Zygological zygnomic zoilism

Conceptions at under 16 (Conception rate per 1,000 women)

2012 2011 2010 2009
Peterborough UA 6.6 6.6 8.0 8.7
Southend-on-Sea UA 6.5 9.4 6.2 8.2
Thurrock UA 6.3 7.7 6.3 6.6
England and Wales 5.6 6.1 6.8 7.2
Bedford UA 5.1 3.0 8.2 6.1
Suffolk 5.0 5.4 5.3 4.5
Luton UA 5.0 6.9 6.2 2.9
Essex 4.9 6.2 5.0 5.7
Norfolk 4.4 5.4 5.9 6.2
Central Bedfordshire UA 4.2 6.7 6.5 6.5
Cambridgeshire 3.4 3.9 4.1 6.1
Hertfordshire 3.3 4.0 3.9 4.4

 

The data is the table above was extracted from the Conception Statistics for England and Wales, 2012. This is the most current information available.

The Office for National Statistics produces all sorts of fascinating data. These are open to all sorts of interpretations, but they are facts. This data, for instance, about under-age conception rates could generate all sorts of arguments over causes and solutions, but the numbers themselves are undeniable.

My interest is in how my home town compares, and again it compares unfavourably with regional and national averages. However it is a large town in the region that does not have many large towns (Southend-on-Sea is second largest behind Luton), and you would imagine that this sort of data would show urban areas with higher numbers than rural ones.

I am not prepared to be at all judgemental regarding young pregnancies, but I do want to ensure that sex education, advice, and contraceptives are freely available to all, and that the incidence of young conception is not linked to abuse, poverty, or ignorance.

People under scrutiny

I am unconvinced of the merits of the idea to give opposition parties in Southend-on-Sea the chair and vice-chair of the three scrutiny committees. This has given UKIP a platform, something I am far from comfortable about. It has also denied some members of the Joint Administration the possibility of a role. This change is being written into the Constitution, which means that if should ever become the opposition then we will benefit, but with the whole structure of Cabinet and the scrutiny system to come under review it is possible that this change may only be in place for a short period. The Independent Group and the Liberal Democrats both appear to want a return to the old committee system, and whilst their votes alone will not be enough it is not impossible to envisage them being able to persuade others.

And on to last night’s two hours and twenty minute People Scrutiny Committee. There was an item on Southend Primary Schools’ Falling Grammar School Entry Figures. The debate began some two years ago with my questioning the statistics and make inquiries. However, whilst I think the grammar should be made to serve the communities in which they reside, my real hope is for universal comprehensive education in the borough.

I asked a question about the statistics included in the Partners in Adoption Annual Report which showed that we were below target, although better than the national average, as regards to placing adoptees and adopters together. This prompted Cllr James Courtenay (Conservative, Blenheim Park) to state that he hoped we will not become target driven. I find this somewhat ironic; the targets are set by Government, a Conservative-led Government.

There was an update from the NHS Southend CCG regarding access to treatments and the Service Restriction Policy. The spokesperson made one very important statement “any needed treatment will be funded”. I hope I do not have to remind the CCG of this public commitment in the months ahead.

The spokesperson denied there was a postcode lottery as regards to treatment. He had no data to back this up (making it a somewhat empty statement) and seemed to suggest that data may not be possible to produce. I did request some evidence, and this was promised. Watch this space.

The portfolio holder for Adult Social Care, Health & Housing left early, which prompted Cllr Lesley Salter (Conservative, Belfairs) to make at least three references to it during the CCG debate. I know that some preach about repetition for emphasis, which maybe why Cllr Salter kept noting that “it was a shame the portfolio was not here to answer these questions”.

This morning I received notification about the following article: CCGs restricting patient access to ‘vital’ operations – RCS.

I wanted our scrutiny project to tackle the thorny subject of health inequalities across the borough. This was a somewhat unsatisfactory debate that as far as I could tell left the matter up in the air.

TVs at Southend University Hospital

From a chance conversation I made inquiries earlier this year about television sets at Southend Hospital.

This is what I was told: In regards to the TV’s out of 734 beds we would expect to have a bedside TV, there are 462 Sets plus 12 in day rooms. The contract with the supplier is a national one but old and I have asked the Director of Estates and Development to draft some options as to what we can do as well as afford.

