Author: Kitty S Jones

I’m a political activist with a strong interest in human rights. I’m also a strongly principled socialist. Much of my campaign work is in support of people with disability. I am also disabled: I have an autoimmune illness called lupus, with a sometimes life-threatening complication – a bleeding disorder called thrombocytopenia. Sometimes I long to go back to being the person I was before 2010. The Coalition claimed that the last government left a “mess”, but I remember being very well-sheltered from the consequences of the global banking crisis by the last government – enough to flourish and be myself. Now many of us are finding that our potential as human beings is being damaged and stifled because we are essentially focused on a struggle to survive, at a time of austerity cuts and welfare “reforms”. Maslow was right about basic needs and motivation: it’s impossible to achieve and fulfil our potential if we cannot meet our most fundamental survival needs adequately. What kind of government inflicts a framework of punishment via its policies on disadvantaged citizens? This is a government that tells us with a straight face that taking income from poor people will "incentivise" and "help" them into work. I have yet to hear of a case when a poor person was relieved of their poverty by being made even more poor. The Tories like hierarchical ranking in terms status and human worth. They like to decide who is “deserving” and “undeserving” of political consideration and inclusion. They like to impose an artificial framework of previously debunked Social Darwinism: a Tory rhetoric of division, where some people matter more than others. How do we, as conscientious campaigners, help the wider public see that there are no divisions based on some moral measurement, or character-type: there are simply people struggling and suffering in poverty, who are being dehumanised by a callous, vindictive Tory government that believes, and always has, that the only token of our human worth is wealth? Governments and all parties on the right have a terrible tradition of scapegoating those least able to fight back, blaming the powerless for all of the shortcomings of right-wing policies. The media have been complicit in this process, making “others” responsible for the consequences of Tory-led policies, yet these cruelly dehumanised social groups are the targeted casualties of those policies. I set up, and administrate support groups for ill and disabled people, those going through the disability benefits process, and provide support for many people being adversely affected by the terrible, cruel and distressing consequences of the Governments’ draconian “reforms”. In such bleak times, we tend to find that the only thing we really have of value is each other. It’s always worth remembering that none of us are alone. I don’t write because I enjoy it: most of the topics I post are depressing to research, and there’s an element of constantly having to face and reflect the relentless worst of current socio-political events. Nor do I get paid for articles and I’m not remotely famous. I’m an ordinary, struggling disabled person. But I am accurate, insightful and reflective, I can research and I can analyse. I write because I feel I must. To reflect what is happening, and to try and raise public awareness of the impact of Tory policies, especially on the most vulnerable and poorest citizens. Because we need this to change. All of us, regardless of whether or not you are currently affected by cuts, because the persecution and harm currently being inflicted on others taints us all as a society. I feel that the mainstream media has become increasingly unreliable over the past five years, reflecting a triumph for the dominant narrative of ultra social conservatism and neoliberalism. We certainly need to challenge this and re-frame the presented debates, too. The media tend to set the agenda and establish priorities, which often divert us from much more pressing social issues. Independent bloggers have a role as witnesses; recording events and experiences, gathering evidence, insights and truths that are accessible to as many people and organisations as possible. We have an undemocratic media and a government that reflect the interests of a minority – the wealthy and powerful 1%. We must constantly challenge that. Authoritarian Governments arise and flourish when a population disengages from political processes, and becomes passive, conformist and alienated from fundamental decision-making. I’m not a writer that aims for being popular or one that seeks agreement from an audience. But I do hope that my work finds resonance with people reading it. I’ve been labelled “controversial” on more than one occasion, and a “scaremonger.” But regardless of agreement, if any of my work inspires critical thinking, and invites reasoned debate, well, that’s good enough for me. “To remain silent and indifferent is the greatest sin of all” – Elie Wiesel I write to raise awareness, share information and to inspire and promote positive change where I can. I’ve never been able to be indifferent. We need to unite in the face of a government that is purposefully sowing seeds of division. Every human life has equal worth. We all deserve dignity and democratic inclusion. If we want to see positive social change, we also have to be the change we want to see. That means treating each other with equal respect and moving out of the Tory framework of ranks, counts and social taxonomy. We have to rebuild solidarity in the face of deliberate political attempts to undermine it. Divide and rule was always a Tory strategy. We need to fight back. This is an authoritarian government that is hell-bent on destroying all of the gains of our post-war settlement: dismantling the institutions, public services, civil rights and eroding the democratic norms that made the UK a developed, civilised and civilising country. Like many others, I do what I can, when I can, and in my own way. This blog is one way of reaching people. Please help me to reach more by sharing posts. Thanks. Kitty, 2012

NHS is being ‘protected’ from those who need protecting most by rationing treatment based on eugenic ‘guidelines’

NHS Bevan

 

The National Health Service (NHS) was born on 5 July 1948. It was the first time anywhere in the world that completely free healthcare provision was made available on the basis of citizenship rather than the payment of fees or insurance.

The NHS was founded on the principle of universal healthcare. It upheld the most fundamental principles of human rights: that each life has equal worth, and that we all have a right to life.

In 1946, the new Labour government passed the National Health Service Act. The model they used was based on one used in Tredegar in the 1930s, which was like an early, local version of the NHS. However, the new Minister for Health, Aneurin Bevan, who was MP for Tredegar, had to overcome opposition to the NHS. For example:

  • The British Medical Association (BMA), who feared that doctors employed by the NHS would lose income.
  • Many local authorities and voluntary bodies, which ran hospitals, also objected as they feared they would lose control over them.
  • Winston Churchill and many Conservative MPs thought that the cost of the NHS would be “too great.”

There are now four times fewer beds within the NHS than there were originally. That is despite increasing demand.

The Conservatives know the cost of everything and the value of absolutely nothing.

Tory governments have always been misers with public funds that are for funding public services. They prefer to hand our money out to millionaires.

However, the most fundamental role of government is to keep citizens safe. Without doing that, they have no legitimacy or authority. They have no point.

The role of public services is to protect and support the public who pay for them. As the coronavirus epidemic in the UK peaks over the coming weeks, many of our most vulnerable citizens face being cruelly let down by a government that has failed to ensure our public services are fit for purpose, particularly the NHS. 

Chronic underfunding over the last decade has left us with treatment rationing and situations in medical settings where patients are left for hours on end on trolleys in corridors without adequate care. That was happening long before the coronavirus did the epizootic shuffle through a couple of species to settle, often catastrophically,  in humans.

The government are transmitting irrational adverts asking the public to ‘protect the NHS.’ Yet it is the government that has failed in that endeavour. And systematically failed the British public. The NHS has ceased to be fit for purpose. Not because of its hard working frontline staff, but because of chronic underfunding.

This government have pathologised the notion of social safety nets, civilised support, and inverted the purpose of public services with an insidious neoliberal narrative.

It’s absurd, perverse and obscene.

This perverse rhetoric of ‘protecting’ a public service from ‘overuse’ has been with us for over a decade. It’s a way of normalising the dismantling of the services we have paid for.

Imagine the public needing to use a public service… makes you wonder what the Conservatives think they are actually for, if not serving the public. 

Of course, within the neoliberal framework, perverse profit incentives overshadow quality of service and delivery. It’s all about ‘efficiency’ and not quality. Public services have become cash cows: privatisation and profit. Another effect of market fundamentalism is the increasing conditionality of services, and in healthcare settings, the progressive rationing of treatments and cost cutting. 

However, that hasn’t worked out very well to date. It’s become a way of making individuals responsible for being ill and needing healthcare, and for the chronic lack of funding the government are responsible for; an inadequacy which is now being thrown into sharp relief.

The whole point of the NHS was to protect citizens, providing a universal healthcare service to all, ‘from the cradle to the grave’, regardless of someone’s circumstances. It was never intended to treat only the healthiest citizens, while leaving those who are elderly, frail or have expensive ‘underlying conditions’ to simply die.

Rationing treatment for covid-19

Rationing healthcare increased over the last few years, it has become the norm. Now, it has become very clear that treatment for covid-19 is going to be rationed. We have moved a long way from universal health care. 

The National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE) have already introduced guidelines for establishing treatment ‘ceilings’, based on who they think is likeliest to survive COVID-19. However, we have no way of knowing in advance of a treatment if someone actually will survive.

Formal guidance says GPs should “proactively complete DNAR forms, in advance of a worsening spread of coronavirus.”

People over 80 years old, and high risk groups are now being contacted about signing “do not attempt to resuscitate” forms. This approach is firmly embedded in coronavirus planning and provision amid concerns over a lack of intensive care beds during the worsening coronavirus crisis.

Multiple GPs have said they are talking to patients who are older or in very high risk groups about signing “do not attempt to resuscitate” forms in case these patients were to go on to contract the virus. Some practices have also sent out letters to patients requesting they complete the forms, it is understood.

One leader of a primary care network, who asked not to be named, said: “Those in the severe at-risk group and those over 80 are being told they won’t necessarily be admitted to hospital if they catch coronavirus.”

