Thursday 30 June 2011

Public Sector Pensions

It's a perk!
I don't work in the public sector and therefore don't pay into a public sector pension - strike that – I do pay into public sector pensions through my taxes.  My taxes provide revenue for public sector pensions.

I don't pay into a private pension – can't afford it, too many outgoings that can't be skimped on to enable me to make financial provision for my dotage.  I work to support my worst half who retired through ill-health in his late forties, I work to pay my mortgage that has almost quadrupled as I had to remortgage due to a predicted red light shortfall, I work to pay for food in my belly and pay utilities.  I also work because I love it.

I am not unhappy with my life as it is rich in many others ways, a sons wedding quite soon, a first holiday in almost twelve years on the near horizon, good friends, lovely job and so on – my life is rich.

Those that exist outside the five million in the public sector have seen the forecast value of their pension reduce – if they have one –  many don't, know they have to work longer before retirement as, as we live longer the available pension pot is much smaller, accept that they probably wont have a pay rise for some time to come, tighten their belts and so on.  Some have found they have been made redundant as business fails across the board.

So it sort of peeves me that those in the public sector see themselves as a special case, excluded from the flack of recession and excluded from the reality that recession or not, the retirement age must increase as funding in its present form is unsustainable.   I can understand why they might be peeved in that they are now expected to contribute more into their pension that will be worth less after having to work longer for it.  It is probable that if I worked in the public sector I too would be experiencing their angst.

Presently civil servants contribute a maximum of 3.5% towards their pension, teachers 6.4% and I as a taxpayer contribute 19% towards the public sector pension pot.  This works out at approx. £1000 per household and forgive me public sector worker – do you not think this is a bit unfair?  If I can't afford to contribute towards a private pension for myself – why should I contribute towards yours?

Public sector employers will argue that they are tax payers too – and indeed they are – but they receive some of their taxes back in the form of their specific pensions.

That's really all folks – just my personal feelings.  I do not intend to get involved in the politics of politics, IMF, Iceland, Greece, bailouts, collapsing economies, deficit reduction, unions, strikes, government raids on pension funds, protected benefits of union bosses and politicians – just the mention is self explanatory.

C'mon public sector workers – see the light and stop being so selfish.  This is one big society no-one can exclude themselves from.  We are all in the same boat whether we like it or not.

Anna :o]

PS  Please take a trip to Sams and The Cockroach Catchers place re reality checks.
PSS Just read, so just added - Dr Zorro

Tuesday 28 June 2011


Erm, Tess' prompt this week brought just one thought to my mind, that of parasites, very colourful parasites I grant you – but parasites nevertheless!


By the process of elimination
We little parasitic eggs
Move in fast flowing water,
Drift into ponds and
Welcoming wells
Quickly hatch into embryo
And move to survive
Penetrating a mollusc
A freshwater snail
Enclosed in its shell.

By a series of transformation
We leave our host mollusc
As contaminating larvae
(Or cercariae if you please)
Spread through surrounding water
And penetrate the skin
Of bathers and swimmers
Clothes washers, pissers and shiters –
Usually select children –
One prick and we're in!
We move up your veins,
Into your heart then your lungs
Transform into worm like adults
Climb into your trachea
(Now here's the insult!)
You swallow us and we set up home
In your small intestine or duodenum
Mate for life with our soul mate
Producing millions of eggs
That by the process of elimination
Move into fast flowing water…

That is, except the eggs
That penetrates your gut wall
And transported by blood
Cause trouble in your liver,
Spleen and lung or
Genitor-urinary apparatus.

Anna :o]

Read about Schistosoma here.

Thursday 23 June 2011

An Open Letter to Prof Ilana Crome

Dear Ilana,

“There are people who strictly deprive themselves of each and every eatable, drinkable and smokeable which has in any way acquired a shady reputation.  They pay this price for health.  And health is all they get out of it.  How strange it is.  It is like paying out your whole fortune for a cow that has gone dry.”  (Mark Twain)

I thank you for your recent  proclamation of 22.06.11 and appreciate its relevance as I approach my dotage, but yet would ask you to consider the above quote.

