When I was about six years old, I ran across the road without looking. My parents’ horror quickly became my own when they subsequently made me wear a harness to school for about a week. At the time I thought I would never forgive them. But 20 odd years later and an overly careful approach to road safety, I now hold this up as a beacon of importance.
Children run across the road. Simple. But as parents, educators and a government supposedly intended to protect its citizens, we have a duty to teach them otherwise. Before today I would not have thought that anyone would want, let alone be able to contradict this. But I was wrong.
As of this morning, the Department for Transport (DfT) announced it is to axe the television adverts teaching children to cross the road safely which have been broadcast for 60 years.
The vital importance of these adverts is unarguable. According to reported figures, 260 children were killed on Britain’s roads each year in the mid 90s. By 2010 this had fallen to 55 but in 2011 rose again to 60.
Yet this has not stopped the DfT slashing the budget for road safety publicity from £19 million to just £3.9 million. Even more concerning is the subsequent distribution of this, with the majority spent on targeting drink drivers over the Christmas period, £1.3 million warning drivers to look out for motorcyclists, and the remainder, a meagre £78,000, on keeping children safe. That’s just 2% of the overall road safety budget.
The statement that their adverts will still be available online is an even further disservice to our young ones, as we all know how safe the internet is for children.
Sadly, it seems to be a common theme, what with the childcare reforms relaxing the staff-child ratio also seemingly proposed at the expense of children.
Why did the children cross the road? I don’t know, but you can bet your bottom dollar it has something to do with the fact that they hadn’t seen an advert.
A few months ago I had a skin tag on my face. It was not the first time, and will probably not be the last. I know it’s hardly life-threatening, but the treatment I received at my local doctor’s surgery was shocking.
After a series of receptionist-led errors, in which I was made to wait about a month just to be told by the doctor that I needed to make an appointment to have it removed – something which I assumed had been done when I’d first called up four weeks previously – I deemed it both fair and appropriate to query it there and then. After all, I had taken time off work for this waste of an appointment, and now needed to make another.
But when I raised my concerns to the receptionist on the desk at the time, especially after I was told the earliest I could have it removed was another four weeks from then, she, quite rudely and exceptionally loudly in front of a full waiting room of people, retorted that I should be grateful that they’ll even do it for me. “Most doctors don’t do this kind of thing anymore, because it’s only cosmetic and is not serious.”
I was horrified. Who was this receptionist to tell me what is, and is not, a serious health concern?
Four weeks later, however, after a quick and relatively painless procedure, the skin tag was removed and my anger levels were back to normal. All was well in the world again.
Except, it isn’t.
A colleague of mine went to the doctor last week about a cyst he has on his head. It resides on the crown of his head, underneath a full head of hair. I tell you these details not because I think you have a genuine interest in the cyst of someone you don’t know, but because the point is, one would only be able to see it if my colleague swept his hair away and pointed it out to you. I think we can all agree, therefore, that his visit to the doctor had absolutely no connection to anything cosmetic.
No, the reason he made the appointment to have the cyst on his head removed is, quite simply, down to the fact that it has started to cause him discomfort at night due to the pressure of his head on the pillow.
But despite this, the doctor asked him if he had private medical insurance because the NHS won’t fund the removal of cysts, which it regards as cosmetic.
It didn’t matter that she very candidly admitted to him that the NHS wants to be seen as doing what ‘looks good’ and, unfortunately, cyst removal is very low down on the list of priorities when it comes to that criteria. Nor that, contrary to what the NHS likes to boast, there is really no patient choice at all in the NHS. It didn’t even matter that she told him that she is against GP commissioning because it is she that will be blamed by the patients when she tells them that their procedures will not be funded by the NHS.
Because ultimately, if my colleague wants to have a good sleep at night, he has to pay for it.
You don’t have to be a medical expert to know the difference between a cosmetic reason and a genuine medical reason. It’s not hard to distinguish a big nose that its owner is desperate to minimise from an unseen cyst which is causing serious discomfort. Or, for that matter, the removal of painful varicose veins which the NHS are seriously rationing because they deem it more ‘vain’ than ‘veins’.
It’s not even as if the NHS truly honour their commitment, as set out on their website, to deal with those things it actually does deem as non cosmetic. Because according to NHS Choices, “breast reduction is sometimes used to alleviate back or neck pain.” However, another work colleague of mine with a breast size of 32 L, suffering with both back and neck pain, was told she was not eligible for breast reduction surgery on the NHS. And so, £6,000 later, she is now a happier and healthier (albeit poorer) size 32 FF.
It’s all very well trying to save money, but when reports are continually surfacing on the vast and wide ways the NHS is supposedly wasting money, most recently in the questions which have arisen surrounding how NICE determines the value of treatments, it all becomes a bit farcical.
Not to mention the cost of fixing a DIY cyst-removal, which I’m pretty sure the NHS would be hard-pressed to turn away.
Unless, of course, the cyst has been so hard-pressed, it is no longer deemed as such.
A collection of articles in the Daily Mail yesterday have left me feeling somewhat perturbed.
The first, written by an ex-teacher, explains that teachers treat children with names that scream “troublemaker” differently to those with more traditional names.
It is, apparently, backed up by statistics – in the form of a study last month which found that ‘Bradley’ and ‘Paige’ are the naughtiest names, whilst old-fashioned names such as Elizabeth and Benjamin came top for good behaviour.
