Tuesday, 31 March 2015

We want beer!

This isn't really my problem; I'm just desperate to get out.
Cabin fever.
When I got back from the café on Sunday I was in agony. It took me all of Monday to get over it. I'm not really.
Outside the spring weather is sunny and invigorating; watching it from a chair is painful.
Indoors I'm driving Robyn mad and (horror) I've ended up watching daytime TV.
This has to end!
Meanwhile, as a result of my lengthy review of the two main parties NHS election promises, my readership has disintegrated.
I don't care; it's important.
Neil Harris
(a don't stop till you drop production)

Monday, 30 March 2015

Election review.

It’s election time – and that means that (only once in every five years) the politicians are making us promises.

Once upon a time they used to make ludicrous promises that were never kept. Nowadays they don’t promise very much at all.

I suppose it’s time to compare what’s on offer.

The first problem is that both Labour and the Tories have already promised that they are going to cut public debt while at the same time they have guaranteed that taxes aren’t going to go up.

Obviously that isn’t going to work out; services will have to be cut.

Basically, someone is going to have to bite the bullet and increase taxes for those who are best able to afford to pay. Until then we aren’t going to get anywhere.

So here are the promises.

The Labour Party is committed to;

“An NHS with the time to care”

Certainly, there has been a problem with staff being alienated and undervalued at the lower end of the pay scales.

The promises?

“We will build an NHS with the time to care: 20,000 more nurses and 8000 more G.P’s. We will join up services from home to hospital, and guarantee GP appointments within 48 hours and cancer tests within one week.”

Well, these limited promises are easily affordable: they just don’t go far enough.

There is a national shortage of GP’s already, we need a national programme to train new Doctors and we need to ensure that they stay within the NHS when they qualify.

The ‘walk-in centre’s’ created by the last Labour government were a runaway success – hated by the profession and (unfortunately) based on private, profit making suppliers. We need a new tier of large NHS owned polyclinic walk in centres; local and staffed by Doctors and Nurses, offering a full range of preventative treatments including chiropody etc.

The increase in Nurses is welcome – most of the Accident and Emergency problems in Hospitals are caused by a lack of beds on the wards which means a queue for treatment.

More Nurses = more beds = better outcomes.

The problem is that with shift patterns, training and sickness; 20,000 more Nurses is only equivalent to about 4000 Nurses working at any one time.

At 8 beds to one nurse that means about 32000 beds nationally.

Unfortunately, the real cost of beds is much higher – the dirty work is done by a small army of care assistants and they also cost money too.

We also have a shortage of trained Nurses to deal with.

Cancer tests? We need more screening to bring us up to European and American survival rates.

My verdict?

It’s OK but it’s not enough – we need a lot more resources and more ambitious plans; to start with lower level staff have been on a pay freeze for far too long.

The Conservatives.

So far, the only pledge has been 24 hour hospital treatment by 2020.

It’s a very clear pledge and an important one – mortality rates and outcomes get much worse at the weekends when consultants are at home or treating private patients leaving trainee Doctors are left to fend for themselves.


The Tories aren’t telling us what it would cost, where the Doctors are coming from and how they are going to pay for it.

The BMA has calculated a cost of £8 Billion – other commentators believe it will be much more.

We currently have 5 day week working except for Accident and Emergency; at a simplistic level you can add two sevenths to the wages bill.

Actually, with diagnostics and consumables it would be a lot more.

And it probably isn’t what we need.

Right now, no one needs their planned operation done at the weekend. No one needs a routine appointment then either.

This is all about Emergency medicine.

What’s needed is a properly staffed A and E (including consultants) 7 days a week. We need to take Major Trauma, Stroke and Cardiac units away from local hospitals and centralise them in regional units large enough to support 7 day week working at all levels and able to provide all staff with a proper work life balance.

The London experience has shown that closing stroke units and centralising them has saved lives and improved outcomes. More skilled, specialised staff in centralised units creates a collegiate atmosphere with cover for time off.

Everyone benefits.

A and E’s don’t work if they can’t get the scans or the blood test done; we need round the clock diagnostics too.

This is a right wing agenda – a simplistic campaign from The Daily Mail and The Telegraph over the last few years. Broadly it’s unachievable without massive privatisation and a further damaging NHS reorganisation which no one needs.

