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David Tang: In Praise Of The NHS …

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David Tang: In Praise Of The NHS …

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Greg Lance – Watkins
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Hi,

I noted this article whilst on my daily constitutional which comprises a scan of some 20-30 newspapers a day, for articles that inform me in areas I am interested in.

Although this health article is for neither cancer nor heart attack, it caught my eye as it was written by David Tang whose ability as a wordsmith has always interested me as has his turn of phrase and humour has always apealed.

David Tang’s eloquent praise for the NHS so clearly displayed how I feel about our Health Service, which contrary to the pointscoring efforts of the dullards who so often rise in politics and the vituperative though poorly researched efforts of the dumbed down MSM, as they hunt down cheap shots whilst searching the internet for stories, as they are no longer funded to do proper research nor in most cases trained for it.

Just like the MSM TV the press is dumbed down valuing gossip and tittletattle of the nebishes that pass themselves off as ‘slebs’, with a very small ‘s’.

I looked up David Tang some years ago & found he was 8 years my junior & thus would have been a mere 2 years old when I first came across his name in 1956. David Tang’s father was therenowned CK Tang who emigrated to Singapore in 1923 and founded CK Tang’s opening his first shop in 1932.

In 1956 I had first come across his store and used to walk into town to visit CK Tang’s, sometimes alone & sometimes with Adam Fong my Chinese friend. I was fascinated by the opportunity to lift the edge of China’s skirt and gaze at the mysteries – intricately carved consentric balls of ivory and entire pairs of tusks intricaly carved from end to end, and far taller than I.

Adam would answer my questions as for his age he had a tremendous knowledge of the gods and mythology of China and that which he did not know he would proudly tell me about once he had established the facts from his father who was the manager of the unpreposessingly named ‘Chicken Inn’ a superb restauraunt by my home in ‘Kampong’ in the building which had been the Japanese Kempetei HQ – right on the water front suspended over a small beach where neither the Malays, Tamils nor Chinese would goas they believed it was haunted by the souls – below the glass floor of their dinning room so that they could watch them being drowned and devoured by sharks as the tide came in! of the many prisoners the Japanese tied to stakes.

CK Tang’s was still there pulling me like a magnet in 1957 when I returned during Merdeka & the elections that brought Lee Kuan Yew to power with his political logo of a red chicken and his efforts to control TB, which was rife, by spot fines for spitting in the streets!

I eventually gave away my 5 volumes of books on Chinese gods & mythology each with camphor wood covers and concertina folded paintings on silk and the story of each scene in both Chinese and English.

I’d like David Tang to one day know the pleasure his father’s shop gave a small boy with limited pocket money on holiday in Singapore!

That David Tang had his life saved by the superb care of the NHS – Just as they have saved my life with various cancers and a consequential heart attack.

In praise of the NHS

‘The moment I was wheeled in, I knew this was nothing like my preconception of an A&E department’
Image of David Tang
NURSE 01
August 7, 2017 by: David Tang
On a beautiful Sunday morning I was looking out on a perfect olive tree in front of a turquoise crescent of water at St-Jean-Cap-Ferrat, with a couple of overnight local fishing boats bobbing gently against a perfect blue sky without a single cumulus.
Yet I was in pain.
Little did I know that, in the dark depths of the night before, I had an ulcer that had begun a sinister haemorrhage.
The beautiful sun rising outside was in total ignorance of my uglifying seepage inside.
My wife acted decisively for me. She called a friend who lent us his jet and, within four hours, we landed at RAF Northolt. I stood up to disembark but, not realising how weak I was, collapsed in the narrow gangway of the Global Express plane. I could not move and it took four strong men to slither me out of the plane on a sliding sheet into an ambulance.
And here the miracle, like a magic carpet, began.
They took me to Hillingdon hospital. Had I managed those five steps out of the plane myself, I would have made it to the London clinic where a private room was waiting for me.
This was now an extreme emergency and the NHS hospital was the only option.
Yet the moment I was wheeled into that hospital, I knew this was nothing like my preconception of an NHS A&E department, about which we hear so much criticism. Immediately, two doctors hovered over me with three nurses close by. I was swung into one of those blue-curtained spaces and asked a series of precise and pertinent questions.
Within minutes, they had diagnosed internal bleeding, and I was whisked upstairs to intensive care where I was given a blood transfusion.
No hesitation, no dithering: three bags full, like three blah blah black sheep, straight into my system.
More doctors came and asked more relevant questions.
Within another hour, I was taken for a CT scan, and another half-hour an endoscopy with an anaesthetist whereupon they identified a bleeding ulcer which they treated with immediate effect.
The long and the short of it was five doctors and 10 nurses saved my life at Hillingdon that Sunday afternoon.
ICU BED 01
I was moved into a general intensive care unit that evening and, for the first time in my life, experienced sleeping in an open ward in a long room with five beds on one side facing a long counter of doctors and nurses.
In the middle of the night, in my half slumber and weak waking moments, I realised that sleeping in a space like an open office was rather nicer than being cooped up in a private room.
It had never occurred to me that sharing with other patients and seeing the dependable shadows of the moving and half-whispering nurses could engender such a soothing and warming feeling.
I also felt a bond with my fellow patients.
I will howl and hunt down anyone who dares to question the NHS I woke and experienced another extraordinary day of meticulous care.
Each and every staff nurse, in their wonderful blue uniforms, could not have been more kind and helpful, including wiping me down with wit and humour, both of which, I can assure my readers, demanded a very high standard!
There was one exceptional doctor from Hungary who became one of my greatest friends without my knowing it. His application of knowledge and experience to my case was one of those rare occurrences when you know a piece of fortune has been stitched into the hem of your life.
So, ladies and gentlemen, let me tell you now the fountain of all serendipities:
if you were in the magical labyrinth of the Hillingdon NHS, you would, like I, never ever have a single doubt about the NHS as an institution of the greatest cultivation.
I will howl and hunt down anyone who dares to question the NHS.
Tonight, as I sleep at the Marsden, under another impermeable umbrella of the NHS, I pay my private tribute to the NHS, particularly to all my new best friends at the Hillingdon, and I also pay a public tribute to what they represent.
My mother always told me that the UK provided the best education in the world, to which I now add the best hospital care in the world.
The fact that it was free at the point of service defies even Einsteinian space-time.
So I am glad I have paid my taxes in this country — before with reluctance, but now with alacrity.
I hereby demote Asclepius and genuflect to Nye Bevan, founder of the NHS.
To see the original of this article CLICK HERE
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Regards,
     Greg_L-W
Greg Lance-Watkins
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I Have Been Fighting Cancer since 1997 & I’M STILL HERE!
I Have Cancer, Cancer Does NOT Have Me
I just want to say sorry for copping out at times and leaving my wife Lee and friends to cope!
Any help and support YOU can give her will be hugely welcome.
I do make a lousy patient!

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If YOU want to follow my fight against Cancer from when it started and I first presented with symptoms in 1998 see The TAB at the Header of this Blog. called >DIARY of Cancer ….ARCHIVEMEDICAL LINKSCANCER LINKSHOT LINKS< in the Sidebar.
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YOU are welcome to call me, minded that I am NOT medically trained, if you believe I can help you in ANY way. .

Regards,
Greg_L-W.

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Posted by: Greg Lance-Watkins
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Some additional Links With Coping & Beating Cancer At Heart …

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Some additional Links With Coping & Beating Cancer At Heart …
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Hi,
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Hello there,

My sister’s breast cancer diagnosis came when she was only 23 and shook my entire family to its core. I’m endlessly grateful that my sister was able to conquer her disease, but I think a lot about how lucky she was. Not everyone is as fortunate, and many don’t realize how real the risk of cancer is. This has been something I’ve been thinking about a lot lately, since our family’s annual summer vacation is on the horizon.

In her honor, I wanted to pass along some really important cancer and terminal illness resources that would fit great here: https://greglw.com/cancer-links/ . I hope they’ll ease the minds of anyone going through a difficult time due to a cancer diagnosis.

 

9 Proven Ways to Reduce Your Cancer Risk

 

Asbestos: What You Need to Know When Buying, Selling or Remodeling

 

Creative play: Helping children cope with cancer

 

A Sobering Diagnosis: Coping With a Terminal Illness Diagnosis as a Recovering Addict

 

17 Simple Ways to Prevent Air Pollution in Your Home

 

Asbestos, Mold and Other Toxins

 

The health hazards of sitting

 

I appreciate your time and all you do to promote awareness and offer support.

 

Thanks in advance,

 

Katybeth

 

Katybeth Dee

http://selfexam.org/

340 S Lemon Ave #5780 | Walnut, CA | 91789

Regards,

Greg_L-W.

 

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IF You, Like I, Have A Garden – Its Odds On You Have Used Glyphosate …

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IF You, Like I, Have A Garden – Its Odds On You Have Used Glyphosate  …
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Cancer agency left in the dark over glyphosate evidence

The World Health Organization’s cancer agency says a common weedkiller is “probably carcinogenic.” The scientist leading that review knew of fresh data showing no cancer link – but he never mentioned it and the agency did not take it into account.

Filed June 14, 2017, 1:05 p.m. GMT

LONDON – When Aaron Blair sat down to chair a week-long meeting of 17 specialists at the International Agency for Research on Cancer in France in March 2015, there was something he wasn’t telling them.

The epidemiologist from the U.S. National Cancer Institute had seen important unpublished scientific data relating directly to a key question the IARC specialists were about to consider: Whether research shows that the weedkiller glyphosate, a key ingredient in Monsanto’s best-selling RoundUp brand, causes cancer.

Previously unreported court documents reviewed by Reuters from an ongoing U.S. legal case against Monsanto show that Blair knew the unpublished research found no evidence of a link between glyphosate and cancer. In a sworn deposition given in March this year in connection with the case, Blair also said the data would have altered IARC’s analysis. He said it would have made it less likely that glyphosate would meet the agency’s criteria for being classed as “probably carcinogenic.”

But IARC, a semi-autonomous part of the World Health Organization, never got to consider the data. The agency’s rules on assessing substances for carcinogenicity say it can consider only published research – and this new data, which came from a large American study on which Blair was a senior researcher, had not been published.

The lack of publication has sparked debate and contention. A leading U.S. epidemiologist and a leading UK statistician – both independent of Monsanto – told Reuters the data was strong and relevant and they could see no reason why it had not surfaced.

