Saturday, 30 November 2013

Bizarro World.


If that doesn’t do it nothing will.


Side effects, side effects.

Why aren’t there ever any good side effects?

Super powers, for example, would be good. The power of flight or X-ray vision or that burn-with-a-stare stare that Superman used.

Instead I always get Bizzaro-world side effects.

Elastic-Man and Remarkable Collapsing Man.

The Extraordinary Sleepman.

I’m being an ungrateful so and so.


Neil Harris

(a don’t stop till you drop production)
Normal service will be resumed as soon as possible.

Friday, 29 November 2013

Thanks, SkaSouls.

It’s been a very grim week – my poor old Mum in hospital and very ill. I’ve been keeping a sad vigil every day, unable to do anything to help, watching as things get worse.

This evening I cracked and had to get out – I went to see the SkaSouls down at the Riverside club in Staines.


Of course, I was never going to be in the mood for it even though they were on top, top form. It’s not just my poor Mum, I’m also unable to drink or dance. Well, I didn’t drink anyway.

It was a shame as the band had a great sound and put on a really tight performance. The brass section was better than ever and the reggae beat was stronger and sharper. I think they’ve all been rehearsing hard. They’ve certainly had a load of gigs recently, even pulling in a crowd of 500 at the Thorpe Park show, which I missed.

It was sad too because they are off to Brixton next week (Brixton Hootenanny on the 3rd) but I’m unlikely to be there. And I feel they are on the brink of making it big, which is always bittersweet for local fans.

While it couldn’t be a happy night for me, it was certainly happy for the crowd, dancing away to some fine Ska from the 60’s and from the 70’s revival.


In a way I’m glad I went – the new programme at the club isn’t really my kind of music although I suspect I may pop in sometimes.

So in many ways it was goodbye and thanks for some wonderful memories and my memories from the summer are good ones.
And what's to come? Two fingers to all that.   

Neil Harris

(a don’t stop till you drop production)

Thursday, 28 November 2013

Car Parking at Wexham Park Hospital, Slough.

At the end of the 1960’s/early 1970’s I was on holiday and took part in a ‘happening’, a last flowering of the counterculture of the 60’s. It was organised by a maverick artist and run by students from the local art college. It perplexed most people, as a young kid I loved it.

There were a series of rather provocative set pieces; I remember someone having a conversation down a pipe with an imaginary person ‘buried’ in the sandy beach. There were arty installations. It was great.

Best of all, in an era when ‘bingo’ was a mass entertainment, they had a bingo session on the beach. Free cards were handed out and almost fought for. About 50 people (including me) were avidly marking off the numbers as they were called by a solemn man in a dinner jacket and bow tie. My excitement mounted as I noticed that my card was filling up really quickly. I didn’t notice how hushed it had all got.

The last number was called and after a nanosecond looking at my card – I was leaping up and shouting ‘BING-GO!!.

The problem was that everybody else was doing exactly the same – we all had the same numbers.

I found it very funny – when I got over my initial disappointment. But a lot of other people (even though it was all free) got quite angry. Umbrellas (in those far off days people went to the beach well prepared for an English summer) were waived in anger at the bingo caller.

It all came back to me today, as it does every day I visit my poor old Mum at Wexham Hospital in Slough. Visiting starts at 2pm and there is a stampede of cars for a space like the race for a claim in a landrush.

We all drive in through the automatic barriers, taking a pay and display ticket from the machine. The only problem is that they always let in about 40 more cars than there are parking spaces for. So, we drive round and round an increasingly gridlocked carpark until in the end, one by one – we give up and leave.

It’s obviously a daily ritual because when I press the panic button on the exit barrier, the long-suffering controller of the car park just lets me out without paying.

Meanwhile on the road outside, there is a small amount of free parking – today there were three parking enforcement officers prowling like sharks, waiting to catch anyone who overstayed the time limit.

So all this week I haven’t been able to buy a parking space, had to park miles away and walk far too far to get in.

The private contractor of this fiasco has a motto on the barrier machine;

     Make a difference

So I checked out some information about the parking and where the money goes, the interesting bits are towards the end of this Freedom of Information request made by someone more annoyed than me, last year.