Guidance issued by the Royal College of General Practitioners last week also touched on the issue, saying: “Proactively complete ReSPECT/ DNAR forms and prescribe anticipatory medications in advance of a worsening spread of disease.”

End of life conversations cover prescribing palliative pain relief, so patients aren’t left without the ‘appropriate’ medicines.

It’s understood these conversations are also being had with people living in nursing and care homes.

Jonathan Leach, a practising GP who helped draft the guidance, told Health Service Journal (HSJ) We have a huge role as a college [on this] as we see the volume and type of patients we should be sending into hospital and those we shouldn’t be.”

Type of patient? I wonder if I will be the type of patient that doctors will decide to treat? Or will I simply be left to die at home, because I have comorbid conditions? 

Leach continued: “If covid-19 gets into a care home because residents are mostly vulnerable, we will see a significantly greater number over a shorter period who need this type of [palliative] care. So, part of coping with that is thinking ahead [about having these conversations].”

I always thought that covid-19 gets into any place simply because of its contagion quality, not because of a particular demographic – it doesn’t have any special preferences towards care home residents because they are vulnerable. Vulnerability doesn’t invite more coronavirus infections. That’s why the prime minister, the health and social care secretary and other no-vulnerable ‘clever’ people among the government have been also infected recently. 

Dr Leach called discussing DNARs with people who are not at the end of life but are older or in a high-risk group a “grey area”. He added these decisions “need to be done on a case-by-case basis” but it was “more humane” to do it in advance.

How can leaving someone to die because of deliberately inflicted government funding cuts, based on an artificially constructed ‘type’, be “more humane”? Leach should have met my grandmother, who, in her 90s was probably fitter and more active than he is. Yet she would have conformed to his ‘type’ of patient to be considered for a eugenics by laissez faire approach, based on just her age alone.

Recent guidance issued to hospitals said palliative care conversations with a patient’s family may have to take place remotely, and skilled palliative care teams may not have the capacity to undertake all conversations themselves.

A spokeswoman for the British Medical Association, which also co-drafted the GP work prioritisation document, said: “Considering, and where possible making, specific anticipatory decisions about whether or not to attempt CPR is part of high-quality care for any person who might be approaching the end of life or who might be at risk of cardiorespiratory arrest.”

That decision – choosing who is and who is not going to be given CPR-  isn’t ‘care’, high quality or otherwise. 

The National Institute for Health and Care Excellence’s (NICE) role more generally is to improve outcomes for people using the NHS and other public health and social care services.

Yet the NICE guidelines concerning treatment provision for covid-19 are founded on a distinctly eugenic rationale: ensuring the ‘survival of the fittest’ only. 

The guidance for the NHS on which coronavirus patients should receive intensive care treatment has heightened fears among disability campaigners that many disabled people will be refused life-saving treatment if they are admitted to hospital.

The guidance, which originates from NICE, says that all adult covid-19 patients should be assessed for “frailty” when admitted to hospital, and that “comorbidities and underlying health conditions should be ‘taken into account’.”

In other words, those who need it most will be the most likely to be denied treatment, based on a fundamentally discriminatory scoring system.

The guidance is in gross violation of the Equality Act, as it will result in discriminatory health care provision and violate the fundamental universal right to life, on the basis of protected characteristics; in particular, those of age and disability. 

The guideline says: “the risks and benefits and likely outcomes should be discussed with patients, carers or advocates and families using decision support tools (where available) so that they can make informed decisions about their treatment wherever possible.

“For patients with confirmed COVID-19, the guideline says decisions about admission to critical care should be made on the basis of medical benefit, taking into account the likelihood that the person will recover to an outcome that is acceptable to them and within a period of time consistent with the diagnosis.”

The Clinical Frailty Scale: NICE’s cold, callous categories of ‘types’, ‘they’ and ‘these people’: 

Clinical-Failty-Scale
Profound discrimination and human rights violations are deeply embedded in the NICE covid-19 treatment guidelines. The NHS are offering a limited treatment plan, in advance, for those of us considered ‘frail’.

It’s worth noting that China didn’t leave elderly people or those with comorbid conditions to die without trying to save them. In fact some were saved through the sheer persistence of doctors. 

Young and healthy people also die of covid-19. We have no way of knowing in advance if someone will respond to treatment, unless we try it. Ismail Mohamed Abdulwahab is the youngest person in the UK, to date, at just 13 years old, to die of covid-19, without his family around him in hospital. And Luca Di Nicola, who was just 19 was also healthy previously. Neither had underlying conditions.

Even when doctors are reasonably sure someone will die, sometimes they don’t

In 2017, I had flu. Within just four days of the start of my symptoms, I ended up with advanced pneumonia and was in septic shock when I arrived at A&E. My prognosis was very poor. At one point I was having chemicals pumped into me to try and raise my blood pressure from off the floor. In the end a doctor decided to try a ‘last resort’ vasopressor (to raise blood pressure and prevent organ failure) called methylene blue, which is injected very slowly (it’s called a ‘slow injection’), because the chemical is dangerous if it accumulates in one spot.

Septic shock happens when a person’s blood pressure drops so low that organs are starved of oxygen, leading to sequential organ failure. If it can’t be remedied quickly, people die because of injured organs. It’s one of the key causes of death in people who are critically ill with covid-19.

But in my case, it worked. OK, so it turned my urine green for days, but here I am, still.

However, if I become critically ill with covid-19, my comorbid conditions will mean I am most likely going to be among those who reach a ‘ceiling’ of treatment, if the NHS is overwhelmed. One of the key reasons people die of covid-19 is because it causes severe pneumonia and sepsis. Deciding who may survive those conditions is difficult in advance of treatment. Yet the NICE guidelines show those decisions have already been made. 

Eugenics in practice

A GP practice in Wales sent out a letter which recommended patients with serious illnesses complete “do not resuscitate” forms in case their health deteriorated after contracting coronavirus. Llynfi surgery, in Maesteg near Port Talbot, wrote to a “small number” of patients on Friday to ask them to complete a “DNACPR” – do not attempt cardiopulmonary resuscitation – form to ensure that emergency services would not be called if they contracted covid-19 and their health deteriorated.

do not rescusitate

The letter says: “This is a very difficult letter for the practice to write to you,” stating that people with illnesses such as incurable cancer, motor neurone disease and pulmonary fibrosis were at a much greater risk from the virus.

I have pulmonary fibrosis. I have to say the letter is probably rather more difficult to receive and read than it was to write. 

“We would therefore like to complete a DNACPR form for you which we can share … which will mean that in the event of a sudden deterioration in your condition because [of] Covid infection or disease progression the emergency services will not be called and resuscitation attempts to restart your heart or breathing will not be attempted,” it continued.

“Completing a DNACPR will have several benefits,” the letter continues.
“1/ your GP and more importantly your friends and family will know not to call 999.

 2/ scarce ambulance resources can be targeted to the young and fit who have a greater   chance.”

“The risk of transmitting the virus to friends, family and emergency responders from CPR … is very high. By having a DNACPR form in place you protect your family … [and] emergency responders from this additional risk.”

The letter said that in an “ideal situation” doctors would have had this conversation in person with vulnerable patients but had written to them instead “due to fears they are carrying the virus and were asymptomatic”.

“We will not abandon you,” it said. “But we need to be frank and realistic.”

But the letter makes it very clear that some people’s lives are valued rather more than others. Abandoning those people considered ‘frail’ is exactly what the guidance issued by the Royal College of General Practitioners and NICE outline and this GP surgery are intending to put that into practice. 

The GP surgery said the letter originated from Cwm Taf Morgannwg University Health Board, which then clarified the recommendation that vulnerable patients complete DNACPR forms was “not a health board requirement.”

“A letter was recently sent out from Llynfi surgery to a small number of patients,” a spokesperson said. “This was not a health board communication.

“The surgery have been made aware that the letter has caused upset to some of the patients who received it. This was not their intent and they apologise for any distress caused. Staff at the surgery are speaking to those patients who received the letter to apologise directly and answer any concerns they may have.”

The letter went viral on social media and one person said a nurse practitioner had recently visited her father, who is receiving palliative care, to also request he sign a DNACPR form.

The NHS currently has 8,175 ventilators and has said it needs 30,000 more to deal with an expected peak of covid-19 patients, while the health service is reportedly attempting to increase its intensive care capacity sevenfold amid fears the full effect of the pandemic could be overwhelming.

There is a lack of personal protective equipment across the NHS despite renewed efforts to provide ambulance crews, GP surgeries and hospitals with the masks, visors, gloves and aprons that help prevent coronavirus transmission. At least three healthcare workers have already died from the virus.

Doctors in the UK must consult with patients or their families if they decide that resuscitation would not be effective or that complications would result in more pain. Families can seek a second opinion but apparently, the decision is ultimately a “medical judgment” to be made by a doctor.

Based on the damning guidelines issued by the Royal College of General Practitioners and NICE .

So the ‘collateral damage’ due to years of Tory governments systematically underfunding the NHS is an uncivilised denial of medical support for those who need it most, based on a distinctly eugenic logic.