Here I must interject, for not only is ‘Bradley’, as far as I am aware, a ‘traditional’ name, every single Benjamin I have ever known has been naughty/cheeky/rebellious/all of the above.
But if this is questionable research, at best, what do the statements, penned by the very same writer, that “disregard for traditional names often goes hand in hand with a lack of respect for rules in general” and “the more E’s, I’s and Y’s added to a name, the more mischievous the child” say about the destiny of a child? That it’s fated from the moment that child is given a name? Am I alone in screaming at the writer and every other teacher who finds themselves pre-judging a child based on their name that if they really are that shallow, it is they that need to be addressed as a competent teacher and not the poor pupil who is merely going by the name given to them from birth?
The second article which left me a little disturbed was the one that claimed that praising your child may do more harm than good. Apparently, phrases such as ‘well done darling’ and ‘you’re so clever’ could hinder their future performance at school because they can’t live up to false expectations. But surely praise is easier to live up to than no expectations? And, for that matter, who says these expectations are false, anyway?
So let me get this straight; children can’t live up to ‘false expectations’ but they can, and will, live up to a name, depending on how many vowels are in it? Are we to leave any free will to children at all?
Heavens, what chance does someone with an untraditional name have once praised?
Over to you, Beyoncé.
One of the first articles I ever wrote was in defence of the London Underground. An English Literature undergraduate student commuting to the East End, a total journey time of about an hour and a half, I could have joined the masses in slating the overpriced, often delayed, air-stifling collection of carriages.
But I didn’t. Having returned from a holiday in New York, in which my best friend and I – not especially famed for our sense of direction – spent two weeks battling their unnecessarily confusing excuse for an underground system, I came back wearing rose-tinted glasses. I’d never been particularly scathing of it before, but experiencing a significantly more shambolic system than our own made me truly thanking for what we have.
And shambolic it really aint, no matter what we Londoners like to profess. Yes, there are sometimes delays, and true, it may not always be the most comfortable of journeys, standing under the sweaty armpit of a fellow commuter, but when we take a step back and weigh up the pros and cons, I expect we’d be hard-pressed to wish for anything else.
Especially when we compare it to its humble beginnings in 1863. Today marks the 150th anniversary of the little steam train that travelled three and a half miles from Paddington to Farringdon – a journey which took two and a half hours and carried almost 40,000 passengers in its first day alone. Now, the third longest system of its kind in the world spanning 249 miles, it boasts 10 lines, 270 stations, four million journeys a day and carries more than a billion people each year.
Not bad for 150 years, eh?
Except for one tiny little detail. The absolutely obscene fares.
For some reason, I seem to be out of sync with my London counterparts. For whilst I now think it’s time to perhaps jump on the proverbial wagon (or carriage in this case) and start questioning the London Underground, everyone else has exited via the sliding doors.
It’s a bit like the Olympics; the only other event known to mankind to completely remove the cynicism from the Brits.
The London Underground turns 150, and we turn gaga.
Reading the vast celebratory articles penned in honour of the special anniversary, you’d be forgiven for forgetting that as of January 1st this year, i.e. eight days ago, TFL increased their fare charges by 4.2%, which is five times the rate of inflation, for the fifth year in a row. That means an annual travel card for the London Underground, depending on where you live and how far you’ve got to travel, can cost from anything between £920 and £3,168. And that’s not all. Tube station car parks, as of four days ago, went up by a whopping 18.73%. Put into perspective against the backdrop of a measly 1.8% increase in the adult minimum wage, you’ve got a truly shambolic situation – regardless of how neat and tidy the easy-to-use system appears.
But that hasn’t stopped people in their droves paying anything from £50 to £180 to experience the original ride on an original steam train. If that’s not encouraging an already ridiculously priced service, that soon, after the celebrations die down, will resume normal service, then I don’t know what is.
The London Underground might want to heed its own advice. For when it comes to what is being charged versus the service that is being received, I think it’s time they mind the gap.
The NHS has been under immense pressure this week, what with a leading surgeons group claiming that more consultants and senior doctors need to work on weekends to improve patient safety as well as the expectation placed on GPs to increase opening surgery times for appointments. It all comes under plans dubbed ‘24/7 healthcare’.
The NHS has been advised to take a lesson from Tesco, who, through its extensive and amenable opening hours, has built itself up into the go-to supermarket for the majority of the British public.
The NHS is probably sick to death of being told to model itself on a shopping chain. It wasn’t that long ago, after all, that it was told to test a John-Lewis management style.
I can’t imagine that John Lewis is going to be too happy (think its elite Waitrose brand) to be compared with the cheap and cheerful Tesco. And equally, I can’t imagine Tesco – being the most popular British supermarket - being over the moon at the comparison with the more niche alternative.
But perhaps more importantly is the resistance which has understandably come from doctors’ leaders who have warned that the NHS has little in common with a supermarket.
In the row that has sparked these new proposals which asks whether patients or staff should come first, the answer must, of course, be the former. 24/7 healthcare is a must. But surely we must take one step at a time.
After all, in a week that staff are continually facing the axe because of mass budget cuts, a continuation of bed shortages, highly-trained ambulance paramedics being swapped for £12,000-a-year first aiders because of budget cuts and fee cuts leading to GP waiting lists, is it really the time to start preaching the simply unattainable?
If there’s one, and only one, thing we should take from Tesco, it should be that every little helps.