What is most relevant (apart from the lack of any mention of the amount of profit made from us by the private contractor) is that the rest of the money that staff and patients have to pay actually goes to paying for security at the Hospital.

And there we were thinking that all that money went to help patients. I suspect that similar applies to every hospital.

Car parking

 Date:  9 Oct 2012

 FOI Ref No:  919

We are writing in response to your FOI request dated 21 September.

Taking your questions in turn;

1.Please provide us with a list of your Trust’s car parks (including those for each hospital within the Trust) and the charges for each one.


The car parks are at both Heatherwood Hospital and Wexham Park Hospital. The charges are the same for both sites.


Parking Charges


Time Charge


Up to 1 hour £1.00


Up to 2 hours £2.00


Up to 3 hours £4.00


Up to 5 hours £5.00


Over 5 hours £10.00


Free parking will be provided for:


· Mothers of babies in the Neonatal Unit who are coming in frequently to feed;


· One parent of any child in for Haematology or Oncology treatment;


· Patients attending hospital on a daily basis for Chemotherapy or other treatment;


· One parent who has to stay overnight with a child.


Half price parking will be provided for:


· One parent of any child in hospital for longer than 48 hours;


· One relative of any patient in ITU.


In each case only one validation per patient is allowed (i.e. for the mother or the father of a child whose stay is longer than 48 hours).


It is recognised by the Trust that exceptional circumstances outside those listed above may arise. In these events a judgment will be made by the Head of Security or the Security Manager in consultation with the ward or departmental manager.


The Heatherwood and Wexham Park NHS Foundation Trust follows the Department of Health (2006) guidance on income generation. Revenue received from car parking pays for the security services and police within the Trust necessary for the protection of patients, visitors and staff.

1.Please also clarify who is responsible for managing each of the car parks; if not the Trust or individual hospital(s) please give the name of the Company/Individual.


The Trust manage the car parks but the Trust has contracted CP Plus who is responsible for the day to day running of the car parks and security

1.Please clarify when the fees for each car park were introduced.


Patient parking was introduced in approx 1994/5. Staff parking charges were introduced in 2011

(section on previous lower fees edited out by me)

1.Are fees the same for staff, visitors and patients? If not, please provide a breakdown of the different charges applicable to those three groups, including details of any discounts made available to patients, visitors or staff.


Patients and visitors charges are the same, documented on above (and on the Trust public website). Any discounts are also as stated above and on the Trust public website. Staff who are granted car parking permits pay 1% of salary.

1.How much money has been generated in total, per year, since January 2009 from parking fees paid by patients, visitors and staff, for using the Trust’s car park(s)?


The revenue raised from staff parking in 2011-12 was £559k (plus £93K from bus revenue). The revenue from patient parking was £742k in 2011-12

1.If the car park is not managed by the Trust or the individual hospital(s), how much of the total money generated from parking fees paid by patients, visitors and staff, was paid to the Company/Individual managing the car park?


For clarity;


Staff parking fees were spent in the following ways;


£437k of the money raised from staff car parking permits was spent in the following ways;


Staffing, operation and Management of the Travel Plan office

 Bus service WP1

 Two full time security officers in the car parks


CCTV and camera maintenance for the staff car parks

 Capital works associated with the car parks e.g. improved lighting and CCTV, staff showers for cyclists, cycle stands, lining of car parks

 Changes to car parking areas associated with the travel plan


We also assist staff who sign up for a salary sacrifice bus pass a contribution for local bus service/routes via the organisation that administers the bus pass service, so that individuals payments are more closely in line with car parking charges.


The differential between what is spent on the above services and what is raised by way of staff car parking permits is placed in reserve for major capital spends such as replacement of the barriers systems, re-design to maximise parking spaces etc, these schemes only occur every few years and we build a fund to pay for them.


Patient parking fees were spent in the following ways


The Trust has a contract with CP Plus to manage security and the car parking on both sites. Patient parking fees pay for this contract and for additional security that covers the whole hospital as well as the car park. It also pays for payment machines and maintenance of car parking barriers etc.

Well I’m sure that cheers us all up.

Neil Harris

(a don’t stop till you drop production)

Wednesday, 27 November 2013

Wexham Park Hospital - the feud goes on.

