Saturday, January 29, 2005


Harry's Red and White Army downed the Blue Few 2-1 with a winner from an ex-Pompey striker. There are few things in life more sweet than that.

Thursday, January 27, 2005

The future of private healthcare

Interesting snippet from the mouth of a Health PPS on Saturday. He was suggesting that once the NHS get the GP to Operating Theatre maximum waiting list down to 9 weeks, then the private sector would effectively be out of business and all the facilities and staff currently tied up in the private sector would then be able to be picked up by the NHS.

I think that there would be some private sector, there's always going to be a market for individual rooms, hotel like service, but is this guy just being too optimistic?

Wednesday, January 26, 2005

Gun Culture

There's an interesting post over at The England Project about gun culture, comparing the present day against 100 years ago, prompted by Richard Munday's opinion piece in the Telegraph (I think registration required)

I couldn't find any data on gun ownership by social class in the early 1900s so this will purely be anecdotal but I can remember talking to my granddad in the mid 80s about guns and he said that no-one in his (dirt poor) family growing up had a gun. So I don't dispute that the average gentleman has firearms, but the common man did not have the same access to weaponry.

There's a facinating snippet of Munday's piece that John at the England Project didn't write about:

"Such deterrent potential was indeed acknowledged in part in Britain's first Firearms Act, which was introduced as an emergency measure in response to fears of a Bolshevik upheaval in 1920. Home Office guidance on the implementation of the Act recognised "good reason for having a revolver if a person lives in a solitary house, where protection from thieves and burglars is essential"."

Leaving aside the fact that the first Firearms Act was brought in by Lloyd George against the perceived threat from the Left (echoes of today's Home Office announcement) the act was used in an uneven way, if you were rich or rural, you could own a revolver, but if you were urban poor, then the authorities would not allow you to.

So this is yet another example of the erstwhile "Establishment" imposing restrictions on everyone else, but yelping when it affects them.

Drake at the Edge of England's Sword got it spot on before Christmas

"Small 'c' conservatives have been very poor at sticking up for the liberties of other groups in society. Big 'C' conservatives have been abysmal at it (partly I think because they labour under the misapprehension that their party still is part of the Establishment). Whichever political party ends up representing the right in Britain, must learn this lesson and take it to heart, and use any statements on the issue of hunting to emphasise a deeper committment to liberty for all."

What can be said for hunting goes for shooting too, the Conservatives only seem to be exercised about rights they care about.

Tuesday, January 25, 2005

Hunters vs Democracy

Just been listening to the BBC Six O'Clock News and there was a piece on the Countryside Alliance's challenge against the hunt ban. One grizzied old member of the CA spoke thus:

"If we are wrong about this, then we live in a country in which the House of Commons, acting completely by itself can do anything it likes without ordinary people having any redress at all"

Erm, isn't that the way democracy is meant to work? And ordinary people do have redress, that's to throw MPs out at the next election.

Didn't get elected

Oh well, the two I thought would definitely get elected did, and the two I thought wouldn't didn't. Well done to Serge Mootoo, Ashley Davison, Tom Palferman, Steve Wills and Ian Bramley. Bad luck to my fellow losers, Sue Chesterman, Jane Johnston, Mary Marshall and Liz Mapp.

Monday, January 24, 2005

Election Day

All the voting for Yeovil District Hospital Staff Governor has happened now and this afternoon sees the count. There's 10 candidates, going for 5 places on the board (the board is huge, with 31 members).

The way I see it is that there's 2 candidates that are shoo-ins to be elected, 2 that I'll be surprised to see elected and the rest of us (including me) somewhere in the middle. If I have got elected, then it won't be by many votes at all, but if I'm honest, then I think I might lose out.

It would be a disappointment not to be elected, but in a way that will give me more freedom to act without somehow being seen as "representing" the hospital. Whatever happens, I'll pay very close attention to the workings of the Board in the next three years.

UPDATE (6:30pm) They counted this afternoon, planning to announce at 4:30pm but for some reason decided not to announce the result publically until Tuesday morning, so I might be a governor, or not, I just don't know.

Thursday, January 20, 2005

Well done Stan

Congrats to Stan Lee, who won his case against Marvel for 10% of all the profits from the Spiderman movies.


That's how many people are employed in Britain now. It's the largest figure ever recorded by the Office of National Statistics since they started collecting the data in 1971 and so probably the highest ever unless World War II beat it.

Policies not Personalities

Something I've been meaning to blog about since my visit to Regional Council on Saturday is the way that people subsistute personalities for policies in the way they speak.

