Archive | November, 2013

WCA- come on scrap it!

7 Nov

After today’s brilliant ILF Judicial Review appeal win, we are waiting with trepidation the result of the WCA Judicial Review Appeal for mental health claimants.  I have everything painfully crossed for this, but knowing this Government like you all do what their reaction will be, and they will not take the decision if they lose lying down.

It’s been a long time to get to this.  2 years and more now.  When with DM we said goodbye to the legal team outside court 62 at the court of appeals, it was a strange day.  It was an emotional day for everyone involved that day.  A day of wondering what would happen next, and feeling so so tired, exhausted.

When I met DM in June 2012, I remember the day so clearly, the pre application for the Judicial review to be agreed to be heard, the vigil outside the royal courts of justice, and the summer of so many friends and fellow campaigners who passed away with the detoriation of their health over this cruel and heartless process and many have taken their own lives over the W.C.A too.

I have seen since 2008, how the W.C.A has affected people, close friends of mine who could not cope anymore, cannot take any more of the stress, not knowing when they will be reassessed again, the dreadful fear of the postman, that brown envelope laying there and the hell of filling out the questionnaire, and then the wait for will it be a face to face assessment with Atos, or will be a decision, and how long will I wait for it?

I lived in dreadful fear of waiting for that assessment, the fear alone of the wait put me in hospital, that cost the NHS thousands that three month stay in hospital, I could not bear the words DWP, or ATOS, or if I saw a brown envelope during that time, had a full blown panic attack and needed sedation.   I caused my family and friends dreadful worry during that time when I was hospitalised, I had disappeared for a few days intent on taking my own life, totally beleiving the DWP and Atos were following me, sat in a darkened room with the curtains drawn feeling as though they could see through my curtains and harm me.

The hardest time, was when I thought the doctor on the ward was an Atos assessor and he followed me down the corridor to reason with me and I was not having any of it, he frightened me, and in my state of mind at the time, nothing would have told me anything different that he was not an Atos assessor, I do not remember much what I had done, but I was on that floor, with 10 nurses holding me down, while they injected me.  I was not a human being, they made me feel totally worthless, tied down and injected against your will, that is what the words W.C.A did to me.

Later that same year in 2011, i started having problems with horrendous fatigue and headaches, I thought it was all the stress and hell I had just been through, in fact, the doctors said it probably was.  Little did I know then, that the symptoms were the start of Rhuematoid Arthritis, an auto immune disease that attacks the lining of the joints  with imflamation and horrible pain.  It attacked me over night, and it progressed pretty quickly.  Its been two years on from that, and two illnesses collide, Bipolar and R.A. and i was told by the Rhuematologist that the stress and fear of waiting to be assessed, along with other family issues at the time, probably triggered the illness to be triggered, I will never know for certain.

I have read terrible plights of people who have gone through this hellish process, people with cancer, MS, even my own father with dementia was called for a face to face assessment, and he was found fit for work too,  and if you met my father, there is no way on earth he was fit for work.  He cannot remember my name, and that of my brothers, or even a lot of the time he is married to my mum, and they have been married 42 years.

Thankfully, our GP sorted his claim out and kicked some DWP ass, and from the stories I have read, heard in person, there are people in the department who need some ass kicking, the real jobsworths who relish causing the stress, and pain that has been unleashed to sick and disabled people in the last five years.

But, to be fair, not all the staff in the DWP are like that, there are many, fearful of losing thier jobs, and seeing the hell of what the governmental policies are causing, feeling torn between being militant and helping us with information and trying every which way to ease the stress and be as kind and helpful as they can, to knowing if they speak out, that is their job, and the dwp have targets, if they do not sanction enough people, they are pulled up in front of thier managers and asked to explain why they have not sanctioned people, and the same goes for the W.C.A, although lately, more people are getting placed into the support group but its not enough.

