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Cartoon: Harmacy

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Tue, 27/09/2022 - 11:20pm in

Many women are finding that in states with strict abortion bans, drugstores won't fill their prescriptions without special confirmation from a doctor or a privacy-invading consultation with the pharmacist. It's yet another way in which anti-choice extremism is upending healthcare. This article in The Guardian provides an overview.

Support these comics by joining the Sorensen Subscription Service! Also on Patreon.

Follow me on Twitter at @JenSorensen

Contract-Winning Firm Owned by Tory Donor Sees Major Financial Boost

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Mon, 26/09/2022 - 8:58pm in

Max Colbert reports on the millions gained by one of the Government’s PPE suppliers

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A Conservative-linked firm commissioned by the Government to supply personal protective equipment (PPE) during the pandemic has seen a healthy growth in its financial position, Byline Times and The Citizens can reveal.

Stroud-based P14 Medical (trading as Platform 14), last week finally filed its company accounts, after extending the previous accounting period from December 2020 to 30 June 2021.

The company is run by former Conservative councillor Steve Dechan, who resigned his position after the contracts were revealed.

At the time, Dechan said that “it’s a ridiculous thing to say” that P14 benefitted because of its political connections.

Dechan’s firm was awarded more than £276 million of taxpayers’ money across three contracts, issued without tender, between April and early June 2020 for the supply of medical gowns and face masks.

In 2019, before the chaos of the pandemic, P14 posted a loss of £485,886. Following the award of the contracts to the company, however, Dechan said that he had since taken a salary of “roundabout £400,000”, adding that his wife had also “taken about £150,000”. 

The reasoning behind such a large salary, he said, was that it was “back pay”, following several years in which the company struggled financially. P14 has now posted an updated figure of £655,753 on its balance sheet, which logs the company’s assets, an increase of £1.1 million from the previous accounting period. The overall profit and loss of the firm over the accounting period is not declared.

As the most recent filings reveal, the Dechans also operate other companies within the field, two of which have seen financial boosts over the same period. 

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The new P14 accounts show that the parent company, Pain Medical, also under the significant control of Steve and Kate Dechan, has, between December 2019 and June 2021, seen its financial position swell from £100 in assets to more than £9.9 million.

The Pain Medical accounts in turn list another entity as a ‘connected company’, Tracingboard Limited, which filed for the same accounting period on the same day as both P14 and Pain Medical. 

Tracingboard, which was only incorporated in April 2020 and is registered to the same address as Pain, retains a net book value of £5.1 million, including a freehold property the company uses to conduct business, as well as a profit and loss account of £2.1 million.

The three companies controlled by the Dechans, therefore, have seen a total asset growth of £13.3 million, not including value held in property. 

P14 Medical and Steve Dechan did not respond to our requests for comment. 

‘Chuffed to Bits’

During the height of the pandemic, the Dechans purchased a £1.5 million, 17th Century, grade II listed mansion in the Cotswolds. “We’re chuffed to bits” he said, speaking at the time.

Speaking to the BBC about the work of his firm, Dechan said that: “We are an expert company that has been in medical supplies for eight years including PPE that has managed to deliver on a big contract that the ‘big companies’ could not.

“I only know a couple MPs through local campaigning on issues, only met ministers (no current ones) on [general election] campaign trails. Never discussed PPE.”

An investigation by the Good Law Project alleged that P14 had received its contract via the ‘VIP’ lane, set up in the Cabinet Office to fast-track recommendations of eligible firms from the offices of Government ministers and civil servants. 

A list of the companies later published by the Government, indicated that the referral had come from Dr Ian Campbell from the UK’s research and development initiative Innovate UK, via Richard James of the Cabinet Office. Dechan had previously denied that P14 was part of the VIP lane process, and provided corroborating evidence to The Times

Also of note is the fact that after the contracts were awarded to P14 – in October 2020 – Dechan donated £7,500 to the local Stroud branch of the Conservative Party. This is the only time that he has, at present, donated to the Conservatives. 

P14 was listed by the National Audit Office as being the seventh largest supplier of PPE between March and July 2020.

Previously, Byline Times and The Citizens established that an eye-watering total of at least £3 billion had been awarded to firms with links to either Conservative donors or those connected via other means to the Conservative Government during the pandemic.

There’s no suggestion of wrongdoing on the part of the Dechans or the companies involved in this process; it was the Government that suspended normal procurement practices, introduced the VIP lane, and issued the contracts to companies.

This article was produced by the Byline Intelligence Team – a collaborative investigative project formed by Byline Times with The Citizens. If you would like to find out more about the Intelligence Team and how to fund its work, click on the button below.