Monsanto told Reuters that the fresh data on glyphosate could and should have been published in time to be considered by IARC, and that the failure to publish it undermined IARC’s classification of glyphosate. The legal case against Monsanto, taking place in California, involves 184 individual plaintiffs who cite the IARC assessment and claim exposure to RoundUp gave them cancer. They allege Monsanto failed to warn consumers of the risks. Monsanto denies the allegations.

The company also goes beyond saying the fresh data should have been published. It told Reuters the data was deliberately concealed by Blair, but provided no specific evidence of it being hidden.

Blair told Reuters the data, which was available two years before IARC assessed glyphosate, was not published in time because there was too much to fit into one scientific paper. Asked whether he deliberately did not publish it to avoid it being considered by IARC, he said that was “absolutely incorrect.” He said a decision not to publish the glyphosate data had been taken “several months” before IARC chose to conduct a review of the chemical.

The National Cancer Institute also cited “space constraints” as the reasons why the new data on glyphosate was not published.

SENIOR SCIENTIST: Aaron Blair, a retired epidemiologist, led the review of several pesticides, including glyphosate, by the International Agency for Research on Cancer in 2015. CREDIT: National Cancer Institute/Bill Branson/Handout via Reuters

The absence of the data from IARC’s assessment was important. IARC ended its meeting in 2015 by concluding that glyphosate is a “probable human carcinogen.” It based its finding on “limited evidence” of carcinogenicity in humans and “sufficient evidence” in experimental animals. It said, among other things, that there was a “positive association” between glyphosate and blood cancers called non-Hodgkin lymphoma. IARC told Reuters that, despite the existence of fresh data about glyphosate, it was sticking with its findings.

The agency’s assessment is at odds with other international regulators who have said the weedkiller is not a carcinogenic risk to humans. It led to a delay in Europe on a decision on whether to re-license or ban EU-wide sales of pesticides containing glyphosate. That decision is still pending. In the meantime, some countries have tightened restrictions on the weedkiller’s use in private gardens and public spaces and on crops before harvest.

In the United States, a California judge took the IARC assessment into account in a separate legal case in March when ruling that the state can require RoundUp to carry a warning label that it may cause cancer. Monsanto is now facing further litigation from hundreds of plaintiffs across the United States who say glyphosate gave them or their loved ones non-Hodgkin lymphoma, citing the IARC assessment as part of their claims.

Yet if the IARC panel experts had been in a position to take into account Blair’s fresh data, IARC’s analysis of the evidence on glyphosate would have been different, Blair acknowledged in the court documents reviewed by Reuters.

The unpublished research came from the Agricultural Health Study, a large and significant study, led by scientists at the U.S. National Cancer Institute, of agricultural workers and their families in the United States. Asked by Monsanto lawyers in March whether the unpublished data showed “no evidence of an association” between exposure to glyphosate and non-Hodgkin lymphoma, Blair replied: “Correct.”

Asked in the same deposition whether IARC’s review of glyphosate would have been different if the missing data had been included, Blair again said: “Correct.”  Lawyers had put to him that the addition of the missing data would have “driven the meta-relative risk downward,” and Blair agreed.

Scott Partridge, Monsanto’s vice president of strategy, told Reuters the IARC glyphosate review “ignored multiple years of additional data from the largest and most comprehensive study on farmer exposure to pesticides and cancer.”  

“We decided to remove it because … you couldn’t put it all in one paper.”

Aaron Blair, former epidemiologist at the U.S. National Cancer Institute, explaining why new data on glyphosate and cancer was not published

The Agricultural Health Study was particularly pertinent, he said, because it examined real-life human exposure to glyphosate, whereas much of the scientific research IARC analysed involved laboratory tests on rodents.

IARC told Reuters that its evaluations follow strict scientific criteria and that its carcinogen classification system “is recognised and used as a reference all around the world.” It reiterated that in the interests of transparency it considers only published data.

Reuters asked two independent statistical experts to review the data, which has still not been published, though the National Cancer Institute told Reuters researchers are currently working on an updated analysis of it. Neither of the two experts had seen the data before and both said they had no conflict of interest over glyphosate.

David Spiegelhalter, a professor of the Public Understanding of Risk at Britain’s University of Cambridge, said there was “no apparent scientific reason” for not publishing the data. Bob Tarone, a retired statistician who worked alongside Blair and others at the National Cancer Institute for 28 years before moving to the for-profit International Epidemiology Institute, said he could find “no ready explanation in terms of the available scientific evidence” for the data not to have been published.

Tarone had already raised the issue in a little-noticed paper in the European Journal of Cancer Prevention last year. He wrote that IARC’s classification of glyphosate as probably carcinogenic to humans was the result of “a flawed and incomplete summary” of the evidence.

In an email to Reuters, IARC declined to say whether Blair informed IARC staff about the unpublished data, whether he should have, and whether that data might have changed IARC’s evaluation of glyphosate had it been published in time. The agency said it had no plans to reconsider its assessment of the chemical.

NON-SELECTIVE HERBICIDE

Glyphosate is what’s known as a non-selective herbicide, meaning it kills most plants. Discovered by the Monsanto chemist John E. Franz in 1970, glyphosate is no longer under patent, is supplied by numerous companies and is now the world’s most widely used weedkiller, deployed in agriculture, forestry and domestic gardening. Monsanto and other companies have developed genetically engineered seeds that can tolerate glyphosate, allowing farmers to apply it to entire fields without destroying crops.

The safety of the chemical has been under scientific and regulatory scrutiny since the 1980s. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and other international bodies, including the European Food Safety Authority, Health Canada’s Pest Management Regulatory Agency, New Zealand’s Environmental Protection Authority and Japan’s Food Safety Commission, have kept it under regular review, and all say glyphosate is unlikely to cause cancer in humans.

But it is not settled science, and researchers across the world continue to study glyphosate – measuring traces of it in water and foods, exposing lab rats to it, and monitoring possible health effects in people who have used it year after year in their work.

One of the largest and most highly regarded studies to examine effects of pesticide use in real life is the Agricultural Health Study, a prospective investigation of about 89,000 agricultural workers, farmers and their families in Iowa and North Carolina. Since the early 1990s, it has gathered and analysed detailed information on the health of participants and their families, and their use of pesticides, including glyphosate.

AHS researchers have published numerous studies from their data. One paper looking at glyphosate and possible links with cancers was published in 2005. It concluded that “glyphosate exposure was not associated with cancer incidence overall.” Since then, more data has been collected, adding statistical power to subsequent AHS analyses.

In early 2013, Blair and other researchers began preparing new papers with updated AHS data on lymphoma and pesticides, including data on glyphosate. Reuters reviewed drafts dated February 2013 and March 2013, and asked Spiegelhalter and Tarone to examine them. They said the papers, while still in the editing process, were in relatively advanced manuscript form. The drafts contain notes in the margin and suggested changes signed “AEB,” Blair’s full initials.

After studying the draft papers, Tarone said the unpublished figures show “absolutely no evidence whatsoever” of an increased risk of non-Hodgkin lymphoma because of exposure to glyphosate.

Spiegelhalter told Reuters: “In the drafts I saw, none of the herbicides, including glyphosate, showed any evidence of a relation” with non-Hodgkin lymphoma. He noted that the study was statistically strong enough to show a relationship for other pesticides – so had there been any link to glyphosate, it should have shown up.

In his legal testimony, Blair also described the Agricultural Health Study as “powerful” and agreed the data showed no link.

But these draft papers were never published, even though Blair told Monsanto’s lawyers in March that the Agricultural Health Study was robust and statistically well-powered, and told Reuters the research was important for science and the public. Email exchanges between Blair and his fellow researchers in 2014 also show they were keenly aware there would be scientific and public interest in fresh AHS data.

On February 28, 2014, Michael Alavanja, a co-lead author of one of the draft papers, sent an email to another AHS co-researcher, copying the message to Blair. It noted that the research was “important to science, public health, IARC and EPA” – the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.

In the same email, Alavanja referred to the findings on non-Hodgkin lymphoma, or NHL. He wrote: “It would be irresponsible if we didn’t seek publication of our NHL manuscript in time to influence IARCs (sic) decision.”

Yet the new AHS data on glyphosate and lymphoma did not surface.

Instead, a revised version of one of the 2013 draft papers prepared by Blair and other researchers appeared in a journal called PLoS One in October 2014. It did not include the data on herbicides, of which glyphosate is one.

This was unusual. Since 2003 AHS researchers had published at least 10 papers using different rounds of updated data to explore possible links between pesticides and specific diseases. And each one included all four pesticide classes: fungicides, fumigants, insecticides and herbicides.

Alavanja was one of the authors of the paper published in PLoS One in 2014. He said he and other authors and senior scientists at the National Cancer Institute decided to remove herbicides from that analysis primarily because of “the issue of statistical power and the need for a comprehensive evaluation of glyphosate and all cancers.”

Blair told Reuters the data on herbicides, including glyphosate, had been removed “to make the paper a more manageable size.” He gave a similar answer to the lawyer acting for Monsanto, who repeatedly asked in the legal deposition why the data was not published. Blair testified that the paper “went through many iterations.” He said he could not recall when the glyphosate data was removed, but “we decided to remove it because … you couldn’t put it all into one paper.”  

Monsanto argues that the data was not published because it showed no link between glyphosate and non-Hodgkin lymphoma.

The IARC review “ignored multiple years of additional data from the largest and most comprehensive study on farmer exposure to pesticides and cancer.”

Scott Partridge, vice-president of strategy at Monsanto

Tarone said the absence of herbicide data in the published 2014 paper was “inexplicable,” noting that volume of data had not been an issue in any previous published papers. He said updated AHS data and analyses on herbicides “should be published as soon as possible” to allow “a more complete evaluation of the possible association between glyphosate exposure and NHL risk in humans.”

Reuters asked nine other scientists listed as authors on the two draft papers of 2013 why these drafts had never been published. Some were unavailable for comment, and others referred questions to Laura Beane Freeman, who was a co-author on the draft papers and on the 2014 PLoS published study, and is the National Cancer Institute’s current principal investigator of the AHS.

In an email to Reuters, Freeman and a spokesman for the institute said: “After reviewing early drafts of the manuscript, it became clear that it would be impossible to do a thorough evaluation of all major pesticide groupings due to the sheer volume of information that was important to include.”

They said the decision to separate the results for herbicides, including glyphosate, allowed the scientists “to present more thorough evaluations” of the remaining pesticides.  An updated study on glyphosate is under way, Freeman said.