This whole process discriminates, how does a mental health claimaint, if for argument’s sake suffers from phychosis, explain thier illness to an Atos assessor? I know my friend could not, he struggled.  His thoughts were his reality, it was not his family or his friends, but his thoughts were very real to him, as were the audio and visual halluncinations he was constantly tortured with.  He was terrified of the world around him and the people in it.  He would not hurt anyone, and was one of the most gentle people to walk the earth.  He was pulled up for an assessment, despite numerous suicide attempts.  The Atos assessor, a physio therapist in his case,  had not the foggiest clue about his illness or how it affected his ability to work or how it impaceted on his daily life.   My friend could not communicate to anyone how the illness affected him, he lacked the insight into it and would not speak to days about anything.   That phsyio therpaist should have contacted his dr and got a medical report from his physchiatrist, but she did not do that, and my friend did not have the foggiest idea that he needed medical evidence and the onus was on him to collect it, or, that with overwhelming evidence from his dcotors, would have shown Atos that he had been sectioned some 16 times, had a history of 70 suicide attemtps and would have been covered under regulations 29/35 but no dr was contacted, and he was found fit for work in July 2013.

I spoke to him a few days after this decsion and said to him i so wish you had spoken to me, I would have helped you with your questionnaire and would have done everything to support him as best as I could, But I know that he would not because he was too terrified to talk to anyone.

The last thing he said to me was, please make Atos go away, they keep following me and are hounding me, and they are there at the end of my bed, I can’t sleep even with my eyes closed they are there.  He called them demons.

The last thing, yes he is no longer with us, he passed away a few weeks later in August 2013, he took his own life at the local train station, and now he is another statistic on a list.  To me, he is and will always be a dear friend, who I miss more than words will ever say and I knew him for over 20 years.  We set up a service user involvement project up together to help people with mental health issues in the commmunity.  We campaigned together, we cried, we laughed, and now he is gone.   I stood at that station a few days after his death, looking at the flowers and I vowed one thing that day, I would get justice for him, and for everyone else who has suffered under this cruel and callous process.

A short time later, was the 10,000 cuts and counting event in London, a memorial service to remember all the sick and disabled people who have passed away due to the W.C.A.  At Parliament Square that day, were a field of white flowers.  It was moving to see them all there, and so emotional, and raw.  In front of parliament, those white  flowers lay there, every one of them a life, a human being no longer with us, and I struggled with tears, as I remembered all my friends who had died and fellow campaigners, and all those struggling today.

I burned with anger and injustice, wanted IDS to see what we were seeing that day, and wanted him to feel the pain we were all feeling.  One of the hardest things I did that day, was read my piece of poetry Lest we forget.  I broke during one verse, holding a white flower at the edge of that stage, but I finished reading, and threw my white flower to all my friends into the sea of flowers.  I came down that ramp and I cried on a friend’s shoulder.  all I knew was I wanted to help get justice, and I wanted my friends back, even if for a minute, but at that moment, they were all there and it hurt like hell.  It does everyday.

I have seen this year the ESA questionnaire change yet again, more regulations bought in, and the appeals system change again, and for the worse, as now from 28th October 2013, the reconsideration stage has come into effect, meaning if you are appealing the decision, you have to have another decsion maker at the dwp look at your paperwork and you do not get any money while waiting for this to be completed, and now, you have to submit the tribunial paperwork to the tribunial yourself.   How many will not last the winter while awaiting an appeal?

What IDS, Grayling and David Cameron hate, is that Atos have been found not fit for purpose, that 42 per cent of appeals are successful when you do not have a welfare rights advisor represent you at tribunial, but rises to 70 per cent with a welfare rights advisor at that tribunial.  They do not want us to appeal, so in October slashed legal aid so claimaints can not access it, and changed the appeals process, and put us in a catch 22, not well enough for JSA, but fit for work for ESA, and thus no money.

How many in this process will be bow beaten into claiming JSA or being sanctioned if they do not?  In the last year 400,000 people have been sanctioned.  My friend Clive was one of those.  I met Clive at the swan conference in March this year.  Clive was a social worker who worked for a charity and was made redundant.  We all heard his story of him being sanctioned.  He was sanctioned for his first offence for three months.  He told us of his story of looking for food in bins to eat, not eating for days, keeping warm in a library as his flat was freezing cold.  At that conference he broke down in tears and his voice cracking and shaking at the podium, he said he did not blame the JCP worker for sanctioning him, but this government, and he vowed to fightback against them, and he started campaigning.  But, there is more to this story.  Because of the stress he had been through, he struggled with Depression, and had to go through the W.C.A process.  He was found fit for work on 18th September, and many of us are trying to help him and many others keep going another day right now.