The past record of the parties.

The Conservatives

Over the last 5 years, the Tories increased health spending but did not keep up with developments in new medicines and treatments, they froze wages and allowed a general deterioration in services.

The NHS is now running up a deficit of at least £800 million a year which is unsustainable.

Morale, premises and patient outcomes are all deteriorating. The NHS is in a worse place than it has been for 20 years.

On the positive side, Jeremy Hunt reacted to health scandals by improving the investigation and regulation of the medical profession to try and reduce the problems in future; it looks like it may be working.


The 1997/2010 governments inherited an NHS which had been underfunded and neglected by the previous Tory governments. It was in a dangerous condition.

It’s fair to say that they threw money at it – they increased the pay of Doctors dramatically without getting anything in return. The notorious contracts are still being paid for.

Beds continued to be scrapped, privatisation was brought in and they left all control and regulation up to the medical profession.

Serious health scandals and patient deaths and mistreatment resulted.


What do I want?

An end to the pay freeze.

An end to privatisation for profit.

A guaranteed, above inflation annual increase in NHS spending.

Walk in polyclinics within easy reach of all, open 14 hours a day.

Local A and E’s with 24 hour cover.

Centralised emergency units for Major Trauma, Stroke and Cardiac treatment.

Early screening for cancers.

Am I going to get any of that?

Eh no.

My backing goes to Labour but we need to pressure them into some real commitments during the campaign.

Neil Harris

(a don’t stop till you drop production)

Sunday, 29 March 2015

Boredom, Boredom; Bdom, Bdom.

I'm not responding very well to life as an invalid - after my trip to hospital I spent a day doing nothing and it didn't really help.
So today I got dressed and after lunch we went to Caffé Nero.
We're just chillin', listening to some sounds and noodling on the net.
It's really nice but if I'm honest its been a fairly painful experience.
At this rate I'm going to have to start writing some serious articles about the NHS and the election promises that are now being made.
You have been warned!
Neil Harris
(a don't stop till you drop production)
This is a Jamie Reid image produced for The Sex Pistols in the good old days, whenever that was.

Saturday, 28 March 2015

World of pain.

Friday and I went out of the house for the first time in 10 days. That was when I last went to Charing Cross hospital and ended up in agony afterwards.

I’ve walked to the rubbish bin and when it was sunny I’d stand at the front door. Oh, I did take photos of narcissi for this Blog.

That hurt.

Today was different.

We left early and drove to Egham so that I could get some cash. Then, as I was already having problems, Robyn paid my car tax for me. That was an achievement.

Then I drove up to Hounslow west where I’d normally park for free and walk over to the Tube to catch a train.

This time I paid a fortune to park (I know, I know, I’m not well) right by the station.

Then we didn’t get the tube – last time I didn’t cope so well with the stairs, the crowds or the walking.

We hit the bus. Last time it was quick and fairly smooth with good seats.….this time we got an irritating driver who kept us waiting so long before he started that the next bus came along and left before him. That was the bus we should have caught.

He hit every pothole and whenever he saw someone at a bus stop he’d accelerate up to it and then slam on the brakes at the last minute.

After about 5 minutes I was in agony.

After half an hour I was screaming.

He also managed to find a mad person to pick a fight with, so for the first half of the journey I was dreading that he’d call the police and we’d be stuck at the side of the road for an hour.

Then the walk from Hammersmith to the hospital – I’d had enough of busses by then.

We made it – just about.

I had my MRI scan, which was fine.

Until it came to getting off the machine which I found was nearly impossible.

And really, really painful.

The journey home was better – even if I was walking at the speed of a bored slug. To be honest I felt like a bored slug.

But the traffic was light and our bus sailed back in half the time.

I managed to drive back and Robyn picked up a Chinese Takeaway on the way home to celebrate.

It took from 2-30 in the afternoon to 8-30 at night. By about 4-00 I was dreaming of getting home and collapsing in a chair.

World of pain.

So I’m afraid there aren’t any photos this time – it was a tough day.

Nice to make it through though.