It took just two months into a global pandemic to scrape away the thin veneer of civilised democracy, equality and universal human rights.

Once the coronavirus crisis subsides, we must never forget that those of us with ‘underlying’ medical conditions were considered expendable in order to ensure those who generally needed medical intervention the least got it at the expense of others, because of government priorities, which are never about ‘uniting and levelling up’.  

Universal health care was destroyed by the Conservative governments of the last decade, and has been replaced by calculated, cost-cutting eugenic practices based on a deeply ingrained antipathy towards groups with protected characteristics, but in particular, towards those citizens with any degree of frailty.

A doctor in Spain breaks down, as he describes how people over 65 years old with Covid-19 are being sedated and left to die, so that younger people may have priority for treatments such as ventilators.

In the UK, NICE have drawn guidelines that set out who will get priority for treatment for the coronavirus. Not those most in need. Those most likely to survive anyway will have priority access to treatment. Elderly people and those who have underlying conditions will simply have isolation to protect them.

Universal health care and the universal right to life has become conditional. The  universal human rights that were fought for and earned are now a distant memory.

The Conservatives have systematically eroded both human rights and universal health care provision. The latter because of deliberate and chronic underfunding.

Scratch the surface of right-wing neoliberal ‘libertarianism’ and there lies a deeply embedded eugenic ideology.

The NICE guidelines have introduced the notion that our society requires triage, not as a last resort, but as a preemptive measure. It seems some people are considered too expensive to save. The NICE document separates human life into blunt categories. In one small group of boxes, there are people deemed to be worth saving. In the others, there are groups of people who, it has been decided, ought to be just left to die.  As cheaply as possible.

What is outlined in the NICE guidelines and clarified in the  and letter from the GP practice is not quite mass murder, but it is a sort of pre-planned, homicide by lack of funding, indifference and laissez faire.

The arguments presented for triage on the basis of ‘frailty’ are arguments from the eugenicist right wing. The fact that those who designed the guidelines think the elderly and the ill are acceptable losses is something we should remember long after the pandemic is over. This tells us the neoliberal obsession with ‘market forces’ was not about human potential or a flourishing society, nor was it about, productivity and abundance, but about something else.

For the high priests of ‘small government’ and market fundamentalism, citizens are expensive, especially if they need regular medical care. And the NHS should provide that care, because WE pay for it. The real drain on our health care is the increasing number of private company ‘providers’  who are draining vital funds into piles of private profits.

The UK will emerge from pandemic with its hierarchy still intact, and its elite shielded from the grim realities and disadvantages that ordinary people face. Those citizens who need things such as public services (perish the thought), well, they will continue to be regarded by the powers that be as ‘life unworthy of life’.

This is a government, lets not forget, that decided initially to run a dangerous, pseudoscientifc experiment on ‘herd immunity’ and ‘behavioural change’. That didn’t work of course. No-one knows if having covid-19 leads to immunity after recovery. Or for how long. Some viruses simply mutate. A good example is H3N2 strains of influenza. My entire family had it over Christmas in 1968. I was very young, and remember my mother said we had “Hong kong ‘flu”.

H3N2 evolved from H2N2 by antigenic shift and caused the Hong Kong Flu pandemic of 1968 and 1969 that killed an estimated one million people worldwide. In 2017, I got it again. It’s a particularly nasty strain that the ‘flu vaccination can’t protect people from, and has become increasingly resistant to antivirals such as Tamiflu. In the years that H3N2 circulates, more people are hospitalised with ‘flu complications. Partly because this virus simply changes itself to dodge defeat. The second time I got it, I ended up with pneumonia and in septic shock, as outlined earlier.

You’d think parasites like viruses would have evolved to find ways of not killing their hosts off. It’s hardly in their best interests after all.

It’s almost the epitome of neoliberal commodificationism and consumerism.

My point is, we simply don’t know if people who have covid-19 are immune afterwards. No-one does.

The NICE guidelines have introduced the notion that our society requires triage,  not as a last resort, but as a preemptive measure. It seems some people are considered of less worth than others, and too expensive to save. 

Now we know that our current government, with it’s apparent ease in sliding towards eugenic solutions, are never going to be the cure for all of our ills.

On a global scale, covid-19 has thrown the evils of neoliberal economic systems – especially embedded inequality, the systematic erosion of fundamental human rights and the fragility of democracy – into sharp relief.

And some governments’ indifference to the lives and deaths of populations.

We must never forget this; the government believe that one life is worth less than another – some lives can so easily be regarded as expendable.


It is easier than ever before for those with vested interests to spread disinformation on vital matters of public interest. It’s happening every day.

If you want to know what’s really going on, you need to hear from the those willing to dig down to the truth. But I can’t do that vital work unless readers donate.

Please consider making a donation. That ensures I can continue to research, write independent articles and support others facing the injustices of Conservative anti-welfare policies.

At the moment I am struggling to get by in quarantine. I rely on online shopping at the moment, but most supermarkets are fully booked up, even for ‘click and collect’ slots. That leaves me with the only desperate option of buying food and essentials on ebay and other sites where prices have been spectacularly hiked.

DonatenowButton

I have SLE, so I’m staking my claim on hydroxychloroquine

 

lupoma

I can’t manage without my medication for systemic lupus erythematosus (otherwise known as SLE or lupus). Not being able to access my essential treatment places me at a significantly high risk of serious infections more generally, and specifically to covid-19 or a relapse, with severe complications such as severe pneumonia and sepsis.

I was prescribed hydroxychloroquine in 2017 by my rheumatologist following life-threatening complications when I caught ‘flu. It happened during a flare-up of my autoimmune illness symptoms. Because lupus often lowers people’s immunity to pathogens, it leaves us vulnerable to severe infections and an abnormally aggressive immune response that causes inflammation throughout the body, and damages organs – sepsis. Within a couple of days of starting with ‘flu symptoms, I had advanced pneumonia and arrived at A&E already in septic shock. I very nearly died. 

Many of the treatments used to treat severe lupus are immune suppressants. These also lower peoples’ resistance to infections, as do steroids, also commonly used to treat the widespread inflammation that autoimmune illness causes. I was originally prescribed injections of a chemotherapy called methotrextate to halt the advance of my illness.

I also periodically need slow release steroid injections to manage severe symptoms. Hydroxychloroquine is an anti-rheumatic, anti-inflammatory and antimicrobial drug that was originally used to prevent malaria. Studies show that it offers some protection for lupus patients with high risk of mortality from severe infections, such as pneumonia, kidney infections and sepsis.

It is the only medication shown to increase survival in lupus patients. It has been shown to reduce lupus flares and prevent organ damage including cardiovascular events, according to Andrea Fava and Michelle Petri in the Journal of Autoimmunity. 

More recently, hydroxychloroquine has been researched for use in treating dengue, zika virus and HIV. It is a powerful antiviral.

That is why it has gained attention from governments around the world as a potential treatment for covid-19.

Recently, the UK government has banned the parallel export and “hoarding” of three drugs being used to treat coronavirus patients in China in anticipation of shortages in Britain following the covid-19 pandemic.

Parallel exporting is when wholesalers buy medicines already placed on the market in the UK to sell them in another country in the European Economic Area (EEA). Parallel exporting and hoarding of medicines by wholesale dealers can create or worsen medicine shortages.

Chloroquine phosphate and the generic drug hydroxychloroquine (both anti-malarials) as well as a couple of other antivirals, are being restricted to “meet the needs of UK patients”, the government has said.

However, it wasn’t specified which patients’ needs are to be met. It’s emerged since that the government clearly didn’t mean lupus patients like me who depend on the drug prevent our illness from becoming life-threatening.

While the infection rate and severity of covid-19 remain moving targets for much of the general public, people who suffer from lupus are immunocompromised, placing us at significantly higher risk of becoming seriously ill.

Hydroxychloroquine was placed on the restricted list from 14 March and chloroquine phosphate – an older anti-malarial, was added on 26 February.

Following Donald Trump’s personal pharmaceutical advice regarding the treatment of covid-19 with chloroquine, a man in Arizona died after ingesting chloroquine phosphate – believing it would protect him from contracting coronavirus. His wife also ingested the chemical and is receiving critical care. She said they had watched the US President  speaking about the potential (but unverified) benefits of chloroquine treating coronavirus during televised briefings.

However, the toxic ingredient the couple in their sixties consumed was not the medication form of chloroquine used to treat malaria and autoimmune illness in humans, but the ingredient listed on a fish tank cleaning agent, which is used to treat parasites in fish.

As someone who takes hydroxychloroquine every day, and who was clinically assessed as having covid-19 two weeks ago, when the symptoms I’d already had a month by then took a turn for the worst, I can say with confidence that the drug does not prevent infection with the coronavirus. I can say, however, that perhaps my daily dose is a reason why I didn’t end up needing intensive care support. That said, I’m still treading water with symptoms six weeks from the onset, though at least the awful chest pain has receded. 

The UK government says: “Chloroquine and hydroxychloroquine are not licensed to treat covid-19 related symptoms or prevent infection.