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Right wing media outraged by Australia’s Covid 19 response

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Sun, 25/09/2022 - 4:50am in

Tags 

Health, Media, Politics

While there are demands from right wing commentators for a Royal Commission into Australia’s mishandling of the “essentially innocuous” SARS-Cov-2 virus, in reality Australians continue to die from infection while the distressing and prevalent morbidity associated with infection is becoming clearer and clearer. As we look back at the history to date of the pandemic Continue reading »

The contrast between China and the US as the Covid debacle rolls on

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Sat, 24/09/2022 - 4:37am in

Tags 

Government, Health

“The U.S. represents 4% of the world’s population, 25% of global covid deaths, 23% of covid cases and 35% of all Monkeypox cases….The U.S. is a public health fiasco.” The Centres for Disease Control tells us exposure no longer requires quarantine, and for the public generally, everyone’s so done with masks. That’s the state of Continue reading »

Fabricated Buildings: The Conservative NHS Investment Myth

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Fri, 23/09/2022 - 9:19pm in

As the latest Conservative regime takes office, Rachel Morris considers one of the starkest failures of its predecessor

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We’ve heard the word “deliver” an awful lot lately. Boris Johnson delivered his farewell speech on the steps of 10 Downing Street on 6 September. In keeping with his record, Johnson’s adieu was riddled with half-truths, untruths, evasions and misleading boasts.

Johnson claimed his Government got “this economy moving again… in spite of all opposition, all the naysayers,” egregious given the actual state of the economy, the number of desperate people and closing businesses, and the plummeting value of sterling.

The naysayers now seem to include Johnson’s replacements. New Chancellor Kwasi Kwarteng on Friday slammed the low growth rate incubated by the last 12 years of Conservative rule and the highest tax burden since the 1940s.

This contrasts distinctly with the former occupant of 10 Downing Street, who had claimed just a fortnight earlier that the Government was “delivering on those huge manifesto commitments.”

One of those manifesto commitments was to deliver 40 new hospitals – a fact entirely and conspicuously omitted from the Chancellor’s non-budget. The NHS is a 21st Century service being run out of 19th Century buildings. Will 40 hospitals do the trick? Are they even real, or likely?

The NHS has been a site of political debate since its founding in July 1948. As a child in 1974, I went on a Manchester march with my nurse mum, holding a placard saying, “Underpaid, Understaffed, Under stress, Understand?”

Past disputes seem trivial, however, compared to the current NHS crisis. Sticking plasters will no longer do, and you can’t put a cast on tectonic plates.

The Government knows the national affection for our health service, which is why they make huge promises about its future funding. Notoriously, many were enticed into voting for Brexit by guarantees on a campaign bus that hundreds of millions more would be invested.

Moreover, the Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC) has even upped the number of ‘new hospitals’ pledged – to 48 – by adding eight existing ‘schemes’, all to be delivered by 2030. Johnson tweeted on 8 February that: “Whether it’s recruiting 50,000 extra nurses, building 48 new hospitals or delivering a record-breaking increase in funding, this Government has never been shy about its support for the NHS.”

The DHSC issued a communications guidance document in August 2021, sent to all NHS trusts, stating: “The schemes named in the announcement are not all identical and vary across a number of factors. However, they do all satisfy the criteria we set of what a new hospital is and so must always be referred to as a new hospital.”

These criteria, according to the document, can include: “a major new clinical building on an existing site or a new wing of an existing hospital, provided it contains a whole clinical service, such as maternity or children’s services; or a major refurbishment and alteration of all but building frame or main structure, delivering a significant extension to useful life which includes major or visible changes to the external structure.”

Do those definitions fit within your understanding of ‘new hospital’? No, me neither. Lest you think I’m splitting hairs, healthcare think tank the Nuffield Trust agrees, defining a new hospital as “a new building on an entirely new site”.

By their definition, of the Government’s 40 ‘new’ ones, 22 can be classed as rebuilding projects; 12 as new wings of existing hospitals; three rebuilds of non-urgent care hospitals; and three can truly be termed ‘new’ as people who speak the English language understand that word. Oh, but two of the three actually-new hospitals will open as old ones close, as replacements. Both were planned anyway, before 2019.

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Nurse!

NHS Providers is the membership organisation for NHS acute, ambulance, community and mental health services treating patients and service users. With respect to the “initial” £3.7 billion investment pledged by the Government for the above schemes, it says an actually-new mid-sized hospital costs circa £500 million. So 40 actually-new hospitals would require £20 billion.

In July, NHS managers warned that the programme was “moving at a glacial pace”, with some schemes as much as four years behind schedule due to lack of funding, construction delays and huge cost increases, in part due to inflation. The chief executive of the NHS Confederation expressed the same concerns.

An NHS Providers survey found that half the trusts involved don’t believe the money needed will ever materialise. Leeds General Infirmary alone estimated the cost for two new buildings to be £75 million more than budgeted, thanks to delays in construction and the rising costs of works and materials.

