Archives for category: Health

In June 2018, Birmingham City Council cabinet met and worked through an agenda of around 1080 pages covering important items requiring a decision to be made.

Amongst these were two which were very important for Birmingham’s environment. The first was making a decision to move ahead with a ‘clean air zone’, the second was proposing “improvements” to Dudley Road that could cost around £28 million.

BFOE responded to both consultations giving critical support to the first but expressing deep concern with the second.

The plans for Dudley Road are a throwback to 1960s mentality that supported the free movement of car and other vehicle users.

The plans are to widen the road to a full dual carriageway and some junctions to 5 lanes width. There were also some half-hearted ideas for cyclists sharing (busy) pavements with pedestrians as well as some segregated cycle lanes. There were no measures to encourage the use of buses or walking or to improve the generally poor environment along the road. Moreover, the increase in vehicles along Dudley Road would lead to more cars entering the central clean air zone.

David Gaussen, Adam McCusker and Martin Stride demonstrate against the widening scheme. Birmingham Friends of the Earth

BFOE discussed these proposals at our meetings and agreed to start a campaign against the plans. While taking our petition round we realised that local people and businesses did not seem to be very aware of the plans and were not supportive of them.

We also emailed Cllr Waseem Zaffar, the Cabinet member for Transport and the environment.

BFOE were then were invited to a meeting with council officers in March to discuss this. We had naively hoped that the council would use the Birmingham Connected policy as the foundation for the changes but this was rapidly found to be untrue. We found out that the officers were not aware of the five very progressive core aims of Birmingham Connected.

They did offer some limited improvements for cyclists and mentioned that the traffic lights would be set up to allow priority for approaching buses. We were told that the scheme’s financial viability had partly been shaped in order to attract funding from the DfT which is heavily biased in favour of cars and other vehicles.

Feeling disappointed by this meeting, we have written again to Cllr Zaffar, but have received a reply which in essence suggests that there will be a lot of growth in population in this part of Birmingham and that therefore road widening is the only solution.

We have previously been very impressed by Cllr Zaffar speaking at a number of transport meetings and heard him strongly arguing the case for better public transport and measures to persuade a switch from our car dominated environment to one where people were encouraged to walk, cycle or use public transport.

We still believe there is time for the council to think this through again and will continue campaigning against these environmentally damaging plans.

 

 

Written by David Gaussen as a member of Birmingham Friends of the Earth

Source: http://www.birminghamfoe.org.uk/what-we-do/issues-we-work-on/transport/dudley-road-improvements/

 

 

 

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Dr Alex Ashman, of National Health Action, draws attention to a Health Service Journal article. It reports that University Hospitals Birmingham Foundation Trust, which provides medical services across South Birmingham, East Birmingham, Solihull, Sutton Coldfield, Tamworth and South Staffordshire, has entered into talks with Babylon Health, owner of the GP at Hand app, currently used in Rwanda and London.

The app’s artificial intelligence is intended to reduce footfall within the Trust’s A&E Department by performing triage – the assignment of degrees of urgency to wounds or illnesses to decide the order of treatment of a large number of patients or casualties.

The talks are said to be exploring the possibility of using the apps’ video software to provide virtual outpatient appointments. Dr Ashman and many of his colleagues believe that use of the GP at Hand app poses a risk to patient safety and the integrity of general practice.

 According to some of Babylon’s own doctors, the chatbot’s advice is often wrong

In December last year, Forbes magazine – though describing the NHS’s motivations to save money and produce better health outcomes for patients as clear and noble – reported a problem. According to some of Babylon’s own doctors, the bot’s advice was often wrong. To prove their point, the doctors carried out an audit on their own initiative, according to two insiders who asked not to be named for fear of legal repercussions.

Forbes cartoon

They found that around 10% to 15% of the chatbot’s 100 most frequently suggested outcomes, such as a chest infection, either missed warning signs of a more serious condition like cancer or sepsis or were just flat-out wrong.

Hamish Fraser, a Brown University biomedical informatics professor also disputed Babylon’s assertions in a recent article in The Lancet. He points out that Babylon’s software had answered only 15 of the 50 exam problems and was allowed to give three answers to each question. “When doctors do this test, you get one right answer,” he says.

Users can choose to subscribe to a monthly fee and gain unlimited virtual access to GPs or opt for a pay-as-you-go model. Read more here.

