Archive for March, 2013

Cuts to deprived regions

images-22Cuts of 5% have been announced  in the amounts deprived parts of west Wales and the valleys are to get in European funding.

The culprit Mr Cameron and his UK government who demanded cuts to the overall European Budget. He was aided in this by Ed Miliband who combined with Euro sceptic tories to carry a motion in the Commons demanding cuts to the budget.

The cuts are less than expected.

First Minister Carwyn Jones said he was “disappointed” although pleased the prime minister “has listened to our arguments and has sought to deliver a fairer settlement”.

Despite Carwyn Jones’s gratitude to the Prime Minister the settlement has a lot less to do with the power of Carwyn Jones’s argument and more to do with the impending Scottish independence referendum.

Scotland, England, Wales and Northern Ireland will all see a 5% reduction.

But the Secretary of State for Scotland Michael Moore let the cat out of the bag by saying said Scotland’s allocation would have otherwise fallen by 32%, or 228m euros.

“Now we can confirm that an independent Scotland would face that 32% cut – and only an independent Scotland – because it would not have the UK’s flexibility. On structural funds, 228m euros is the price of leaving the UK family.” So it

s plain for all to see its not about fairness but simply a device to try to persuade the Scots to stay within the Union.

When the EU budget was decided the Welsh government feared the agreement could mean a reduction of £400m for Wales. It now says the cut will be £60m. Just a little above the cost of buying Cardiff Airport (£52m)

David Jones said the UK government has decided to re-allocate EU structural funds for 2014 to 2020 to minimise the impact of reductions in Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland. He was right, a big cut in Scotland’s budget would have played straight into the hands of Alex Salmond.

Under this deal, Wales will receive a total allocation of around €2.145bn.

The Plaid Cymru MEP Jill Evans  was not slow to point out Labour’s role in the cuts. She accused Labour MPs from Wales of aiding and abetting the overall cuts in the EU budget.

This new programme is the third such to involve Wales. It is to help the poorer parts of Wales to kick off their poverty and grow the economy.

There is little evidence that despite large sums of money being put into the deprived regions of Wales that it has kick started the economy. We still remain the poorest country and region of the UK. Lets hope that this next tranche is used to better effect.


A principled decision

23063_132542321539Those who have ever visited St Woolos  Cathedral will have travelled up Stow Hill. Political anoraks will perhaps be familiar with the name, Baron Stow Hill. Or better know as Sir Frank Soskice. He was the MP for Newport between 1956 to 1966.

Sir Frank was Premier Harold Wilson’s first Home Secretary from 1964 to 1965. He proved to be useless and was moved to the post of Lord Privy Seal  until 1966 when he retired and became the good Baron of Stow Hill.

Excuse the history preamble but there is one aspect of Sir Franks political career that provides an useful insight into how flexible are the principles of politicians. And it involves another rather wretched Welshman – Timothy Evans.

Timothy Evans was wrongly executed for the alleged murder of his wife and infant daughter, murders that were eventually discovered to be the work of John Christie. The discovery was a bit too late for Evans, he was hung in March 1950. A miscarriage of justice. But it being the British legal system it doesn’t like to admit to its mistakes and it took along time before Evans’s family saw justice done.

Shadow Home Secretary Frank Soskice MP, who give him his due, was a campaigner against capital punishment, started a petition to secure a posthumous pardon for Timothy Evans.  He worked diligently on the said petition. Millions of signatures were collected and were duly handed in to the Home Office.

Shortly afterwords the thirteen years of Conservative rule came to an end. Labour won the 1964 election. Harold Wilson became Prime Minister. The petition landed on the desk of the new Home Secretary, he who? You’ve guessed it a certain Sir Frank.

And what did you think happened when he was handed his own petition? He rejected it.

You couldn’t make it up could you.

Not quite on the same scale, but nevertheless something to keep an eye  out for. The Health Committee of the National Assembly, today, hand their collective wisdom to the Health Minister on the Human Transplantation (Wales) Bill. The Health Minister, Mark Drakeford will have to decide what to do about that wisdom. bigpic

The committee back the general principle contained in the Bill. That is, to change the current donation system to one of deemed consent.If  individuals don’t want their organs harvested they have to say so by opting out.

Whilst the committee have agreed in principle to deemed consent,  they seem to have very grave reservations about the practicalities of the Bill.

They ask what about the role of the family? Can they use a veto to stop it happening. They demand that the Minister really spell out what is meant. “To give greater public confidence in a system of deemed consent and to provide certainty for medical staff.”

And they want the Minister to look again as to how the publicity programme will be carried out. “We remain to be convinced that the one detailed to us is sufficient to meet the Government’s own aspiration.” In other words Minister put more cash into it.

The committee are far from convinced  that there is enough cash in the system to meet the additional costs incurred to deal with any extra transplants. The want the Minister to “prepare and publish a detailed plan of the resource implications of the Bill for the future of critical care capacity in Wales.”

So all in all food for thought about the whole Bill and a real challenge to the Minister. Well, he will do, what he must. Straight forward you may think. That’s the job of a Minister.

Yes, indeed so.  Except that the Health committee’s views were determined under the auspices of the Chair at the time, a certain Mark Drakeford. Let us see whether Drakeford does a Soskice and rejects the advice he played such an active part in articulating.


Dead certain. No, not really.


When’s a death not a death? When its not being counted.

Now this may seem an irrelevant  and perhaps an irreverent question.  But it becomes very relevant if you want to know how many peg it in your local hospital. Stafford hospital comes to mind.

God forbid that there’s no such place in Wales.  But you’d like to know before you volunteered to submit yourself to a surgeon’s knife

Well, which hospitals would you avoid in Wales? The truth is Joe public wouldn’t have a clue.  But what is perhaps a little worrying, there is some uncertainty amongst the professionals as which hospital has the highest death rates.

In the sprit of transparency and openness Local Health Boards in Wales have just published hospital mortality data on their websites. In other words how many  people died in their care.

Its not just simply counting  the dead. Oh no. If only things were that simple. But working out whether the hospitals make matters worse. And there can’t be anything worse than death.

The data is known as the Risk Adjusted Mortality Index (RAMI). Sounds complex doesn’t it. Make no mistake, it is.

Raw data collected by your local health board to form the index. Its worked out by comparing the actual number of deaths to the expected number of deaths.  The set a baseline of 100. If the index is more than a 100 it means more deaths than expected. Under 100 less deaths than expected.

But just to confuse things further the Deputy Chief Medical Officer Chris Jones says we can’t depend on them. He said:  “A higher than average number of ‘expected deaths’ should not be interpreted as the number of ‘avoidable deaths’.

Where does that leave the ordinary punter? Confused.

Basically although the figures have been published. It would seem that we can’t compare hospitals because the information they’re putting in is not consistent, even in the same health board. If you put rubbish in you get rubbish out.

So what’s the use of them. Well, we’re been told they will get better. Sure hope so, ‘cos we’d all like to start making informed choices as to whether we put of our lives in their hands.

And the graphs consistently show peaks in the winter months. So if you’ve got to go into hospital avoid the winter months.

But the real lesson of all this is that hospitals are not good for your health. Indeed looking at the number of RAMI’s over the base figure of 100, many are killing you with kindness.