Posts Tagged Health

Help give leukaemia a licking this Wednesday

It’s the time of year when people who aren’t religious often find their way into church – perhaps to buy charity Christmas cards, or for a carol service. Last night I was in the choir at St Mary Islington for our carols by candlelight, and it was lovely to see some unfamiliar faces there.

But now people are being invited to a local church for a very different reason. The family of Clerkenwell woman Rachel Baughen, who has leukaemia, are asking people to come along to St James Clerkenwell on Wednesday to see if they are compatible marrow donors for her. The Evening Standard has more about the appeal here.

What’s encouraging about this initiative is that it is using the new, less intrusive, saliva test rather than a blood test. So no matter how squeamish you are, it’s easy to get screened. Of course if you turn out to be a match, to Rachel or to anyone else on the register, then the donor process is rather more demanding. But how often do you get the chance to save someone’s life?

I shall be heading to St James Clerkenwell on Wednesday where the clinic is running from from noon to 2.30pm and 4.30pm to 7pm: perhaps I’ll see you there!

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Heart healthy, footsore – and happy

According to the Flora Heart Age calculator, my heart age is 1 year less than my actual age. Which I suppose is encouraging.

Cue that terrible old joke – she has the body of a younger woman, and they want it back….

But it does make me wonder about the rest of the package. Being out campaigning so much may keep me fit, but if my heart is younger, my feet are definitely feeling older.

Forget tennis elbow or housemaid’s knee: but I detect the emerging condition of campaigner’s shoulder, from carting leaflets and clipboards around; not to mention candidate’s wrist from writing at odd angles, fishing phones, pens and stickers out of the shoulder bag, and of course shaking hands. Still love it!

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Thank you for sharing

NHS cervical cancer screening is one of those rights I’m keen women should have, less keen to exercise myself.

But when my latest reminder arrived, I phoned within minutes and had my checkup within the week. Why? Well partly because of Jade Goody. Her openness about her terminal illness showed better than any public health campaign that cervical cancer is real and can kill if you don’t get checked regularly.

Choosing to share information about your health can help others: but sharing people’s health information without their permission can do the opposite. A new report from the Joseph Rowntree Reform Trust has found that women are not seeking help for post-natal depression from their GPs, because they are afraid the information will be shared with social services and they will be labelled bad mothers.

Talking of labelling, I’m now apparently a terrorist suspect because as a non-meat eater, I order vegetarian meals when I fly. (Vegetarian not vegan: I had one particularly grim airline breakfast of a rice cracker and some nauseating soya milk, while Richard tucked into egg, bacon and yoghurt next to me). Doubly-suspicious if you are born abroad, which makes Joanna Lumley public enemy number 1.

If you agree with me that this is barmy, there’s a Facebook group you can join here.

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40 questions on women’s policy

The Liberal Democrats have published a consultation paper on women’s policy, covering issues like sex, money and safety.

As a consultation paper it’s all about questions not answers.

The questions range from the big picture – Can women really ‘have it all’? Can men? What is ‘it’ anyway and is it worth the effort? – to some interesting specifics. For example, How can we best enable mature women to get back into the labour market after a long break? and What alternatives to prison might be appropriate for female offenders?

The party will be holding a consultative session at the Lib Dem spring conference in Harrogate next month. That in turn will feed into detailed policy proposals for the main conference in September. But you don’t have to go to conference, or even be a Lib Dem to have your say.

I’m seeking views from women (and men!) in Islington on the consultation paper, and will feed them all into the policy-making process. So please email me – and if you’d like me to organise a meeting with you or your group to discuss the ideas, just let me know.

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Spotlight on ‘Invisible Islington’

A new report from the Cripplegate Foundation – Invisible Islington – highlights the experiences of poor people in Islington, and the way different agencies are trying to tackle this.

Islington has far above average levels of lone parent households and of mental health problems. Both absolute and relative poverty are problems here: Islington has some of the most extreme polarisation between rich and poor in the country.

We already know about the health inequality in London, that GP services in poorer areas are underfunded, that half Islington’s children are growing up in poverty, and that 1 in 10 households are on waiting lists for affordable homes. It’s a terrible verdict on 11 years of Labour government, with Gordon Brown in Downing Street throughout. But the statistics don’t always have an impact the way individual stories do.

Cripplegate’s report covers real individuals in depth as well as looking at the policy headlines. It focuses on debt, unemployment and poor health as key problems – but also praises the crucial role family and close friends play in people’s lives. One reason why housing policies which keep family and community networks in place is so important in Islington.

