. This would enable the LAS to demonstrate how they are prioritising the needs of protected groups.

c) The priority given to diabetic care by the LAS could expanded to ensure that front line staff are trained to appreciate that some ethnic groups have higher levels of diabetes.

d) The LAS has been unable to attract significant numbers of staff from black and ethnic minority communities, despite this matter having been raised by the Forum continuously since 2003. We understand that 94% of front line clinical staff are white. We recommend the LAS seeks expert advice to address this problem and initiate a programme of work to transform the ethnic composition of staff and Board members.

3) Quality Domain 5: Clinical Outcomes

a) The Forum welcomes progress made by the LAS in examining clinical outcomes of LAS interventions for patients with cardiac arrest, STEMI and stroke.

b) We would like to see this approach to quality developed by mainstreaming a system that enables frontline LAS clinical staff to review the outcomes of clinical care they have provided to acutely ill patients who are admitted through A&E. This could be done on a cohort basis, or through the selection of patients that LAS clinical staff have particular concerns about. The development of joint clinical meetings between LAS frontline staff and A&E staff would be an important step in meeting this important quality objective and supporting reflective practice and annual appraisal for paramedics, technicians and medical staff.

4) Mental Health and Dementia Care

a) The Forum is very pleased with the progress made by the LAS with the development of their mental health strategy, the prioritisation of this work over the past year and the employment of a mental health specialist.

b) The Forum would like to see this work developed though targeted qualitative research with patients who have been taken by the LAS to A&E departments and Places of Safety, with a diagnosis of a severe mental illness, e.g. sectioned under s4, s135 or s136 of the Mental Health Act.

c) The Forum would like to see prioritisation of rapid admission to appropriate mental health services – waits of several hours to handover patients to appropriate mental health practitioners are appalling. Urgent negotiations are needed with commissioners and the acute and mental health sector in London to resolve this problem.

d) Progress with providing appropriate care for people with dementia should be a priority. The Forum has recently met with Alzheimer’s UK, who would like to work the LAS to ensure that people with Alzheimer’s disease receive appropriate assessments, referral to memory clinics and mitigation of long waits in A&E.

5) Bariatric Care

a)     The QA identifies appropriate care for heavy patients as a cause of concern. The Forum is concerned about the distress caused to these patients and their families, when staff do not have the right equipment, and training to provide appropriate care and support.

b)     We recommend the LAS ensures staff have access to appropriate equipment and vehicles 24/7, and fully trained staff are available to ensure heavy patients do not suffer delay in their care or treatment.

6) Learning from Serious Incidents and Complaints Patients Safety and Patients Complaints

a)     We compliment the LAS on significant progress made through the Learning from Experience Committee.

b)     We recommend the LAS formally adopts the Health Service Commissioner’s statement ‘Driving improvement and learning from NHS complaints information’, which provides a bridge for learning from incidents, accidents and complaints.

c)      We would like to see details of all recommendations made following complaints investigations placed in the public arena with evidence of enduring improvement to LAS services.

7.0 Being Open

a)     We would like to initiate a joint project with the LAS to gather evidence that people are informed when something has gone wrong with the treatment or care provided to them by the LAS.

“Open and honest communication with patients is at the heart of health care. Research has shown that being open when things go wrong can help patients and staff to cope better with the after effects of a patient safety incident.
Healthcare staff may be fearful of upsetting the patient, saying the wrong or admitting liability. This guidance and the associated actions outlined in the Alert, provide reassurance that Being open is the right thing to do, and encourage NHS boards to make a public commitment to openness, honesty and transparency”.
National Patients Safety Agency (NPSA) 2009

Friday, 11 May 2012

The European Crisis - Time to resist!

I have not posted here for some time, partly because I was away in Ireland last month but also as I have been very involved in the anti-cuts movement here (Coalition of Resistance) as well as attending meetings to establish a new group supporting the people of Greece in their hour of need, called the Greek Solidarity Campaign. I have also been busy with my voluntary work as Chair of the London Ambulance Service Patients Forum, attending an all day event last Saturday around preparations for the Olympics by the various ambulance services around the country and visiting the new Olympic Deployment Centre in Docklands, from where the ambulance service will service the various Olympic and Paralympic sites.

COR has been pushing for a national demonstration against the cuts, spearheaded by the unions, for some time. We were enormously encouraged when UNITE took the lead on this, after a series of meetings with COR, and these regular meetings are continuing, and the TUC finally decided to act. It now looks as if the national demonstration will happen in October. Initially it seems that it would be branded by the TUC as a march to "save the NHS". While I agree that saving the NHS is a vital political issue, I also think it vital, and I have said this at COR meetings, that the other cuts, resulting from the Welfare Reform Act etc, are not overlooked. This is especially important at a time when several million disabled people are about to be fed into the mincing machine operated by Atos, G4S and others, in multimillion pound contracts awarded by this government, and which will lead to many living in destitution, resulting in many suicides etc. Also at a time when one London borough after another is announcing the removal of its poor and homeless to areas in the Midlands or the North. The latest I have heard about is the very wealthy Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea, which is considering exporting its homeless applicants and others to Stoke on Trent. Cromwell's cry of "To hell or to Connacht" issued to the Irish Catholics deprived of their land has echoed down the centuries but the Tories and Lib Dems equivalent "to hell or to Hull" looks like following it into the accounts of the dark and inhuman actions from English history.

The strikes yesterday against cuts and the removal of pension rights are a foretaste of what is to come in the autumn and it is high time that the unions, and the TUC in particular, got down and fought the dismantling of the welfare state and the driving of millions of people into penury.

The elections in Greece and France have opened a window of light on to the eternal gloom of austerity which has been the prevailing condition in Europe for the last few years. The delegation from COR which went to Athens recently were shocked by what they found. Suicides had multiplied, as they have in all of the states covered by austerity plans, including Ireland. During my recent visit to Dublin, I visited my brother and his family who live in Howth, a former fishing village which is a suburb of Dublin. He and his wife told me that there had been a series of suicides there, including a pregnant woman who had jumped from the cliffs and anothe woman with several small children who drowned herself in the harbour. The real rate of unemployment in Ireland is estimated to be 30% if you take into account the large numbers of young people who are being forced to emigrate to Canada and Australia.

The Irish government, who are acting as the agents for the austerity agenda, are trying to push through support for the Austerity Pact, the only country in Europe being given a choice on this issue. The Irish Green Party, who were part of the government which got the country into the mess in the first place, are about to take a position on the Austerity Pact and their position re the referendum. It can safely be assumed that they will take a pro line, as they are now totally bankrupt, both politically and financially, and are taking their lead from their funders in the Berlin and the German Green Party. They are attempting to relaunch themselves this summer and detoxify their reputation and change their brand. Unfortunately, like New Democracy and Pasok in Greece, they are totally associated with the mess in Ireland and the attempt to force the Irish taxpayer to prop up toxic banks for years to come and pay for bondholders in the UK and elsewhere.

The acerbic and campaigning Irish journalist, Vincent Browne, has on two occasions recently demolished the case for the bailout and the enslavement of the Irish people for a generation. Here he questions why Irish taxpayers should continue to pay for a bank which is defunct. It almost reminds one of the famous Monthy Python dead parrot sketch - dead, defunct, finished.

And here Browne demolishes the arguments of the right wing Fine Gael minister, Leo Varadkar, on the Fiscal Compact and the referendum.

The only way out of this is default and the people of Ireland and of Europe need to loudly tell the bankers and the spivs, and those who politically represent them, where to get off.