CULTURE CLASH

Despite IARC’s modest size and budget, its monographs – assessments of whether something is a cause of cancer – often catch the eyes and ears of policymakers and the public. Recent IARC monographs have included judgments that red meat is carcinogenic and should be classified alongside arsenic and smoking, and that coffee, which IARC previously said might cause cancer, probably is not carcinogenic.

The agency takes a different approach to many other regulators in two important ways. First, it says it assesses “hazard” – the strength of evidence about whether a substance or activity can cause cancer in any way, whether in a laboratory experiment or elsewhere. It does not assess the “risk” or likelihood of a person getting cancer from everyday exposure to something. Second, in general it only considers research that has been published in peer-reviewed scientific journals.

IARC considered around 1,000 published studies in its evaluation of glyphosate. But only a handful of those were cohort studies in humans – the kind like the Agricultural Health Study and the most relevant to real-life situations such as people working with glyphosate in agriculture.

The differing judgments on glyphosate by IARC and other regulators have stoked clashes on both sides of the Atlantic.  In the United States members of Congress have launched investigations into American taxpayer funding of IARC. They have yet to reach any conclusions.

In Europe, the battle centres on the looming decision about whether to re-license glyphosate for use in the European Union. The European Commission has said it wants EU member states to come to a decision by the end of 2017. Politicians will need to weigh the opinions of IARC and other scientific bodies when they decide whether or not to accept a Commission proposal to extend glyphosate’s marketing licence by 10 years.

It remains unclear whether the AHS data will see the light of day in time to be considered. Blair said he thought publishing the glyphosate data would be important and that his former colleagues at the NCI were working on it. The NCI’s Freeman said her team is currently “drafting a manuscript on this topic.” She said the new study “will explore the effects of glyphosate exposure in greater depth than a publication that includes multiple pesticides” and would, she hoped, be submitted “to a peer-reviewed journal in the coming months.”

Alavanja said a draft paper “should be available for submission to an appropriate scientific journal sometime later this year,” but that a publication date “is very difficult to predict.”          

Glyphosate battle

By Kate Kelland

Photo editing: Simon Newman

Design: Catherine Tai

Graphic: Ciaran Hughes

Edited by Richard Woods

To view the original article CLICK HERE

Regards,

Greg_L-W.

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Posted by: Greg Lance-Watkins
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GP by MS >It’s Time for an Honest Debate About the Provision of Healthcare …

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Guest Post by Marcus Stead >

It’s Time for an Honest Debate About the Provision of Healthcare …

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Hi,

It’s Time for an Honest Debate About the Provision of Healthcare

By MARCUS STEAD

We need to face up to reality about the National Health Service. For too long, it has been politically taboo to question whether the current model is either the best way of providing healthcare, or its sustainability in the long term.

William Beveridge
William Beveridge, the true founder of the NHS.

The Labour Party likes to portray Aneurin Bevan as the founder of the NHS. This is not the case. In fact, it was a key recommendation of the Beveridge Report of 1942, in which William Beveridge, a Liberal economist, outlined social reforms that were to be brought in at the end of World War II.

Both the Conservative and Labour parties agreed in principle to implement the report’s recommendations, regardless of which party won the first general election after the war (it came in 1945, and was won by Labour).

Beveridge’s vision was of a National Health Service run through local health centres and regional hospital administrations. In other words, they were to be non-political and free from government interference. But in the years immediately after 1945, Labour’s Minister of Health, Aneurin Bevan, had other ideas.

Aneurin Bevan
Aneurin Bevan, whose role in the creation of the NHS continues to be absurdly overstated.

Bevan, a temperamental, undiplomatic, extreme left winger, loathed by many inside the Labour Party, fought hard in Cabinet to abandon Beveridge’s vision in favour of a centralised structure of 14 regional boards appointed by the Minister of Health and local management committees.

From that moment onwards, the NHS became a political football, and it has remained so ever since. Bevan, knowing full well the implications of the seed he was sowing, didn’t allow facts and evidence to get in the way of his ideological dogma. Sir Harold Webbe, the Conservative leader on London County Council, was unhappy about local government’s role in the NHS being removed, and said of Bevan, “He is so full of his own importance that he is prepared to pit his knowledge against the accumulated experience of this council, which is to be butchered to make a Welshman’s holiday.”

Yet even Beveridge’s vision for an NHS contained three major assumptions that sounded quite reasonable at the time, but subsequently turned out to be utterly incorrect:

  1. As people became healthier, demand on the NHS would decrease.
  2. The demographics of society would remain roughly the same.
  3. The NHS could be paid for from ‘the stamp’, now known as National Insurance.

The reality has been utterly different. Huge medical advances in the last 60 years have resulted in significantly increased life expectancy, albeit with the assistance of ongoing care and drugs, which come at a price.

With the exception of the Callaghan government of 1976-79, all administrations have overseen vast increases in real-terms spending on the NHS, as demographics shifted, demand increased, and medical advances continued. By the late 1980s, National Insurance could just about cover pensions and contributory benefits, with the occasional bit of help from general taxation, but it was certainly no longer in a position to fund the NHS.

There is some evidence that Margaret Thatcher understood the magnitude of the problem as long ago as the early 1980s, but she was advised not to handle the ‘hot potato’.

The time has come to end the mawkish obsession with the NHS model, which was epitomised at the 2012 Olympic opening ceremony by the sight of nurses jumping up and down on beds. Britain’s cancer and stroke survival rates are significantly down on where they should be for an apparently rich country, and there is a lack of choice on the part of the patient.

It is easy to see why the Labour Party is so ideologically attached to the NHS. It frequently misleads people into believing it is a Labour creation, and is one of very few things in this country that can in any way, shape or form be described as a Labour success story.

The quasi-religious reverence with which the Labour Party treats the NHS, and the way in which it tries to make bogeymen of anyone who questions it in any way, is holding back a full, honest and frank debate about how we provide sustainable healthcare for the next 50 years.

When they hear any form of criticism of the NHS, their default position is always to make crude comparisons with the system in the USA, one they rarely know very much about, and are quick to point to horror stories within, while conveniently ignoring the numerous deaths in the NHS due to poor hygiene, lengthy waiting times and medical negligence. Doctors and nurses themselves are treated as saints to be revered, rather than tax-funded employees who deserve praise and respect when they do well, but should not be above criticism when they fall short of certain standards.

It is as though no other countries or healthcare systems exist elsewhere in the world. Why can’t we try to learn lessons from Singapore, which from a very low starting point in the 1960s, has managed to create and sustain one of the very best health systems anywhere on earth? Or what about continental Europe, where many countries operate with a mix of public and private healthcare, with compulsory insurance schemes using various models?

This debate should have begun at least 20 years ago, but there are signs that we are approaching the point where the current NHS system is unsustainable. Sooner or later, we will have to face up to this impending reality. Is it not better to do so while the hospitals and GP surgeries are just about working?

To see the original of this article CLICK HERE
The Labour party has never since the NHS’s inception missed an opportunity to lay claim to having founded the NHS and attributing it to Aneurin Bevan. As with so much else that seems to emmanate from socialists it is a misleading and dishonest claim.
Clearly William Beveridge drew up his report the background of which can be read CLICK HERE
Churchill’s wartime government endorsed the 300 page 1942 report and in 1943 Churchill gave an undertaking that whatever government was elected after the w ar they would impliment the report, having gained the undertaking of both Labour & The Liberals.
Unfortunately the task fell to Labour and the deeply unpopular Aneurin Bevan was tasked with the job of implementation – whther of his own volition or under the influence of his openly Communist wife, Jenny Lee, he immediately campaigned to change the structure of the NHS as clearly laid out by Beveridge – it was thus that Bevan converted the brave concept of the NHS placing it under direct control of the Government and the management of 14 separate Health Boards.
Thus began the unravelling of the economist Sir William Beveridge’s report and the conversion of the NHS to being a political football – the seeds of the NHS’s problems of today were sewn by this meddling and ineptitude of Aneurin Bevan and although evelcted from a humble background in a Welsh Valleys Constituency he rarely returned and eventually died of stomach cancer on his farm in the home counties!
More of this background can be found if you CLICK HERE
Unpalatable as Socialists may find the truth it is worthy of note that the implementation of the Beveridge Report was a cross party decision and the ineptitude of that implementation and the problems of today were as a result of the ineptitude of Aneurin Bevan his personal ambitions endorsed by his socialist colleagues!
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     Greg_L-W
Greg Lance-Watkins
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I Have Been Fighting Cancer since 1997 & I’M STILL HERE!
I Have Cancer, Cancer Does NOT Have Me
I just want to say sorry for copping out at times and leaving my wife Lee and friends to cope!
Any help and support YOU can give her will be hugely welcome.
I do make a lousy patient!

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If YOU want to follow my fight against Cancer from when it started and I first presented with symptoms in 1998 see The TAB at the Header of this Blog. called >DIARY of Cancer ….ARCHIVEMEDICAL LINKSCANCER LINKSHOT LINKS< in the Sidebar.
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YOU are welcome to call me, minded that I am NOT medically trained, if you believe I can help you in ANY way. .

Regards,
Greg_L-W.

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Hi,

Anna’s article below puts into perspective not just the destruction of life as you may know it but in fact the confrontation of one’s own demise. Her article is wide ranging, very personal and in its way has the fascination that is seen in a rodent when confronted by a hungry snake!

On Rebuilding Your Life When Hit By An Exocet.

They were not, as you might imagine, all fellow patients with physical ailments. Exocets arrive in many forms.

For Mrs Blunt, it arrived in the form of her husband’s gleeful public declaration of his love for his homosexual partner. The media were delighted to report on his new relationship. She was left to rebuild her life with her children. An entirely innocent victim of a life shattering Exocet.

For Mrs Travis, it was the announcement that her husband was being investigated by Operation Yewtree. Mrs Travis had done nothing wrong, yet she lost her home, her peace of mind at a time that she was grappling with breast cancer – and her privacy. Her life would never be the same again.

Other who have been kind enough to make contact with me include a man who has recently been cleared of all charges, a totally innocent individual, yet who must still keep his head below the parapet for fear of further publicity so I shall not mention his name; and Rabbi Laura Janner-Klausner who finds time in her busy schedule every day to phone me and keep my spirits up.

