Whitstable Views: National Health Service, more concerned with money than with health?

Disturbing

My Dad was seriously ill a while back. He’s 86 years old and getting increasingly fragile.

My sister called me up. He had a urinary infection. When I saw him he was stuck in bed, shivering, unable to move. He was unsteady on his feet and needed help to walk

We called the doctor, who took one look and said he should be in hospital.

What followed was really disturbing.

The doctor rang the hospital. Obviously I was only privy to one half of the conversation, but I could guess the other half by what I heard the doctor saying.

The conversation lasted for some time – maybe half an hour or more – during which time the doctor’s voice became increasingly agitated.

It was obvious that the hospital were refusing to take my Dad. They seemed to be finding every excuse not to send an ambulance.

I think they must have asked the doctor why he didn’t treat my Dad at home.

“Because he’s very fragile, and I’m worried that he might fall over.”

A couple of days before Dad had tripped over in the hall when coming home. He’d fallen on his face and had some bruising around the eye and his forehead was badly grazed.

This was a completely separate issue from the urinary infection, but having been told about it, the hospital now decided to take this as their primary concern.

They said he would have to go to A&E for tests.

It was about 11pm by now, and we were told that it might take up to 4 hours for the ambulance to arrive.

Bad idea

nhs-logo-image-1-296169897It was at this point that we decided that going to hospital was probably a bad idea: as if waiting half the night for an ambulance, and then being taken to A&E in Canterbury to spend more time on a trolley before being seen, would help his urinary infection.

Luckily I wasn’t working so I opted to stay with him instead

What was really worrying though was to hear the obvious reluctance of a hospital to take in a sick person.

I would guess this was for financial reasons. Such is the state of the NHS today, more concerned with money than with health.

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Whitstable Views: House prices in Whitstable

New York Times

13189896_f260Once again Whitstable has featured in the New York Times, with a story about Beacon House on Tankerton Beach in its Great Homes and Destinations section. The previous occasion was in 2009 when the town appeared in the Travel section as “A Day Out From London”.

Then it concentrated on restaurants. This time it focuses on house prices.

The only quote from someone other than the owners is from Paul Jordan of Ward & Partners who tells us that property prices in the area have continued to rise in recent years, adding that “in comparison to London prices they would look very good value.”

So what does that mean? Are we to expect an influx of wealthy New Yorkers now to add to the boho Londoners who have already colonised whole segments of the town?

I know from my job as a postal worker that there are certain streets which are virtually empty in the winter months, in which the majority of houses are second homes.

Not that I’m complaining about Katrina Brown and James Drury’s ownership of Beacon House. It is a beautiful place to live.

As it says in the article, it was “unmortgageable and uninsurable” when they bought it, being only 15 metres from the sea at high tide. It needed a wealthy family to bring it back to life.

Who hasn’t walked passed the cottage on a stroll along the shore and not imagined what it would be like to live there?

Jobs

The problem is that children brought up in Whitstable are consistently being forced to move somewhere else. Not only are house prices and rents unimaginably high, but there aren’t any decent jobs available.

How many people working at Tesco are able to sustain the kind of mortgage that living in Whitstable requires these days?

This can’t be good for the life of the town.

It’s great that our town attracts artistic people like Ms Brown and Mr Drury, along with celebrities and musicians and other creative types, but without ordinary people to help give it perspective, maybe Whitstable is in danger of drowning in its own pretentiousness.

Whitstable Views: Our nation needs new council houses

Housing crisis UK

I was looking through some of my old articles last week. There was one about my attempts to find a flat in Whitstable a few years back.

I went to look at a studio flat on Tankerton Road. It consisted of one room with barely enough space to fit a double bed in, a stair cupboard with a shower and toilet squeezed underneath, and a Formica top meant to represent the kitchen.

“Living there would make you go insane,” I wrote. “A man could end up committing suicide in a flat like that.” The rent was £275 per calendar month. This was nearly ten years ago now.

The cost of flats has continued to rise since then. The cheapest I’ve seen recently is £650 a month for a one-bedroom flat. Prices go up steadily after that, to approaching £2,000 a month.

There is a housing crisis, not only in our town, but throughout the country.

It derives directly from the right to buy policy instituted by the Tories back in the eighties, as a way of breaking up the old Labour supporting council estates. The responsibility for housing was handed over to the private sector. Almost no council house building has taken place in the intervening years.

Meanwhile much of the old council housing stock has reappeared on the market as buy to let property. A recent study by the National Housing Federation has shown that the number of people living in private rented accomodation and claiming Housing Benefit has risen by 42% since 2008.

Building council houses

The cost to the taxpayer of directly supplementing private landlords through the Housing Benefit system was £9.3 billion last year. Much of that has gone directly into the pockets of some of the most wealthy people in our country. Ten members of the Sunday Times Rich List received a total of £2,032,000 in Housing Benefit in 2014.

Jeremy Corbyn has promised a massive programme of council house building to begin addressing the housing shortage.

People ask how we can afford this? But look at the figures: how can we afford not to?

Whitstable Education: The Chaucer Technology School

Closure

I was sad the hear of the closure of the Chaucer Technology School in 2014 as my son was a pupil there.

When Joe failed his Kent Test he was very depressed. We chose the Chaucer as the only school looking anything like a Comprehensive in the area at the time. In order to get into the school he had to do another test; which he passed, with flying colours.

This cheered him up no end.

Joe went on to get three A levels and a First Class Honours degree. He now works in the photography industry as a freelance technician and is much in demand for his skills and his practical intelligence.

The Kent Test would have condemned him as a failure at the age of eleven. It was the Chaucer which gave him the confidence to discover where his real intelligence lay.

I’m puzzled at how the Chaucer ended up failing as a school. When my son went there, in the nineties, it was a first class institution.

Comprehensive

My own schooling was undertaken at Sheldon Heath Comprehensive School in Birmingham. It was the first specially built comprehensive in the country and the largest.

That too, like the Chaucer, went through emergency measures recently. It closed and was re-opened as the King Edward IV Sheldon Heath Academy in 2010.

And yet the school that I went to was anything but a failure. It was a flagship school of the newly devised comprehensive system and served me and my contemporaries very well. A number of my friends went on to get degrees and to forge successful careers.

The only explanation I can think of is that successive governments have messed around so much with the education system, pulling it first one way, and then the other, that they have undermined the very foundations of education in this country.

The latest news is that the Chaucer is likely to re-open at some point in the future, but as a secondary, rather than a technology school, which sounds like an admission of failure to me.

A first class education is a right, not a privilege, and should be available to all.

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