Patients who use GP at Hand leave their current practices in order to register with the app and 85% of the current apps users are aged between 20 and 39 years of age Practices across London using this service have less funding for the care of more costly patients as the money brought by younger healthier people is used to provide care to the elderly, those who are disabled and those who have complex needs.  As younger patients who use GP at Hand leave their current practices in order to register with the app.

Pulse Today reports that this CCG has had to be bailed out by neighbouring London CCGs

This was done in order to avoid the closure of local services, according to the Health Service Journal, as people transferred registration from other north west London CCGs to Hammersmith and Fulham Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG) which has seen the number of patients registered with the app soar to 51,000.

Dr Seth Dassanayake – who chairs the Local Medical Committee in Hammersmith and Fulham – has described delays to Ipsos Mori’s impact assessment and the long wait for an up-to-date Care Quality Commission rating for the service as ‘irresponsible’ adding that he was ‘uncomfortable’ about the level of information to support the video consultation service. The local MP Andy Slaughter has called for a Select Committee investigation into the app – a call which has now been echoed by the local council in a letter to the Guardian.

NHS England reversed its earlier decision to block Babylon Health

In February the Health Service Journal reported that Babylon’s remote video consultation service in Birmingham will be expanded to Birmingham after NHS England reversed its decision to block it, though – as GP online reports – an independent report into the safety of the app and its effects upon general practice still has not been released  – and Its artificial intelligence has been criticised by clinicians and in peer reviewed research published in the Lancet.

Dr Ashman adds that Birmingham and Solihull CCG and GPs across Birmingham have made it clear that they do not want GP at Hand to be rolled out to the city. BMA GP committee chair Richard Vautrey called the announcement “incredibly disappointing” and “premature.”

 

 

 

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A Bournville resident draws attention to plans for a pilot project to provide high-speed 5G wireless internet in Brussels, which have been halted due to fears for the health of citizens

The Brussels Times, Belgium’s premier daily online newspaper in English, reports that in July, the government concluded an agreement with three telecom operators to relax the strict radiation standards in Brussels.

However, the region has found it ‘impossible’ to estimate the radiation from the antennas required for the service. 

“I cannot welcome such technology if the radiation standards, which must protect the citizen, are not respected, 5G or not,” Environment minister Céline Fremault (right) said, “The people of Brussels are not guinea pigs whose health I can sell at a profit. We cannot leave anything to doubt.”

A pilot project is not feasible with the current radiation standards, and Céline Fremault has said that she does not intend to make an exception.

The Brussels region has particularly strict radiation standards for telecom applications. The standard of 6 volts per metre has already led to problems in the past with providing fast mobile internet via 4G in the capital.

In March, the various governments in Belgium failed to reach agreement on the auctioning of the 5G licences. It will be up to the next government to handle the proposal, said Telecom Minister Philippe De Backer.

Today news of a Gloucestershire-based 38 degrees petition has been received. It urges political leaders to challenge 5G, invoking the Precautionary Principle, and to delay Gloucestershire’s 5G expansion until it can be verified through reputable, independent and peer-reviewed studies that 5G and the total radiation levels caused by RF-EMF (i.e. 5G, together with 2G, 3G, 4G, and WiFi) will not be harmful for the environment or to the citizens of Gloucestershire –especially infants, children and pregnant women.

 

 

 

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Eve Jones invites all to join a peaceful, lawful march this Saturday to ask Birmingham City Council to declare a climate emergency and to introduce sweeping measures to combat global warming and mass extinction:

1. Debate a climate emergency motion at full council;
2. Pledge to make the city of Birmingham carbon neutral by 2025;
3. Call on Westminster to provide the powers and resources to make this target achievable;
4. Work with other local authorities on methods to limit Global Warming to less than 1.5°C;
5. Work with partners across the West Midlands to deliver this goal;
6. Report to Full Council within six months with the actions the Council will take to address this emergency.

Meet outside Waterstones by the bullring and march up New Street to Victoria Square, where the protest will take place. Meet at 12.30pm outside Waterstones or 1pm at Victoria Square.