Neil Harris
[since I wrote this I've realised it might be misleading - I don't get the result of the scan for some time]

(a don’t stop till you drop production)

Friday, 27 March 2015

Fighting on.

Big day today – I’m off up to London to have my MRI scan.

I haven’t been anywhere for 10 days; after my last trip there I was in big trouble…..it was agony.

Luckily it’s in the afternoon and I’ve got a chance to get myself together for that.

It’s a nightmare week in a nightmare month.

Everything is going wrong – my car needed its MOT test done and the tax paid for the year.

I couldn’t risk driving it. I am eternally grateful to Wraysbury Autos who came and picked it up, nursed it through its test (it needed some medical help like I do) and then brought it back to me.

It’s crazy; you can’t pay your tax on the car without the MOT…..nightmare. Now all I’ve got to do is get to a Post Office to pay up.

Everyday I’m reminded how impossible any of this would be without the support of my partner Robyn.

And, of course, she is facing the threat of deportation.

We are trying to work out how we could ever get to see each other again if that actually happens. With my need for medical treatment that’s going to be really hard.

We fight on.

Neil Harris

(a don’t stop till you drop production)

Thursday, 26 March 2015

Live the life you have.

I've been a bit depressed recently and to cheer me up Catherine may sent me this, with the message "Live the life you have".

She's absolutely right and that was the way I saw things.

I have to admit it's been harder to see things that way recently.

Neil Harris
(a don't stop till you drop production)

Home:  helpmesortoutstpeters.blogspot.com

Contact me:  neilwithpromisestokeep@gmail.com

Wednesday, 25 March 2015

Public Enema Number One.

It’s never too late to start again,

to go on the run,

just tell me when.


I’ll head for the hills,

if I can still get my pills.

Take my chances

with the Sundances.


I know,

I’ll be the Al Capone

Of the old peoples home.


When I do that last bank

remind me to take my shooter

and recharge the battery

on my mobility scooter.


They tell me Bolivia is good;

where the banks are easy

for an old hood.


We’ll be Bonnie and Clyde

with no place to hide.

I’ll be the Dillinger

of the Community centre.

What have I become?

Public Enema Number One.


It’s just that when the feds finally get me

“The Man too Dangerous to Hold”

I’ll need a cell that’s wheelchair friendly

an electric stairlift and a commode.

Neil Harris

(a don’t stop till you drop production)

Tuesday, 24 March 2015

My first chance of seeing spring.

You don't know how tough it was to take this picture - today I got dressed for the first time in 6 days. And while I went to the bin just outside the front door yesterday (in my dressing gown) this was the first time I'd been out since last Tuesday.
So, while isn't the best picture in the world (it hurt, I can tell you) it's my first taste of spring.
They are Tete á Tete narcissi. they get their name because their heads nod together in the wind, as though they are talking.
And today I got the date of my MRI scan - Friday. No idea how I'm going to make that.....but I will. Dr Feelgood got me that really quick.
The sad thing is that Art Themen, just about the best modern jazz saxophonist we have, is making a rare visit to my Jazz club and I had to miss it. Last week was just too painful.
It's sad because always used to celebrate my survival by making it in to see him.
I've got lot's of battles ahead of me - I have to pick my fights carefully.
Neil Harris
(a don't stop till you drop production)

Monday, 23 March 2015

My Lost Weekend.

I’m not sure where the last three days went – certainly nothing happened.

The first thing that didn’t happen was the solar eclipse – we were up and waiting with a pinhole camera ready. I don’t know how I’d have got outside to see it but I would have made it somehow.

It never happened for us – complete cloud cover. We saw it go dark but as it was a dreary cloudy day it wasn’t as dramatic as it would have been if it was a sunny day.

Then it got light again.


It was a lot better in 1999. At least Robyn will get a chance to see one in a few years time.

Second; my Blog didn’t happen. I’d run out of data on my dongle and I can’t get out of doors now; Robyn managed to top it up today. Meanwhile we’re trying to work out some broadband. Not so simple, I can tell you.

Third? I didn’t happen.

Since Tuesday I’ve been stuck in an armchair unable to get about. It’s hard getting used to being an invalid when spring is finally happening.

It’s been a long hard winter and I could do with some sunshine on my face.