There was no shortage of people speaking from the podium to have a pop at Government policy (even I did that) but I was one of only two people who didn't mention Tony Blair at all. Everyone else did, and I think that's a mistake.

I understand that in some cases "Blair" can be used as shorthand for "the actions of this Labour Government" but to give the impression that all that's wrong (from a UNISON point of view) with the Labour Government is all down to one man is fanciful.

It's the same mistake as the Left did in demonising Thatcher in the mid to late 80s, just because Major was in charge didn't make the Tory policies any less harmful to us.

I would much rather have Tony Blair as PM doing our policies, than Gordon Brown as PM doing everything Tony Blair's doing at the moment.

Tuesday, January 18, 2005

Where I stand

As someone who tends to describe my political stance as just to the right of left of centre. I was interested in Frederick's piece at Thought at the Meridian

(though I would never ever call myself a radical conservative)

Agenda for Change

Good number of staff visiting the Agenda for Change stall outside the Staff Restaurant today. Next stall will be Friday 18th February when we will have everything you need to know about the NHS Pensions consultation.

Monday, January 17, 2005

Yeovil Games Refugee Thread

As the Yeovil Games message board is down, post on the comments if you want to talk.

Report on Regional Council

Report on UNISON South West Regional Council
Education Centre, Bristol Royal Infirmary
Saturday 15th January 2005

Venue – Nice education centre, hopefully Yeovil’s Somerset Academy will be that nice. Central Bristol Health had arranged a minibus to collect delegates from Temple Meads Station to the Council venue.

Standing Orders – South West Committee had rejected our emergency motion on the murder of Hadi Salih on the grounds that it had not been okayed by a branch executive. I was told that there had been some on the South West Committee who had wanted it to be accepted, but given that six motions from Somerset County and one from Bristol City had been rejected for technical reasons, it was never likely to happen.

Plymouth City Council withdrew their motion attacking ASBOs so I couldn’t speak in opposition to that. South West Committee produced an emergency motion on pensions and an amendment to the Plymouth City pensions motion, which were grouped and also a technical amendment to Regional Health Committee’s privatisation motion.

Matters Arising – Tony Staunton (Plymouth City) thanked the nine branches who had helped him get to the next World Social Forum in Brazil and promised to write a report for next Regional Council in May.

NEC Reports – Myf Manning (Exeter Community Health) pointed out the increase in the NEC London day allowance to £40. Both her and Steve Warwick (Exeter City) had abstained. This was not popular, particularly in the light of the tight budget that Regional Council was asked to approve.

Guest Speaker – Dave Prentis (General Secretary) spoke well, particularly on the pensions issue and contracting out. He then took questions which all seemed to be on the Warwick accords and his relationship with the Blair government. He didn’t answer anything new, just repeating that he was not in the pocket of the Blair government and that if Labour discouraged UNISON help in the forthcoming election that was Labour’s problem not his. Prentis then stayed for the rest of the morning session, including my contribution to the privatisation debate, and speaking in the pensions debate.

Organisation, Recruitment and Representation – Ian Ducat (Regional Secretary) was pleased to announce that 4th quarter recruitment in the region had gone up 12% year on year. This is seen as a direct result of the TV advertising campaign.

Improving Negotiations – The focus of the pensions issue was on the Local Government pension scheme as that will come into effect in April 2005, in contrast to the NHS one which will start changing in April 2006.

Motion – South West Committee on Pensions CARRIED unam.
Amendment – South West Committee on Plymouth’s Pensions motion CARRIED unam.
Motion – Plymouth City on Pensions, as amended CARRIED unam.

Campaigning – Jon Gray (Regional Head of Local Government) spoke twice, once on Housing Stock Transfers which went over my head, but as South Somerset has already been though stock transfer that’s probably just as well and once on the Political Fund Ballot, I had already heard that at the Regional Health Committee.

Motion – Gloucester City on Partnership CARRIED
This motion was opposed which was a surprise, John Vickery (Central Bristol Health) thought the wording was confusing and while I agreed with him, the spirit of the motion was clear to me and I voted for. In the middle of this debate, we did go inquorate, only 81 present compared to 88 quorum but some staff rounded up the strays to bring us back up to 95.

Report from TUC Delegates – Rosie MacGregor (West Wiltshire District) spoke on the last regional meeting in Exeter, she was disappointed that the UNISON delegation numbered only 5 out of 13.