Though the UK government admits we are failing to meet Paris Agreement targets which would keep us below a 2 degree rise, two weeks ago, when the House of Commons debated climate change for the first time in two years, 610 MPs stayed away. This seems at odds with the level of threat which we face, which is why we want our government to take urgent action now before we are forced to endure the consequences

The biggest price is already being paid by the very poorest of the world’s citizens and by nations least able to protect themselves (see Cyclone Idai in Malawi and Mozambique, for example) and even here in the UK it has been reported that our agricultural harvest was already 20% less productive in 2018 due to unusual weather-patterns. Eve ends:

“When we march on Saturday, we want to show Birmingham City Council and the people of Birmingham that we are united as a city and speak with one voice. We want groups from all of our communities to come down, make themselves visible, and make their voices heard”.

Read more here: www.facebook.com/extinctionrebellionbirmingham

 

 

 

 

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Research has shown that traffic congestion cost the British economy almost £8 billion last year and that air pollution is ‘emerging’ as a public health issue. Dozens of councils will face legal action after failing to tackle toxic gas from diesels.

Yesterday the West Midlands Combined Authority approved a trial which will provide motorists with money – up to £3,000 a year – to be spent on public transport, electric car hire and bike sharing schemes in exchange for giving up their vehicle. The project will be launched in Coventry this year before being expanded across the West Midlands and elsewhere if it proves successful.

Cash credits will be loaded on to a smartphone app or a Swift card, which is similar to London’s Oyster card but can be spent on public transport, car sharing or green hire schemes.

Andy Street, the Conservative mayor of the West Midlands, said: “We want to make it quick, easy and cheap for everyone to travel around the region by creating a range of reliable alternatives to private car ownership . . . This is a bold, ambitious vision for the future, and we’re confident we can prove the concept in the West Midlands and

The project will be funded as part of a £20 million government “future mobility” grant but taxpayer support will eventually be replaced by long-term funding from private companies including electric car clubs and bus or train operators.

One reader commented that any serious attempt to reduce car usage (congestion and pollution) would involve improving public transport – a far more costly undertaking.

Another, who lived in Stuttgart for two years writes, “Car ownership is much higher in Germany, but their owners are willing to leave them at home and use public transport where it’s a better choice. Unfortunately, in the UK our public transport outside London is not integrated, generally not frequent and not cheap – and this would take decades of investment to put right.

 

 

 

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August, who lives in Moseley, sends a first-hand account of Birmingham students’ march against climate change. 

He writes:

More than five hundred Birmingham students bunked off school today to march against climate change.

All Birmingham-based photographs reproduced with permission: copyright August Goff

Youth Strike 4 Climate coordinated young people from various educational establishments across the city who met up in the city centre.

They marched from Victoria Square, down New Street, through Pigeon Park and back to Victoria Square to protest against the inaction of governments to tackle climate change.

The march was organised by Katie Riley, a Birmingham student. She spoke at the rally, saying:

“Educate the youth of tomorrow and the parliament of today because people who don’t know what climate change is about don’t know how dangerous it is. Some people think the topic is dull and boring because the curriculum makes it like that. So, we need to change how people view climate change in order to get the change we deserve.”

Councillors from local political parties attended, as did Jess Phillips, Labour MP for Yardley.

Similar events have taken place in 100 British towns and other cities including London, Edinburgh, Canterbury, Oxford and Cambridge, calling for urgent action to tackle climate change, cut emissions and switch to renewable energy.

A few hours later a message was received from Irish colleagues, sending a podcast with messages from two 11-year-olds, Eve O’Connor and Beth Malone, who are involved in the schools climate strikes movementThousands turned out in Dublin and demonstrations were held in many towns.

 

 

 

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In February, the Mayor of London issued high pollution alerts across social media, bus stop signs, road-side displays and at Tube stations. It’s the tenth time Sadiq Khan has used the system since becoming Mayor and shows why he’s working hard to tackle London’s toxic air.   

We’re now just one month away from the launch of the Ultra-Low Emission Zone in central London. The 24/7 ULEZ begins on 8 April to help clean up London’s dangerously toxic air. It will replace the current T-Charge and operate within the Congestion Charge Zone.

In central London. The 24/7 ULEZ begins on 8 April to help clean up London’s dangerously toxic air. It will replace the current T-Charge and operate within the Congestion Charge Zone. ULEZ is a world first, it’s expected to cut harmful emissions in the zone by up to 45% in just two years. The Mayor is calling on London’s drivers to check if their vehicles will meet the new tighter emission standards.