Neil Harris

(a don’t stop till you drop production)

Friday, 20 March 2015

The end of Strummerville.

I’ve just had a bust up with The Joe Strummer Foundation for New Music and it’s been quite upsetting.

If you go on their Facebook page you can check out all the arguments, including mine. It’s connected with the page advertising their gala fundraising night at Canary Wharf last night.

I’m not a fan of charity – most things should be done by the State with the money coming from those most able to pay through their taxes.

The problem with charity is that it’s usually those with the least money who contribute most.

However, I supported Strummerville and intended to do more; they provide seed money to organisations that support youngsters getting into music, usually when they are in difficult situations or places. Some of the bands reviewed on my Blog have been financed this way.

It was also to commemorate the astonishing life and times of Joe Strummer of The Clash; a dyed in the wool punkrocker who was carried to his rest on the back of a fire engine after playing his last concert as a benefit for striking firefighters.

How inappropriate is this, then;

Date: 19/03/2015 Time: 6:30 pm - 2:00 am

Address: Cabot Place, London, United Kingdom

Spring Dinner in aid of The Joe Strummer Foundation


We are very pleased to announce a fundraising Gala Spring Dinner at the prestigious Boisdale of Canary Wharf. This is a high-ticket event and we know that some people will be out-priced to attend the event but the objective of this Gala Dinner to raise much needed funds for the Joe Strummer Foundation – we’ll be posting the auction items soon, and you can help us by spreading the word and sharing this post, thank you!


Alongside great performances from MIKE D’ABO singing Handbags and Gladrags and after dinner JOOLS HOLLAND & HIS BOOGIE WOOGIE SHOW with Axel Zwingenberger and Ben Waters the highlight of evening will be The Great Rock’n’Roll Memorabilia Auction and after the auction as a special treat there will be guest star appearances from MICK JONES • SUGGS • CHRISSIE HYNDE

Auction contributions from:

Coldplay, Elton John, Chelsea Football Club, One Direction, Nick Mason of Pink Floyd, Tracey Emin, The Vaccines, Glastonbury, Pam Hogg, Peter Blake, Mumford & Sons, Shepard Fairey, Bentley, Fender Telecaster, Manfred Mann, Richard Young, Death Spray, Bob Gruen, Burberry, Stephen Webster, Belstaff, Josh Cheuse, Kate Simon, Denis O’Regan, Gavin Turk, Jim Lambie and many more to come…

Ticket Types:

*Please note table sizes for this event are 14+ if you are not buying an entire table you will be seated with other guests.

VIP tickets: The best view of the stage & Piper-Heidsieck Rare Millésime 2002 £500

 Premium tickets: Very good view of the stage & Piper-Heidsieck Rare Millésime 2002 £375

 Standard tickets: View of the stage £250 SOLD OUT

If I’d been well enough and rich enough to go, you wouldn’t have been seen me dead there.

Don’t get me wrong – it is a tragedy perpetrated by nice people. Their argument is that to do the good work the charity wants to do costs money. They say this is the best way of raising the money quickly enough.

The background to all this is that about 18 months ago the charity foolishly put on a very expensive new three day festival in the midst of a very fully booked summer season. It lost a packet of money when it should have been raising funds.

The end result is that the name ‘Strummerville’ disappeared to be replaced by ‘The Joe Strummer Foundation for New Music’, with a whole new set of trustees as well.

More worryingly, the foundation was stripped of its charitable status  in January 2014, for failing to file its accounts in time. I don’t think that’s much of a problem; as long as they get them filed soon enough they will be reinstated. It is, however, a sign that not everything is going well.

So the Champagne fuelled party at Canary Wharf is meant to sort out all the charity’s financial woes.

The problem is that in doing so (rather like the £250 tickets) it has sold out.

It sold out the memory of Joe Strummer.

A lovely man and a rebel from the top of his head to the soles of his cowboy boots. All us old dead punks can give countless examples of his generosity to those who needed it and his uncompromising hatred of those who didn’t.

The Event last night?

A load of Balls – another charity ball for the rich and famous to feel smug about.

Just another date on the social calendar of wealthy party goers, aristocratic wastrels, the celebrity circuit and a few right bankers too.

