Liverpool Echo

Fear not decay rotting poor patients’ teeth

In the long and growing list of life chores I would rather not do – defleaing the cat, paying the credit card demand, cooking liver – a visit to the dentist comes near the top.

It’s not that I am afraid of discomfort, although a scrape and polish is hardly a laugh-a-minute, but I resent the time the whole process takes.

Getting an appointment is a chore. No, the receptionist tells me, they don’t do Saturdays. Or late nights. Or early mornings for that matter.

Securing an unscheduled appointment is impossible and it’s expensive, because ours is not an NHS dentist.

It’s all about as much fun as, well, a toothache.

But I go, as does my husband and my kids, because you have to. The alternative is bad breath and black gnashers and once in the chair the dentist is actually lovely.

We’re lucky, though; we can pay those bills. Lots of other people can’t.

A new report this week has found there were 30,000 fewer free dental treatments carried out in Liverpool last year.

The British Dental Association claims low income patients are turning away from NHS dentistry ‘in droves’ due to the Government’s aggressive approach in stopping ineligible patients. In short, people are not seeking treatment over fears they will be fined for a wrongful claim.

But then that’s what happens when a Government ad campaign uses the slogan “don’t assume you’re entitled”. And when people get slapped for £100 simply because they’ve ticked the wrong box on a form.

The BDA talks about a ‘hostile environment’ being created by ministers for vulnerable and those on low incomes.

Too right.

Has this simply happened by accident? Well, I’ll leave that for you to decide.

Perhaps with the parlous state of the NHS you can’t blame the government for trying to claw back some cash. And of course those who can afford to pay should.

But it’s a disgrace that those who can’t – the weakest, the most vulnerable – should be made to suffer.

VISITING a city centre office the other day, a woman walked past, her coat wrapped around her shoulders.

Odd, I thought. It wasn’t exactly cracking the flags outside but it was fairly mild. A big padded number seemed a bit extreme.

Turns out the air-con where she sits is set several degrees below perishing.  Her male colleagues, meanwhile, don’t notice the icy blast one bit.

But then they’re in suits.  

Who knew that air-con was a feminist issue? 

First published in Liverpool Echo, 8 September 2018

Liverpool Echo

Hospital car park needs to get well soon

Going to hospital is stressful, isn’t it?

Whether you’re an outpatient, an inpatient or just there for your varicose veins it isn’t usually something to look forward to.

You want things to run smoothly, to be in – and hopefully out – with minimum fuss.

And, when it came to the care I received, that is exactly what happened this week at Wirral’s Clatterbridge Hospital.

The test was routine screen, the staff lovely, the surroundings clean and bright, the appointment on time.

And then I tried to leave the car park.

The barrier wasn’t working. I’d paid my ticket but the machine was having none of it, spitting the paper back like a petulant child.

I rang the help button and waited. And waited. And waited.

Wirral's Clatterbridge hospital
Wirral’s Clatterbridge hospital

Another motorist pulled up. His ticket failed and he rang for help. After five minuites someone answered and the barrier went up.

Hurrah! I dived into my car, pressed for help. And waited. And waited.

I rang the main hospital switchboard and a lovely woman put me through to a gentleman who she said could help.

Which car park was I in? I didn’t know but described where I was. He was non the wiser.

Had I paid? Yes, but the barrier wasn’t working. He was still non the wiser and advised me I’d have to wait until he got back to the office.

So I did. And then I waited a bit more. Another car pulled up behind me. The clock ticked on.

Meanwhile, the key in my back, wound tight anyway by the hospital process, was at twanging point.

Eventually the barrier was raised and I escaped feeling stressed and strangely teary.

I get that sometimes things don’t go according to plan. Technology fails, people are busy.

But a successful hospital visit is about so much more than doctors and nurses. It’s about the food and the porters, the cleaners, the building.

And the parking.

• OUR youngest is off to university later this month and that means a massive shopping trip. Or two.

Now the spoils of that retail frenzy is cluttering up our front room, rammed to the rafters as it is with pots and pans, plates, towels, pillows and – at my insistence – a toilet brush.

It’s odd to think she’ll be leaving home soon.

Still, after months of her commandeering that room – with revision notes, then holiday packing, now household items – it will nice to have it back.

I might be losing a daughter but I’m gaining a dining table.

<p>This article first appeared in the Liverpool Echo, 1 September 2018.

Liverpool Echo

Time to examine the exams

STRESS levels have taken an up-swing in our house of late.
There have been moody silences punctuated by banging doors, sleepless nights and snappy responses. And that’s just me.
Yes, after the blessed tranquility following season in June, things have kicked back into gear big-time at the prospect of A level results day next week.
The trouble is that these results – that little piece of paper on which a few letters are printed – have come to represent the be-all and end-all.
Achieve the right set of letters – A, B, C – and you’re off to your dream university course or job. You’re a bona fide success.

Get the wrong set and a

exam celebration
Get ready for more of this …

t best it’s crushing disappointment – followed by a mad scramble to try to salvage what you can of your education – and at worst an unmitigated disaster.