Here’s an update on the feud at Wexham Park Hospital, Slough. I have to say, as a daily visitor, that none of this is spilling out onto the wards.

And at least there is some whistleblowing going on there;

26 Nov 2013

Slough Observer

THE chief executive of a crisis-hit hospital is reassuring doctors and patients they 'should have no fear’ using its services after alleged blunders and feuds were exposed.


THE chief executive of a crisis-hit hospital is reassuring doctors and patients they 'should have no fear’ using its services after alleged blunders and feuds were exposed.

Philippa Slinger, chief executive of the Heatherwood and Wexham Park Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust, is reported to have said she fears there will be a boycott by local GPs frightened to refer patients to the Slough hospital, in an email leaked to a national newspaper.


It follows claims last week a 'race row’ had erupted at Wexham Park Hospital after a letter from top consultants to health watchdogs, Monitor and the Care Quality Commission, outlining 'a number of issues’ was also leaked. The letter is reported to claim that patients’ lives are being lost because errors made by white doctors are being covered up, while those made by ethnic minority doctors are highlighted.


The letter was sent only weeks after a probe, by medical investigations firm InPractice, into a 14-year feud between doctors at the trust uncovered 48 cases of possible harm to patients went unchecked.

Speaking to The Midweek, Ms Slinger said: “I think the way the story has been covered in the Mail on Sunday could lead to patients feeling more fearful than they need to about the care our surgeons provide.


“The difficulty is that if we have selective press coverage that perhaps doesn’t give the balanced view that the InPractice report gave, the danger is that people start to worry more than they need to and GPs get more worried than they need to.”

She added: “We would like to say that we have no concerns about the surgeons in that report. The reality is that if you look at the health outcomes we do incredibly well and we have good mortality rates and medical treatment has proven to be very good. The matters discussed were many years ago that needed to be completed and finished off. People should have no fears in using our doctors and our consultants.”

Last week, a Monitor spokesman told The Midweek’s sister publication The Observer, it is the 'process of investigating the issues raised’ in the letter.

The trust has been in huge debt, totalling around £13.5m last year. A damning CQC report on Wexham Park Hospital, published in July, found the hospital was 'failing to protect the welfare of patients’.

Neil Harris

(a don’t stop till you drop production)

Tuesday, 26 November 2013

Two hospitals, no music.

Oh dear. I should be writing about a great night at my jazz club enjoying another stunning performance from Alan Barnes – standing room only. Loading photos over a low bandwidth (will it never go through?).

Unfortunately someone else will have had my seat. I had to go to Charing Cross Hospital, to start a new and very expensive course of treatment. I don’t have too many hopes about that.

Long delays and problems. Not least, the hospital has privatised its pharmacy. I could make a nasty remark about how the profit making pharmacy took longer than the old NHS pharmacy (it did) but it’s complicated by what I was being given and how it was being paid for, as well as other things which made it out of the ordinary.

But I also had a series of great conversations with other patients and learnt a lot about the NHS from them. I also marvelled at how a caring Sister and her staff dealt with the huge queues of people when all the Doctors were held up in traffic – they came round with hot drinks and kind words. The atmosphere melted.

It didn’t end there – this was an appointment I couldn’t cancel – I’d finished my old treatment a week ago and needed to start the new one. I also desperately needed another medication. So there was no alternative. Well there was, but not one with a happy ending. I also had people to see who have always gone the extra mile for me.

Unfortunately, that meant leaving my 94 year old Mum with her Doctor who had just called for an ambulance to take her to Wexham Park Hospital.

So not a happy day. There’s me in Hammersmith, her in Slough. And my blood pressure was going through the roof.

I got back home at 7pm to do an injection, grab a slice of toast and get off to the second hospital of the day to see my Mum. I was shattered.

Now it’s the next morning.

Had a relaxed breakfast and I’m chillin’ on the net.

If I wasn’t worrying about my Mum, it would be like a holiday. Thinking about all the people who made a special effort for us yesterday.

Neil Harris

(a don’t stop till you drop production)

Monday, 25 November 2013

Congratulations! St. Peter's Accident and Emergency wins a prize.


Congratulations St. Peters Accident and Emergency, you got a prize for third place.