That is not to ignore the many good friends I have made whilst running this blog – Gloria Smudd and Blocked Dwarf come to mind in particular, both have given of their time to help me settle into my new home; Andrew Rosthorn, Daedalus Parrot and ‘another’ who shall remain nameless (again with good reason to keep their head below the media parapet)  have given hours of their time to help me stand for election.

It is with those who have found themselves caught up as innocent participants in the whirlwind of false allegations that I feel a particular affinity with. I have a new understanding of what it is like to have your life turned upside down.

My life, their life, can never be the same again. We have done nothing wrong, yet have to accept that there is no road back to our old life – whether it is because, in their case, that the vile accusations will continue to be propagated on an unforgiving internet, their family name forever besmirched; or in my case, that I will never walk again with all the limitations that brings in its wake.

One thing I have quickly learned is to disassociate yourself from those who have a fixed view as to how you should ‘present’ yourself to the public in future.

You have to be true to yourself.

Yet there are many around you only too quick to give you advice as to what you should or shouldn’t be saying, nor how you should be saying it! You can rest assured that my decision to carry on blogging hasn’t gone down well with some people. My decision to ‘go public’ with my story in The Times with James Gillespie and the Mail on Sunday with David Rose in an effort to bring publicity to the issue of people suing the NHS has gone down like a lead balloon in some quarters…..

Fortunately that doesn’t include Mr G who has been a tower of strength for me, not just in terms of what he has had to do for me physically – and I cannot wait to publish the blog post which will carry pictures of the wonderful extension he has built on for me to live in, I am so very proud of what he has done – but he has also supported me mentally; mopping my tears when I have been overwhelmed by self pity, cheering me when I have managed to write a blog post, and, small point, bringing me back photographs of all the little things I can no longer see for myself.

I say ‘small point’ – but have you any idea what a difference it makes to me that he brings back a photograph of what the pub garden looks like now that they have taken down a large tent, rather than merely ‘telling’ me about it? It makes me feel as though I am still part of the wider world.

It was Mr G too, who brought into the hospital that photograph of me at 23, to remind me that that girl was still inside me, even if I could no longer recognise myself in the mirror. (One of the side effects of the massive dose of steroids that I was having at the time, apart from making you talk ten to the dozen in a loud voice, is that they literally change the shape of your jaw and puff out your cheeks, so much so that I nearly screamed the first time I caught sight of myself!)

I have had to get used to the lack of privacy too. I can no longer be alone. There must always be someone with me. No phone call is private. No part of my body is private – I have round the clock care to wash me and dress me. No bodily function is private. That is why it becomes so very important to have some control over some part of my life – and that is where I have some connection with others who have received an Exocet in the backside.

We can’t change the past, can’t change what has happened, but we have control over how we face the future.

Hidden away, licking our wounds; or blazing out in public saying ‘I don’t care what you think, this is the person I am, this is the person I choose to be, this is the person I am – you can either like it or lump it’.

It will come as no surprise to those of you who know me well, to learn that I am choosing the latter path. In fact you could say – the latter path ‘with knobs on’.

As we speak, there are two web experts doing their best to put my blog site back as it was. It can’t be exactly the same, because it will be going on a wordpress.com site rather than a self hosted wordpress.org site and the software is not identical. I’ve chosen not to go the self hosted route this time, because I still have to face the reality that the cancer will kill me at some unspecified time in the future, and if the blog was self hosted, that would mean that it would disappear again.

Thankfully the kind reader who had hosted the archive site is going to host the new site as well, so it will stay up and running when I am gone – it does mean though, that all the comments on all the back posts will disappear. Apparently there is no known piece of software that will scrape both the posts and the comments onto a new WordPress site. Edinburgh University have a full record of all the comments for any serious researchers. I’m just explaining that before someone thinks there is some nefarious reason why there are 0 comments on the old posts.

So, my choice as to how to deal with future is to write; what I want, when I want, how I want. Writing is my window on the world, it allows me to reach out to people from this bed. I hope that you will take the opportunity to comment as well – not just read, for it is that conversation that transports me from this bed into the world that I used to belong to.

A world that was full of people and events and colour.

If you have time – you can make it like that still for me, by telling me of what you have been doing, what you are thinking. I know there were hundreds, nay thousands, of you reading this blog before I closed it in December – if just a few of you take the time to continue that conversation you will be helping me to be part of my old world.

Thank you.

To view the original of this article CLICK HERE

Susanne, who is now 68, has battled her illness, leiomyosarcoma, a rare soft tissue cancer, for six years. After almost killing her several times, it has now attacked her spine, rendering her immobile.

Crushed: Susanne, pictured above in her 20s, was a victim of medical negligence in 1973 when she was given a hysterectomy at the Westminster Hospital when she was admitted for a ¿dilation and curettage¿, a minor operation used to deal with heavy periods 

Crushed: Susanne, pictured above in her 20s,

Perhaps you would like to enjoy the privilege of getting to know Susanne a little better, in her rapidly closing life, however long it will be – see:
https://twitter.com/AnnaRaccoon2017

Regards,
Greg_L-W.

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The Redoubtable #Anna_Raccoon Dying With/of #Cancer Defends The NHS …

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Hi,

Cancer sufferer urges patients to stop suing NHS

Susanne Cameron-Blackie: ‘the NHS provides all you need without a penny going to lawyers’ALBAN DONOHOE/ALBANPIX

A woman dying of cancer has started a campaign to curb the compensation culture in the NHS despite suffering two cases of medical negligence herself.

Susanne Cameron-Blackie, 68, from Norfolk, has been given three months to live after being diagnosed with leiomyosarcoma, a soft tissue cancer, six years ago. It has spread through her body, leaving her virtually paralysed.

She is determined to spend her final weeks battling to cut the spiralling costs of litigation against the NHS. Last year, settlements and costs took £1.5bn out of the NHS budget.

NHS Resolution (formerly known as the NHS Litigation Authority) estimates that £56bn could be needed to deal with all cases arising from failures and mistakes made up to March 2016.

“That is the equivalent of half the annual budget of the NHS,” said Cameron-Blackie. She suffered in her early twenties when her womb was removed without permission as she was undergoing a dilation and curettage procedure. During recent treatment she was given another patient’s medication, leaving her in agony.

“But I didn’t sue,” Cameron-Blackie said. “The money from the original operation would have made no difference, I just got on with my life. The second time, I would not have got anything — the money would have gone to my husband in a few years’ time. What good would that do?

“Even the valid claims where somebody gets £6m and it’s entirely justified, that money goes into the court of protection and all their needs are met by the NHS.

“It is whether there is a fault that matters. If you can’t prove a fault, then you can have a patient with exactly the same damage, exactly the same needs and they are met in exactly the same way, but there is no payout.”

Cameron-Blackie, who formerly worked for the lord chancellor’s office, has returned home after her latest hospital treatment. The NHS has installed a bed and oxygen in her home on the Norfolk Broads.

“When the chips are down and you are left like this, the NHS provides everything and more that you need without a penny piece going anywhere near lawyers,” she said.

Cameron-Blackie is likely to find widespread support for her campaign.

Rob Hendry, medical director at the Medical Protection Society, which represents healthcare professionals, said: “A package of legal reforms is required to control the spiralling cost of clinical negligence, including a fixed cap on the legal fees that can be charged.”

A spokesman for NHS Resolution said it aimed to settle claims fairly and quickly. “We also have a responsibility to defend unjustified claims robustly. We received 10,965 new clinical negligence claims in 2015-16 [and] resolved 4,935 (46%) of clinical negligence claims without the payment of damages.”

10 comments
 
Ralph Naderbolsinmattu 6 days ago

 
 

The NHS Litigation Authority lost 76% of cases it contested in court, causing distress and pain to thousands of patients damaged by negligence.

 
PlatoSays 9 days ago

 
 

For those who’ve enjoyed the Anna Raccoon blog and twitter account over a decade or more.

A superb lady with a remarkable life story.

 
Kate Catleugh 9 days ago

 
 

There is a toxic chicken and egg situation here. Of course a cash-strapped NHS should not be paying enormous damages that result from expensive legal claims.  As things are now, the NHS very often will try and deny/defend/obfuscate to avoid the legal consequences of its actions. This of course not only escalates the costs but also prevents the lessons which should be learned from such errors to be learned.

If the NHS provides the remedies or reliefs needed as a consequence of it’s actions without charge anyway,  how much more rapidly, cleanly and efficiently this could happen if faults were admitted and rectified, as far as possible.  Where loss of life or hurt feelings are concerned,  surely an honest admission, a lesson truly learned and a prompt and sincere apology is far more appropriate than a long drawn out legal case and punitive financial damages awarded against the organisation least able to afford it without further jeopardising it’s ability to deliver for other patients.

 
Nick Simpson 9 days ago

 
 

My missus is a lawyer who spends her working week suing the NHS.  Go on, hate me.

Her typical client is a five year old with brain damage caused by an accident at birth.  By accident I mean a toxic combination of incompetence and stupidity. 

If such children die, compensation is minimal to non-existent.  The kids who really cost the NHS money are the ones that live, because they can live for decades unable to speak, walk, talk, feed themselves or wipe their own backside, let alone go to the shops or earn a living.  Someone has to look after them; and looking after them properly costs a lot of money.

The idea that the NHS treats everyone whose life chances are ruined in this way is absolute rubbish.  It doesn’t.

Legal Aid is no longer available for Clinical Negligence cases.  Lawyers must take such cases on contingency fee arrangements (No Win, No Fee).  That means lawyers like Mrs VoP have to decide very carefully which cases stand a reasonable chance of succeeding at trial.  She turns many down, because the alternative is to do a lot of work for nothing and unfairly raise the hopes of families.  Lawyers who push weak cases swiftly find out the consequences.

Yes, it’s true that Clin Neg lawyers are well paid (although not as well remunerated as doctors, whose average pensions are in the region of £50,000).  But the NHS could save enormous insurance fees by putting its own house in order.  Firstly, it could train its midwives properly (a common cause of negligence is that midwives are slow to grasp that a delivery might be in some way out of the ordinary).  Secondly, it could change the culture of defensiveness whereby doctors lie, cover each other’s backs and even alter medical notes in an attempt to avoid blame.  Thirdly, it could try making an early assessment of each allegation of negligence – Mrs VoP reports that again and again Trusts reject claims until a late stage of the procedure (presumably because to do so costs money and would involve medical staff being confronted with their mistakes), by which time the Claimants lawyers have spent tens of thousands which NHS insurers end up having to pay.