The National Audit Office (NAO) also announced in July that it would carry out a “value for money review” into the programme, due to report in 2023.

The programme was given a ‘Code Red’ by the Infrastructure and Projects Authority (IPA), which carried out two reviews last year and found it “appears to be unachievable”. A red rating means “major issues with project definition, schedule, budget, quality and/or benefits delivery, which at this stage do not appear to be manageable or resolvable”.

You have to wonder if the Government is playing a shell game, assuming the general public is thick and regulators unserious, or if they really are numerically illiterate and project planning-incontinent. The eternal leadership question: evil or stupid?

Yet, as Johnson shambled off into a sunset of after-dinner speeches, he reaffirmed the Government’s commitment to this shambles. “Yes we will have… 40 more hospitals by the end of the decade… [laid on] great solid masonry on which we will continue to build together”.

At the time he uttered this statement, there were 6.8 million people waiting for NHS England appointments, a severe shortage of ambulances and beds, 132,000 NHS vacancies, and real-terms wage cuts.

It would be lovely to think this wasn’t all just gaslighting, and that the new Government feels the need to actually deliver on promises. However, all that Health and Social Care Secretary Thérèse Coffey has delivered so far is instructing NHS staff to “be positive” and avoid Oxford commas. Yet more gas and air, nurse!

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Advertising by doctors: Helpful or harmful?

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Fri, 23/09/2022 - 4:45am in

Tags 

Health, Media

It was only as recently as 1979 that Dr Arthur Burton wrote in his Australian textbook on Medical Ethics and the Law ‘It is the hallmark of a responsible profession that its members do not advertise, and so the ethical rules relating to advertisement are strict.’ In his book he quoted the then advice of Continue reading »

Learning from people who are homeless

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Fri, 23/09/2022 - 4:41am in

A homeless person’s life, burdened, as it often is, by physical and mental illness, addiction, and social disadvantage, can lead us to think their life is meaningless and of no value; but we can be so wrong, they have much to teach us. Rootless and homeless, people wander from place to place. They walk to Continue reading »

Three Years On from ‘No Deal’ Emergency: Operation Yellowhammer is Our Reality

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Fri, 23/09/2022 - 12:22am in

We are now living through the bleak predictions made in the Brexit contingency report in 2019, says TJ Coles

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Unaffordable food and energy bills, hours-long border queues, medicine shortages; these crises were the predicted – and predictable – consequences of a Brexit championed by successive Conservative governments and the right-wing media.

While Vladimir Putin’s illegal and immoral invasion of Ukraine triggered the EU-wide cost of living crisis, Britain has seen some of the worst inflation in Europe – delivering on the warnings of the so-called ‘project fear’ campaign.

Operation Yellowhammer was the Theresa May Government’s secret contingency plan for the “reasonable worst case” outcome of a ‘no deal’ Brexit – in other words, the worst things that the Government anticipated in the event of failing to reach a Withdrawal Agreement with the EU. After May had been replaced by Boris Johnson, a version of Yellowhammer was leaked to the Sunday Times. The Government was then compelled to release an official version, some of which was redacted. 

It was heavily disputed whether Yellowhammer was a ‘base’ scenario for a no-deal Brexit or anticipation of worst outcomes. In either case, its predictions are salient.

Before the no deal deadline, the Johnson administration cobbled together a Withdrawal Agreement, which former Chancellor Philip Hammond alleged had already been offered to May by the EU. The Johnson agreement was similar to no deal in certain respects because it left many loose ends, most notably the question of Northern Ireland and its relationship with the EU.

Moreover, if we compare Britain’s contemporary crises to Yellowhammer, it is clear that we are living the document.

Energy and Inflation

At 9.1%, Eurozone inflation is lower than the UK’s, which stands at 9.9%; among western Europe’s highest. For Britain’s closest economic competitors by GDP, inflation is as follows: France 6.5%, Germany 7.9%, and Italy 8.4%. Using France as an example, economists cite quality jobs, social security, and Government price caps as the main reasons for relative inflation control. 

Unlike in France, Britain’s measures to control inflation are likely to fall on the backs of poorer people. As the Institute for Fiscal Studies reports, in relation to the Bank of England’s decision to offset inflation with interest rate hikes: “older people with mortgages and those with lower levels of household income are more likely to be exposed to interest rate rises in the short term”.

But what’s Brexit got to do with it? In June this year, the business journal Bloomberg cited three US financial institutions: Bank of America, Citigroup, and Standard Bank. When it comes to inflation, each bank sees Britain as an “outlier in the developed world because of the economic damage wrought by the decision to cut ties with the European Union”.

Yellowhammer optimistically predicted that “Demand for energy will be met and there will be no disruption to electricity or gas interconnections”. In reality, UK energy infrastructure has proven to be more dependent upon the EU than the Government was willing to reveal. 