The W.C.A is costing this Government more money than it saves, and what sense is there of putting people through three month six month assessments, claimaints have been told like amputees to grow back limbs, I mean please, Atos it does not happen!  The Cerebral Palsy claimaint who was told by an Atos doctor they would be ready for work in six months.  How senseless is all this.

During the last 18 months, I have stood outside the royal courts of justice with the mental health resistance network with the pre application hearing, for the wca Judicial Review, through the actual WCA Judical Review in January 2013, and then just recently for the appeal that the dwp bought against the cliamints because they lost in May 2013.

We have stood out in the streets outside the courts in rain, the cold, the snow, gales and the sun to highlight the issues around the W.C.A and how unfair this entire process is and how it affects claimaints.

I sat through four and a half days of legal proceedings, talked with the lawyers with DM, stood there with many others with the megaphone, told the public  how it really is for us, and looked across the court room at the judges pleading with them mutely with my eyes for justice for everyone who has suffered, is sufering and will suffer this horrendous process.

I know only one thing, the W.C.A harms people, that only one third of Harrington’s recommendations from three of his reports have been implemented and the Government has no intention of making this process fair.  They only care about getting as many people off benefit as humanly possible, and if people suffer well according to them we are all scroungers, and deserve it.

I have only this to say, we are human beings, and anyone can become sick, anyone can develop a devastating disability or be born with one, and as racquel rolnik said on 11th September 2013, one death was one too many. One.  Under the WCA we in 2011 had 10600 of them, and that figure is more, but the DWP refused the freedom of information request in summer 2013 for the 2012 figures and now they will not keep records.

This process is harming people, people’s health is detoriating as they wait for yet another assessment, and one death is one too many.

As we wait for the decision for the W.C.A Judicial Review for mental health claimants, I know only one thing.  I want Justice.  I want to stop living in fear.  I like all of you want this government out, and if I could I would want this Government to face the justice they should face for the pain and suffering they have caused millions in this country.

I hope justice is served and remember this DM and MM have been through so very much to bring this case to the courts, they have been through hell,  whatever the decision is with the appeal, they took on the DWP and Atos, and gave them a bloody nose in May, and that should not be forgotten.  I know one thing, I was proud to stand with them the past 18 months, and will continue to stand with them.

Let’s hope justice prevails.

Protestor Poet. xx

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What The NHS Means To Me.

5 Nov

On Monday 4th November 2013, after a five month wait, I finally had my first Actemra infusion for Rheumatoid Arthritis.  I do not often share my inner most thoughts about me, but, I was so scared and anxious the night before that infusion,  about what would happen, how would I react to it, the kind of questions you ask before anything we have around our treatment or surgery.

This year the R.A. has hit me hard, and despite the disabilities carried on campaigning, fighting horrendous pain that has reduced me to tears, sent the Depression to hit me on top, and yes, I have comtemplated taking my life, because I did not want to live in this chronic excruiating pain anymore.  I know only too well what that blackness of depression feels like, how disabling it is, how powerless it can make us feel, and at times, how feeling when at the bottom of that pit it feels like no one gives a damn, its how the Depression makes us feel.

This year, I have seen the consultants come and go,  seen a rheumatology nurse for the first time, and needed mobility aids as the disease has progressed.  Used an electric mobility scooter for the first time,  that was hairy that first ride of me on a scooter, got banned out of a shop because they worried I would hit their display cabinet, (took my custom elsewhere) and slapped in a complaint, and been the victim of hate crime, out in the community and on line, which has affected me in many ways.

On 3rd November a friend of mine went to a TUC conference at congress house in London, and while chatting to me on the phone, told me that the NHS is now 80 per cent privatised.  Scary that isn’t it?  Its damn frightening.

I looked around on the ward I was on yesterday, and kept looking at the bag of medication attached to me thinking how much this trip to hospital was costing, how much the medication was, (it costs thousands) and how if I had to have private medical insurance I would not get cover for the trip to hospital, or be allowed this medication that I so desperately needed.