None of the above is accurate, of course. Grade As don’t guarantee a successful life – however that’s measured – and an E in Geography won’t mean you’ll end up homeless on the streets.
But that’s how our kids are made to feel, isn’t it?
Every. Single. Year.
Why does it have to be this way? Why are parents and teenagers put through this stomach-knotting uncertainty, every 12 months?
There has to be another way. And of course there is.
Much of Europe operates a different system to access higher education whereby students apply for their next steps in life AFTER receiving their results.
No relying on predicted grades and less of an all-or-nothing Doomsday scenario every August.
It’s not perfect but it does help to ease the terrible tension of results day.
For now, though, let’s wish all those youngsters awaiting results the best of luck.
If it all goes to plan then well done. If not – it really isn’t the end of the world.

A new report from university boffins reckons too much sleep can be bad for us.
Research has revealed that people who snooze for 10 hours are 30% more likely to die prematurely than those who slept for eight.
I don’t know about you but after weeks of being denied a full night’s kip thanks to the heat I’m willing to take the chance.

First published in the Liverpool Echo, 11 August 2018
Liverpool Echo

Brexit phoney war getting all too real

SITTING in a restaurant having a family meal, my son whipped out his insulin pen, dialled up a dose and injected. He didn’t break stride, regaling us as he did so about his plans to go to Leeds Festival and his opinion on the Reds’ chances of winning the Premiership.

We take it for granted now, this life-saving liquid that he shoves in his body and which, as a Type 1 diabetic, keeps him well.

He orders it at his pharmacy and then, a couple of days later, it arrives.

But what if it didn’t? What if there wasn’t enough to go round? Or there was a delay in delivery?

It doesn’t bear thinking about – and yet think about it we must.

Sir Michael Rawlins, chair of the Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency said this week that in the event of a ‘no deal’ Brexit the supply of medicines such as insulin could be disrupted.

This is because it isn’t manufactured in the UK and transporting it is complicated. Stockpiling is already underway.

It won’t just be insulin, either.


There must be lots of medication brought in from Europe as well as other medical supplies and devices.

The mere fact that this is being discussed is frightening enough. The idea that it might actually happen is beyond comprehension.

Until now, Brexit has been a far-off concept for many.

Two years ago when the country inexplicably decided to put two fingers up to the EU the perceived reality of what it would mean was, at best, vague and at worst horribly misguided.

But here in 2018 things are starting to crystalise. And it’s not a pretty picture.

Food may have to be stockpiled. Motorways will become ‘holding areas’ for trucks to ease the gridlock as 10,000 lorries a day are delayed by customs checks. The new world order will impact on aviation and driving licenses, sterling and passports. As for the 5 million EU and UK expats? Well, God knows.

Of course this might all be a phoney war, gamesmanship down there in Westminster among the no-dealers, the pro-Brexiteers, the Remainers.

For the rest of us, thought, it’s just plain terrifying.
“Oof,” said the current Mr Lee as he clambered between the sheets on our return from our week’s holiday. “There’s nothing like you’re own bed, is there?” I don’t know when this happened but I appear to be married to a middle-aged man.

This column first appeared in the Liverpool Echo on 4 August 2018.

Liverpool Echo

Into each life a little rain must fall

New Brighton recently until work started on the patio … (Picture: James Maloney)

IF it’s raining as you read this then blame me.

We decided to have our patio re-laid, based on the endlessly sunny weather, but barely was the first flag up than the rains came down and now the garden looks like a WW1 battlefield.

To be fair, the break in the heatwave has been a relief given that I prefer to sleep with both legs under the duvet rather than the one-in-one-out affair we’ve all endured of late.

But, raining or not today, it would take a monsoon to solve our water problems and for the recently announced hosepipe ban not to come into force next month.

I know what you’re thinking. Why haven’t they stockpiled water? Why is it happening here in the all-too-rainy North West? And if only they fixed the damn leaks we may not be in this position.

Of course United Utilities will argue these things aren’t as straightforward as they seem. Leaks are hard to repair, they say, for all kinds of reasons – not least of which is because many are underground and therefore unseen.

And the North West isn’t half as rainy as we think it is.

The fact is, it’s not just the lack of rain that’s the problem. It’s the demand.

Paddling pools, long showers, watering parched plants – when it’s hot we all use more of the wet stuff.

You can rail against water companies as much as you like but the fact is we can all do our bit by not wasting water.

Don’t get me wrong – I’m not advocating failing to flush the loo or sharing a bath with your neighbour.

But how many of us leave the tap going when we brush our teeth? Or fill the kettle for just one brew?

Water is a precious commodity and we’re lucky to have it – clean and on demand.

Other parts of the world don’t have that privilege.

For the entirety of her very long reign we’ve been told the Queen is barred from making political statements. Pah! She might keep her gob shut but she lets her accessories do the talking.

How else to explain that brooch she wore – a personal gift from the Obamas – when greeting Donald Trump this week?

He will have been too ignorant to clock it of course but we heard you Ma’am. Loud and clear.

First published Liverpool Echo, 21 July 2018