I wasn’t there and they wouldn’t have let me in anyway.

And while I’m at it: What the F#%K is Piper-Heidsieck Rare Millésime 2002 anyway?

Joe Strummer;

“Oh no, you think it’s funny

Turnin’ rebellion into money”

White man in the Hammersmith Palais.

It's not what he or any of us stood for.
So I’m feeling a bit sad for a number of reasons.

Neil Harris

(a don’t stop till you drop production)

Thursday, 19 March 2015

Just in case things go quiet here.

Tuesday and I had to struggle in to Charing Cross Hospital to see Dr Feelgood. This is a new piece of art from the entrance hall. Unfortunately, I couldn't get any details of the piece; I was in a lot of pain.

And I mean a lot of pain.

There was good and bad news.

The bad news is that for 4 months I've had a collapsed vertebrae, which explains why I've been in such pain. It's nice to know that I haven't gotten soft in my old age. I'm going to need an operation.

The good news is that the scan from January shows that my tumours have retreated, which is why my vertabrae collapsed.

I'm not cured or anything like that.

I'm not better.

In fact the figures look like it's getting worse again.

So let's not get carried away but I'm not going anywhere just yet. Which in my world of bad news is good news.

The problem is that my back is becoming really serious. If I need an operation soon (I do, it's just whether they give me one) this Blog may go quiet for a while.

If that happens, don't give up on me - I'll make it back!

Neil Harris
(a don't stop till you drop production)

Home:  helpmesortoutstpeters.blogspot.com
Contact me: neilwithpromisestokeep@gmail.com

Oh by the way....I've just done a bit of gloating on my seriously boring Blog - Bart's Health Trust has just been placed in 'Special Measures' due to problems at that group of hospitals. it's something I highlighted TWO years ago; have look.

Wednesday, 18 March 2015

Standard Miles.

Monday night saw us back at our Jazz Club for an all-star evening; 'Standard Miles'. I'd been looking forward to it for some time.
It's a quintet that appears at venues like Ronnie Scott's or the summer festivals to play the standards that were part of Miles Davies's concert's in the late 1950's/early 1960's.

They aren't pretending top be Miles - how could you? It's just a glorious recreation of Modern Jazz in the second and probably last golden period.

In these pictures you can see Dave Green on Bass. Somewhere in the background is Trevor Tomkins on Drums while John Critchinson plays piano.

John Horler, here playing muted trumpet beautifully, told us a story about meeting Miles Davies while he was touring in Los Angeles. Mind you, John Critchinson played with Ronnie Scott for many years - he probably has a tale or two of his own to tell.

As the evening went on I found it harder and harder to sit on the pub's stool - my back was agony and I had to get up and stand at the front (the only space left) getting in everybody's way.
It did get me a good picture of Simon Spillett on Saxophone though.
It's an exceptional quintet - quality jazz played with feeling.
Neil Harris
(a don't stop till you drop production)

Tuesday, 17 March 2015

33000 Thanx!


After this awful week that was really nice - you took the Blog over 33,000!

It's a struggle when you can't get about and fill up the pages with exciting things.

Last night though, we caught some great Jazz - stick around.

Things may get better.

Thanks again.
Neil Harris
(a don't stop till you drop production)

Home: helpmesortoutstpeters.blogspot.com

Contact me:  neilwithpromisestokeep@gmail.com

Monday, 16 March 2015


That's pretty much how I feel ....flying on a 'wing and a prayer' as they used to say.
Saturday night I was up all night with muscle spasms and out of it all day Sunday as a result.
Last night? I slept in a chair - works much better.
Robyn's ill too - it's the massive stress we are both under.
I'm hoping to get everything back to normal although tomorrow morning at hospital means an unbelievable journey; driving, walking, Tube, walking. All at a time when I'm having problems putting my shoes on.
As I said. I'm hoping to get back to 'normal' soon.
Neil Harris
(a don't stop till you drop production)

Sunday, 15 March 2015

The latest Care Quality Commission inspection of Ashford and St. Peter's Hospitals.

Ashford and St. Peter’s NHS Foundation Trust has now had its new enhanced Care Quality Commission inspection. In the past, the CQC relied on unqualified people; a recipe for disaster.