The reality is that, in an era where massive NHS failures are routine news items (a major one only last week), the fear of litigation exerts a powerful pressure on Trusts to raise standards.  Get rid of that if you like.  But don’t complain when clinical standards fall.

And by the way, no-fault insurance for medical accidents has been tried in other countries.  And abandoned as too expensive.

 
CM 9 days ago

 
 

Why in early can’t doctors and nurses be required to purchase their own insurance so insurance companies cover the costs? Do we even require this of our vastly over paid locums? It really is time to get rid of the vast state monolith and move to the perfect competition of multiple private suppliers paid by health insurance to drive up standards. I’d happily spend more on healthcare like they do in France if I knew the money followed the patient instead of creating loads of pointless back office non jobs for labour voters. The NHS is third world healthcare. No one who actually uses it regularly thinks it’s great except our many third world health tourists who really do get it for free, unlike the taxpayer, who pays over the odds for a third world service. I want healthcare as good as France’s or Germany’s. That means choosing and copying one of the several superior continental models. Get on with it.

Bobo08 9 days ago

 
 

@CM Insurance is business model that generates profit from premiums. So if doctors etc had to buy their own cover, then they’d ask for more pay to do so and the cost would actually increase. By self insuring, the NHS is saving money. It is as the article demonstrates, the ‘somebody must pay culture’ that drives these claims. My own wish would be that mistakes are recognised, lessons are learnt and corrections made to the process. 

Bryan Attewell 9 days ago

 
 

This lady deserves great credit for her stance on compensation culture. 

While there are no doubt some deserving cases, people in genuine need of financial support due to an error, too often this is seen as a route to easy money with cynical legal professionals stoking the fire. 

 
stella hollis 9 days ago

 
 

It is the level of damages which is the problem not the nmber of cases. Actual provable loss is no longer the yardstick. Huge damages are awarded for people’s feelings and the like. Future loss is assessed and handed over and not repaid if the recipient dies. And this extends as a problem far beyond the NHS to the military and insurance and everyday purchases. And it is all the time being encouraged by adverts on television .

To view the original article CLICK HERE
As I have known and followed Susanne Cameron-Blackie for a number of years and colluded on certain issues, particularly in her personna of Anna Raccoon, a link to her site can be found on CLICK HERE
I totally endorse her sentiments regarding suing the NHS, having refused to sue for considerable damage done to me during my nephrectomy and subsequently, damage that has given me both disability and pain every day since the operation in Sep-2001!
Every penny piece I might have been paid by way of compensation would have been money denied to other patients for their medical treatment, not to mention the obscene percentage that would have vanished in costs and fees!
I whole heartedly endorse Susanne’s stance and would commend to you her heartfelt and selfless essay on the subject CLICK HERE
Think of Susanne and join with me in wishing her a pain free final journey having fulfilled so many challenges, acting ethically and with courage to the end in a reflection of her style through her lifetime. When the time comes I will miss her humour and the razor sharp ethical manner she always had to cut to the chase – I do so hope she will continue to out live both the odds and predictions, with her usual stoic determination, for a prolongued period until it suits her to avoid the risk of further pain and indignity.
Long before her diagnosis with cancer I never really thanked her for her compassion and encouragement in my battle with cancer, that most penicious and unwelcome visitation on ones body, life and loved ones.

Regards,
Greg_L-W.

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AA Gill: “More life with your kids, … – but only if you pay”

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AA Gill: “More life with your kids, … – but only if you pay” …
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Posted by:
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Hi,

(Adrian) AA Gill who was born on 28-Jun-1954 died of advanced metastatic lung cancer on Saturday 10-Dec-2016 – having only been informed he had cancer in November.
Something of an object lesson to us all to ensure we present with any symptoms, which persist, as soon as possible!

Cancer survival rates in Europe
The UK has the worst cancer survival rates in western Europe — a third lower than those of Sweden.

“Five-year cancer survival rates are so low in the UK because we’re so slow at diagnosing cancer in the first place. A patient must first see their GP, then be referred to see a specialist. The lag time can be months. And when each GP consultation lasts a few minutes, people can slip through the net altogether. In European countries, patients can access specialist care easily and straightaway.”
Dr Conrad Lewanski, consultant clinical oncologist and fellow of the Royal College of Radiologists

Here is AA Gill’s final article, published the day after his untimely death, by way of a tribute to his courage, an example of his wit and honesty and together with a bit of an obit. as an encouragement as we all follow him into that long and inevitable goodnight in our various ways and at our various times in life, whenever that end may be:

AA Gill: “More life with your kids, more life with your friends, more life spent on earth — but only if you pay”

AA Gill used to think that being an NHS patient was like travelling second class on a train, grittier than first class, but in the end everyone ended up at the same destination. But in his farewell piece he tells of his discovery of a drug not available on the NHS …

AA Gill in his garden on November 29, 2016PORTRAITS BY TOM CRAIG,

It seems unlikely, uncharacteristic, so un-“us” to have settled on sickness and bed rest as the votive altar and cornerstone of national politics. But there it is: every election, the National Health Service is the thermometer and the crutch of governments. The NHS represents everything we think is best about us. Everyone standing for whatever political persuasion has to lay a sterilised hand on an A&E revolving door and swear that the collective cradle-to-crematorium health service will be cherished on their watch.

When you look at our awkward, lumpy, inherited short-tempered characters, you’d imagine we might have come up with something more brass-bandy Brit: a bellicose, sentimental military fetishism, perhaps, or sport, or nostalgic history, boastful Anglophone culture, invention, exploration, banking avarice. But no. It turned out that what really sticks in our hard, gimpy, sclerotic hearts is looking after each other. Turning up at a bed with three carnations, a copy of Racing Post, a Twix and saying, “The cat misses you.”

We know it’s the best of us. The National Health Service is the best of us. You can’t walk into an NHS hospital and be a racist. That condition is cured instantly. But it’s almost impossible to walk into a private hospital and not fleetingly feel that you are one: a plush waiting room with entitled and bad-tempered health tourists.

You can’t be sexist on the NHS, nor patronising, and the care and the humour, the togetherness ranged against the teetering, chronic system by both the caring and the careworn is the Blitz, “back against the wall”, stern and sentimental best of us — and so we tell lies about it.

We say it’s the envy of the world. It isn’t. We say there’s nothing else like it. There is. We say it’s the best in the West. It’s not. We think it’s the cheapest. It isn’t. Either that or we think it’s the most expensive — it’s not that, either. You will live longer in France and Germany, get treated faster and more comfortably in Scandinavia, and everything costs more in America.

‘The face of real cancer wipes our expressions to a pale neutral human,’ says AA Gill  TOM CRAIG

I’ve wanted to write about the National Health Service for a long time, but it’s resistant to press inquires. While the abstract of the NHS is heart-warming, the truth for patients is often heart-stopping. And junior doctor strikes, executive pay, failing departments, slow-motion waiting times and outsourcing tell a different story, and I’m regularly, ritually refused access by PRs and administrators, or they insist on copy approval or preplanned stories.

One of the doctors I approached was Professor Brian Gazzard, who has a reputation mostly for being an exemplary and inspirationally brilliant physician, but also as something of an ocean-going eccentric. He treats, teaches at and runs the Chelsea Aids clinic. I asked him what had changed most about his job.

“When I started, I told every patient that they were going to die. I could make it easier, make them live a little longer, but everyone died. Now I tell every patient they will live. They will need to do what I tell them, they’ve been silly, but they’ll live to die of something else. That’s astonishing.” He paused so I would understand the effect it has on a doctor. “Look, I really don’t want to be written about. You won’t remember, but we met once before.”

A decade ago, Gazzard diagnosed my foreign correspondent’s dodgy tummy as acute pancreatitis, the result of alcoholism. “Of course I remember. You told me I could never drink alcohol again and I said, ‘You haven’t read my notes, I’ve been teetotal for 20 years.’ And you gave a sigh and reached into a drawer and lit a cigarette and said you’d been dreading telling a restaurant critic he couldn’t have a glass of wine.”

Gazzard laughed. “You’re one of the lucky ones,” he’d said as he walked onto the street clutching an armful of patient files and raised a hand in farewell. He repeated again: “You’re one of the lucky ones. I can always tell.” It was his first misdiagnosis of the day.

What neither of us could know is that my pancreas was already a stuffed wallet of cancer, though not pancreatic — a migrated, refugee, desperate, breathless lung cancer.
I stopped smoking 15 years ago and as a gift to myself, proof of the clarity of my lungs, I would spend a week stalking on Loch Maree in Wester Ross. Every autumn since, I have climbed the same hills, chasing the deer, and, trudging upwards, recited a doxology of mostly extinct snouts I no longer puff: Weights, Guards, Navy Cut, Olivier, Black Cat, Passing Clouds, Number 6, Sovereign, Gitanes, Gauloises (does anyone remember when Paris smelt alternately of Gauloises, pissoirs and Chanel?), Winston, Camel, Sobranie, my father’s pipe in the cinema — clouds of sweet latakia smoke in the flickering projection. A Greek cigarette in a red box with a lasciviously smiling girl that called itself Santé, without irony: an untipped fag called Health.

This year, for the first time, I couldn’t make it to the top of the hill. I knelt in the heather, weak and gasping. It was the first time all was not well. There was also a pain in my neck that my doctor said was probably a cervical spine thingy and I should get a scan.

He sent me to Harley Street, where another doctor said: “You haven’t got insurance, it’s going to be expensive. Why don’t you get it done down the road and send me the pictures. A third of the cost.” I said: “I’m here now, just do it.” And he shrugged. A couple of hours later I went back for the results. He had the bland bad-news face.

“That was the best money you ever spent.” He turned the screen around and there was a beautiful spiral of colour clinging like an abstract expressionist collar to my spine. “This is cancer.”

My alien was the most common cancer in old men, our biggest killer — an aggressive, nimble cat-burglar lung cancer that is rarely noticed till it has had kittens

That afternoon I was back in my doctor’s surgery. He was wearing the antiseptic face, the professional-doctor tragedy mask. I’m getting to see this a lot now. It is as much a protection against the infection of catastrophe for them as a respect for its victim. They glaze the bad news with sweet spittle. They’ll say: “The test results were not quite what we hoped. It might be trapped wind or it might be the thing that hatched from John Hurt’s stomach. Realistically, we’ll have to assume it’s more alien than fart.” My alien was the most common cancer in old men, our biggest single killer: an aggressive, nimble cat-burglar lung cancer that is rarely noticed till it has had kittens.