I can’t get medical coverage now. Why, well if you tot up the pre exisiting medical conditions, the fact I have been genetically tested, which i have for BRAC1 and BRAC 2 cancer genes and had genetic testing for a faulty auto immune genes; there is a long list of herediatry conditions in the family, heart problems, diabetes type 1, Cancer, blood pressure problems, and the auto immune disease list every member of my family has been affected in this way, the youngest member my niece who is 6 has type 1 diabetes and the poor mite has been very ill with it at times as well.  Add all this up and I am high risk, they tell me.  I can’t even get life insurance cover.  Why? well, because of all the above, and, had cancer a few times myself and am battling a tumour right now on top, so they tell me could not afford the monthly premeiums  and no one would touch me I was told.

I wonder how many more out there would be in the same boat?  Hundreds of thousands, probably much more than that.

You imagine, you had a heart attack. The first thing the ambulance crew ask, have you got insurance, can we see your card?  The first thing they would ask before any treatment happened.  If you did not have insurance you would be turned away.  I can see it coming.  My uncle, who lives in the U.S. had this happen to him.  He needed quadruple heart by pass surgery in the end and the papers he was signing as he was on his way to theatre, pre medicated,  and feeling horrendous, telling him he was not covered for this and that, and too ill to take it in, and hit with horrendous bills that he is still paying for to this day.  That is what is what is sneaking in this country, we now have at head of NHS England, Mr Simon Stevens, who was president of United Healthcare, and United Healthcare already operate many of the supply contracts to the NHS, with equipment and such, and not very successfully, hence the NHS has cut back on a lot of equipment in many ways because they simply cannot afford the prices these private companies are stinging the NHS for, and thus patients feel the impact of not getting the equipment they need, or simply not getting the treatment they desperately need, or it being rationed which is happening in some trusts like Staffordshire with steroid injections for one.

I was at my GP surgery the other day, and the put a notice up on a wall, saying that emergency appointments are just that emergency and asking people not to see a GP for a routine problem for am emergency appointment and in OCTOBER 2013, in my surgery 984 PEOPLE used the emergency appointments for routine problems.  What about the people who are real emergencies who cannot get an appointment then?  My Grandad was one of those last year before he died and he ended up in A and E because a GP could not see him.  The wait to see a GP, four weeks in some places, and GP’s have a few days a week, have Clincial Comissioning Groups meetings to attend as well, ( I wrote a blog about CCG’S earlier this year and what they are about).

I have stood out there with my placards, about the NHS, led the Lewisham Hospital NHS save our A and E campaign march with 15,000 people out there in November 2012, which I was proud to do, stood there in the mud and listened to Louise Irvine and Heidi Alexander MP in January 2013,  wore my save the Lewisham Hospital Badge, went to meetings, and seen first hand how the cuts are impacting on hospital and have to say primary services like GP’s as well, and never thought I would see the day in my area when 10 GP’s resigned over clinical comissioning groups, but since April 2013 that is what happened in Bromley.

I was in Manchester on 29th September 2013, and watched with amazement and pride the 65,000 people who like me, vented their anger at the Conservative conference venue outside at how the cuts were hurting them, and how much the NHS means to them.  For those 65,000 people out there that day, it was everything to them.  The stories of life saving treatment, the stories of their relatives who would not have been there if it was not for the dedicated staff who go above and beyond to save a life and to help that person live as well as they can do in the community, the stories would warm milliions of hearts, but not Jeremy Hunt and David Cameron’s.  They want the NHS not to exist, they want privatisation, because its about money, profits, and what profits they make from it.  What about the patients David Cameron?  The families who care for that ill relative, the dr’s and nurses who should have the equipment and the support to do the job?

A lot of the time when campaigning I have been in agonising pain, but I owe the NHS.  I owe them my life,  I owe them for saving my life when I was 18, teaching me to walk properly when I was 9 and had a year’s hydrotherapy, I owe them for my dad’s life for the amazing treatment and heart surgery he had two years ago, that without it I would be mourning my dad today.  For the care I had yesterday when i was scared in hospital, for the infusion treatments I have now started.