This article from The Daily Telegraph is a review of the waiting time figures for Accident and Emergency departments around the country over the last year.

And here are the results (in reverse order);

In third place; Ashford and St Peter’s A and E won its prize for keeping a patient waiting 33 hours on a trolley.

They were only beaten by waits of 37 hours and the champion record holder who made a patient sweat it out on a trolley for over 71 hours.

By Miranda Prynne, News Reporter

12 Nov 2013

Around 12,000 patients spent at least 12 hours lying on trolleys after being

admitted to A&E last year, according to new figures


A further 250 people waited for treatment in casualty wards for 24 hours or

more, a Freedom of Information request revealed.


One person was left for 71 hours and 34 minutes, nearly three days, at North

West London trust, which runs Northwick Park and Central Middlesex A&E



In another shocking case a patient waited 37 hours at Royal Liverpool and

Broadgreen A&E while a third was left for 33 hours at Ashford and St Peter’s in

Chertsey, Surrey.


Health campaigners claimed the figures were more evidence of the growing crisis in hospitals’ emergency wards.

The figures came as the government received a warning that the closure of 50 out of 230 NHS walk-in centres in the last three years was putting extra strain on A&E units.

Speaking to the Daily Mail, Roger Goss, of Patient Concern, said: “Patients who

are forced to spend that length of time on trolleys will be in a far worse state than when they arrived.

“People feel they have nowhere else to go. They can’t get an appointment with

their GP and their out-of-hours service – NHS 111 – tells them to go to A&E.”


Peter Carter, of the Royal College of Nursing, said patients left waiting on

trolleys would be “in distress”.  He said: “The types of people on the trolleys for days are the elderly.  “These are the people who go to the back of the queue. While they are in distress and discomfort.”


Medical experts have already issued several warnings of a looming winter crisis

in A&E departments, which are dealing increased patient numbers and staff


The newly released waiting times for 2012/13 showed the situation in accident

and emergency departments was getting “worse and worse”, campaigners claimed.

Dr Cliff Mann, president of the College of Emergency Medicine, said: “It’s not chaos in emergency departments, but it is a crisis.” He claimed that this winter would “probably be worse than last winter, which was the worst we have ever had”.


The College of Emergency Medicine yesterday revealed more than half of

specialist registrar posts in A&E have been left vacant over the past three

years, with many doctors moving to other specialities or going abroad.


David Cameron has demanded weekly updates on the situation in A&E units as the government discussed plans to free up beds in private hospitals where necessary to ease A&E overcrowding.

Of course, it’s not the exceptional waits like these that are the problem. The waits of over 4 hours but under 12 are much more common and pretty grim too. You can check those figures (for St. Peter’s) out on my ‘pages’ section under ‘waiting times crisis’

Neil Harris

(a don’t stop till you drop production)

Sunday, 24 November 2013

Heatherwood and Wexham NHS Trust -more bad news.

Another battle lost.

Heatherwood and Wexham NHS trust is the next door trust to Ashford and St. Peter’s. I know it well; my parents off and on were patients there. Once all the hospitals in the group were all separate ‘town’ hospitals but they got merged together into one big trust – for ‘efficiency’.

Now it’s bankrupt, losing money every year. The solution is the same old one. You cut services and merge units and then hope to free up the most valuable premises to sell them off to plug the gaping hole in the accounts.

So, for much of this year there has been a lively local campaign winning over 25000 petitioners trying to save Heatherwood Hospital.

This Hospital was set up during the First World War to rehabilitated wounded soldiers. It was built in the country and actually encloses an ancient Tumulus from the Stone Age and a small group of trees. It’s pretty, a good place to be.

In the 1930’s it was converted into a TB hospital. In an age before anti-biotics it was thought that country air would cure TB. It’s still constructed with separate wards, joined by open air, roofed ‘corridors’ lined with glass for the TB patients to be moved to the sun.

The tragedy is that it became part of a bigger group with financial problems. The battle has been to prevent the closure of its Minor Injuries Unit (which in turn replaced its Accident and Emergency when that was shut).  Unfortunately, that will go to Bracknell.

Maternity goes and also the valuable Rehabilitation Unit – where my mum in her late 80’s stayed getting well enough to go home after breaking her ankle. It will become the base for the unit which gets elderly people home earlier.