“Clinical trials are ongoing to test chloroquine and hydroxychloroquine as an agent in the treatment of covid-19 or to prevent covid-19 infection. These clinical trials are still not completed, so no conclusions have been reached on the safety and effectiveness of this medicine to treat or prevent covid-19.

Until we have clear, definitive evidence that these treatments are safe and effective for the treatment of covid-19, they should only be used for this purpose within a clinical trial.”

Yet pharmacies are now reporting shortages of hydroxychloroquine.

Hydroxychloroquine is a front line medication taken by approximately 90% of lupus patients to control their condition.

LUPUS UK, a national charity, have been receiving an increasing number of reports from people with lupus who have been unable to collect their prescription, with their pharmacist currently unable to order the medication from their suppliers.

The charity says: “We don’t yet know how effective hydroxychloroquine might be against covid-19. What we do know, is that if people with lupus who have been prescribed hydroxychloroquine stop taking this medication, their disease could flare.

“This can in itself be a life-threatening situation, unnecessarily burdening the health service, but it also increases the vulnerability of already at-risk patients to covid-19 infection.

“Given this, we have acted early and written to the Secretary of State for Health and Social Care (Matt Hancock) and the Chief Pharmaceutical Officer with other member of RAIRDA, asking them to ensure that the supply of hydroxychloroquine to patients remains secure and to look into how we can make this supply even more robust in the coming months.

“On the 24th March 2020 Daniel Zeichner MP submitted a written question to the Department of Health & Social Care;

“To ask the Secretary of State for Health and Social Care, what steps he is taking to ensure a robust supply of hydroxychloroquine to patients reliant on that medication to manage (a) lupus, (b) scleroderma, (c) rheumatoid arthritis and (d) other serious autoimmune rheumatic conditions during the covid-19 pandemic.”

We are awaiting a response.” 

Lupus UK add: “We know that lots of people have had issues collecting their prescription of hydroxychloroquine and want to help us.

Writing to or emailing your local elected representative such as your Member of Parliament (or other local representative such as your Welsh Assembly Member, Member of the Scottish Parliament or Members of the Legislative Assembly in Northern Ireland), can be a way of expressing your concerns and supporting RAIRDA’s work asking the government to take early action to prevent any prolonged shortage.

This will not only help patients, but also help reduce demand on the health service at this difficult time.

It’s important your letter or email is your own and says why this issue is important to you as a individual, but here are some things you might want to consider:

  • Checking who your MP is HERE. Include your name and address at the beginning or end of your email – politicians can only respond to people who live in their constituency, so make sure you write to the correct MP and show them you’re a constituent. 
  • Using a mix of your own personal story and concerns and facts about the wider context, like the fact a shortage of hydroxychloroquine could mean patients flare and need to go to hospital, putting more burden on the health service at this really difficult time.
  • At the end of your letter, perhaps ask them to raise this issue with the government urgently.
  • You might want to include some general information about hydroxychloroquine, like this below:

Hydroxychloroquine is used to control some rare autoimmune rheumatic diseases like lupus and scleroderma. These can be life-threatening if they aren’t controlled. Tens of thousands of people in the UK therefore rely on this medication. Without this medication patients conditions can flare, which can be really serious, life-threatening, and it can also make people with these conditions even more vulnerable to covid-19.

Shortages of the drug have been reported because it’s being considered as a treatment for covid-19. However, it’s still unproven. While we don’t know much about hydroxychloroquine’s ability to treat covid-19, we do know that it helps patients with conditions like lupus and scleroderma control their diseases, helping them stay relatively well and reducing the burden on the health service.”

If you’re writing to a member of a devolved assembly follow these links to find your local representatives in:

If you have experienced difficulty getting your hydroxychloroquine prescription, please contact Lupus UK here.

More information will be shared as the situation develops.

Image-1-Hydroxychloroquine

If you don’t need it, please leave it for those whose lives depend on it.

See also: Vital drug for people with lupus running out after unproven Covid-19 link

 


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At the moment I am struggling to get by in quarantine. I rely on online shopping at the moment, but most supermarkets are fully booked up, even for ‘click and collect’ slots. That leaves me with the only desperate option of buying food and essentials on ebay and other sites where prices have been spectacularly hiked.

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Opposition parties call for emergency legislation to protect Universal Credit claimants from impacts of Covid-19

RU Ready UC

Both Labour and the SNP have called on the Prime Minister to provide emergency legislation to protect workers’ rights and ensure people receiving Universal Credit do not face sanctions if they are unable to make an appointment due to the coronavirus outbreak.

In Prime Minister’s Questions, Ian Blackford MP asked that while the Governor of the Bank of England suggested a ‘financial bridge’ may be available to assist markets through any economic volatility, would there will also be a ‘financial bridge’ for ordinary workers and those on social security.

He said statutory pay must be in line with the Living Wage, and Universal Credit claimants must not face sanctions if they need to self isolate through becoming ill.

Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn also urged the Prime Minister to ensure that workers and benefit claimants are protected from hardship, should they need to self-isolate and are unable to work or attend Jobcentre appointments.

Boris Johnson announced during PMQ’s that rules on statutory sick pay will be changed to allow Coronavirus patients to claim from the first day of their sickness.

But with many workers such as freelancers and the self-employed ineligible for sick-pay, opposition parties warned that those affected may be forced to choose between their health and financial security.

Commenting, SNP Westminster Leader Ian Blackford MP said: “All of us must provide clear, calm and practical leadership in the days ahead.

“In the past few days Scotland’s First Minister, the Scottish Government and the Westminster government have been working closely to put plans in place to protect all of our people. 

“Of course, people are worried about their health, but there are also millions of workers who are worried about the consequences for their incomes, their job security and their families. 

“What they require from this Prime Minister is specific guarantees.

“While the Prime Minister confirmed that statutory sick pay will be available from day 1, millions of workers are not eligible because they do not meet the earnings threshold and it is not available for the self employed or those on zero-hours contracts.

“The payments must also be in line with the Living Wage. Small businesses must also be supported”.

Meanwhile, Labour MP and shadow Chancellor John McDonnell accused the Chancellor Rishi Sunak of failing to act over the threat the Coronavirus poses to the economy.

“There is no sense of urgency from the Chancellor in his response to the potential economic impacts of coronavirus,” said Labour’s Shadow Chancellor.

“We cannot wait another week until the budget to have a plan published. People, businesses and the markets need clarity now that the government has a comprehensive economic plan in place.”

We awaited a detailed economic plan but the sum total of economic thinking in the Government’s coronavirus action plan is a restatement of existing HMRC policy.”

“The Chancellor has failed to outline how he will respond to potential consequences for production, consumption, and GDP, or provide support for vulnerable workers.”

He continued: “The public will be disappointed that the Chancellor does not seem to appreciate the seriousness of the situation facing the economy, and he must urgently issue a plan from a Treasury perspective of the kind that Labour published on Monday.”

Many self employed people who don’t qualify for sick pay have been told to claim Universal Credit if they become ill and need to self isolate. There has been little assurance from the Government regarding how it will mitigate the five week waiting period for those people, at a time when they are vulnerable, and can hardly visit food banks under the circumstances. 

People may also be expected to meet job centre staff in person, with ID documents in order to activate their Universal Credit claim, which is problematic if you are ill or self-isolating. 

Universal Credit isn’t fit for purpose at the best of times, how on earth can people trust the Department for Work and Pensions to ensure people aren’t left without money for food and essentials for their families for weeks on end?

Because lets face it, that has become the established norm over the last eight years.

UC-graphic-1

 


 

 

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Price hikes of sanitizing gel throws perverse incentives of neoliberalism into sharp relief

sanitizer

Demand for hand sanitizer is surging around the globe as the new coronavirus spreads, prompting retailers to ration supplies and online vendors, despicably, to hike prices. Many high street shops and pharmacies have no stocks left at all.

There are also price hikes on antibacterial hand wash.

The surge in demand has prompted some third-party sellers to inflate their prices on platforms including Amazon and eBay.  In the UK, a Defendol hand gel retailing at £3.49 ($4.46) in stores is being sold for £109.99 on Amazon. 

Neoliberal economies, based on a ‘competitive market place’ model definitely create inequality and ensure the survival of the wealthiest, apparently. Essential goods and services are provided on the sole basis of profit, rather than on human need.

The global mortality rate for Covid-19 is 3.4 percent, according to the World Health Organisation. By comparison, seasonal flu generally kills far fewer than 1 percent of those infected. 93,574 have officially identified as having been infected with the virus, there have been 3,204 deaths that are known to have been caused by COVID-19.

However, some people who died prior to the first case that was identified as being due to the new virus have been found to have died because they also had the virus. There are 39,312 people that we know about with active infections, and 32,540 (83%) of those have mild symptoms, while 6,772 (17%) are seriously or critically ill. We now know that the virus has been spread in communities ‘under the radar’ for around six weeks before the first cases came to the attention of health authorities. Consequently, we don’t know the full extent of the epidemic yet. Or how it will continue.