How did it go this time?

Still a lot of problems missed, but it’s difficult to get things right in a short inspection. With a few exceptions, hospitals aren’t good or bad; there are good departments and bad.

The report spots that things are worse at St. Peter’s than they are at Ashford…then again Ashford isn’t where it’s all happening.

There are areas of real concern – including patient safety, record keeping. You’ve heard all about them from me here before. But seriously; not looking after medicines properly?

The real problem (it was for me when the accident and emergency sent me home with an obviously broken ankle) is that they have problems finding and keeping good staff.

There are reasons why good people leave but this is probably not the best place to explain it!

Here’s Eagle Radio’s report;

Eagle Radio - News - Concerns raised about staff shortages at Surrey hospital trust                          

10th March 2015

The results from a recent Care Quality Commission report for Ashford and St

Peter's Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust have been released. 


A team of 42 inspectors rated the trust as 'Good' overall.


It highlighted its effective, responsive, caring and well-led approach to patients.


However, it was rated as 'Requires Improvement' for being safe.


For each individual hospital, Ashford Hospital was rated 'Good', while St

Peter's Hospital in Chertsey was rated as 'Requires Improvement.'

The trust was inspected under a new, more rigorous regime by the CQC.

It found its new senior leadership team promoted good quality care, and its staff were kind compassionate and caring in the accident and emergency department.

It also witnessed safety and quality of services were a priority for the trust, which was reflected by staff at every level.


The Surrey trust had a strong reporting culture and was keen to share learning from incidents.


But the inspection also found the biggest single safety issue was the impact of staff shortages and the difficulties in recruiting and retaining staff.

While the trust used agency, locums and bank staff to help deal with the shortfalls, safe staffing levels were not being consistently met.

Staff indicated to inspectors that the issue with staffing levels was putting them under extra stress and some staff were leaving because of this.

Inspectors identified a number of areas of outstanding practice across the trust:

The trust had developed an older people's assessment and liaison team which enhanced the care of the frail, elderly patients. The specialist team's care had managed to decrease the number of admissions to specialty wards, and also contributed to fewer patients being readmitted.

The electronic patient record system in the intensive care unit was outstanding. Patients benefitted from  comprehensive, detailed records in one place, where all staff could gain access and update them at all times.

The trauma and orthopaedic unit had set up an early discharge team to reduce the length of stay for patients with hip fractures. Patients had continuity of care from the hospital in to their own home as they had the same staff. This reduced their length of stay in hospital.

There was good joint working between the bereavement services, chaplaincy services and the mortuary services to ensure as little distress as possible to bereaved relatives, with caring staff throughout the hospital who were seen to treat patients at the end of their lives and their relatives with dignity and respect.


The trust has been told that it must make improvements in nine areas including:

The trust must ensure that medicines were stored at temperatures that provide effective treatment.

All trained paediatric nurses must be up to date with medicines management training.

Patients' records must be kept securely and located promptly when required.

All departments must have sufficient numbers of suitably qualified, skilled and experienced nursing staff on the units and the outreach team to safeguard the health, safety and welfare of patients at all times.

In the critical care department, there must be a full range of safety, quality and performance data collected, evaluated and reported. The trust must ensure it has sight of this data at board level.



CQC's Chief Inspector of Hospitals, Professor Sir Mike Richards, said: "I am pleased to report that when we inspected the hospitals run by Ashford and St Peters Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust, much of what we saw was good.


"It was clear that staff took great pride in their work, and that they felt the leadership team were approachable.


"Teams communicated well with each other, and we saw some good examples of collaborative working to improve the treatment and care people received.


"We, also found areas where the trust needs to make improvements - in particular the retention and recruitment of staff in a number of clinical departments.


"While the trust appears to be maintaining its upward trajectory - it still needs to ensure that people using its services receive good quality treatment and care at all times.


"People are entitled to receive treatment and care in services which are consistently safe, effective, caring and responsive to their needs.


"The trust has told us they have listened to our inspectors' findings and begun to take action where it is required.

"We will return in due course to check that the improvements needed have been made."


'We recognise there are areas that need improving'

I hope the CQC keeps the pressure on them.

Neil Harris

(a don’t stop till you drop production)