Guy has been my doctor for 30 years — 32 to be precise. He was the doctor who put me into treatment for addiction and he’s looked after me and my kids ever since. He’s private, so I pay. If I need a test, an x-ray, a consultant, I’ll pay. If I need anything more than a couple of antibiotics, I’m going to the NHS.
Within 24 hours I have an NHS consultant oncologist and early-morning appointments, for scans, blood tests and x-rays.

You couldn’t make up Charing Cross Hospital. Well, not as a hospital you couldn’t. It’s a monstrous, hideous, crumbling patched-up mess — the Elephant Building. On the way in I notice a couple of posters on the street saying “Save Charing Cross Hospital”. They’re stuck on a municipal noticeboard that’s falling over.

It’s plainly the result of dozens and dozens of attempts to make things better and, in fact, it is the physical embodiment of how most of us, trying to make our way through the teetering automatic doors, feel. It has a very good collection of contemporary British art. In some back corridor there is a series of Peter Blake’s best silk screens.

I love it: it’s how I feel. The lifts take hours to arrive, emphysemically, wheezingly opening their doors, and when they do, it’s without confidence or conviction. A man going up to the cancer ward puts his hand in front of the door and gets out. “I’m too frightened to take this lift,” he says.

In a waiting room, hundreds of us take numbers to sit like wilted potted plants in an autumn garden-centre sale, to take it in turns to meet the antiseptic face. If this were a set for a film, all the actors and extras would be pulling looks of agony and sadness and fear, but the face of real cancer wipes our expressions to a pale neutral human.

The NHS has one of the worst outcomes for cancer treatment in Europe. It’s something to be borne in mind when you’re deciding to combine chemotherapy with a safari, or want to embark on a bar-thumping argument about health tourism. It was the first question I asked my oncologist, Dr Conrad Lewanski. “Why is this such a bad place to get cancer, when we have lots of hospitals, when we teach doctors from all over the world, when we’ve won more Nobel prizes than the French?”

“It’s the nature of the health service,” he says. “The key to cancer outcomes is the speed of diagnosis and treatment.” The health service was set up with GPs separate from hospitals. The system means you probably have to wait a week or so for an appointment to see first your GP, or a clinic. The average time for that consultation will be seven minutes. Perhaps your cough isn’t a priority. And then if your doctor thinks it does need a second opinion, he’ll suggest you see a consultant, and that’s likely to take a month. If the GP suspects cancer, that referral time is reduced to two weeks. He or she will probably write a letter, often two — all doctors still carry fountain pens.

And then there are all the appointments — for tests, a cancellation, a missed x-ray, a scan — which can put months on a diagnosis. It’s not the treatment, it’s the scale of the bureaucracy and the Attlee-reverential, immovable-but-crumbling structure of a private-public doctor-consultant arrangement, which was the cornerstone laid down by the 1945 government at the insistence of doctors. That is the chronic tumour in the bowel of the system.

How do men react when you tell them it’s fatal? ‘Always the same way — with stoicism.’ Bollocks, I thought that was just me

I’m given a talk by a nurse on the consequences of chemotherapy. She uses three pens. Two of them have three coloured barrels each. The scribbling, the underlining, the stars, the acronyms, the exclamation marks become ever more emphatic and decorative. Finally she hands me a notebook that is unintelligibly runic, but says not to worry because it’s all on the computer, which she then turns on to show me a heart-warming film about sexual infections and high temperatures.

The hospital flutters with bits of paper like mayflies. They’re propped up against screens, wedged up against keyboards, stuffed into teetering files, and then there is the constant Tourette’s questions, “When’s your birthday? What’s the first line of your address?”, all to collide you with the right cancer, to go with all the forms, the signatures, the screens, the machines, the radiation disclaimers and destiny. It makes Kafka look like ee cummings.

I like my oncologist. He doesn’t have the morphine face; he looks amused, inquisitive, like a shaved, garrulous otter. All he does is lung cancer. This is his river, tumours his trout. He’s been a consultant for 15 years. Two years in, his father got it and died: “The worst thing I’ve ever had to go through. I do know what this is like — so how much do you want to know?”

“Everything, and the truth.”

I’ve never Googled cancer, but I’ve discovered that every one of my friends who owns their own house has a preferred cancer specialist and a hospital to go with them. They also have a perfect gardener, an ideal interior decorator and a masseur that they insist — insist — I use, because they are all the best and, of course, you only get what you pay for. Lots of them are astonished I’m still in this country of catastrophic cancer statistics.

Those who don’t have money for their own homes have magical diets, homeopathy and religious new-age cures, or at least a conspiracy theory about big pharma hiding the efficacy of vitamin C, kale, magnetism and mistletoe. If it doesn’t make you better, at least you get snogged a lot.

And everyone, but everyone, will have a mantra story of their secretary’s husband or a woman they used to work with who was given three weeks to live and is still stacking shelves or conducting operas 10 years later. These little homilies are handed out with the intense insistence of lucky heather, using the language of evangelical religion and locker-room encouragement.

Why is our reaction to cancer so medieval, so wrapped in fortune-cookie runes and votive memory shards, like the teeth and metatarsals of dead saints? Cancer is frightening. One in two of us will get it. It has dark memories, unmentionably euphemised. In the public eye, not all cancers are equal. There is little sympathy for lung cancer. It’s mostly men, mostly old men, mostly working-class old men and mostly smokers. There is a lot more money and public sympathy for the cancers that affect women and the young. Why wouldn’t there be?

“How do men react when you tell them their cancers are fatal?” I ask Dr Lewanski. “Always the same way — with stoicism.”

“Bollocks,” I think. “I thought that was just me.”

Actually it’s not being told you’ve got cancer that is the test of character, it’s the retelling. Going home and saying to the missus: “That thing, the cricked neck. Actually it’s a tumour, the size of a cigar.” It ought to come with a roll of thunder and five Jewish violinists, instead of the creaky whisper of fear.

People react differently to different cancers: most women think they’ll survive, and statistically they’re right. Most men think they’ll die — and likewise.
“So, what’s the treatment?”

“Chemotherapy. Platinum in your case. It has a very good chance.”

Someone should write a paper on the euphemistic size comparisons for tumours. There should be an esite, Euphotumours. The images are very masculine: golf balls, cricket balls, bullets, grenades, ruminant testicles. No one ever says, “I’ve got a cancer the size of a fairy cake.”

And what about after the chemo?

“Well, there’s a new treatment, immunotherapy. It’s the biggest breakthrough in cancer treatment for decades. Cancers camouflage themselves as chemical markers that tell your body’s natural defences that there’s nothing to see here, move along. These new drugs strip away the disguise and allow your body’s natural system to clean up. It’s new and it’s still being trialled, but we’re a long way along the line and it is the way cancer treatment is bound to go. It’s better for some growths than others, but it’s particularly successful with yours. If you were in Germany or Scandinavia or Japan or America, or with the right insurance here, this is what you would be treated with.”

The doctor looks at Nicola, the missus. His otter face has grown a little sphinxy.

“You remember asking if the treatment Adrian got on the NHS would be any different from being a private patient? And I said a better cup of coffee and more leeway with appointments. Well, this is the difference. If he had insurance, I’d put him on immunotherapy — specifically, nivolumab. As would every oncologist in the First World. But I can’t do it on the National Health.”

The National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (Nice), the quango that acts as the quartermaster for the health service, won’t pay. Nivolumab is too expensive — £60,000 to £100,000 a year for a lung-cancer patient; about four times the cost of chemo. And the only way to see if it will work for an individual patient is to give it to them all, and the ones it doesn’t work for will weed themselves out. What Nice doesn’t say about the odds is that immunotherapy mostly works for old men who are partially responsible for their cancers because they smoked. Thousands of patients could benefit. But old men who think they’re going to die anyway aren’t very effective activists. They don’t get the public or press pressure that young mothers’ cancers and kids’ diseases get.

As yet, immunotherapy isn’t a cure, it’s a stretch more life, a considerable bit of life. More life with your kids, more life with your friends, more life holding hands, more life shared, more life spent on earth — but only if you can pay.
I’m early for my first eight-hour stint of platinum chemo. The ward in Charing Cross looks like a cross between a milking shed and an Air Koryo business lounge. I am settled into a hideous but comfortable chair and a tap is jabbed into the back of my hand. A series of plastic bags full of combative and palliative cocktails slowly dribble into my body and every 10 minutes I have to shuffle to an invalid’s loo to dribble it out again.

I like it here. The nurses are funny and comforting, optimistic, and bear the weight of the sadness, the regret and the pity in the room on their shoulders with an amused elegance and sincerity that comes from their years of experience, or the naivety of inexperience. The other patients shuffle in with their partners to share sandwiches, talk about shopping and the cousins in New Zealand and window boxes. There are children with ageing parents, happy/sad to be able to repay an infant’s debt.

I manage to find the one dealer in the ward, or rather she finds me. Her boyfriend’s making hash cakes — they’ve definitely shrunk his tumour, I should definitely have some. I smile, shrug apologetically and say sadly I’m already a junkie. I don’t take drugs.

“Really? Even for this?” I’m not giving up 32 years of clean time for some poxy lung.

And there are the ones who sit alone, who don’t have any friends to play cards with them, to drip the will and the strength and the faith to face this. I don’t know how anyone manages to do this on their own.

An old friend sits through the mornings with me, Nicola comes with lunch and Flora and Ali, my grown-up kids, share the afternoon. If it wasn’t for the cancer, that would be a really lovely day. If it wasn’t for the cancer.
There’s a natural break in the article here. It should have been finished two weeks ago, but I had a bad night, a really bad night.

Nicola called Guy, the GP, and he came round and took a look and said: “He needs to be in A&E now.”

So I’m on a gurney in Charing Cross at nine in the morning. On the other side of the blue plastic curtain, a bloke is being held down by three policemen shouting, “Don’t flick your f****** blood over here, I don’t want what you’ve got.”

A young doctor comes and asks me questions. All doctors in A&E are preternaturally young. One of the questions after “What’s your date of birth and the first line of your address?” is inevitably “Can I put my finger up your bottom to see if there’s any poo or blood?”