Lunch Break – I managed to have a good discussion with Tony Staunton on the Stop the War Coalition and a chat with Nigel Behan on nominations for the NEC elections.

Motion – Plymouth City on NO2ID CARRIED

Motion – Plymouth City on Stop the War – Troops Out Now FELL
This motion was surprisingly heavily defeated, over 2 to 1 despite many more speakers for. Should make clear here that I voted against, basically in annoyance about the way Tony was treating the issue, UNISON does not have the power to turn back time so approaching a motion as if we could is dishonest. Instead we have to be pragmatic, say where we are and what we should do about it, not wish we could wave a magic wand and leave Iraq as a model swiss-style democracy instantly.

Finance – Most committees in the Region are facing a cut of 25%, I asked a question on funding in the light of the increased membership and increased subs, how was it that we had a zero increase in income. But it was not answered to my satisfaction. During this debate we dropped inquorate again and it was decided to end the Council at 2:50pm.

Sunday, January 16, 2005

Derbyshire Award

I have an occassional award named in honour of the odious John Derbyshire. This name it's going to Andrew Stuttaford for his claim made on a US website that having to buy a TV Licence means that the UK isn't a free country.

Andrew, I'm happy to pay £41/month for the full range of Sky Digital, I don't think it's a particular infringement of my liberty to also pay £10/month to the BBC for their channels.

Update on Bristol

Well, I'd expected to talk three times from the podium, but East Somerset Health's motion on the murder of Hadi Salih was ruled invalid on a technical reason, it wasn't okayed by a offical branch executive meeting, although most of the members of the branch exec were happy with it. Plymouth City withdrew their motion on Antisocial Behaviour Orders, which I would have spoken in opposition. So the only chance I had was to speak in support of an anti-privatisation motion.

A motion attacking the gradual privatisation in the NHS is not going to be controversial in a UNISON regional council of course so I didn't have to persuade anyone, but it was good to get a first experience of public speaking like that, in front of around 100 people including Dave Prentis himself.

I have to write a report on Council for our next Branch Executive which is on Thursday morning, so I'll post it on here.

Friday, January 14, 2005

Off to Bristol

I'm attending UNISON's South West Regional Council tomorrow, it'll be my third Council (our branch make sure that we rotate the delegates to Regional Council) but it'll be the first one that I'm speaking at.

In fact there's three opportunities to speak.

Supporting a Regional Health Committee motion on Foundation Hospitals and Privisation in the NHS,

Opposing a Plymouth City Branch motion on Antisocial Behaviour Orders, and,

Moving an emergency motion condemning the murder of Hadi Salih and Stop the War's reaction to that murder. (that's if it gets ruled in order)

I'm pretty nervous about it, but someone's got to do it.

What's going on

New Socialist Worker Online Banner

Paulo di Canio giving a "roman" salute to Lazio fans

So when exactly did the SWP turn into Nazis?

(hat tip to Harry's Place)

Monday, January 10, 2005

The New Pension Proposals

Today NHS Employers have released a consultation document on the future of the NHS Pension Scheme. The government have said it will "meet the needs of a modern NHS and its staff, by making benefits more appropriate for today's workforce" UNISON say it will "make it more difficult to recruit and retain staff." while Amicus is proposing a Day of Action, whatever that is.

Ploughing through the 124 page document will take a bit of time, but here's my first impressions

The Government also say it's not about saving money, but that's not true. Currently most staff have a 20% contribution, 6% from themselves and 14% from the employer and it costs 19.6% to supply the pension benefits (I assume the remaining 0.4% is used for adminstration). NHS Employers estimate that the new proposals will cost 18.2% for existing members and 16.9% for new members.

Improving the accrual rate to 60ths from 80ths is an obvious benefit, offset by the raise in the normal retirement age from 60 to 65. That's the big issue as far as I'm concerned. There's a bit on page 30 of the consultation about retiring at 60 making your pension actuarily reduced. They suggest the figure of 27% for retiring at 60, with an increase of 35% for retiring at 70. 73% of an 60th isn't a great deal different from an 80th, but the catch seems to be that the acturial adjustment could vary. The thing I like about the current NHS pension scheme is that you know what you're getting so can plan properly, so I hope that will be fixed.

There are some very positive parts of the proposals. Extending spouse benefits to unmarried partners is an overdue step, allowing people to carry on extending retirement benefits is also warmly welcomed. All in all, it's not a bad set of proposals, it can be improved but it's a good start.