Of course, everyone knows this is just the preliminary to shutting the whole hospital and selling off the valuable land (keeping a small building to do expensive private work for the wealthy of the area).

The problem the campaign always had was that Slough (where Wexham is) was never sympathetic to wealthy Ascot. Yet it was Slough patients who got to benefit from the hospital in the country.

Now the next plan is to merge the whole trust with Frimley, which is on the other side of Ashford and St. Peter’s. You can expect even more closures and longer journeys for treatment.

If I was in St. Peter’s I’d start worrying that this ‘super trust’ would have its eyes on gobbling up Ashford and St. Peter’s as well and having a real carnival of cuts. I’m not even going to start guessing at which hospitals could go – I don’t want to give anyone ideas.

The local campaign fights on but the Council has given up and is supporting the merger plans.

Neil Harris

(a don’t stop till you drop production)

Saturday, 23 November 2013

The Punk horses.

Friday afternoon and I just had to get out of the house. In a way I’m glad I did, in another way it was sad.

I walked far too far, I went to where the wild horses live. It was beautiful day, cold and sunny with a harsh wind from the north. The kind of day to put on your walking boots and stride into the wind.

This summer during some quite bad times I befriended a tribe of Punk Horses. They are semi-wild, someone owns them but they roam free over a site of ‘special scientific interest’. This is protected land that was once a gravel pit/quarry that was reclaimed when it was filled with rubbish. The horses were brought in a few years ago to change the ecology – eating brambles and trees and ploughing the land up with their hooves to encourage wild flowers.

I’d had nothing to do with tame horses before let alone these fighters and I was always wary, so it was a struggle for me to befriend them. I learnt not to fear them and with some difficulty they learnt not to fear me. We became friends.

They were rough and tough – they bite each other and fight. And although it was hard work getting to know them it was rewarding and therapeutic as well.

I’ve not been there for a long time, it’s too far now, and it’s been poor weather.

Friday I made it back. Made my way through deep mud, got messy and tired out. Muddy boots, muddy jeans. In the end walking far further than I meant to.

My friends have vanished too, especially the one with a scarred forehead who used to run over to see me. The only horses left are a few of this year’s foals, now acting like teenagers, fighting and messing about. Just like this spring – punk horses. Yet they recognised me and came up to me for carrots, as they’d seen their parents do.

I fear for what’s happened to my friends. The best I can hope for is that they were sold on. It could well be worse. That, I’m afraid, is life if you are a horse these days.

They did have an idyllic summer; of beautiful sun, ripe blackberries, warm evenings. I know, I really enjoyed it myself even though I had hard times as well.

As I was coming back, I came across this line of wooden posts, recently hammered in and painted bright orange. They lead in the direction of Heathrow Airport and its control tower.

Roughly, they mark out the new runway proposed by the airport which will cut through two reservoirs, the 10 lane section of the M25 Motorway and the site of special scientific interest where the Punk Horses live. It will cut the village where I grew up in two and end just in front of where the Magna Carta was signed over 800 years ago on land owned and protected by the National Trust on either side of the River Thames.

The desire of mankind to destroy and rape the world around us for the sake of profit never ends, like a thirst that will never be satisfied, an itch that can never be scratched. Sadly, it’s a battle I’m not able to fight and won’t see the end of. One day, long after I’m gone, people like me will start winning a few of these battles again – really we will.

Neil Harris

(a don’t stop till you drop production)

Friday, 22 November 2013

Bad thoughts.

Thursday was a day of guilty thoughts. I’m entitled to have bad thoughts, just like anyone else. I think it’s all down to lack of live music. And alcohol.

I paid a visit to a nearby town where you will find the offices of a former employer of mine. They were rotten employers – they treated me very badly – as they did most of their staff.

They also had a change of strategy. Instead of having 17 offices as they did when I joined them, they slimmed down to only two branches at the time they got rid of me. They also got rid of all their poor and vulnerable clients, the kind of people I represented.

Then soon they were down to just one luxury office in an upmarket area, to concentrate on their wealthy clients.

Then a fortnight ago they had a fire, no one was hurt. It looks like it was an electrical fire, starting in the basement. That’s a shame.