How often do we say thank you to the GP, the nurse, the doctor?  When you next see the nurse, that dr or even your GP  tell them thank you.  Think of the horrendous pressure they are all under, they want to help as many as they can get the help that they need so that the patient can go and have a long and productive life or make the patient as comfortable and cared for as they come to the of their lives.

I know the NHS is not perfect, I have had bad times in the NHS, and yes I have, rude doctors, and nurses, bodged ops, lost paperwork, communication problems, but, the good for me, outweighed the bad.  I am still glad the NHS is still there for me when I need it, and I thankful for the NHS for many things, for the dedication of their staff, to the miracles that happen, and a life is saved, which would not have been if not for the NHS, but spare a thought on this.  For all those people who go to A and E where it is not a blue emergency, (heart attacks, severe breathing problems for example.)  Think.  Could you go to urgent care, or out of hours GP, or see GP at next appointment, going to A and E because you have a cold is not the way to treat the NHS or a splinter in your hand is it.  But people do exactly that, and how many people have gone to the GP and used a emergency appointment that could have waited, or phoned an ambulance when it was not necessary, thus that ambulance when needed for a emergency could not get to the patient who needed it?  These are things that people need to help the NHS on, because it costs the NHS millions by not using the services for what they are designed for, A and E are for emergencies am ambulance is for emergencies and GP emergency appointments are just that, emergencies where you need to see a GP there because you are seriously ill.

Last week, many of you said well done over the Judicial Review appeal on Lewisham Hospital.  All i did was go along to a few protests, Helmut, Louise, and the campaigners at Lewisham deserve the well done’s not I.  But what you are not looking at, and what I tried to explain last week, was the bigger picture, a bigger picture that is sadly in place now.  You see, Lewisham Hospital merged with Queen Elizabeth Hospital in Woolwich, this hospital was built with PFI money (Barclays Bank Plc) own the PFI contact on the two hospitals the other being the PRUH in Farnborough.  Some of the workers were in favour of that merger.  Why?  That debt has now transferred to Lewisham.  They will be paying for a hospital they now have to trek to use as Queen Elizabeth has an A and E department.  That part of the TSA administration recommendations was a third of Lewisham hospital assets to be sold off to pay towards the PFI debt, hence the campaign in the first place, but now Lewisham have merged with Queen Elizabeth, over the next five years, they will see the services stripped back, and Hunt will waltz through the back door and downgrade the  A and E like what was done with Queen Mary’s Hospital in Sidcup in 2010.  Queen Mary’s now has been handed over to Oxleas NHS Foundation trust who are now in the process of selling off some of the land for housing, demolishing buildings and thinking of building a new psychiatric in patient unit for Bexley, Bromley, Greenwich, and I bet Lewisham residents as well, and simply put for four boroughs and the beds well you do the maths, mental health funding has been slashed, and as the director of the mental health trust said in December 2012 in Bromley, and I was there when he said it, build a new buiding at Queen Mary’s and services in the community and jobs will go to pay for it.  Now see the picture?

On 1st October 2013, Jeremy Hunt dissolved my trust, and south London NHS trust was no more.  My hospital was taken over by Kings Foundation NHS trust, and enduring a lot of changes at the moment, but spare a thought for this,  Hunt when he dissolved that trust the one I use all the time and need treatment from added another £200M to the PFI debt, and the debt now stands for the trust now stands at  £466m.  I read in the evening standard then, that Mr Hunt, will only pay £136m to the PFI debt, that the cuts to services, jobs, and hospitals would go ahead and this, that £185M has to come out of the GP patient care budgets in south east London to pay towards the debt, and how many patients in the area will be told no can’t have that treatment on the NHS there is no money, but if you want to pay private how does 11 am on 15 of the month suit can you fit it in?

I can see it coming private health insurance.  When I was on the ward yesterday, I could see Richard Branson knocking on that door, and heaven help us when he does.  Because it will not be the service that I had on that ward yesterday, which was outstanding by the way, and the nurses and doctors were fantastic.