In circumstances where the majority of humans are desperate to prevent the spread of a virus that has killed people, some see only an opportunity to capitalise on it and make personal profit. People are stockpiling toilet role, which has also pushed up prices. It’s one of the perverse incentives of neoliberalism: profit over human need. 

This is a disgusting manipulation of prices of essential goods that are designed to help prevent disease transmission, based on perverse profiteering motives and greed, in the face of fear and panic on a global scale. That’s despicable, utterly selfish, bordering-on-psychopathic behaviour.

Hand washing with regular soap and water is always your best bet for killing microbes on your hands, but a natural, alcohol-based hand sanitizer that you can make yourself is your next best bet if you are out and about, with no access to hand washing facilities. Although some health professionals are a bit worried that people may not include essential ingredients, others have said that provided people include a 60% (minimum) proof alcohol base in their sanitizer mixture, it will work. 

I’ve made a lot of my own toiletries over the years, because I tend to be sensitive to common additives used in commercially manufactured products. I base my ingredients on scientific research only, rather than the anecdotal evidence that commercial suppliers tend to provide.

Here is what you need to make an effective hand sanitizer:

  • Isopropyl alcohol/’surgical spirit. Needs to be at least 60% proof
  • Aloe vera or lavender gel
  • Add a teaspoon and a half of glycerine, if you have it, as a moisturiser
  • Lavender essential oil geranium or tea tree essential oil, or other essential oils of your choice. Peppermint oil, for example, is quite a powerful antimicrobial, as are rosemary, tea tree and lavender oils. The essential oils are optional, but do improve the smell, if nothing else
  • Half a teaspoon of hydrogen peroxide solution at 3-5%, if you have it. This acts as a preservative, killing any existing bugs in the mixture or container
  • Small 1-2 oz bottle. Both toxin-free plastic squeeze or pump bottles, plastic or glass spray bottles work well. The hand sanitizer mixture is thin enough to be sprayed, though it will come out in more of a stream.

Pour two thirds of a cup full of the alcohol into a bowl. Remember, the alcohol needs to make up at least two thirds of the mixture and must be 60% proof or above. The two key ingredients in this recipe are the alcohol and the gel – and you can also buy lavender gels to use instead of aloe vera, if you prefer. The glycerine is to mitigate the drying effects of the alcohol a little more than the gel alone would do.

You can buy a litre of surgical spirit – 99% proof alcohol – on Amazon for just £6.99, which should last a while. Not ideal if you boycott Amazon, but sometimes, needs must. The price is likely to inflate in the coming weeks.

Add 10 to 15 drops each of tea tree essential oil and lavender essential oil. These two essential oils have natural antibacterial and antiviral properties, and together they smell great. You can use any other essential oils you like. the alcohol, which needs to make up at least two thirds of the mix, is the main ingredient which will kill the family of corona viruses. Other essential oils to consider are geranium (it’s great in combination with lavender, too), jasmine or rose. You can use any that you like. 

Add a third of a cup of the aloe vera or lavender gel. Stir the mixture until it is blended well. Use a funnel to pour the mixture into small 2oz spray bottles or small hand soap containers. You could also re-use shop-bought hand sanitizer containers.

This quick-fix sanitizer does work, and the ingredients have been approved by doctors, and the WHO, provided your mixture contains a minimum 60% proof alcohol. It is effective against the coronavirus family.  The virus is protected by a shell, called an “envelope glycoprotein,” which the alcohol scrambles. It dies pretty quickly once its shell has gone.

Make sure you keep the lid on your bottle closed after use, that way your sanitizer will last for weeks. Alcohol is an excellent preservative, as is the hydrogen peroxide.

Keep out of reach of children and pets.

A little more about essential oils

A group of scientists scattered across the globe are collaborating to find an effective treatment for Covid-19. One potential treatment is an anti-malarial drug called hydroxychloroquine, which is also used to treat some autoimmune conditions, such as lupus. I was prescribed the drug in 2016, and it has helped some of the symptoms of my illness – lupus.

Both chloroquine and hydroxychloroquine – approved and widely used anti-malarials and autoimmune disease drugs – were effective in stopping the virus from spreading in human cells in the lab, researchers reported in a short letter published Feb. 4. in the journal Cell Research. What’s more, both drugs were effective at low concentrations, and neither drug was highly toxic to human cells.

They carry very  few side effects in the short term. Longer term – over longer than five years – both drugs can cause retinopathy in some people. Those of us taking the treatment for autoimmune disease have annual eye checks.

People with underlying autoimmune conditions such as lupus are at risk of complications from the novel coronavirus, because the illness often lowers peoples’ immunity, and many of the treatments are also immune suppressants or steroids, which inhibit the immune system further.

Current advice from rheumatologists is to keep taking your medication, and seek medical advice if you become ill with Covid-19 symptoms. 

Hydroxychlorquine is quite a powerful antiviral and anti-inflammatory agent, which has been used to treat HIV virus, Mers virus, Dengue fever and Zika virus. Many other drugs, and combinations of medicines are being re purposed currently to explore their potential to address the coronavirus outbreak. 

There have been many historical claims made about beneficial qualities of essential oils, which have been largely anecdotal. However, over recent years scientists have trialled some essential oils to see if they can be used as part of a strategy to combat antibiotic-resistant bugs. The NHS has also run many studies of the application of essential oils in healthcare settings, with some positive results..

Tea tree oil was used by soldiers to disinfect wounds during world war 2. It has a broad range antimicrobial activity. Lavender oil also scored quite well in several studies, and it reduces inflammation, as does geranium and a few other essential oils. Other essential oils that are powerfully antimicrobial are: cinnamon, clove, rosemary, wintergreen, white thyme, myrtle, basil, oregano (which even kills the bug that causes botulism), sage and verbena, among others. 

The best two according to combinations of studies, for ‘flu and cold-type viruses are tea tree, which also kills many pneumonia-causing agents, and myrtle, which also kills salmonella and e-coli bugs. White thyme has a very broad range of antimicrobial activity, too. Clove is pretty powerful as an antimicrobial generally. Peppermint, star anise, lemon balm, oregano, ginger, chamomile, thyme, sandalwood and eucalyptus oils have all demonstrated antiviral properties in laboratory tests. Many kill fungi and bacteria too.

However, a word of caution here. Although studies have shown that some essential oils do have antimicrobial properties, hand washing, cough and sneeze etiquette and social distancing are the most effective ways of minimising your risk of getting the coronavirus. But that doesn’t mean that you can’t supplement those methods with using essential oils.

I do. I now use tea tree oil for cleaning minor cuts, as I’m quite prone to infection. Even tiny cuts have resulted in a painful abscess or a rapidly expanding area of redness and inflammation requiring antibiotics. That’s because of my lupus-related immunity problems. 

I use lavender and geranium essential oil with oatmeal in a hand soak or in the bath to treat flare ups of eczema, for example. If you try this, make sure you put the oatmeal in a muslin bag, tied cheesecloth or an old pair of tights, otherwise you will be sat in a bath load of porridge.

Never take essential oils internally, they are used as topical application and for aromatherapy only.

Remember, they are also a ‘complimentary’ medicine. I use a combination of treatments for lupus, including hydroxychloroquine and other prescribed medication from my rheumatologist, along with a  range of essential oils to ease some symptoms and to reduce my risk of infection.

I also wash my hands a lot. I use a hand gel when I can’t access washing facilities while out and about.

Keeping generally as healthy as possible is also important. Good nutrition, hydration, exercise and sufficient sleep may help people stay well.

Lastly, here are some more examples of scientific studies on the antimicrobial actions of essential oils:

Essential Oils as Antimicrobial Agents—Myth or Real Alternative?

Antimicrobial Properties of Plant Essential Oils against Human Pathogens and Their Mode of Action: An Updated Review

Protective essential oil attenuates influenza virus infection: An in vitro study in MDCK cells

Commercial Essential Oils as Potential Antimicrobials to Treat Skin Diseases

In Vitro Activity of Essential Oils Against Gram-Positive and Gram-Negative Clinical Isolates, Including Carbapenem-Resistant Enterobacteriaceae

Antibacterial, antifungal, and antiviral effects of three essential oil blends

Evaluation of chemical and antiviral properties of essential oils from South American plants

Inactivation of Airborne Influenza Virus by Tea Tree and Eucalyptus Oils

In vitro antiviral activity of fifteen plant extracts against avian infectious bronchitis virus (veterinary research)

Always wash your hands frequently, use cough and sneeze etiquette – cough or sneeze into a tissue and throw it in a bin, or use the crook of your elbow to contain your sneeze or cough- to avoid spreading any infection. 

Keep others safe and stay safe yourselves.


 

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COVID-19 reveals the unacceptably indifferent political attitude towards 20% of the population

 

 

 

Thirteen new patients were diagnosed with the coronavirus on yesterday.

The latest cases included 12 more in England and the first patient in Scotland, meaning the virus has now reached all four parts of the UK. A health worker at an NHS cancer centre in Middlesex is also among the new cases. Another is a staff member at Wimbledon College in south-west London, which has closed for deep cleaning. 