I passed by them today and cast a look across the street. So sad. I did think of having a collection for them on the high street.

They are held in such high regard by their former clients and the large army of their former employees that people would soon be queuing up to contribute money to them, I’m sure.

Better thoughts tomorrow, hopefully.

Neil Harris

(a don’t stop till you drop production)

Thursday, 21 November 2013

Introducing my new hhhhhhomburg.

Back in May I was warned I was about to do Chemotherapy and that started an urgent hunt for a suitable hat – it’s a fairly important style accessory; ‘Cancer Chic’.

Had lots of fun with all that, ending up finally with burning an old and much disliked hat in July. Good days (or at least moments) in bright sunshine. Just in time and by accident I found a really good hat in a charity shop. Even better, I got given a little more time and so the time for wearing it got put back.

Since then I’ve been keeping that hat for best, wearing a rather elderly and battered (very suitable you might think) ‘Porkpie’ hat. It’s been to loads of concerts with me and has been subject to various offers, including offers to buy it and attempts to steal it.

It’s a tough job, wearing a cool hat.

Now sadly, it has seen better days (also like me, you may think).

Unfortunately chemo-day is now approaching again. Today, I had run away to escape from my troubles and wandered into some charity shops on my way to

Caffe nero


and I found another brand new Uni-qlo hat. This time a hhhhh-Homburg (not ideal but not as bad as a dreadful Trilby) and only £3-99!

So the Porkpie hat goes into semi-retirement, only to appear again at Ska time!

And once again I am ready for anything.

Neil Harris

(a don’t stop till you drop production)

Wednesday, 20 November 2013


p Well, I was getting worried that the agency wasn’t gender neutral but now that I’ve been issued with this new suit I feel that they are finally taking me seriously………

Neil Harris

(a don’t stop till you drop production)

Tuesday, 19 November 2013

I was dreading April in New York.

There are some good Doctors, I thanked a good one on Monday morning.

Monday evening and I was watching another one – Art Themen, retired orthopaedic surgeon. There was nothing retired about his Saxophone work.
Monday night was always going to be quiet, we clashed with a tribute to Stan Tracey at The 100 club. All the greats of British modern jazz were there including Peter King and Cleo Laine. We also lost our bass player and were lucky to have Steve Watts take over.

This really was Thelonious Monk night with loads of his numbers starting with a bright and sparky ‘I mean you’.

A couple of tunes later and we had a treat from Henry Lowther on trumpet, playing his own composition ‘Mataya Sleeps’, dedicated to a neice who was asleep while he wrote it. More Monk closed off the first set – ‘4 in 1’.

The second set brought us a Henry Lowther solo on a beautifully played ballad; ‘It never entered my mind’, and then Art Themen took over but with a seguĂ© into ‘April in New York’. I’d caught sight of the music and was dreading this sad and sentimental song. I didn’t need that on Monday, not after hearing bad news, but I was lucky to hear it torn apart and then reassembled without any fake sentimentality.

There were a few familiar Art Themen setpieces; Dexter Gordon’s ‘For regulars only’ and a Clifford Brown blues to finish giving John Donaldson a chance to shine on piano. It was still a great night of modern jazz from the greats, played on a quiet Monday night.

I should add that Stan Tracey was for many years the house pianist at Ronnie Scott’s and in that role he accompanied the greats of the jazz world. I remember seeing him several times in the early 1980’s, entertaining another local club, with some fairly experimental jazz.

Neil Harris

(a don’t stop till you drop production)

Monday, 18 November 2013

Not the best of Mondays.

Oh dear, that was a tough few weeks to get through and then down at the Monday clinic I Iost on penalties and got relegated as well.

And the Big band booked on Thursday has cancelled.

So, not the best of Mondays.

This Blog and my campaign now has a very definite end in sight.

First of all I’ve got to try to get the Parliamentary Ombudsman to take an interest in my case and while there are a few other options left there aren’t so many.

When time is short you have to move fast. And I need to move really fast. I now realise the Hospital stalled me and unfortunately at the times when I was ill I let them get away with it.

Right now?

Well tonight it’s going to be an appointment with Art Themen and his saxophone down at the Jazz club and then restored I’ll be back in the fight.

Neil Harris

(a don’t stop till you drop production)