I received this response last month (from the Chief Executive of the Southend University Hospital NHS Foundation Trust) and can be taken as still correct as I write this post; I have asked that I be updated when the situation improves, and thus far I have had no update.

These numbers mean that less than two-thirds of beds (63%) have TVs. Whilst some patients will not want or be able to watch television, this clearly is not a choice for over a third of patients. The Trust must share my concerns as they are looking at “options”.

It is thirty-four years since I had a stay in hospital (four days following a patellectomy) but I recall long days with little to do. TV at least allows the time to pass a little more quickly.

This situation is not good. Since everyone values their health as the highest priority, and being comfortable and contented aid recovery, the lack of televisions is, in my opinion, deleterious to good health.

I do not know whether this situation has come about since the Government embarked on its privatisation agenda for the NHS. I hope that this situation soon improves, and I hope to be told that steps have been identified to make this so.

On a further note, I am also told that some TVs do not have headphones that work, meaning that you can watch but not listen. I am also told that there are whole wards without TV sets, and that those who purchase television pay  cards and who are then moved to a ward with no TVs are not being given refunds.

I think you could descibe the situation as a right mess.

Under-occupied

I met with a resident this weekend.

Husband and Wife have lived at their address for nineteen years. Husband was diagnosed with hairy cell lymphocytic leukaemia in December 2013. Husband and Wife are both 59 years old.

Wife has degenerative osteoarthritis. Both are now registered disabled. Both have enhanced rates of disability.

As a result of Husband’s illness he has lost his job; he was a baker for thirty years. He is now in receipt of housing benefit. His home is owned by a housing association and is a three-bedroom mid-terrace. It is now described as under-occupied, and this means the bedroom tax kicks in, costing them £30 per week.

They are not opposed to the idea of moving to somewhere smaller, but do not want to live in a tower block or in a care home. Unsurprisingly, with such a bleak outlook quality of life figures high in their priorities. Wife struggles with stairs and needs an adapted bath.

I had a long chat with Husband, a long and difficult chat. His diagnosis in December is a death sentence, and the added stress of the bedroom tax is hitting him hard. Seeing a grown man reduced to tears is not something anyone would enjoy.

They are quite prepared to live anywhere in Essex, although it seems that this is not a possibility as they have no family outside of the borough. It does strike me as peculiar that potential properties are denied them because of where they live, yet legislation is attempting to make them move anyway.

Fight against cuts and privatisation at Southend Hospital

CutsNHS

Outdoors

My remembrances from childhood are of as much spent out of doors as was possible. This included snow-bound Christmases, and only downpours meant time spent at home. Nowadays, childhoods are largely spent enslaved to the latest technological wizardry, or so it seems at times. Of course, this is a gross exaggeration, although it is not an exaggeration to say that today’s youngsters spend less time outdoors than we did in the sixties and seventies. But, we are facing the prospect of seeing a generation to come who will not live longer than we do, and we are seeing disturbing signs of over-eating and lack of exercise in the very youngest.

There have been a number of initiatives to address this, and my particular concern is to see wide open green spaces preserved – including those school fields yet to be sold off. Play England has similar goals. Whilst one cannot seriously expect no greenery to disappear under roads, houses and commercial enterprises, we can ask and expect that access to green spaces be incorporated into any development plans.

I suppose gone forever are the days of tin can football played in nearly carless streets.

Smoking in cars with children

If you were to ask me whether I thought it was a good idea to smoke in a confined space in front of children I would reply ‘no’. I think you should not smoke in front of anyone who is either unable to ask you to stop, or who cannot walk away.

I am an ex-smoker; I smoked my last cigarette on 19th February 1982. I had cut down to ten a day, wanting to give up, when I started dating the non-smoking Petrina. I really enjoyed smoking, but I wanted a long, healthy life more.

MPs have voted in favour of banning smoking in cars with children present. I have my doubts, and it is not because I want to condemn youngsters to suffer the effects of passive smoking. There are many things we do in front of the kids that have the potential to adversely affect their future.

What about eating fatty foods in front of the children, swearing, not flossing regularly, or exceeding the recommended limit of three or four units of alcohol (dependent on gender) when the sprogs are about? The list is almost endless, and yes, it could easily get very silly.

I try to be a libertarian and (perhaps naively) think that much can be solved by education. I take the point that this ban is not about individual responsibility and is about not inflicting a harmful habit and those who cannot do anything about it themselves. However, we are seeing smoking declining to a fraction of what it was when I was born. Since smokers are a shrinking band, is legislation necessary?

