Pensioners' Parliament Report
A 27 strong group from North Staffordshire came
with us to this annual event at Blackpool form 13th—17th June this
year. Here, members report
on two of the sessions from the Parliament.
from Ann Capewell who attended the meeting
Intergenerational Fairness and the Baby Boomers.’
to the view expressed in the media and by politicians, older people have
not escaped austerity. Changes
to the indexation of pensions and freeze to personal tax allowances have
reduced the purchasing power of their income in the last five years,
whilst severe cuts to social care budgets have left almost a million
pensioners coping at home without any formal support.
people make a huge financial and social contribution to the life of the
nation even after the state has paid pensions, healthcare and other
benefits. Pensioners provide
the exchequer with an additional £40 million through taxes,
volunteering and unpaid caring.
media think tanks and some politicians have created a phoney war between
the generations, when the real unfairness and inequality in society is
between the wealthy and the rest of the population.
years of campaigning and pressure, the coalition government agreed in
2010 to introduce the so-called ‘triple lock’ guarantee that would
raise the state pension in line with the best of either earnings,
inflation or 2.5%. As a
result of this the rise in state pensions is considered to be
indexation arrangements mean that all of the new state pension will go
up in line with the triple lock, whilst that will only apply to the
basic part of the existing pension and the second state pension will
continue to be linked to the lower consumer price index.
there were no fees for those who went to university in the 60s and 70s
participation rates were considerably lower than today, meaning that far
fewer people enjoyed the privilege than among today’s young people.
Nearly two million people ages 55-64 do not have any private
pension savings. More than 7
out of 10 people in their 50s and 60s are in work.
all baby boomers are home owners and those who bought their homes had to
pay high interest rates. People in their 50s and 60s are no more likely
to be planning a cruise than younger people.
In fact they are slightly less likely to do so than the average
age. People aged 50 and over
play less golf than people in their 30s and 40s.
people’s falling long term economic prospects are not down to older
people in society hoarding all the wealth.
Increased university tuition, unemployment, poor job
opportunities, lower pay and rapid house price inflation are the real
causes of hardship among the young.
pensioner expenditure by the state would therefore do little to address
the difficulties young people face.
In reality, means testing the winter fuel allowance would have
little impact on intergenerational inequality and there has never been
any data to show that 18 year olds are demanding that their
grandparents’ bus passes or winter fuel allowance should be taken
from Malcolm Swann who attended the meeting
Healthy is the NHS?’
session was well attended and ran over by some 45 minutes, due to the
interest generated and questions from the floor.
first speaker was Dawne Garrett (Older People and
Dementia Care & Professional Lead Royal College of Nursing).
Dawne, a working nurse,
said her overall view of the NHS was that there were some ‘good
bits’ - these included advances in pain management, technical
advances, some levels of training. Not
‘so good’ were the variations in care across the NHS.
“It was very clear”, she said, “that patients coming from
poor areas, with social problems, had a poor outcome”.
There was also a problem with a failure to learn.
‘Never’ events, classed in the NHS as events which should not
ever take place, but still continue to do so—wrong medicines, lost
records, wrong communications, were some she mentioned.
way in which services are being delivered was an important factor, which
is failing because of reduced funding and budget cuts.
She felt that in particular with older people, we need to work
much more closely with Social Services—joined up care.
There was an incredible problem with delayed discharges, which
were causing a shortage of beds.
are at present 20,000 vacancies for Registered Nurses.
Morale in the NHS at the moment is very low.
Staff turnover over the last four years has doubled the normal
level, with staff leaving the profession.
She highlighted the problem with District Nurses—at the moment
a 41% reduction in numbers. Some
NHS trusts are covering this with the appointment of Community Nurses,
which is not the same thing. District
Nurses are highly trained and these are the only ones that can be
classed as Nursing Sisters and called District Nurses.
She went on to say that staff were being subject to lots of
changes, with more targets to meet, but these are not meaningful in some
cases. The proposal by the
government to do away with the bursary for nurses in training, and
substitute a loan, has caused great concern amongst nurses.