Three of the new cases in England were linked to a man from Surrey, who was the first patient to not have been abroad recently and was instead infected within the UK. This indicates that the virus has been under the radar within the UK, possibly for a matter of weeks.

Boris Johnson has warned today that the spread of coronavirus in the UK “looks likely” to become more significant in the coming days, after chairing an emergency Cobra meeting to discuss the government’s response to the outbreak, earlier. Health secretary Matt Hancock has warned it is now “inevitable” the deadly virus would “become endemic” in the UK.

Meanwhile, the global death toll from the disease has passed 3,000, with more than 80,000 cases worldwide. Several countries in Europe, the Middle East and the Americas have banned large gatherings and imposed stricter travel restrictions in an attempt to limit infections.

The first death from coronavirus (COVID-19) in the US was an eyeopener. Apparently, no-one is sure if it happened to a man or a woman. Donald Trump says a woman died who was “at risk anyway”. Other sources say it was a man. It shows the profound lack of sympathy, and a fundamental lack of concern and respect for people who have a medical condition and vulnerability to infection in neoliberal economies. Many people in the UK have known for some time that the UK government regards disabled and ill people as a ‘disposable’ reserve army of labor.

This virus has thrown the political indifference to ill, disabled and ‘economically inactive’ citizens into sharp relief.

The indifference is embedded within public attitudes in our society, too. I’ve seen many other people comment that ‘most people only get mild symptoms’ and ‘it’s not worth worrying about’. It’s just ‘scaremongering’ and ‘panic’ over nothing. 

It isn’t, unless you happen to have a co-morbid condition. And those with only ‘mild’ symptoms unfortunately pass the virus to people who are ‘at risk’. Those who are lucky enough to be unconcerned about the virus should at least care about those who have reason to be very worried. 

The government have so far refused to consider closing schools, because children seem to be at low risk of getting very ill with COVID-19 infection. However, they do get the infection and they pass it on to others – teachers, parents and grandparents. This means the virus won’t be effectively contained once it becomes transmitted within communities – and it will. In fact it has already happened. One man in Surrey has become ill, and has not travelled. No-one knows how he got the virus. 

In China, it became apparent that many people had been infected before it came to the attention of the health authorities. It had already spread widely within communities. Because this is a virus that frequently causes symptoms very similar to mild flu or a common cold in healthy, young people, it’s very easily transmitted from person to person. This means it can easily go under the radar for a while. Italian scientists believe the virus was circulating there unnoticed for weeks, too.

There are also concerns about the impact of the virus on the economy. We have a work culture that encourages people to turn up to work with colds and other conditions, which is then shared around the workforce. It’s a culture that doesn’t facilitate consideration that some people are more vulnerable to serious complications from viral infections. The government are currently considering “the balance between public safety and economic and social impacts”, weighing it against the possible benefit of closing schools, stopping public transport, and activities involving large gatherings of people.

For the government so far, it’s business as usual.

However, the World Health Organisation (WHO) are now advising elderly people and those with chronic health conditions to ‘avoid crowded areas’ to reduce their risk.

So who is at risk of serious complications from the coronavirus?

How many people in the UK and US have asthma? All of those people are ‘at risk’. How many people have diabetes, autoimmune illnesses, lung disease, heart disease or other underlying health conditions? Those people are all at risk.

How many are people taking immune suppressants, steroids or chemotherapy for illnesses or cancer? Those people are at risk.

How many people need an annual ‘flu shot? All of those people are at risk.

That’s a lot of people.

And among those are people in your own families, or your friends  neighbours.

The virus kills susceptible people because it causes pneumonia, respiratory distress and sometimes, sepsis. 

In 2017 I caught ‘flu. Within four days I developed pneumonia and sepsis and almost died. I was so unwell with the ‘flu that I hadn’t recognised how seriously ill I had become, until I tried to get out of bed for a glass of water. By the time the paramedics arrived, I was already in septic shock. The prognosis following tess and an X ray were not good.

I survived and recovered only because I got a prompt diagnosis and prompt treatment, which included intensive care, IV antibiotics and fluids, anticoagulant injections and oxygen support until my lungs recovered. The reason I got so ill with ‘flu, doctors told me, is primarily because I have an autoimmune condition – lupus. I also have asthma, which is also considered a co-morbid condition.

I am certainly ‘at high risk’ from the coronavirus.

The NHS is overstretched. It has already been said that in the event of an epidemic, the NHS would need to “prioritise access to some services in an ethically appropriate way”. That basically means that NHS staff  will have to make difficult choices as to who has access to treatment and who is left to die.

High Alert Coronavirus Prevention In Bali

Getty Images.

At the moment, people are being told to avoid turning up at hospitals and GP surgeries, in efforts to contain the virus. Nonetheless, a man who recently returned from Italy feeling unwell with a fever waited four days for a call back from NHS 111 clinicians. Dean Hall works on IT projects involving the British Army and he told the BBC he is concerned should he have the coronavirus he might have spread it to military personnel about to deploy.

Others said the advice line gave them confusing, conflicting guidance.

The NHS said that despite high demand, all calls were being answered and the service was hiring extra call handlers. If the demand is high at this stage, imagine how strained things will become if the rates of infection rise and begin to affect whole communities.

“Anyone with concerns about coronavirus should call NHS 111 and – while the service is understandably busy and people may have to wait longer than usual – all calls are being responded to thanks to hard-working NHS staff,” a spokeswoman said.

BBC health editor Hugh Pym said that some calls are coming from people who have visited places outside the list of countries at risk from the virus, adding to the pressures.

However, that we don’t know how many people within the UK have been infected. In the countries currently badly affected, the virus had spread quite widely under the radar for weeks before health authorities were alerted to individual cases who needed medical support.

Carole Timms, a nurse from Shropshire who works in care homes, told the BBC that she and a friend were given contradictory advice when they returned from Venice on 20 February. Although they had no symptoms, Timms told NHS 111 she was concerned about the risk to her patients and was told to self-isolate.

But her friend, who works in a college with adults with disabilities, was told it was not necessary. That advice was changed when Timms pointed out the discrepancy.

“If she had just phoned on her own, she would happily have gone back to work when possibly she shouldn’t. Or maybe I’d have got that other advice,” Timms said.

Iwona Dunsford from Milton Keynes said she contacted NHS 111 for testing after she returned from Dusseldorf feeling unwell with a cough and cold – although the city is not considered on the list of high-risk areas for the virus.

She was advised to go to Milton Keynes hospital, but the hospital referred her back to the 111 advice service. Then she was sent to a chemist instead, but the chemist referred her to the hospital.

“I’m OK, but what about the people who are in a worse condition than me? On the TV we’re told that the UK is well prepared for this,” Dunford said. 

Clearly we are not all singing from the same hymn sheet.

In Scotland, Alan Kelly said public health authorities initially told him to get tested after he developed flu symptoms following a trip to Milan on 14 February.

But they changed their mind when the government advice for travellers to Italy was updated, because it said only those coming back after 19 February were a concern.

“Surely the prudent thing to do would be to test people with symptoms who have been in the high risk area?” he said.

Yet the government claims that the UK is prepared for all eventualities and is working on containing any outbreaks. That involves spotting cases quickly, isolating them and identifying contacts people have had to stop any spread. This is being done by Public Health England’s (PHE) nine regional teams. Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland have their own arrangements.

Clearly this isn’t being well co-ordinated on the front line.

It gets worse

The NHS is not prepared for a serious epidemic of COVID-19 in the UK.

Ministers have recently revealed in a parliamentary answers session that there are just 15 available beds for adult extracorporeal membrane oxygenation (ECMO) treatment at five centres across England. The government said this could be increased in an emergency. There were 30 such beds in total available during the 2018-19 winter flu season. That’s not anywhere near enough to cope with a pandemic. 

It was also revealed that since the beginning of February there have been just eight “high-consequence infectious disease” beds and around 500 “infectious disease” beds.

For most of last week, there were roughly 3,700 adult critical care beds in England, of which about 80% were occupied. This left 670 such beds free at the peak of occupancy.

However, a NHS England document prepared in November 2017 reveals the system will struggle to cope if more than 28 patients need the treatment, describing that situation as black/critical. That isn’t anywhere near the 20% of the population who may need medical care.

It suggests that if no beds are available “within the designated and surge capacity” in the UK, they might have to be sourced from other countries. However, other countries will also be under strain and are unlikely to have ‘spare’ machines.

The government have also discussed bringing retired medical staff back into service to deal with the virus. 

So we have to question the readiness of the NHS to deal with a sharp escalation of coronavirus cases following years of cutbacks and increasing health care rationing.


Answering a Labour MP’s question on Thursday about coronavirus preparedness, Jo Churchill, a health minister, said: “Since April 2013, NHS England has commissioned a total of 15 adult respiratory extra corporeal membrane oxygenation beds from five providers in England, with further provision in Scotland. In periods of high demand, capacity can be increased.”

ECMO treatment is used in the most severe cases of respiratory failure when other treatments are not working. It uses an artificial lung located outside the body to put oxygen into a patient’s blood and continuously pump this blood into and around their body. It has been used to treat COVID-19 cases in China, which is ordering more machines from Germany, according to state media. 

