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Saturday Sound Off – Immigrants are not the Problem, Politicians Are.

Today I’m linking to a post on Sally Cronin’s blog. Sally mostly posts about writerly things – she is one of the most helpful of people when it comes to supporting writers with reviews, interviews and guest posts. She also runs a health column (she is a nutritionist by profession), a gardening column and writes regularly abut music. But this  week a particular piece of news that certainly incensed me also drove her to write a long and well argued piece about immigration and racism. Since I certainly could not have put it any better, I am happy to refer you instead to her piece.

I will add only my thoughts on the latest developments in the scandal: How can a Home Secretary on top of her job not have read an important memo? How can she not have been properly briefed before she came to the House of Commons to apologise still claiming that there were no official quotas for the removal of immigrants.

And now it emerges that a plan to engage post graduate medical students from India as temporary staff in the NHS has been scuppered because the quota for the issue of such visas has been reached. It’s all part of our so called leaders’ fetish for following those who voice their opinions the loudest when they should be countering with arguments about the benefits that freedom of movement brings.

The Sickening Waste that is Professional Sport.

Consider this: the amount payed to the players at Manchester’s 2 Premier League clubs is roughly the same as the total wage and salary bill of that city’s 6 hospitals*. I repeat, the amount paid to the players. It does not include the manager’s salary, nor any of the other staff employed by the club – coaches, physios, groundsmen, admin, marketers, etc. The hospitals’ figure, however, covers all 13,000 employees, from the highest paid consultant to the porters.

The total for the five Premier League clubs with the highest player wage bills is close on £1 billion.

It makes me wonder if the British public care more about sport in general, and football in particular, than they do about their beloved NHS.

I also think it very strange that people who demand “their country back”, and complain that they are being “over-run by immigrants”, nevertheless find it acceptable that their local football club is owned by foreigners, managed by a foreigner and has a significant number of foreign players on its books.

That broad description applies to the majority, if not quite all, of the clubs currently in the League. The club presently at the top of the League is 86% owned by the deputy Prime Minister of an Islamic state.


Manchester United legends Sir Matt Busby and George Best. Photo credit: Manchester Evening News. In the 1957/8 season, of the 30 man squad, including the manager, 27 were UK citizens. The other 3 were Irish. Source:

Meanwhile, Manchester United is 90% owned by the six Glazer siblings of First Allied Corporation, which owns and rents out shopping malls across the USA, through a company registered in the Cayman Islands, a tax haven. This leads me to another strange thing: people who resent the accumulation of wealth by entrepreneurs and bankers who take great care to avoid paying tax, apparently are quite content to have such individuals taking control of a club that began as a community owned and operated organisation.

Of course, football is not the only arena in which vast incomes can be earned from the practice of sporting prowess. Formula 1 motor racing, golf and boxing come to mind.

All of these sports are able to pay out such vast amounts as a result of corporate sponsorship which, in turn, relies on the sale of television rights. It comes as no surprise, then, that sport, and football in particular, has taken over our television screens. Not so long ago Saturday afternoon was the time for sport, with recorded highlights shown later on the same day. Now football can displace the regular schedules on any night of the week. And this is despite the proliferation of channels dedicated solely to the showing of sporting events, including those operated by the football clubs themselves.

What if the money now sloshing around in sport could be diverted to help deal with the many problems faced by the poor and those ‘just about managing’ as Mrs May so memorably put it? Health, Social Care and Housing are all deprived of resources whilst sportsmen and women, and those who exploit their prowess for profit, enjoy fantasy life styles.

The huge disparity in wealth and incomes that is the consequence of market capitalism is widely condemned, as is tax avoidance through the use of shell companies registered in tax havens. Why, then, do we so easily condone the vast waste of resources that professional sport has become?

*Manchester United spent £232 million and Manchester City £198m on player wages in the season 2016/7, source: The total salary bill for Manchester’s six hospitals in the 2016/7 financial year was £448 million, covering 12,992 staff, according to the Trust’s annual report.