The Financial Times recently reported that the consultancy firm Baringa estimated that “Hundreds of millions of pounds are being added to UK energy bills because of the failure to implement a trade deal with the EU that would allow efficient movement of power via subsea cables”.

Duncan Sinclair of Baringa says: “A side effect of Brexit is a temporary step backwards in the way electricity flows between us and our neighbours. The system is now less efficient – leading to higher costs – at a time when concerns around rising costs and energy security are paramount.”

This was echoed by Sir Philip Lowe – an executive chair at the World Energy Council and the former director-general for energy at the European Commission – in an interview with Byline Times a year ago. “The EU’s long-term strategy, which the UK was very much in favour of, was to integrate markets as far as possible across Europe,” said Lowe. However, while the EU plans to integrate further, the UK has extracted itself from this policy through Brexit, while an energy agreement was not included in the free trade deal between the UK and the EU.

By EU standards, Britain has been notable for having low food prices. Yet, since Brexit, that has all changed. By July, UK food prices were up 12.6% compared to the previous year – something predicted by Yellowhammer, particularly for poorer people. 

A London School of Economics (LSE) study notes that two-thirds of international trade is in intermediate products used domestically, such as vegetable oil and animal feed.

Brexit caused a shortfall in imports from EU member states and, as they readjust to trading with non-EU markets, businesses have been stockpiling, which causes artificial scarcity and thus price rises. Between the end of 2019 and 2021, Brexit-induced EU trade barriers added 6% to food prices. Despite what the Government has otherwise claimed, the LSE report concludes: “COVID-19 is ruled out as a factor”.

Indeed, Yellowhammer even took into account the potential for a health crisis to compound the problems suffered through a hard Brexit – stating that “seasonal flu” and “severe weather” were both potential risks. The implication was that a severe outbreak or even pandemic should have been incorporated into Brexit planning.

Medicine and Border Delays

“The reliance of medicines and medical products’ supply chains on the short straits crossing make them particularly vulnerable to severe extended delays”, said Yellowhammer, referring to Dover-Calais and other key ports.

Leaked data from the Department of Health and Social Care in 2020 listed 209 medical products that had supply problems in the previous year; more than half of which were in short supply for more than three months. Drugs such as hepatitis vaccines and anti-epileptic drugs, faced ‘extended’ problems.

Now, with Brexit supposedly ‘done’ and the pandemic supposedly over, what is the state of UK medicine?

The European Medicines Agency (EMA) said in July that it would be monitoring potential medicine and product shortages caused by supply chain issues. But, as the EMA announced the need to monitor, the UK had already experien

ced shortages. Over the previous six months, more than 700 pharmacists had experienced patients being put in danger by medicine shortages. 

In August, Mike Dent of the Pharmaceutical Services Negotiating Committee said: “We are becoming increasingly concerned about medicine supply issues and the very serious impact this is having on both community pharmacy teams and their patients.”

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Hospitals had been advised to stockpile, patients had to search multiple pharmacies for drugs, and doctors expressed concern about using alternatives.

Yellowhammer likewise predicted that “UK citizens travelling to and from the EU may be subject to increased immigration checks at EU border posts”.

Since Brexit, Dover-Calais queues have become notoriously long, affecting hauliers and holiday-makers. Ferry operator, DFDS, recently said: “Calais was affected by ‘the perfect storm’ of summer volumes in combination with post-Brexit border checks, causing six hours of queuing”.

While new Prime Minister Liz Truss was quick to blame France for failing to streamline passport controls, other analyses point the finger at Brexit.

Truss will try to score political points among the Conservative Party’s pro-Brexit voter base by blaming the EU for everything while being obstinate with her European counterparts. This will be sold by the right-wing media to the public as Truss taking a ‘tough stance’.

A common anti-Labour attack line is that the party would take Britain ‘back to the 1970s’, were it to take office. But now it is the Conservative Party that is reviving the age of strikes, power outages, and civil disobedience – all predicted years ago by Yellowhammer.

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Beetaloo gas field: Resurrect health impact assessments to save lives

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Wed, 21/09/2022 - 4:55am in

Our new government walks both sides of the street on fossil fuels. Humanity is slowly realising that our development away from an ecological way of life sustained for billions of years ‘carries urgent responsibilities to respect, heal and sustain nature. Because we fail to understand that our health and the natural environment are inseparable, we Continue reading »

The Strengthening Medicare Taskforce: Commonwealth must resist lobbyists and embed team-based care

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Wed, 21/09/2022 - 4:45am in

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Health, Politics

The Strengthening Medicare Taskforce must set aside the tired, unhelpful trope that care is about choosing between a GP, or a pharmacist, or a nurse.  Health care professionals are complementary to each other and provide better care working as a team.   Following the outcome of this year’s Federal Election, Health Minister Mark Butler convened Continue reading »

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