The other question is: “On a scale of 1 to 10 — 1 being a scratch and 10 unspeakable agony — what do you think you’re suffering at the moment?” You wouldn’t describe this as thin pain. It’s 10 out of 10. My stomach is agonised with a terrible wrenching distension. I’ve lived a middle-class, sheltered, uncombative, anti-violent life, so I don’t know how this compares to other more manly men’s pain, but this is by miles and miles the worst thing I’ve ever been through, thank you for asking.

More x-rays and blood tests and the surgeon returns with the complete granite face and says: “Well, it could be a burst ulcer, but of course it isn’t. The tumour in your pancreas has increased in size very fast. It’s as big as a fist.” And he shows me a fist in case I’d misplaced the image.

I’ve decided to call the pancreatic tumour Lucky, as a nod to prophetic Professor Gazzard. So the chemotherapy isn’t working. I ask my oncologist what’s next.

“It’s a bugger,” he says. “It looked so hopeful, but you’re right, it isn’t working. The pancreas is a bad place. We can’t operate and the side effects of radiation aren’t worth the risk.” And there’s pancreatic pain, which is famously in a league apart, so at least I can be stoical about that.

“What next?”

“Well, on the NHS we can give you another round of chemo, a bit rougher with slighter outcomes … but there is really only one treatment for you: nivolumab.”

From behind the blue curtain, the nurse asks the policeman: “What do you want to do with him?”

“Oh, let him go,” says the copper.

“I thought you’d arrested him?”

“No. Let him go.”

That evening I’m sitting in bed on the cancer ward trying to get the painkillers stabilised and a young nurse comes in.

“There you are. I’ve been waiting for you all day. You’re supposed to be with me down in chemotherapy. I saw your name. Why are you up here?”

“Well, it turns out the chemo isn’t working.” Her shoulders sag and her hand goes to her head. “F***, f***, that’s dreadful.” I think she might be crying.

I look away, so might I.

You don’t get that with private healthcare.

Cancer survival rates in Europe
The UK has the worst cancer survival rates in western Europe — a third lower than those of Sweden.

“Five-year cancer survival rates are so low in the UK because we’re so slow at diagnosing cancer in the first place. A patient must first see their GP, then be referred to see a specialist. The lag time can be months. And when each GP consultation lasts a few minutes, people can slip through the net altogether. In European countries, patients can access specialist care easily and straightaway.”
Dr Conrad Lewanski, consultant clinical oncologist and fellow of the Royal College of Radiologists

THE “REVOLUTIONARY” LUNG-CANCER DRUGS

  • What is immunotherapy? This is a treatment used in cases where chemotherapy hasn’t worked. The drugs involved strip cancer cells of the “camouflage” that stops the immune system from attacking them as it would other diseases. Only 20% to 30% of people with non-small-cell lung cancer — which accounts for 85% of lung cancers — respond to the therapy, but researchers have found it to be remarkably successful among those whose tumours were caused by smoking.
  • How is it administered? Immunotherapy drugs are injected into the patient’s bloodstream via a drip or Port-a-Cath: a plastic tube leading into a large chest vein. Patients tend to receive the treatment for an hour every fortnight, but this depends on the condition.
  • Who has access to nivolumab? The pioneering drug nivolumab has received its licence for use in the UK and is under review by Nice, which says: “We do not have the full picture yet and we are still working with the company to see what we can do to answer the uncertainties in the evidence.” This means patients in England and Wales will have to wait to find out if they will be able to get it universally on the NHS. In Scotland, which has its own drug-approval system, nivolumab is already available.
  • What is pembrolizumab? This immunotherapy drug, similar to nivolumab, is also licensed in the UK. Ten days ago, Nice announced that it will finally be available to patients with non-small-cell lung cancer on the NHS. This is not the drug AA Gill’s oncologist recommended for him.
  • How much does nivolumab cost? The approximate cost for treating non-small-cell lung cancer is £5,700 a month or £68,400 a year.
  • What is Nice’s role? Nice makes recommendations on whether the NHS in England — and in some cases Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland — should fund new drugs so they are available to all patients. Their review process is based on a treatment’s cost effectiveness and efficiency. It takes into account the patients’ life expectancy and quality of life after the treatment.

AA Gill began taking nivolumab after writing this article

To view the original article CLICK HERE but it is hidden behind Rupert Murdoch’s pay wall.

My thanks to the friend who supplied his paid for copy, thus bringing AA Gill’s profound and moving article to those amongst my readers who may benefit from it – I know I have!

  • How much does nivolumab cost? The approximate cost for treating non-small-cell lung cancer is £5,700 a month or £68,400 a year.

As this drug is administered as a drip into a vein often via a ‘pic-line’ once a fortnight this would indicate each dose costs £2,850!
As the EU insists on tampering in every area as it imposes UN, WTO, CODEX etc.s diktats why are they so indifferent about the drug companies’ profiteering from fatal illness, when they crow about such irrelevancies as forcing mobile phone companies to standardise roving rates – surely that is upto the consumer and no business of the EU!

cressida-connolly
Adrian Gill’s first wife Cressida Connolly, they married in 1982 & divorced in 1983


with his ex wife Amber Rudd who he married in 1990 & divorced in 1995,
with whom he had two children

aagill1.jpg
In better times with Nicola Fornby his long term partner & mother of his twins, with whom he had been since 1995 until his death, though only becoming engaged in the November of his final weeks!

As everyone, save the few he berated or made fun of, Adrian Gill, who styled himself AA Gill after his treatment for alcohol and joining AA, was honest and professional in his writing expressing his beliefs and opinions humorously and well, without pandering to fashionable PC, as Wikipedia shows in this selective extract:

Gill’s acerbic style led to several media controversies. In 2010, The Sunday Times disclosed that Gill had been the subject of 62 Press Complaints Commission complaints in five years, none of which had been upheld.

Wales

In The Sunday Times, Gill described the Welsh in 1998 as “loquacious, dissemblers, immoral liars, stunted, bigoted, dark, ugly, pugnacious little trolls”. His comments were reported to the Commission for Racial Equality.[21] and used as an example of what was described as “persistent anti-Welsh racism in the UK media” in a motion in the National Assembly for Wales.
[It is my opinion that he left out humourless and lacking in self confidence!]

Isle of Man

Gill’s feud with the Isle of Man began in 2006 with a review of Ciappelli’s restaurant in Douglas. Gill wrote that the island:

managed to slip through a crack in the space-time continuum […] fallen off the back of the history lorry to lie amnesiac in the road to progress […] its main industry is money (laundering, pressing, altering and mending) […] everyone you actually see is Benny from Crossroads or Benny in drag…. The weather’s foul, the food’s medieval, it’s covered in suicidal motorists and folk who believe in fairies.

The review was attacked in the Tynwald, the Manx parliament, with House of Keys member David Cannan demanding an apology for the “unacceptable and scurrilous attack”.

Gill made further comments regarding the Isle of Man in his Sunday Times column on 23 May 2010, when he described its citizens as falling into two types: “hopeless, inbred mouth-breathers known as Bennies” and “retired, small arms dealers and accountants who deal in rainforest futures”. His comments were made in the aftermath of Mick Jagger‘s suggestion that drugs should be legalised in the Isle of Man.[26] Gill added that “If … they become a hopelessly addicted, criminal cesspit, who’d care? Indeed, who could tell the difference?”[27]

England

In February 2011, Gill described the county of Norfolk as “the hernia on the end of England”. In December 2013, his column just before New Year’s Eve, was the result of a night on the beat in Grimsby and Cleethorpes and was heavily critical of both towns where Grimsby is “on the road to nowhere” and Cleethorpes is full of “hunched and grubby semi-detached homes”Humberside Police and Crime Commissioner Matthew Grove described Gill as “A tweed-suited, Mayfair-based writer, whose only experience of the North of England was his visit to Cleethorpes and his regular trips salmon fishing in Scotland”.

Individuals

In a review of Clare Balding‘s 2010 Britain by Bike TV programme, Gill referred to the presenter as “a big lesbian” and “a dyke on a bike”. Gill’s Sunday Times editor, John Witherow, responded to Balding’s complaint: “In my view some members of the gay community need to stop regarding themselves as having a special victim status and behave like any other sensible group that is accepted by society. Not having a privileged status means, of course, one must accept occasionally being the butt of jokes. A person’s sexuality should not give them a protected status”.

Regards,
Greg_L-W.

PS:

If you enjoyed AA Gill’s style and wit above here is an article he had published the day after his 60th. birthday on 29-Jun-2014, 2 years before his diagnosis of cancer and his untimely death – enjoy:

Life at 60

How does the former alcoholic drug addict AA Gill feel about reaching this milestone? Surprised, mostly, but happy to ruminate on sex, travel and friendship

AA Gill Published: 29 June 2014

Young Gill at schoolYoung Gill at school (A A Gill)

Every morning, after taking our twins to school, Nicola and I read the papers over breakfast and I recite the birthday list and she will guess the ages. She’s uncannily accurate. Yesterday The Guardian will have said: AA Gill, critic and baboon-murdering bastard, 60.

I share a birthday with Henry VIII and the shot that started the Great War. I’ve always read the anniversary roll and over the years I’ve watched people my age go from rarely mentioned as sportsmen and pop stars to more commonly as leading actors and television presenters and now ubiquitously I find myself in the thick of captains of industry, ennobled politicians, retired sportsmen and character actors. You only notice the accumulating years in relation to other people.

Last week an editor breezily mentioned that as I was coming up to a milestone decade would I perhaps like to write something about it? You know, is 60 the new 40? Why do you make those little noises when you get out of a chair? Am I considering getting a shed, or a cruise, or Velcro? And what about sex?

The only people who ask about significant birthdays are younger than you. No 70-year-olds are inquiring about my insights on being 60. Age is the great terra incognita. But then, all the people who tell me to do anything are younger than me now.

And please, can we stop this “60 is the new 40” thing? No one is saying 20 is the new 10. And who wants to be 40 anyway? An insipid, insecure age.

My generation, the postwar baby-boomers, are over the meridian of our vital parabolas. We’ve done our best and our worst, overachieved and underperformed, are either preparing to bask on the sun loungers of our success or suck our bruised fingers in the waiting rooms of failure. So 60 is both a personal summit from which to look back, breathing heavily, hands on my knees, and a generational one.

AA Gill as a young manAA Gill as a young man

I was born in 1954 in Edinburgh. Winston Churchill was prime minister, there was still rationing, we were the first generation that would grow up with television, pop music, central heating and a National Health Service. As a child, every old man I knew had fought in the First World War and every young man in the second.