General Practice: Unable to Cope?

I have been shaken recently by claims that in England you might have to wait 2-3 weeks for a GP appointment. The most recent instance was during an interview on the BBC’s ‘Newsnight’ programme yesterday evening, Dame Julie More, the CEO of the Queen Elizabeth Hospital, Birmingham, remarked, in what was little more than an aside, that she had spoken to a patient in A&E that morning who had stated she had been told by her GP there was a 3 week wait for an appointment “so I’ve come here.”


It is no wonder that A&Es up and down the country are under such pressure if they are, in effect, being utilised as a substitute for the traditional family doctor. Waiting more than a few hours for an appointment seems impractical. Either your symptoms will have got much worse making your case an urgent one, or they will have disappeared. I feel fine now, but I could be dead in 3 weeks time. If my demise is preceded by symptoms of ill health I will want those symptoms to be assessed by a professional as soon as possible.

I can recall a time when you could walk into a doctor’s surgery during morning or evening surgery hours and expect to be seen within an hour or less. At other times the doctor would be conducting home visits. In the early months of 1961 I contracted a nasty cough. I visited our doctor’s surgery and was diagnosed with Bronchitis. I remained in bed at home for several weeks, during which the doctor made several visits. He eventually revised the diagnosis to Whooping Cough.

the-doctorI have been looking at articles on-line dealing with recent developments in General Practice. In a paper published in The Lancet in April 2016 researchers from Oxford University noted that, between 2007 and 2014 “average consultation rates over the 7 years, [rose] 10.5% from 4.67 consultations per person per year in England in 2007/8 to 5.16 in 2013/14. [Clinical workload in UK primary care: a retrospective analysis of 100 million consultations in England, 2007–14, published online in The Lancet on 6 April.]

Interestingly, this compares to figures gleaned from another paper dealing with the history of General Practice in England, this one published by the BMJ in January 2006 entitled A century of general practice by Zosia Kmietowicz. Discussing the years immediately following the creation of the NHS it states that “The average number of times a patient consulted their general practitioner rose from 4.8 a year in 1947 to 5.6 in 1950

At that time GPs made many more home visits than they do today: “In 1953, general practitioners were estimated to be making between 12 and 30 home visits each day and seeing between 15 and 50 patients in their surgeries.” As this article in The Daily Mail on-line from February 2016 says, the BMA has advised doctors to reduce or eliminate home visits – a service that was already much reduced by 2007.

GP surgeries today would be unrecognisable to the family doctor that cared for me back iin 1961. These days they operate with several doctors sharing a practice. They also employ practice nurses, receptionists and probably have a Practice Manager to look after all the paperwork. They also, of course, have the kind of diagnostic equipment that, if it existed at all 56 years ago, would have been available only in hospitals. All of this is surely intended to reduce the work load of hospitals.

According to Zosia Kmietowicz’s paper, by 2002 general practitioners controlled 75% of the NHS budget. Am I being too controversial in suggesting that, rather than forcing patients to attend hospitals, they should be using that colossal financial power to provide a better service in the communities they are supposed to serve.017

The problem, of course, is that we are all living longer. At the time of my birth, in 1941, I could have been expected to live until I was 60. My wife, born in 1945, would have been expected to live until she was 67. We have already lived an extra 15 and 4 years respectively. Fortunately we both enjoy reasonably good health. Many of our contemporaries are less fortunate and have already survived conditions that would undoubtedly have killed them in past decades. That is the result of the many treatments and diagnostic tools available today that did not exist just a few decades ago. Meanwhile, whilst the number of GPs employed in England increased between 2004 and 2014, that increase was insufficient and numbers have since fallen slightly.

General Practice remains the first point of contact with health services for most people. It cannot continue to be so if it is not possible for that contact to take place within a short time of the onset of symptoms.