If this happens 2/3 of present students would withdraw as they
could not afford to continue training.
is also a problem with weekend working and services.
We don’t have Dieticians, Occupational Therapists,
Physiotherapists, Speech and Language Therapists available at the
weekend, as trusts won’t pay them, also there is a reduction in
nursing staff at weekends. The
way hospitals work also needs to be looked at.
Prime example—lunchtimes—normally between 12.30 and 1pm
start. You will find that
the meals for the patients on a ward will arrive at the same time, for
maybe 30 patients. We have
staff helping to serve food, we may have patients that need feeding
assistance, and some needing supervision so they don’t choke.
Result, because we don’t have enough staff, not all patients
receive the attention they should at important meal times.
She finally went on to describe the NHS as constipated—so much
goes in, so little comes out.
second speaker was a Consultant Cancer Specialist, Clive
has formed, and is leader of, a new political party—National
Health Action Party. He
could never see the day when they would get elected but felt sure that
someone should tell the public what is going on in the Health Service.
He could not criticise too much as a paid consultant, but as
leader of a registered political party there was freedom to express
views to the public.
started by saying ‘the NHS at the moment is a toxic combination of
high demand and austerity—which drives up demand, and the Tory
government is not working with the NHS.
At the moment your life expectancy differs with your postcode.
Healthcare is a postcode lottery as to what treatment you get.
The government say they have ring fenced the NHS, that’s just
another word for flat-line funding.
Last year 500,000 bed days were lost because of the lack of
social care. Patients are
not being managed in the place they should be, and this is resulting in
an increase in deaths. There
is a shortage of GPs and this will get worse.
He went on to say that mental health services have problems over
demand and services. One of
the deeper causes of what is happening results from 1980, when Margaret
Thatcher rolled back state involvement, pushing private care.
The free market opened up the NHS to competition for services.
Later Gordon ‘Prudence’ Brown carried this on.
Labour privatised more than the Tories, with payment by results.
Private Finance Initiative came in, which cost too much in
repayments. NHS managers
should be involved in administering the service, not juggling market
forces. Need to invest in
healthcare is a must. Austerity
is corrosive to our society, but it is going to be a struggle to change.
third speaker was Joan Sidman, Health Care Group NPC.
expressed the view that social care should come under the banner of the
NHS, a joined up service—whole person care.
Patients (from her own experience) with long term conditions,
have to cope with terminology designed to confuse, and have to jump
through so many hoops. It’s
fragmented care, not integrated care.
We need simple, joined up care.
She echoed the previous speakers, that bed blocking and
readmissions are leading to deaths.
There is evidence of lack of funding to establish integrated
care. Treating patients at
home, she felt has more problems. Staff
need more experience, training, transport needs better co-ordination,
patients at home don’t have easy access to doctors or extra
facilities. In a lot of
cases it’s more expensive to treat patients at home.
Everyone would like to stay at home, but it’s not always
less care they give you, the more money they make.
She said the Care Guide issued by the government was a paper
fourth speaker was from the Pharmacists Association, which
represents independent chemists. He
discussed the £170M cuts the government wants to make to the
chemist’s budgets, it would lead to closures.
Your local chemists offer a package of care, not just a package
of pills, advice being one of them.
Chemists were part of the fabric many communities relied on, and
an asset to public health services.
Medicine online as proposed is not a realistic way, patients like
face to face advice. If
access is reduced, there will be an increase in demand for GPs and
and points from the floor included a suggestion to abolish Clinical
Commissioning Groups and replace them with Local Health Authorities, the
cost of private firms being used for NHS audits, and safe staffing
In all, an excellent
session. What is very
worrying is the concerns by so many people, with years of experience,
about the present state of the NHS.
Too many targets, too many not hands on managers, reduced
budgets, staff shortages, staff undermined, staff not heard when
expressing grave concerns. Unelected
Clinical Commissioning Groups also came under attack for lack of
accountability to the public. We
have first hand knowledge of this. Unless
we stand up, everyone was of the opinion that we would lose the NHS as
we know it today, in favour of a pay for, American style system.