My parents gave up smoking when I was on the way – and such was the climate then that this was a decision driven by economics rather than health considerations. The 1950s saw smoking promoted as being good for you. Only a fifth of the population now smoke; when I smoked you could get ashtrays from the office stationary cupboard. I so rarely find myself in the presence of smokers that I now actually notice them, when in my youth it was entirely unmemorable because it was so common.

Whilst I wonder whether we need to legislate for an increasingly rare event, I appreciate that there is an opposing argument that this is the best time to legislate. However, do we want to regulate every aspect of our lives?

Is a ban is enforceable even? I still see texting drivers in the overtaking lane of the A127 – quite a few years after any use of a mobile (other than hands free) whilst driving was banned.

The new threat to hospitals – clause 118

Parliament soon votes on a hastily drafted amendment to the Care Bill. This clause 118 has become known as the ‘hospital closure clause’. No English hospital, including Southend’s, will be safe from financially driven closures if clause 118 becomes law.

It will not matter how successful or financially viable our local hospital is. It could be downgraded or shut altogether if there is a neighbouring hospital in trouble. We will not get a say. The decision to close will be taken by government appointed ‘special administrators’; they will be more interested in balancing the books than in patient care.

Local people, doctors and councillors will not be consulted in any meaningful way. It’s an affront to democracy.

Once upon a time the Cameron-led Conservatives used to claim they would protect hospitals – NHYes was their slogan. They also claimed no top-down reorganisation. The NHS was safe in their hands we were assured.

The secretary of state for health, Jeremy Hunt is keen to rush this clause through. It follows his defeat in the law courts over plans to shut services at the successful and solvent Lewisham hospital. The people of Lewisham won, but they won’t win again if this change becomes law. It could be our local hospital next.

There is still time to defeat Clause 118 – by putting pressure on local MPs we can force the government to scrape the hospital closure clause. We need to contact our MPs and ask that they oppose clause 118 when it is voted on in Parliament in February.

Excess winter deaths

This graph makes for pretty ugly reading if you live in Southend-on-Sea. For almost all of the last twenty years my town has had a worst record than the comparator average when it comes to excess winter deaths. Recent numbers show the gap to have narrowed, and I hope that I will be able to report at some point that Southend-on-Sea is better than average.
EWD9011
(Excess winter deaths (EWD) are calculated using the Office for National Statistics method which defines the winter period as December to March, and compares the number of deaths that occurred in this winter period with the average number of deaths in the preceding August to November and the following April to July.)

I asked for an explanation for our poor past record, and here is the response:

The causes of excess winter deaths are complex and interlinked with cold weather, fuel poverty, housing and health inequalities, as well as infectious diseases (such as flu and norovirus) and the extent of snow and ice. It is therefore very difficult to say that there is any one particular reason for Southend being above the average of its CIPFA comparator local authorities throughout the period being reported on.

I have been supporting Ed Miliband’s freeze that bill campaign. Until something is done about fuel poverty one can only speculate what this graph will look like after this coming winter has passed. This is why the vote on the Local Council Tax Support Scheme Annual Review last Thursday was so crucial, and why those who support the idea of making the poor poorer (and for what the administration had proposed) must be made aware that actions have consequences. We can add to the ‘heat or eat’ question ‘or council tax’.

Stop FGM

I have been asked to mention the petition on female genital mutilation on my blog (found here). I am no expert on this subject but I can state that every story I hear fills me with horror.

This is from the Equality Now website :

Female Genital Mutilation (FGM) is a harmful traditional practice that involves the partial or total removal of the female genitalia. It is estimated that between 100 and 140 million girls and women around the world have undergone genital mutilation. FGM ranges from the partial or total removal of the clitoris (clitoridectomy), to the removal of the entire clitoris and the cutting of the labia minora (excision), to its most extreme form, the removal of all external genitalia and the stitching together of the two sides of the vulva (infibulation).

FGM is generally done without anaesthetic, and can have lifelong health consequences including chronic infection, severe pain during urination, menstruation, sexual intercourse, and childbirth, and psychological trauma. No one knows how many girls die from FGM.

Anyway, I think I am signatory 93,241 on the e-petition. You could add yours, too.

For more reading on FGM you could try this – http://www.dofeve.org/stopping-fgm.html

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