Smoke-free YDH

To any staff at Yeovil District Hospital who have happened upon this site, I've received nearly 80 responses from staff on the smoking ban proposal. I'll be collating the responses over the next couple of days and it will be available on this site as soon as it's ready.

Politics is popular

Reading about "Vote for Me" ITV1's new election based pop-idol style show in the Western Daily Press, this bit annoyed me.

"Lorraine Kelly is passionate about the programme's aims. She says: "I think it's a scandal that more people vote for the likes of I'm A Celebrity or The X Factor or Big Brother than actually go out and vote in a General Election. It's terrifying!"

Yes, it would be a scandal, but it's also completely false.

The 2001 General Election, even on the lowest turnout since World War I had 25,557,009 people voting (Source David Boothroyd's election pages)

Big Brother 5 had for the final vote 6,366,325 votes cast, even if you count the whole of the series then the total is only 14,790,551 (Source Digital Spy)

Of course even that figure for BB5 is massively inflated by multiple voting, something generally frowned upon by the authorities in political elections.

South Somerset - Home of No News

On the news page of South Somerset District Council, they have 2 stories from August, 2 from September, 1 from October and one final story from 1st November. Has nothing happened with the council since then?

Sunday, January 09, 2005

Medieval Ambulance Chasers

Divine Intervention?

Stories and pictures of mosques miraculously left standing while the tsunami swept all around them are going around the web, for instance here. This is being proclaimed as "proof" that Allah exists.

To be honest, if that's proof that Allah exists, I'm glad I don't worship him. Any deity that could kill off thousands of His worshippers but take the trouble to save a bunch of buildings built in His name is more worthless than divine.

More on Kirsty Wark

It seems odd to me that I've written so much about the Jack and Kirsty issue when I didn't about the Blunkett affair but the attacks on both Jack McConnell and Kirsty Wark are getting to be ridiculous.

Latest development is from Tory MSP Brian Monteith, who's called on Kirsty to step down or be sacked from BBC political programming. This is verging on the insane, if there was a case that Kirsty was going easy on Labour politicians then there would be a reason for her to step down, but there's not been any suggestion of that. It's just that she's friends with the first minister. Isn't a person allowed to have friends without losing their job?

Thursday, January 06, 2005

Big Brother

One of my guilty pleasures of the last year was being hooked on Big Brother 5. Celebrity Big Brother looks like it might be good too, can't wait for fireworks between John McCririck and Germaine Greer.

More on the storm in a teacup

There's no story here, but Nicola Strugeon, future leader of the SNP (according to her hype anyway) is like a pitbull with the Jack and Kirsty issue. As reported in today's Guardian

"Ms Sturgeon asked the first minister to stand up in the Scottish parliament and declare details of all of the hospitality afforded to him by Wark, following the revelation today that Mr McConnell had also been on holiday with the broadcaster on a previous occasion, in 2003.

If Mr McConnell accedes to the demand, he could be forced into making an embarrassing roll-call of social occasions that his family has spent with the broadcaster, her husband and TV production company partner Alan Clements and their children."

Why would it be embarrassing, Jack, like anyone, has friends, I don't know Kirsty, but I met Jack a fair number of times during my time in Stirling and he's a genuine guy, not everyone's cup of tea, but what you see with him is what you get. He would have nothing to hide by detailing his friendship, but I think it's a huge invasion of privacy that he should be asked to.

Wednesday, January 05, 2005

Dangerous and Deceitful

One common way of making a political point is to misrepresent an opponent's point and use that straw man to discredit that person. It's annoying, and no more so than when someone you respect does it.

On UNISON's website, our General Secretary Dave Prentis does exactly that. On the news that five trusts have been given foundation status, there's the following.

"UNISON reacted angrily to the government’s decision to grant foundation status to five more hospitals today.

"The government bulldozed foundation hospitals through Parliament by the skin of its teeth, promising MPs a full review before any more hospitals would be granted foundation status,” said general secretary Dave Prentis.

Pointing out the review has not been completed, he called today's announcement “dangerous, deceitful and downright premature”.

“I am convinced that foundation hospitals will create a two-tier health service," he added."

Time to go back and look at this logically.

March 2003 - Even before Foundation Trusts had been approved by Parliament, the Government had invited all 32 trusts who had 3 stars to apply for Foundation status. The timescale then evisaged the successful applicants would start on 1 April 2004

14 May 2003 - 3 of the 32 dropped out but 29 carried on, later they were split into 2 groups, half starting on 1 April 2004, the rest in 1 June 2004.