Writing in the Evening Standard, Nick Cohen says:

“Around the corner from its Georgian terraces is some of the worst poverty in Western Europe: people of all colours who are crushed by debt and joblessness.

“The Cripplegate Foundation, which commissioned the study, dates back to 1500 and there is a medieval feel to the inner London it describes. On the one hand, we have super-gentrifiers in Barnsbury who are among the top earners on the planet. One hundred yards away in the King’s Cross estates are men with the lowest life expectancy in London.

“Perhaps we will soon feel more affinity with them. The chaos in the markets has made all but the most secure realise how precarious their wealth and status are, and how easy it could be to lose everything. Millions have had a reality check. About the only good thing that could come out of the crash is the realisation that poverty isn’t a joke.”

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Barts baby blues

Shocking news about the decline in maternity services at Barts and the London Hospital.

Generations of Islington and Finsbury kids were born at Barts, until the decision was taken to close its maternity and A&E services. The Tories closed Barts as a local community hospital for Islington, and Labour failed to restore it, breaking the promises Chris Smith MP made to local voters. Although the hospital serves parts of Islington, the maternity services are now over on the Royal London site in Tower Hamlets. We were told this was the best way to ensure modern high quality care for the 21st century.

The recent HealthCare Commission report shows the opposite. The report is based on responses from 26,000 women who gave birth in January and February 2007, making it the largest survey ever of maternity experience across the country. Women who gave birth at Barts & the London spoke of filthy wards, uncaring staff and the degrading practice of being put into stirrups to give birth; the hospital was rated the worst in the country for care throughout labour

Women in labour are not sick; providing a basic decent service should be simple in a well-funded health service. Instead, there is a shortage of midwives while billions of pounds have been wasted on bureaucracy. The cost of the new NHS computer system has already doubled – to an estimated £12.4bn. Many IT experts doubt that such a huge, centralised system can actually work. The Government has imposed private providers on parts of the NHS, at the same time as well-loved community hospitals are threatened with closure. Meanwhile health professionals face constant change for change’s sake, while local communities have no real say over the priorities for services in our area.

The Islington Gazette headline says it all: New mums rate Bart’s worst for labour care. Or is that lack of Labour care? It is time for the Labour government to stop letting down patients. They must live up to the promises they made; invest in essential health services; cut bureaucracy and waste; and listen to local people’s priorities for our NHS. Those are the demands of our SOS for the NHS campaign. Then perhaps women giving birth will have the clean, safe, respectful service they deserve.

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Ambulance chasing

Last night I met again with Jean Murphy and supporters. In July last year, Jean’s 15-year old daughter Kayleigh died following an epileptic fit. Jean called 999, and while Kayleigh was suffering, three different ambulances were dispatched. The first did not have a paramedic on board – only paramedics can administer the particular anti-convulsant drug Kayleigh needed; a second ambulance stopped to assist at a road traffic accident; the third had no paramedic either. By the time Kayleigh got to hospital it was too late; and this bright, bubbly, community-minded girl died.

Jean Murphy is a remarkable woman. She is determined that some good will come from Kayleigh’s death and her own unbearable loss. Jean is campaigning for all emergency ambulances to carry paramedics. She has my full support. Thousands of people have signed her petition. Now we need to keep up the profile of the campaign, and to keep pressure on the Government.

My fellow Lib Dem, Islington councillor Greg Foxsmith, has been supporting Jean in her campaign. Last night the Council’s Overview Committee received a report on the current performance of the London Ambulance Service (LAS) and the lessons learned from Kayleigh’s death.

To give credit where it’s due, the LAS is one of the best-performing Ambulance trusts in the country. I’ve met some of the ambulance crews; they are undoubtedly resourceful, brave and dedicated. And the service has introduced new policies since Kayleigh’s death – for example, better information on which crews are carrying paramedics – which may reduce the chance of similar tragedies in future. Another issue is whether non-paramedic ambulance crew should be allowed to administer the kind of powerful drugs which would have saved Kayleigh. The problem is that these drugs can have severe side-effects, so currently only the paramedics can treat patients with them. Which is why Jean is calling for all emergency ambulances to have a paramedic on board.

Responses are still coming in from my NHS survey, sent to thousands of residents across the Islington South & Finsbury constituency. One of the questions simply states: Some ambulances do not carry paramedics. Do you think all ambulance crews should include paramedics? Overwhelmingly, the answer is yes.

Islington residents back Jean’s campaign. The question is, will the Government?

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