It’s a fact that I, despite not yet being 65 am addicted to smoking, drinking and eating – but not necessarily in that order.  Nevertheless in whatever order they are placed – I indulge.

I was a child of the fifties and ate copious amounts of butter, lard, beef dripping – indeed one of my favourite foodstuffs was that of bread and dripping with copious amounts of salt.  Food was routinely fried in these obnoxious (yet natural) substances as was the norm in those ignorant days.  (Can anyone remember eating sugar sandwiches?  I never did as the thought of it made my stomach churn – but folk did then!)

I was allowed to take all kinds of risks e.g. eating fat laden, sugary and salty foods, climbing and swinging from trees, playing in dirt, and the general rough and tumble of being a kid.  I even played conkers without wearing safety glasses and helmet!  Yet despite this entire risk taking I have survived.  (Some might say I am physically and psychologically damaged by same and perhaps they may be correct – but I would say “Step forward accuser – show yourself!)

I have smoked since aged seventeen and probably began drinking in my then teenage sort of way around the same time yet have no health ishoos related to same (or indeed my fat/sugar/salt consumption as a child).  Please be assured that I accept that both addictions can and indeed do have serious ramifications on health if one overindulges.

I must admit to listening to medical advice re intake of foodstuffs and wrongly or rightly have adjusted my eating habits for many more years than I care to remember.  Years into my/our re-education, my worst half was discovered to have high cholesterol  - despite our healthy eating regime - of the naughty kind and I then threw out the chip pan and on average buy eggs four times per annum, this despite being aware that all will have no effect on lowering cholesterol as only medication can.

Despite all these admitted sins people of my and indeed older generations are living longer.  Can you explain this?   Attempting to rationalise this myself, I have considered that better healthcare – as in the good old NHS – and medications are allowing us to live longer and perhaps this might be a truth, or perhaps just a convenient  truth that is an untruth?

I shall now focus on your recent health policing of the over sixty-fives and your proclamation that behind closed doors, these selfish people - who have had the temerity to reach pensionable age and thus become a burden on the state and indeed society itself, are drinking their silly little heads off!  How dare they madam!

One of your bullet points reads thus:

  • A third of older people with alcohol use problems develop them later in life – often as a result of life changes such as retirement or bereavement of feelings of boredom, loneliness and depression.

How dare they feel bored, lonely and depressed!  How dare they take solace in a little tipple alone, at home?  Perhaps one of the reasons they now drink at home is that due to the smoking ban their little favourite pub where they socially engaged with friends is now closed, or if they smoke they now have to stand outside, whatever the prevailing weather, to indulge in this substance abuse, that is, if they can stand up after swilling large amounts of alcohol.

C’mon Ilana, this health policing is getting a bit too much.  I do accept that some older people may become alcohol dependant in later life for exactly the reasons raised in the bullet point – but do you have any suggestions on how to deal with their un-met needs,etc and resulting depression that lead to this abuse?   And do all over sixty-fives, by definition, fall into this category?  It appears by your proclamation that they do.

Do you and do your colleagues confine themselves to recommended (arbitrary) weekly alcohol intake?  Will you and they follow your recommendations when over 65?  Doubt it.

Yours sincerely,

Anna Gramme
(The unwashed one)

Tuesday 21 June 2011

The Photograph

He’d seen the old photo
Alone on the table,
The remains of the boot sale
And was struck by the likeness,
The image of Mable. 
Old memories evoked,
He paid the few pennies
As he yearned for his lost love,
His raven haired beauty
Who had melted his heart
And gave his life meaning.
Who had leapt from the bridge
And left his heart weeping.

His heart full of sorrow
He stood on the bridge
That spanned the great river
And deep in his heart he knew
He had so much to give her.
As he leapt from the bridge
He could feel himself falling
Yet no fear did he feel
As he heard his love calling
And reunited they were
In that watery deep
Where life is eternal
And love never sleeps.