War still hung like the smell of a damp, grim nostalgia over everything. We played Spitfires and Messerschmitts in the playground and you could, as Kingsley Amis pointed out, walk into any pub in the country and ask with perfect confidence if the major had been in. London was still moth-eaten with bomb sites and black with coal smoke. One of my earliest memories is of the last pea souper fog.

How do I feel having reached 60? Well, surprised, mostly. And grateful. When I was 30, a doctor told me that I had a dangerously damaged liver and, all things considered, I probably wouldn’t see another Christmas. I am an alcoholic and a drug addict but, with a lot of help, I stopped. I haven’t had a drink or picked up a drug since. My grandfather died at 59. He was a tooth-puller in Leith. My mother says it was anxiety about the coming of the health service that killed him, which is a braw example of Scottish humour.

Globally, I can expect to live to see another two World Cups. But by living in the south of England I should make it for another four. I tell people too quickly that I am 60 and wait, like a needy toddler, to be told I don’t look anything like that. One of the surprising symptoms of getting to be 60 is that I now can’t tell how old anyone under the age of 40 is; you all look 16. And don’t believe the beauty page gush that you are in fact only as old as you feel. It’s a nonsense, based on the assumption that ageing is primarily a physical process. It isn’t, it’s a maturing one. It’s not a feeling, it’s an experience. You are as old as you can remember.


Smiles from younger days

I dictate these articles to clever overeducated colleagues who are much, much younger than me. They constantly and consistently don’t get references to things that to me seemed to have happened only a couple of months ago. They’ve never seen black-and-white films or known the difference between 78, 45 and 33⅓.

So, if you know who Jan Palach, Gary Powers, Gary Gilmore, Squeaky Fromme, Adam Adamant, Albert Pierrepoint, the Piranha Brothers, Harry Worth and Fyfe Robertson are, then you must be 60.

A contemporary of mine, after a number of marriages, found a girlfriend less than half his age of a transcendent pneumatic beauty who hung on his every word — and dumped her after a couple of months. Why, I asked — she was perfect! “Too many things we didn’t have in common,” he said sadly. Like what? “Well, the Eighties.”

Which brings us to sex. Nicola has just exclaimed with unusual force that she has never slept with a 60-year-old and she’s not planning on starting now. Nobody wants to think about 60-year-olds doing it, least of all 60-year-olds. Another contemporary pointed out that it wasn’t finding the first grey pubic hair on yourself that was the doom-laden shock, it was finding it on the person you were sleeping with.

After a certain age it’s best not to have mirrors in your sight line. And lighting is important: the less the better. But you must have some, because everything sags and moves about. The pale, flickering glow of the television is the illumination of choice for most middle-aged couples.

I’ve been making a list of the sex that I’m now too old to consider. I will probably never have sex again on a jiggling sofa with her parents asleep upstairs. Or in a skip. Or in the back of a stationary 2CV or the front of a moving Alfa Romeo.

I won’t do bondage, sadomasochism or erotic yoga or miss them. Neither will I partake in role play. I am too old to be a pirate, a policeman, a Viking or the Milk Tray Man (they don’t know who the Milk Tray Man was either).

And I realise with a sudden shock that I’m probably too old to sleep with anyone for the first time. The thought of having to go through the whole seduction, will they, won’t they, can I, can’t I, is far more terrifying than it is exciting.

Sex definitely changes. It is less athletic, more romantic, more intense, more a special event. Not because it’s rare, but because it’s finite. There is a point in your life when you stop counting up and start counting back. It’s not the laps run, it’s the laps that are left.

This is one of the biggest changes in ageing. The continuous heartbeat rhythm that tells you your experiences are now rationed. How many more Ring cycles will I get to? How many more times will I see Venice emerging out of the lagoon? How many cassoulets, English cherries? How many summits in the Highlands? How many long lunches with old friends? How many old friends are left to me?

That sounds maudlin, but it doesn’t feel like that. It adds to the pleasure, a sentiment to everything, an extra gypsy violin to life. I linger over things now: flowers, moonlight, Schubert, lunch, bookshops. Also I mind less about standing in queues, sitting in traffic, waiting for a bus or my call to be answered. Everything has a pinch of piquancy, a smudge of melodrama, and I like that.

There are other things to which age adds an imperative. I’m pretty sure that when I’m lying on the gurney and the children are searching for the off-switch while telling me sweetly to go towards the light, the thing I regret won’t be, as John Betjeman said, not enough sex, and it won’t be not enough caviar or cakes. It will be, I think, that I never got to see Timbuktu or South Georgia. Never saw the northern lights. Never travelled up the fjords by boat.

The abiding pleasure of my life so far has been the opportunity to travel. It is also the single greatest gift of my affluent generation. We got to go around the globe relatively easily, cheaply and safely. Postwar children are the best and most widely travelled generation that has yet lived. We were given the world when it was varied, various and mostly welcoming.

Whether we took enough goodwill with us and brought back enough insight is debatable. But today the laziest gap-year student has probably seen more and been further than Livingstone, Stanley and Richard Burton.

One of the things that surprises and dismays me is how many of my contemporaries spend their time and money on travelling to sunny beaches. All beach experiences, give or take a cocktail, are the same experience. My advice to travellers and tourists is to avoid coasts and visit people. There is not a view in the world that is as exciting as a new city.

So I regret places and I will also regret not being a better friend. My generation has been profligate with friends. I look at how my parents husbanded theirs, thought about them, wrote to them, talked about them. Because they had lived through the war their friends were innately more precious than ours have been to us. Our friends are not disposable, but they turn out to be forgettable. I regret not making more of an effort to keep up, keep hold and keep close the people I loved. Now their absence and my casual wastefulness upset me.

Gill with his father, who died of Alzheimer’sGill with his father, who died of Alzheimer’s

I noticed in last week’s paper that if I were in the army (something, thanks to my father and my grandfather, I’ve never had to do), being in the 55-59 age bracket I would be expected to do 21 press-ups and 27 sit-ups within two minutes. Now that is down to 17 and 23 as I’ve reached the end of the tick-box line. I will now be for ever in the 60 and over category, after which there is just the margin.

Last year, for the first time, a young girl, French, offered me her seat on a crowded bus. I was surprised at how deeply I resented her. Health looms over the elderly like a threatening monsoon. No ache is innocuous. No lump or discoloured, sagging patch of body is ignorable except our toenails, which become the most sordidly repellent things in all nature. We covertly examine ourselves and our effluvia for the premonition of the dark humour that will carry us away. There is no such thing as a routine checkup. They are all life-or-death appointments.

Doctors start all their sentences with “It’s only . . . ” But we’re not fooled. This generation is also the one that lingers longest over its departure. Death came to our grandparents with a clutched chest and a searing pain. For us it’s a slow, humiliating series of it’s onlys. What we worry about is dementia, a condition that did not exist in the popular lexicon when I was a child. Mind you, we also thought cancer was as shaming as divorce. Now Alzheimer’s is our abiding fear, the thing we can’t forget.

My chats with contemporaries are like bridge games where we try to fill in the gaps in each other’s sentences to make one coherent conversation. My dad died of Alzheimer’s. I once asked him how he was feeling: “Oh, quite well, except you know I’ve got this terrible disease, what’s its name?” So we go to the gym, we have trainers, I do Pilates. But it’s only maintenance. I’m not looking for a beach body, there’s no New Me in the cupboard; I just want one that’s supple enough to put on my own socks.

After giving up drink and drugs, I continued to smoke about 60 a day until 12 years ago and then I stopped. And people said, “Well done! How did you manage it? What willpower!”

It didn’t feel like well done. It felt like a defeat — the capitulation to fear. When I started smoking at 14 I was golden, immortal. I smoked around the world; I took pride in my ability to smoke with elegance, panache and skill. Smoking was my talent and I gave it up because I lost my nerve.

I don’t miss the cigarettes, but I do miss the me that smoked so beautifully.

Oddly, the one thing that does improve with age is our teeth. Old people get perfect, white, even, marvellous grins. Paradoxically, we simultaneously lose our sense of humour.

I’ve had four children in two batches. It’s not for me to say if I’ve been a good father; that’s between the kids and their respective therapists. But I think I’ve been more benign second time round. With the first two, now 21 and 23, I was a cross between a Butlins Redcoat and Savonarola. I had plans and theories; I thought children were blank and malleable. I was brought up in the Sixties by Sixties parents who drank Sixties Kool-Aid. Much as I loved them I didn’t want to be like them, just as they didn’t want to be like their parents.

I had no plan or ambition for my kids and no Tiggerish belief in education. I know all the competitive insecurity that infects parents around schools, exams and universities. I’ve seen too many desperate kids becoming extensions of adults’ vanity, insecurity and desire for a second chance. And I told my children I had no interest in seeing their reports or knowing their exam results. Nothing they achieve will ever make me prouder of them than the day they were born. Nothing they do or don’t do will make me love them an iota less.

With his partner Nicola
With his partner Nicola

Through empirical trials I have discovered there is no intergenerational conflict that can’t be sorted with a tenner. Just say sorry and I’ll give you a tenner. Clean your room — there’s a tenner in it. Get your aunt a birthday card; keep the change. It’s not money; it’s a MacGuffin, a prop that allows everyone to back down without losing face or temper. And oddly I’ve managed to produce four of the least miserly and acquisitive children.

How did my generation do? Well, we get blamed for being selfish and self-obsessed and soft and pushing up house prices and saddling the next generation with hideous debts and nowhere to live and I suppose that’s not entirely unfair.

We are ridiculously obsessed with food, buy too many things and have too many clothes. But we didn’t start a war. Well, not a big one. And we didn’t nuke anyone. We defused the Cold War. We believed in the collective good. Although we came to confuse gestures with actions and we think going on a march and writing a letter are the same as doing something, making the world better.

We were the generation that were relentlessly for civil rights, human rights, gay rights, disability rights, equality, fairness. We were implacably against racism and censorship. We defended freedom of speech, religion and expression. We will leave the world better fed and better off than when we arrived in it.

Britain is a far happier, richer and fairer place than it was 60 years ago. And if you think that’s wishful self-promotion, you have no idea how grim and threadbare Britain in the Fifties was. You weren’t there, you don’t remember.

To view the original article you will need a friend who has a membership of Rupert Murdoch’s pay wall!

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