SCRAPPAGE SCHEME OPEN FOR BUSINESS

Applications are now open for £23m van scrappage scheme to help London’s microbusinesses and charities get ready for ULEZ. Funding will help them scrap older, polluting vans and minibuses and switch to cleaner vehicles. The Mayor will later launch a £25m scheme to help low income Londoners scrap non-compliant vehicles

E-FLEX – FLEXIBLE SMARTER EV CHARGING

The Mayor wants to help more people switch to electric vehicles (EVs). That’s why we’re now working with partners on a vehicle-to-grid charging project that rethinks EV batteries as a two-way energy source. It uses bidirectional chargers that both charge the EV and make smart use of unused electricity in the battery when it’s stationary. We’re now looking for commercial fleet operators with EVs to join the trial.

SOLAR TOGETHER HITS 500

Solar Together London uses group-buying to help Londoners get high quality, affordable solar panels on their homes. The scheme’s now reached 500 installations, helping to supply London with more low cost, renewable energy. To find out more about the Mayor’s ambitions for solar in London, see his Solar Action Plan..

MAYOR’S ENTREPRENEUR WOMEN4CLIMATE MENTEES

Ten talented Mayor’s Entrepreneur applicants have received mentoring through C40’s Women4Climate programme over the last year. The mentoring has helped them develop their business ideas and get their careers off the ground. Seven of the group also went to the recent Women4Climate conference in Paris to represent City Hall. Mayor’s Entrepreneur awards take place on 25 March. We’ll be revealing details of the winners soon.

Read the eight sections about Birmingham’s Clean Air Zone (CAZ) scheme, which will come into operation on 1 January 2020, here.

 

 

 

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Why aren’t we, the electorate, consulted about the whole Council Budget, not just the proposed cuts?

 

 A recent BATC article asked this question and continued:

“The Council’s Budget Consultation is not a consultation about the whole Budget, only about the Council’s planned cuts. On 19 December the Council held a public Budget Consultation meeting.  But it was a rigged consultation because we weren’t given the full Budget plans, only the proposals for the cuts that the Council leadership wants to make.

“The cuts the Council has decided on amount to £50 million this year. But the Council’s total Controllable Expenditure is £1.1billion. The planned savings amount to just 4.5% of the total Council Budget.

  • Where are the plans for the remaining 95.5%? There isn’t a word about them in the consultation document.
  • Why are they kept secret and not spelled out in the report?

“(Of course the Council will say they aren’t secret, they are published somewhere – but this is meaningless if they don’t say where to find them.)”

Smoke and mirrors? 

In 2011, the late Alan Clawley, a tenacious scrutineer, spent several days poring over the 166-page Budget Book and saw that public services were indeed being cut – as publicised – but that civic spending was actually set to increase. 

He was so surprised by this finding that he emailed the council to check the figures, thinking that he must have made a mistake. He referred to these findings in the Birmingham Press after setting them out in great detail at a WM New Economics Group meeting, adding his proposals for an alternative budget. He continued: 

“When I looked at the overall cost of running the Council I saw that it is to INCREASE by £14 million, i.e. from £3,513 million in 2010/11 to £3,527 million in 2011/12.  

“To arrive at this bottom line the council has made CUTS of £149 million but INCREASES of £164 million, which includes £14 million extra for the Leader’s budget.  

“I can’t see where the much-publicised cut of £212 million comes from.  

“The CAPITAL BUDGET has been reduced by £16 million but this consists of a £95 million CUT and a £79 million INCREASE on projects such as the Library of Birmingham, Harborne Pool, Sparkhill Pool, Alexander Stadium, Safety works to parks Highways Maintenance, Big City Plan, High Speed 2, New Street Gateway, Eastside, and Icknield Port Loop”.

The council’s tables were published in an article with the relevant facts highlighted and  Alan Clawley ended by asking:

“How can we (non-experts) know if Birmingham City Council is telling us the truth when it says that the government is forcing it to cut the cost of services by over £200 million next year?  

“How many of us will study the 166-page Budget Book or by spend time scrutinising even the simplified version of the accounts that come with the Council Tax bill”.

 

Fast forward to 2019

The BATC article continues: ”The Council leadership says ‘The purpose of this consultation is… to invite the public and partners to consider these savings proposals, provide feedback and, if they wish, make alternative suggestions’ .” (Report to Cabinet 13 November).  

“But how can we make alternative suggestions if we aren’t given the full picture? 

“The Council Budget Equality Impact Assessment document says explicitly that the cuts they propose will hit the poorest and most vulnerable hardest. Here’s just one shocking statistic: more than 2 in 5 children in Birmingham live in poverty. 