30 July 2003 - 4 of the 29 first wave trusts lost their three stars and dropped out of the applicants, but the government announced that the other 38 with three stars could join them, that's when East Somerset, Taunton & Somerset, West Dorset, the local trusts could become applicants.

19 November 2003, the Health and Social Care (Community Health and Standards) Bill was making it's way through Parliament. There was a strong opposition to the idea of foundation hospitals and so it looked like the bill might not pass. John Reid, Secretary of State for Health made a number of concessions, one of which was to promise a 12 month review of the effect of foundation trusts on the NHS and to hold off on future applications until the review had reported to Parliament.

That's what Dave Prentis is refering to. But both the first wave and the second group were already in the application stage so Dr.Reid could not have meant that the batch that has just been approved would be stopped from applying. Indeed, Dr.Reid did make it very clear to Parliament in the debate.

Hansard Session 2002-03 Column 827
Joan Humble (Lab, Blackpool North & Fleetwood): I thank my right hon. Friend for giving way. Will he clarify the important statement he made a moment ago about reviewing the first waves of foundation hospitals before making progress? He used the plural "waves", so can he clarify how many hospitals will be involved and whether he will come back to the House with a report before making an announcement about more foundation hospitals in the future?

John Reid: It is anticipated that the first waves will start in 2004 and will consist of two parts. One has already been publicly announced and includes 29 hospitals, falling to 25. The second part will include 30 hospitals or fewer, so the round figure is about 50. As for reporting to the House, I have always made it plain that we will review the situation as we go along, because it is the study of modern society that has led us to the conclusions we have reached about the need to give patients better information, quality, power and choice and, therefore, the need to decentralise. It would therefore be wholly contrary to our approach and intuition to say that we shall plough ahead irrespective of any obstacles or difficulties we encounter. We are prepared to review as we go along.

My hon. Friend is right, however. As I said, there is a period of approximately 12 months between autumn 2004 and autumn 2005 in which it would appropriate to carry out a specific review of what is happening. I shall ask CHAI to assist in that review. The commission, which is established under the Bill, is responsible and accountable not to me but to Parliament, so any report it produces will be presented to Parliament. I hope that that answers my hon. Friend's point.

In my opinion Dave Prentis is far too intelligent to attack Labour party policy without knowing what he's talking about, so if anyone's being deceitful, it's him.

Storm in a Teacup time

Kirsty Wark, Newsnight presenter and her husband invited a long standing friend Jack McConnell, First Minister of Scotland and his family over to her holiday home over New Years as reported in today's Guardian "Row over Wark's holiday guest". Given that even I could guess who the guest was from the brief "Kirsty Wark's decision to invite a senior Labour politician to her holiday home sparks row." shows that it's a non-story.

Wark and McConnell attended the wonderful Stirling University (my old uni) at the same time, and Stirling's certainly small enough that they would have known of each other there so it's no wonder they are friends. Are the SNP and the Tories really saying that nobody with any friends in politics is allowed to present political programmes? That's how silly this all is.

3 Minutes of silence

Impeccably observed in our office apart from the one w****r who decided to phone us up in the middle of the 3 minutes.

National Treasure

Just got back from an entertaining evening watching National Treasure. Of course it's a lot of hokum (does 100+ year old gunpowder really burn that well, maybe Mr.Fawkes can enlighten me) but if you liked Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade you could do much worse than this.

Incidentally thumbs up to House of Flying Daggers (just a shame it's not in Cantonese) and a big thumbs down to Blade: Trinity both of which I've seen since Christmas.

Tuesday, January 04, 2005

Keyworker Homes - A bad idea?

On the face of it, the Guardian Headline, "Prescott plan to provide £60,000 homes" seems to offer a lot, especially to someone like me, who would need a hefty mortgage just to get my first step on the housing ladder.

But something doesn't quite feel right about it. I did not do much economics, but I remember the basics, the laws of supply and demand. It seems to me that if the demand and supply curve, say for, 2 bedroom terraced in Yeovil is like this:

Then if something happened that gave all potential purchasers an extra £20,000 spending power, then all that would happen is that the chart would shift £20,000 to the right, meaning that it would still be as difficult to buy a house.

Even if it was only given to "keyworkers" (a term I abhore, incidentally, why would I, being in the public sector be considered more important than say, a barman?. Then some of the demand curve would shift to the right (as they can afford more) then all that would mean is that "keyworkers" would find it slightly easier to afford a home while everyone else would have more difficulty.