You know what really moved me about yesterday as well?  That when they heard I campaigned for the NHS to save services and jobs one of the nurses with tears in her eyes came up to me and thanked me for saving her job.  In return I thanked her for the amazing care she gave me, and I had tears in my eyes, because with those infusions I hope i can slow the disease that is called R.A down and have more of a life, and that is the biggest thank you to the staff of all.  She helped me, I helped her and that is how it should be.

I only hope now I have more strength in the days the weeks and months to come, so that I can continue to fight for the NHS, because it means everything, and I want my nephew and nieces in the future to be able to access the NHS as well, that is the principle reason I fight for the future generations to be able to access this amazing service too, and not read about it in the foot note of a history book.

When you next see a dr, a simple thank you can mean so much, it can help keep them going as they are facing job uncertainties, the closure of their hospitals, and worrying how to treat as many people as possible who need the treatment and support of the NHS.

I owe the NHS so much.  What does the NHS mean to me?  More than this blog will ever express, and I want to say thank you to all the staff, drs, and all involved in the NHS for keeping me going everyday, Thank you.

Good luck

Protestor Poet. xx

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It’s been a while!

5 Nov

It’s been a long time.  I have not written a blog for so long, many months in fact, which has been really re miss of me.  Why?  Well, have been campaigning a lot, demos and protests, meetings and trying to help who I could with benefit information and admin duties on fb, needed many days to have 48 hours in it, so i could get to everything, but, could not.  When they have invented a transporter pad let me know please.

The other side to all this and why I have not written for so long, is that my health has been well, crap, to put it bluntly.  I have struggled with the Bipolar and with the R.A. Three steroid injections this year, or “Castrol GTX” is what i call it to try to ease off the pain and stiffness, but well it did not help, and after a few dark days when the mental health team did what they could to keep me out of hospital, the Rhuemy consultant finally decided infusions was the way to go forward, and finally after a five month wait i started Actemra infusions yesterday.

It’s been a hard year for so many, and getting harder all the time.  This year we have seen the bedroom tax implemented, (yes Cameron it is called that despite what you think), the reconsideration stage for employment and support allowance come into effect on 28th October 2013, and the winter will be hard and devastating for so many.

This year, we have seen the use of a food bank rise by 200 per cent in the period of April 2012 to march 2013, while the MP’s have had £23M in personal expenses in the same period, who are the scroungers well it’s those in power of course, we all know that don’t we, even if the MP’s deny it, and claiming for their fuel bills, while people are making stark choices of heating or eating or cannot do both, and let’s be frank Mr Cameron, people are freezing to death out there, and that is a travesty and tragedy that should never be ignored.  Whoever said” high fuel bills, well wear a jumper”, you know where you can stick that jumper, where the sun does not shine!  To see the media stories over the weekend of the MP’s claiming for their fuel bills and David Willits are you too posh that you can’t screw in some light bulbs in your house?  £125 plus VAT for 25 light bulbs to be installed which we have to go without to pay for is taking the p would you not say?  and claiming for £2,596 for fuel bills on top well, saw that list of MP’s and I could use every unprintable word going now, but I am trying to clean up my language, and i save the unprintable language for when I see some of these patronising  twits face to face, Boris “THE i need a comb” Johnson being one of those among them.

I am fed up of MP’s taking the piss like you all are, angry, hacked off and beyond angry, am incensed.  As today is November 5th, and the only one with honest intentions was Guy Fawkes, may I wish everyone today, taking part in the mass civil disobedience day loads of luck and solidarity.  When you block that bridge tonight at Westminster I will be thinking of you all, I only wish I could be there in person myself because a effigy burning of Cameron and Osborne is something  among all the protests, all the stories of how people are affected, that the media should film and send it to Number 10, and the mood I am in at the moment, I would deliver that video in person and stand outside number 10 to do it, with a clear message, Mr David “the I am too rich to give a shit about anyone other than my cronies, pass the bollies” Cameron,  you can shove your policies where the sun doesn’t shine,  because people power is  building and a massing and it’s not the people who are not the scroungers but you and your cronies and its time now to get them out.  Some how we must, because thousands upon thousands of people suffering and struggling cannot cope with the hell they are going through much longer.

 

I am sorry I have not written for so long, but am going to try to get writing again.

Good luck,

Protestor Poet xx