Anna :o]

With thanks to Tess at  Magpie Tales for the inspiration

Wednesday 15 June 2011

I Am Dementia (Three)

The Shell

The potential is there
The predisposition
Security once breached
A portal for malware.

Its object lays hidden,
But not its objective,
Its mission subjective,
Its outcome predictive. 

With one clever foot in,
A foot in the backdoor,
He enters unbidden,
Slinks in her shadows
And takes residence there.

A thief in her night
Slowly but surely,
Devoid of all pity,
He begins to dispossess her
Of all that is her.

Now fast infector,
The resident virus
Accesses systems
And deletes all the files.

Her shell is now empty,
Her memory banks vacant
Her identity stolen,  
She is neither living nor dead.

Anna :o]

This may appear a morbid post and perhaps it is, but that is not its intention.  As we are now living longer it becomes more probable that more of us will come to know dementia on a personal level, that is, a family member (including ourselves) or someone close to us as in relative, friend, colleague or neighbour.

Dementia is a terrible thing – although a lucky few sufferers remain content with their life despite their failing memory.  Family members suffer too in different ways; some (most) 'joint' friends cease to visit and eventually cease to be friends and often extended family members withdraw too and the carer is left isolated.

I really can understand this, for it is difficult, very difficult to continue to love - or remain friends with - someone who becomes a stranger to you and indeed, deal with the hurt that you are a stranger to them.

It is time, well past the time, that as a species we 'grew-up' and dealt with and removed the stigma of mental ill-health.  None of us, I repeat, none of us, will breeze through life without being touched, in one way or another by mental health 'issues.'

Let's break down the barriers now!

With thanks to Tess at  Magpie Tales for the inspiration.

Links:  I am Dementia  (One)        
           I am Dementia  (Two)  "Look At You!"

Tuesday 14 June 2011

NHS Reforms, Southern Cross and Cherry Picking

Southern Cross 

  • Teetering on the brink of financial collapse, seeking an orderly wind-down to avert administration.
  • Axing 3,000 jobs.
  • 164 (28%) of its care homes in England breached CQC standards, that is, impositions imposed for " non-routine conditions."
  • Ready to relinquish control of more than 250 homes to landlords.
  • Cannot meet its £230m yearly rent bill.
  • Rival operators (Bupa, Four Seasons & Bondcare) are ready to (cherry) pick off the most profitable outlets.
 Dave and NHS Reforms

  • "Our  changes will secure fair competition – not cherry picking … …"
 Business and Profit 
  • Every business operates to make a profit.
  • A business might have other goals but if they do not make a profit they will have to close.
  • A business operating in a NHS market must cherry pick to make a profit otherwise it will have to close.
The last bullet point is rather simplified and does not take into account as to whether a business is a small local company or a large national or multi-national, nevertheless whether a business is large or small it will cherry pick - it would be foolish not to.

Anna :o]

Monday 13 June 2011

Common Cold Iradicated!

I have a summer cold - well no, I haven't really – I have it on good authority that I have flu.

Breezing into work last night rasping cough alerted all and sundry of my presence.   "Smokers cough!," was the initial jubilant observation.  (Doctors please note:  those who aren't medically inclined have observed that smokers are immune to any cough of whatever cause bar than that caused by the evil weed – research – there might be something in it!)

"No!  Well if I have I have a smoker's runny nose and a smoker's sneeze too!  I have a summer cold."

"Ah, flu."

"No, a summer cold."

They're the same thing."

"No they're not."

(This is an intellectual exchange that goes on for an eternity so I shall not report it in its entirety for fear you might develop information overload).
This mind numbing conversation happens often inside my workplace and often in the circles in which I am a mover and shaker – perhaps I exist in the wrong circles?   It seems that very few are aware of the existence of the common cold and every little sniffle, cough, sneeze or spike in temperature is an indication of flu, pure and simple.