The document suggests that if no beds are available “within the designated and surge capacity” in the UK, they might have to be sourced from other countries, for example, from the Karolinska Institute in Sweden. But as I stated, many other countries are either dealing with or preparing for the epidemic. It’s unlikely that there will be a surplus of medical equipment anywhere.

While making no assessment of numbers, Professor Chris Whitty, who is Chief Medical Officer for England, Chief Medical Adviser to the UK Government, Chief Scientific Adviser at the Department of Health and Social Care and head of the National Institute for Health Research, said that if there was a global pandemic it would be impossible for the UK to escape. If that happened, it could mean that the NHS would have to “prioritise access to some services in an ethically appropriate way”, according to the government’s 2011 plan. This could involve postponing non-emergency operations and ultimately, if the outbreak was unremitting, “treating only emergency patients.”

He also said: “Delay is the next stage of what we need to do because if we are going to get an outbreak in the UK – this is an if, not a when – but if we do, putting it back in time into the summer period, away from winter pressures on the NHS, buying us a bit more time to understand the virus better, possibly having some seasonal advantage, is a big advantage.”

When asked how many people in the UK could die, Prof Whitty refused to answer, saying it was difficult to put a true figure on the death rate in China, which “could be less than the 1 per cent reported”. However, it is highly unlikely that China would overstate the mortality rate from the virus. 

Over recent years it has become very clear that privately financed health systems fail far too many citizens. Market failures lead to exploitation of ‘healthcare consumers’, an under-investment in public health services and where poorer members of society are systematically excluded from the health care system.

I’ve had severe pneumonia and sepsis once, and that makes it rather more likely I will have both again, though of course, it’s not inevitably because of this particular coronavirus. However, one of the biggest causes of death in people with lupus is pneumonia and sepsis.

The government and NHS simply do not have the facilities to contain many more than a few hundred people. In the event of mass transmissions, responses, according to the government, will be co-ordinated by the government’s Cobra committee and 43 local “resilience forums” in England and Wales. These include Public Health England officials, the NHS, local councils and the emergency services.

Resilience? The power of positive thinking isn’t going to prevent the virus spreading, or some people getting seriously ill.

What we need is an honest government, access to speedy, responsive healthcare, sufficient hospital beds, sufficient numbers of medical staff, ventilators, oxygen cylinders and medications.

I think I will be staying home voluntarily for a while, as much as I possibly can. I will also be investing in some basic medical provisions to try and address any serious symptoms myself, to buy a little time in the event of getting the infection, because I think it’s highly likely that I will have to wait quite a while for access to medical support, should I really need it.

And probably, so will many others, if the worst happens.

Further information

Symptoms:

The infection seems to typically start with a fever, followed by a dry cough.

After a week, it leads to shortness of breath and some patients will require hospital treatment. Some people who have chronic medical conditions may develop pneumonia and some may also develop an abnormally aggressive immune response to the virus (sepsis), which is a medical emergency. Septic shock – caused by plummeting blood pressure – can rapidly lead to multiple organ failure and death.

corona symptoms


Source: The World Health Organisation (WHO)

cov19

Reducing risk

Because it’s a new illness, health specialists do not yet know exactly how coronavirus spreads from person to person. However, similar viruses are spread in cough and sneeze droplets, shaking hands, touching a person who is infected or by touching a hard surface that is contaminated with the virus. Corona viruses generally can survive on surfaces for up to nine days, depending on temperature and humidity. 

At temperatures of around 4°C or 39.2oF, certain versions of the coronavirus could remain viable for up to 28 days. At temperatures of 30–40°C (86–104°F), coronaviruses tended to persist for a shorter time. They also tend to survive significantly longer in an environment with 50% humidity than 30% humidity, according to some studies. However, others have contradicted these findings and demonstrated that the viruses thrive best in low humidity.

Disinfect kitchen work surfaces, door handles and other areas that are touched a lot by family members, including taps and the toilet.

cough_etiquette_short_640_3x-nc
Source: NHS


More people, like you, are reading and supporting independent, investigative and in particular, public interest journalism, than ever before.

I don’t make any money from my research and writing, and want to ensure my work remains accessible to all.

I have engaged with the most critical issues of our time – from the often devastating impact of almost a decade of Conservative policies and growing, widespread inequality to the influence of big tech on our lives. At a time when factual information is a necessity, I believe that each of us, around the world, deserves access to accurate reporting with integrity and the norms of democracy at its heart.

My work is absolutely free from commercial and political interference and not influenced one iota by billionaire media barons.  I have worked hard to give a voice to those less heard, I have explored where others turn away, and always rigorously challenge those in power, holding them to account. 

I hope you will consider supporting me today, or whenever you can. As independent writers, we will all need your support to keep delivering quality research and journalism that’s open and independent.

Every reader’s contribution, however big or small, is so valuable and helps keep me going.  Thanks.

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DWP destroyed reports linking benefit sanctions and cuts with suicide

errol

Errol Graham, who starved to death in 2018, following his social security support being cancelled by the Department for Work and Pensions. He left a heartbreaking letter which described his circumstances leading up to his death. His family found the letter after he died, weighing less than five stone.

Department for Work and pensions (DWP) officials have admitted that up to 50 reviews into deaths following harsh social security cuts and sanctions have been destroyed.

The government has been accused of a ‘cover-up’ after destroying the reports which link suicides to sanctions and peoples’ benefits being stopped. Around 50 reviews into deaths following the loss of social security payments before 2015 have been shredded, officials have blamed data protection laws. 

However, the data watchdog has said there was absolutely no requirement to destroy the reports by any particular date and that a “public interest” exemption could have been used.

The Department would have known that. 

Labour MP Stephen Timms, the chairman of the Commons work and pensions committee, agreed it was a possible cover-up, saying: “I’m very sympathetic with that”

Timms, who said his committee would demand answers about the shredded reports, pointed out a scathing National Audit Office report (NAO) had warned the DWP was unable to show it was learning lessons.

Having been “very secretive”, it was now “very reluctantly” becoming more open, he said – but “trying to keep things as hush-hush as possible – and it’s not good enough”.

“It all underlines a lack of seriousness by the department about putting things right when they go wrong.”

The NAO investigation into the information DWP collects on deaths by suicide of social security claimants found that the department has internally reviewed 69 cases in which “alleged department activity” may have been among the reasons for such death. However, it said ‘gaps in reporting’ meant the actual figure was likely to be higher. The report said  said the department did not seek to draw trends from the findings of internal reviews, meaning that “systemic issues which might be brought to light through these reviews could be missed.”

Timms added: “The law does not specify five years or six years and this kind of information should be held for longer,” in response to the DWP’s claim that data rules required the destruction of old investigations.

“In any case, the lessons learned from these reviews, there’s no reason why they should be destroyed. They should be kept and progress on implementing improvements monitored.”

A freedom of information (FoI) response to a campaigner revealed that up to 49 secret reviews carried out before 2015 were destroyed.

More than 100 have taken place over the last decade, amid growing concern over deaths linked to harsh benefit cuts and sanctions introduced by the Conservatives.

Labour MP Debbie Abrahams fought back tears in the Commons as she read out a list of 24 people who died after problems with their benefits, this week.

Regarding the 69 reviews since 2015, she told ministers: “This is just the tip of the iceberg. We do not even know the actual number of people who have taken their own life as a result of what they went through.”

In a statement, the DWP said: “We take these reviews extremely seriously and ensure cases are investigated and concluded and any lessons learned.”

However, that is clearly untrue. In fact the department and government ministers have consistently denied a ‘causal link’ between their policies and an increasing mortality rate, while also refusing to allow an independent investigation into the deaths.

The NAO criticised the DWP for lacking clear guidance on when a case should be investigated and for not having any “robust record” of contact from coroners about suicide cases, which it said meant some cases flagged up by coroners may not have resulted in an internal review being initiated.

It’s worse than disgraceful that people are dying because of  draconian policies and the actions of a system that should be supporting them. 

Many of us have called for the DWP to be held accountable through robust independent inquiry and regulation. The department has shown a consistent lack of transparency when reporting on systematic problems that have put people at risk, and has refused to open itself up to meaningful independent scrutiny.

Earlier this month, I reported that the DWP has been accused of altering disability assessment reports, to reduce or end peoples’ lifeline support. It was alleged that officials within the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) have edited or entirely removed thousands of work capability assessment reports submitted by privately contracted ‘independent’ healthcare professionals. This is another indication of the complete lack of transparency around DWP decision making.

The consequences of this government’s draconian social security policies

Many people have died since the welfare ‘reforms’ were hammered through parliament, despite wide opposition. 

Relatives of a man who starved to death after his social security was cut are taking legal action against the DWP.

Errol Graham’s family said they hoped the case would overhaul the system “to better protect vulnerable claimants”.

Errol’s daughter-in-law Alison Turner has sent a pre-action protocol letter to the DWP, arguing the termination of benefits for someone in Mr Graham’s circumstances were unlawful.

