Saturday, 9 April 2011

NHS ‘reform’: An open letter to my MP

DOES democracy work? Here, maybe, is a chance to find out.
David Cameron and Nick Clegg appear to have wobbled a little on the subject of vandalism – sorry, reform – of the NHS.
But does a possible delay and a “listening exercise” actually add up to anything of value? Or is it merely a ruse to deflect protest before pressing ahead anyway?
Remember, the planned changes aren’t cuts. They aren’t about saving money – in fact, they’ll almost certainly cost money.
They are about handing control of the pursestrings to GPs. As if they wanted it, and as if they didn’t have enough to do already.
They are about “fixing” something that ain’t broke. About replacing duty of care with duty to make a profit.
They are about giving away billions of pounds of public money – your money and mine – into private hands.
The LibDems, of course – at least, those in the parliamentary party – could just pull the plug. But then that applies to everything they’re letting the Tories get away with.
The best you or I can do (until the next election) is to see how closely the politicians are really listening. And for that, the time-honoured technique is to write to your MP.
These days, with email, that’s easier than it used to be. Below is the text of the email I sent this week to Suffolk Coastal MP Therese Coffey.
If, like me, you’re deeply concerned about the future well-being of the NHS, I’d urge you to send a similar message to your own MP.
The quickest and easiest way to do that is to visit the website and click on the green “Email your MP” button near the bottom of the homepage.
The fact that all Suffolk’s MPs are now Tories may make them less open to your fears than others might be. On the other hand, if they do listen, their views may be taken more seriously for being in the party of government.

“Dear Therese Coffey

Having studied Andrew Lansley’s proposals for changes to the NHS, I am deeply troubled by the damage his plans would inflict upon a service that is a cornerstone of British life and which we have all learned to rely on over decades.
The introduction of too much competition and privatisation threatens both the caring ethos of the NHS and the currently extremely good provision of care our doctors and hospitals provide.
In our part of Suffolk we have very good GPs whose commitment to the community could only be worsened by having to manage a privatised service. We also enjoy outstanding levels of care at Ipswich Hospital, which it would be unforgivable to jeopardise.
I speak with some knowledge of this as the son of an 89-year-old mother whose life has undoubtedly been extended and certainly hugely improved by this excellent service.
Please urge Andrew Lansley, David Cameron and the Cabinet to listen seriously to the many concerns people have about their plans; and not just to pay lip-service to our genuine worries but actually to abandon a course which would greatly impair both the reputation and performance of Britain’s outstanding health service.

Yours sincerely,

Aidan Semmens”


NOT surprisingly for an island nation with a lot of shoreline and a mountainous interior, the Japanese eat a lot of fish. Much of it raw.
Which is why they have good cause to be concerned at reports of radioactive iodine at 7.5 million times the legal limit being found in seawater off the stricken Fukushima nuclear plant.
Authorising the release of 11,500 tonnes of contaminated water into the Pacific, the Japanese government said any radiation would quickly be diluted and dispersed.
Well, maybe. But the truth is – as with so much about the whole Fukushima incident – that they don’t really know.
They can’t know how far the contamination will spread, or precisely what effects it will have on sealife large or small, animal, plant or indeterminate.
There is simply no precedent for this kind of release of toxic material into a heavily fished sea.
It’s an experiment no one would willingly contemplate carrying out.
Like it or not, they’re carrying it out now.


SHAMELESS self-promotion corner.
My first full-length book of modernist poetry is now available from Shearsman Publishing, a mere 33 years after my first small-press pamphlet appeared.
Titled “A Stone Dog”, it can be found on Amazon, at, or by order from any good bookshop.
My poetry bears no obvious resemblance to this column, but regular readers might (I hope) see something in the description by poet Kelvin Corcoran: “Semmens doesn’t blink in the face of the big scam…”

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