One of my colleagues is more qualified than me, that is, dual trained in both general and mental health nursing.  She can 'do' auscultation (listen to and understand heart, lung and abdominal sounds), understand routine blood and urine specimen results and many other things way beyond my learning and comprehension and I admire and respect her and damn it, I even like her!

However, she is a firm believer in the 'cold and flu is the same thing' way of thinking.   She is adamant about it.   She is so confident that at the merest hint of a cold, she marches of to her docs, demands and gets antibiotics.

Same applies to our dear residents when she is in charge.  Handover will report "X showing flu symptoms, please observe closely, contact emergency services if required. For GP tomorrow."   Okay, the emergency services bit isn't really there – but I am certain she wants it to be.  I hate it if she is working days over the weekend as she will contact out of hours, speak to docs, insist they visit, be told (it) is at the bottom of the triage pile and (they) will visit within six hours. 

If they visit when this six hours runs into my shift – I am mortified with embarrassment as X sits there looking remarkably well as she stuffs cream cakes in her mouth while telling the doc to "F**k off!"  (Little sweet old ladies sometimes do this you know!).  Usually, but not always – sometimes pressing things get in the way - I will cancel the request.

Most of my friends and some family members – extended or otherwise – also do not appear to be aware of the existence of the common cold, they only get flu.   I do wonder whether this belief is localised to the geographic area in which I happily exist – or is it nationwide or even worldwide.

Or am I just more stupid than I think I am and the common cold was eradicated decades ago and I just missed out on this vital piece of information?  Can't think what I would have been doing.

"Atishoo!  Atishoo!  Atishoo!"

Does anyone out there ever catch a cold – or am I the only person left in the world that does?

Anna :o]

Wednesday 8 June 2011

Kind Donations

Like an old crones
Spell pantry
Specimen jars
Stand side by side,
Row on row.

A neonate stillborn,
Re-wombed in glass,
Plump grey cherub
Forever sleeping.

A solitary eye
No longer seeing,
Yet forever gazing
On myopathic heart
No longer beating.

Small fragments of life
Neatly stacked and labelled;
A pickled history
Of death and disease.

Altruism scooped from formalin;
A cadaver lays waiting
For the first incision.
The first cut made,
Hands wavering
With nervous hesitation),
The medical student acts
And opens up,
Opens up 
The chest cavity,
A treasure chest
Of learning

And here,
A scientist salutes
Then clinically detached
Detaches tissue
Slice by slice,
And slide by slide
He searches, keen eyed,
At microscopic level
For hidden codes,
Yearning to unravel,
Decipher disease;
A Eureka moment.

The  Human Tissue Authority                                                                 

This poem is dedicated to all who altruistically donate organs for transplantation and/or their body for medical research after death.  Not to be forgotten are those who donate tissue and organs while still living.

With thanks to Tess at Magpie Tales for the inspiration.

Anna :o]


Monday 6 June 2011

People, Patients, Privatisation, Profits and the NHS

This is going to be a lazy posts folks and you will have to do most of the work yourselves by reading the links provided.

During my break at work last night I was reading The Sunday Telegraph and The Observer - I like a balanced view, but am always suprised at the totally different entries in these two papers - it is as if they were written in two entirely different countries.

I read in The Telegraph that Dave is to commit to "five guarantees" on the future of the NHS in a speech on Tuesday, these are that he will promise to keep waiting lists low, keep care integrated, maintain spending, keep the health service "national" and not to privatise the NHS.

I also read of the plight of Southern Cross and more importantly the possible plight of the residents that dwell therein.  Southern Cross is a perfect example of greedy business - where profit is more important than people. 

I read in The Observer of doubts re the financal strength of Circle Health this being a troubled company that already has its finger in the NHS pie.

Not read in these papers - despite the PFI controversy, NHS trusts are still setting up deals.  The NHS will eventually pay more than £50bn for buildings worth just £11bn, plus there will be maintence charges on top.  You will be paying this through your taxes general public - but more so your children.  You will be paying this to private companies.

Must go to bed now folks so read and figure it out for yourselves.

Anna :o]

Link: It Could Be Fatal at Bad Medicine