“There must be savings that can be made out of the 92% of the hidden budget that will cause less damage to these children and their families than the cuts the Council leadership plans”.

The writer asks if the councillors really believe that if the Council leadership consulted on the whole 100% of the Budget, not just its selected four and a half percent, the citizens of Birmingham would say they want to cut:

  • Travel Assist for pupils in need,
  • school crossing patrols,
  • half the libraries’ books budget,
  • the Legal Entitlement & Advice Service accessed by some of the most vulnerable people of Birmingham,
  • privatise or close Council day nurseries
  • the hours of low paid Home Care workers
  • and other damaging cuts in the proposed Budget.

“That is one reason why it is a token consultation. But there is another. The introduction to the Budget Consultation 2019+ November 2018 by Councillors Ian Ward and Brigid Jones says “We know that the decisions laid out in this document will affect many of your lives, which is why it is so important for us to hear from you, and that you take the time to talk to us.”  The Report to Cabinet (13 November) says “Comments from the public will be invited at face-to-face meetings with the public….” Note it says “meetings” plural. And yet they arranged just one solitary consultation meeting. A leaflet given out at the meeting from BATC, Save Our Nurseries and Birmingham Keep Our NHS Public says:

  1. We call for open local meetings to be set up across the city by the Council, to which ordinary citizens, community and campaigning groups are invited to participate.
  2. They would have the aim of drawing up a charter of service needs, campaigning for Birmingham’s money to be returned and developing a vision for a new people’s city, a new Birmingham.

These meetings could be the catalyst for a mass campaign, led by the Council, against the Government austerity policies which are the cause of the relentless cuts in the Council’s budgets. 

2011 https://politicalcleanup.wordpress.com/2011/07/23/newspaper-headlines-shouted-council-cuts-but-what-actually-happened

2019 https://birminghamagainstthecuts.wordpress.com/2019/01/01/why-arent-we-consulted-about-the-whole-council-budget-not-just-the-proposed-cuts/#more-10301

 

 

 

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Though the NHS’s funding formula is designed to provide more money to the neediest areas, an FT article reported last week that – according to data analysed by the Nuffield Trust for the Financial Times – some poorer communities being “left behind” when accessing GP services.

Sarah Neville, Global Pharmaceuticals Editor, summarising the data, reports that rich and poor people in England receive different standards of care from the UK’s universal free health service.

Despite the higher burden of ill health in lower socio-economic groups, there are markedly fewer GPs per head in poorer areas of England than in richer areas. More details are given here.

Market Place, Tipton

National Health Service Sandwell residents feel health concerns go unheeded. The FT reports that data from the Sandwell and West Birmingham clinical commissioning group (CCG), which holds the budget for treating the local population, shows that 45.6% reported seeing their preferred GP always or most of the time, compared with a national average of 54.9%. The percentage not able to get a GP appointment stood at 17.1, compared with 11.4% nationally.

Pam Jones, who used to chair Healthwatch, described a kind of vicious circle for local surgeries: “Because they haven’t got enough GPs, they have to employ locums. They employ locums and then it takes more money out of their practice.”

Andy Williams, who heads the Sandwell and West Birmingham clinical commissioning group as its accountable officer, acknowledged that, despite measures to make more GP appointments available, he still receives feedback complaining that it is difficult to get an appointment, “ . . . so we know we’ve got a lot more to do. But we’re taking a much, much more diverse and imaginative approach now”.

He said recruitment has become much harder in the past two years, as a new generation of medical school graduates no longer want to make a mortgage-sized commitment to buy an equity share in a practice to which they are then tied to financially for their working life.

Local GP Ray Sullivan who chairs the local medical committee of the British Medical Association, said he was struggling with a relentless increase in workload without an equivalent increase in funding. He still receives “£150 per patient to do everything” and adds: “That’s the same as I got ten years ago. And the burden of work has gone up incrementally every year since.”

The findings increase pressure on the NHS to outline measures to reduce health inequalities when it publishes its long-awaited spending plan next month.

 

 

 

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 West Midlands New Economics Group

Thursday 22nd November 5-7 pm

Open meeting: FOE Warehouse, 54 Allison St, B5 5TH


Carol Martin will open the round table discussion

 Discussion points on Social Care (seniors) have been circulated to all on the mailing list.

Visitors to the site may read them here.

All welcome.

 

Contributions of £2 to cover the cost of room hire

 

 

 

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