Liverpool Echo

Why flu jab dodgers leave me needled

IT’S September and that means we’ll be starting to see headlines about flu season anytime now.

I’ve only ever had it once – a long time ago – but can well remember how utterly dreadful I felt for days on end. Now, when someone in the office or pub tells me they have “a touch of flu” it makes me want to slap them.

Nobody has “a touch” of flu = it. If you have flu you are generally flat on your back, incapable of even opening your eyes, let alone able to hop on a bus to work.

And that’s people who are well. If you have underlying medical conditions or are very young or elderly or pregnant, flu season can be fatal.

Which is why it’s great there are free flu jabs available to so many people.

And why it’s ludicrous if those same people don’t bother to get them.

Last year 20 million people were eligible for the jab. Less than half took up the offer.

All NHS staff are also offered it as a matter of course. Again, take up was less than 70%.

Now I guess there are a number of reasons for this.

Hard-pressed workers – NHS or otherwise – may well balk at the idea of having to take time off they can ill afford.

Others may simply not know or understand that they can have the jab for nothing or how important it might be for their own health and that of others.

And then there’s the fear that having the flu jab will give you the flu – which it won’t. The vaccine doesn’t contain a live virus.

So what’s the answer?

Well, better education for a start. Posters, campaigns, mail-shots – not just to get the message out there to the public but to reinforce its urgency.

At best flu will make you feel like death. At worst it could actually spell it.

That sort of public health campaign will take cash of course, something in short supply in the health service. But surely, it’s better to spend money up-front rather than deal with the later fall-out in the shape of ambulance call-outs and emergency hospital admissions?

Meanwhile, I’d make it compulsory for all NHS staff to have the jab. End of.

And then there is us, the public. We also have to take responsibility for our own health.

You wouldn’t turn down a life-saving operation so why turn down a potentially life-saving needle?

If you qualify for the jab, have the jab.

And have a healthy – and happy – winter.

First published Liverpool Echo, 22 September 2018



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


Happy Birthday to a grand old lady

LATER next month my family and I are off on holiday to Italy. I know we’re lucky. My husband and I both work full time so we can save a bit through the year which means 10 days of eating ice cream and lying under a foreign sun is entirely achievable. But things could be very different for us and for an awful lot of other people. And it’s all thanks to the NHS. Because if the NHS wasn’t the free service it is me and my better half may well still be paying off the debt incurred to have our kids. We went through years of treatments in order to become parents at a cost to the health service of thousands of pounds – although of course we didn’t pay a penny. If we had then our credit card bill would have cast a long, unaffordable shadow down the years. Even if we’d managed to clear the debt by now we would still be racking up costs to support the medical needs of our son who has Type One diabetes. Insulin, testing strips, blood monitors. None of it comes cheap. We’ve been made rich in other ways, too. My dad had a serious heart condition for many years. He had operations and drugs and inumerable emergency admissions to hospital. But he worked for Plessey’s and my mum packed biscuits for Crawford’s. They weren’t exactly rolling in cash so, in a world without the NHS and in which patients would have to pay for everything – like it was pre-1948, the chances are he would not have been around to see me grow up. But he did. He got to walk me down the aisle and be at the Christenings of both his grandkids. Priceless. Today is the 70th anniversary of the founding of the NHS. Like many things, it’s not perfect. At 70 it’s creaking a bit and needs more care than it did in the past. But we should all raise a glass to the grand old lady. She’s done us all proud. * This week saw the 18-year-old attend her school leaving prom, a glittering event at which everyone looked their best. Especially the mums watching from a nearby car park.  You’ve got to hold your school gate end up one last time, haven’t you?