What's the way to solve it? Instead of moving the demand curve, move the supply, we need more houses, forget about the nimbys, go and build them. Of course the local authorities around here are opposed to that. Guess I'll rent for a while yet.

Sunday, January 02, 2005

Brownfield Building

One of the things I am truly passionate about is the redevelopment of our towns and cities. In my opinion, a lot of the troubles that beset towns like Yeovil are due to the hollowing out of the town centres. So it was nice to hear of John Hayes, the Shadow Housing Minister, say this.

"...the party would examine how it could be made more cost effective to develop contaminated land which, despite existing tax credits, still costs more than greenfield sites."

Okay, he's saying it more as an afterthought to his "save the green belt" plan, but he's right. Take for example the photo above, it's of an old building that was used as a leather tannery, on the corner of the A30 Reckleford and Eastland Road here in Yeovil. I don't know how long it's been like that, but I arrived in Yeovil in 1996, and it's certainly been lying derelict for that length of time. The reason why the only people who occupy the site are squatters and drug users is that there's cyanide in the ground, a legacy of the tanning process, and it will cost upwards of £1 million to clear up, I'm told.

There's no shortage of housing need in Yeovil, since that tannery's been empty, whole new estates have grown up on the west side of Yeovil. Despite generous tax credits allowed to developers to clear up the Tannery site, it's still cheaper to dig up a greenfield site on the edge of town, rather than build in the middle. If people really want to save the green belt, then we've got to be prepared to buy these sites, clean them up ourselves and sell them on for development.

Saturday, January 01, 2005

Does the NHS have enough money

Finally, my reply to Lewis's post from before Christmas. The meat of his article seems to be this comment.

...a deeper problem that I think is at the heart of the NHS - that of money, or more accurately that of there not being enough money.

So, is Lewis right?

On the face of it, of course he is. If we spent more money as a society on health, then the service we can provide will be more. That is correct for all levels of funding, more is always better. But are we spending enough money? If not, how much is enough, and how do we provide that funding.

Lewis's answer is basically to privatise the NHS, with the belief that the private sector can do things more efficiently than the public sector. In a way he is right, but the price might be more than we would like to afford.

The United States spends $4,887 per person per year on Healthcare but the United Kingdom spends $1,989 per person per year (source WHO), to bridge that gap would be around £75 billion per year, but the Life Expectancy figures for males are 75.8 years in the UK and 74.6 in the US, for females, it's 80.5 in the UK and 79.8 in the US. So we spend much less, but have a comparable average outcome, why is that?

The easy answer is that the NHS is more efficient, but you say, how can the NHS possibly be more efficient than the United States. Well, there are obvious reasons.

1. Advertising. I was watching an NFL game on Christmas Eve, and spotted an advertising hoarding high up in Giants Stadium, HSS - Official Hospital of the Giants You couldn't imagine something like that in the UK could you? If you have a multi provider system, then you will be spending money on advertising.

2. Invoicing. Right now, East Somerset Trust employs just one person to do all our invoicing and that's not even all her job, under a US style system, there would be a whole department getting money in.

3. Litigation. This adventage may be eroding but there is more defensive medicine being performed in US hospitals, that is procedures and tests that are not medically valid, but performed in order to defend against claims of negligence in a law suit later on.

4. Drugs. the NHS's drugs are cheaper because if NICE (National Institute for Clinical Excellence) doesn't like the price, it won't support it, if it's not NICE approved, the drugs company can't sell it to the NHS and that's a big customer to lose.

5. Single Employer. Consultants are paid double NHS rates in the US, Nurses around 50% more, because there's a single rate for staff, wages can be surpressed. Although, I like everyone else would love to be paid more, it's still an advantage to the NHS.

Most of these advantages would be wrecked were the NHS to be broken up. I would never say we didn't need more money, but the NHS doesn't need the extra £75 billion/year that it would take to lift us to US level funding.

A dip into the archives

One of the delights of New Years Day is that certain documents that are secret under the 30 year rule are finally released to the public (I'm looking forward to interesting stuff in 2 years time about Harold Wilson's resignation in 1976)

In this years batch:

A reminder why Princess Anne is my favourite Royal

An offer by Idi Amin to mediate in the Northern Ireland conflict. It couldn't have done any harm to try it surely?

The Government thought in 1974 that ID cards were expensive and ineffective, watch the NO2ID lot jump all over that.

Happy New Year, no resolutions for me, but I hope that my beloved Saints have resolved to start playing as if they actually want to be in the Premiership next season.