She also argues secretive investigations and reviews being conducted by the DWP into benefit-related deaths are unlawful and must be reformed.

Errol Graham weighed just four-and-a-half stone when his body was found by bailiffs who had knocked down his front door to evict him. He had just a couple of out-of-date tins of fish left in his flat, because the DWP had wrongly stopped his ESA. He starved to death, and his rent support had been stopped as a consequence of his ESA claim being ended. The DWP failed to follow safeguarding rules in their haste to end his claim. He was also denied PIP, which left him without any income whatsoever. 

DWP civil servants had failed to seek further medical evidence from his GP, just as in many other tragic cases that have sparked repeated calls for an independent inquiry into links between the deaths of claimants and the actions and failings of the DWP. The government have consistently refused to acknowledge a correlation between their actions and the death of disabled people, so have no intention of investigating the evidence. 

Assistant coroner Dr Elizabeth Didcock, who heard the inquest, was told that the DWP stopped Graham’s ESA entitlement – and backdated that decision to the previous month – after making two unsuccessful visits to his home to ask why he had not attended a face-to-face work capability assessment (WCA) on 31 August 2017. The inquest heard that it was standard DWP procedure to go ahead with stopping the benefits of a claimant marked on the system as vulnerable after two failed safeguarding visits.

However, the DWP (somehow) managed to stop an ESA payment that had been due to be credited to his bank account on 17 October, the same day officials made the second unsuccessful safeguarding visit.

DWP’s own rules state that it should make both safeguarding visits before stopping the benefits of a vulnerable claimant.

Because Errol lost his ESA entitlement, his housing benefit was also stopped. His family says he had also been found ineligible for PIP. Deprived of all financial support, experiencing significant mental distress and unable or unwilling to seek help, he slowly starved to death. He was 57. His body was discovered on 20 June 2018 when bailiffs arrived at his Nottingham council flat to evict him for non-payment of rent. 

His benefits had been stopped even though he had been receiving incapacity benefit, and then ESA, for many years as a result of enduring mental illness and distress that had led to him being sectioned. Errol was clearly extremely vulnerable.

He had also told the DWP on an ESA form three years earlier that he could not cope with “unexpected changes”, adding: “Upsets my life completely. Feel under threat and upset…”

He added: “Cannot deal with social situations. Keep myself to myself. Do not engage with strangers. Have no social life. Feel anxiety and panic in new situations.”

The assistant coroner said: “There simply is not sufficient evidence as to how he was functioning, however, it is likely that his mental health was poor at this time – he does not appear to be having contact with other people, and he did not seek help from his GP or support agencies as he had done previously.”

She concluded in the narrative verdict, delivered last June, that the “safety net that should surround vulnerable people like Errol in our society had holes within it”.

Those ‘holes’ are a consequence of deliberate, ideologically driven anti-welfare policies. They have intended consequences. The government assumes that people treated unfairly will appeal wrong decisions. Firstly, many people are far too ill to cope with the stress of that process. Secondly, it should never be primarily the role of courts to allocate social security fairly. That is the official role and purpose of the DWP.  However, the government department is clearly failing to fulfil its role. This is because the neoliberal ideology that drives austerity policies is incompatible with the central principles of social security. 

She continued: “He needed the DWP to obtain more evidence [from his GP] at the time his ESA was stopped, to make a more informed decision about him, particularly following the failed safeguarding visits.”

She said that a consultant psychiatrist had told the inquest “that Errol was vulnerable to life stressors” and that it was “likely that this loss of income, and housing, were the final and devastating stressors, that had a significant effect on his mental health”.

But she decided not to write a regulation 28 report demanding changes to DWP’s safeguarding procedures to “prevent future deaths” because the department insisted that it was already completing a review of its safeguarding, which was supposed to finish last autumn.

The DWP had promised her it would “listen to clients and to those representing them, and… ensure that the DWP was focused on support and safety for vulnerable people”.

Dr Didcock insisted that this commitment “must be converted into robust policy and guidance for DWP staff” and that the DWP must ensure that “all evidence that can reasonably be gathered is put together about a client, before a benefit is ceased”.

Disability News Service also highlights that the death of Errol Graham closely mirrors other tragedies caused by the DWP’s repeated refusal to make significant improvements to its safeguarding policies and practices.

Denise McKenna, co-founder of the Mental Health Resistance Network (MHRN), said the network was “absolutely devastated and saddened beyond words to hear of the circumstances surrounding the death of Mr Graham”.

She said: “We are enraged that the DWP continues to treat the lives of people who live with mental distress as disposable.

“This level of cruelty is outside of anything that would happen in a civilised society.

“The fact that Mr Graham had not responded to attempts to contact him following his failure to attend the work capability assessment (WCA) should have raised alarm bells over his safety, but instead the DWP took the opportunity to stop his social security entitlements.”

And there’s the truth: the government have created a hostile environment for disabled people that is heavily weighted towards preventing successful claims, taking its lessons from rogue multinational insurance companies such as Unum, who have systematically employed strategies to pay out insurance only as the last resort, rather than on the basis of need. 

Furthermore, the DWP and Conservative ministers have consistently demonstrated a refusal to acknowledge the widespread distress, harm and death that their policies are causing, despite many challenges to their narrative of denial. Nor is it likely the government will address the complete lack of honesty, transparency and accountability operating at the centre of the DWP, of their own volition.

The government’s indifference and lack of remorse related to the clear correlation between policy and increased mortality is extremely worrying.

That is why we must continue to campaign, raise awareness and stand up for ill, disabled and vulnerable citizens in the UK. 

Errol's letter

Errol Graham’s letter, which was released through his daughter-in-law’s lawyers, Leigh Day , is a moving window into the world of someone with severe mental illness trying to cope with the hostile environment imposed on vulnerable citizens because of government policies. (Picture from the Mirror).

 


 

More people, like you, are reading and supporting independent, investigative and in particular, public interest journalism, than ever before.

I don’t make any money from my research and writing, and want to ensure my work remains accessible to all.

I have engaged with the most critical issues of our time – from the often devastating impact of almost a decade of Conservative policies and growing, widespread inequality to the influence of big tech on our lives. At a time when factual information is a necessity, I believe that each of us, around the world, deserves access to accurate reporting with integrity and the norms of democracy at its heart.

My work is absolutely free from commercial and political interference and not influenced one iota by billionaire media barons.  I have worked hard to give a voice to those less heard, I have explored where others turn away, and always rigorously challenge those in power, holding them to account. 

I hope you will consider supporting me today, or whenever you can. As independent writers, we will all need your support to keep delivering quality research and journalism that’s open and independent.

Every reader’s contribution, however big or small, is so valuable and helps keep me going.  Thanks.

DonatenowButton

 

Eugenicist adviser leaves eugenicist government of ‘misfits and weirdos’

In 2016, I wrote a critique of a very controversial book called The Welfare Trait: How State Benefits Affect Personality, by Adam Perkins, a lecturer in neurobiology. He claimed that generous welfare states create an “employment–resistant personality profile”, and that social security is “warping the personality profile of the population”. This, he argued, is because children of claimants ‘inherit’ the personality trait. He also stated his concern that people with ‘desirable’ traits of ‘solid citizenship’ were having fewer children than those in receipt of welfare, a view threaded though other works he produced. 

The Adam Smith Institute had posted a gushing endorsement of the throwback eugenic text. However, the review was removed after Perkins’ book met a wall of criticism from many of us. Andy Fugard, for example, pointed out Perkins’ inappropriate and inept application of statistical techniques and flawed methodology more generally, and the misreporting of results.

I wrote more than one critical article about the essentialism, ideological bias and other issues raised in Perkins’ book.

Nothing is ever really removed from the internet, so I have updated my article with a hyperlink to an archived copy of the review. It was written by none other than Andrew Sabisky. His eugenic credentials were already archived, hidden in plain view, in 2016.

I’ve been writing critically about the re-emergence of eugenic beliefs in the UK for the last decade, and warning of the consequences. 

The current controversy around Sabisky

Sabisky

The prime minister came under increasing pressure to sack Sabisky, after it emerged he had said that young people from poor backgrounds should undergo compulsory contraception to prevent “a permanent underclass”. Sabisky isn’t the only government advisor who holds the eugenic belief, like Perkins, that selective breeding in human populations will promote ‘desirable’ characteristics. 

Sabisky has since resigned. But the government have so far refused to condemn his eugenic comments.

The controversial government ex-adviser also claimed that rich people are more intelligent than poor people. He told an interviewer: “Eugenics are about selecting ‘for’ good things.” Speaking to Schools Week in 2016, Sabiski also said: “Intelligence is largely inherited and correlates with better outcomes: physical health, income, lower mental illness.”

If that deterministic argument were true, the government would have no grounds for formulating policies to punish poor people for their ‘irresponsible choices’. Because people wouldn’t have any choices to make. Having enough money to meet your fundamental survival needs ‘correlates’ with better outcomes’, too. There’s a whole history of empirical evidence to verify that, and none that demonstrates inherited IQ is or ought to be the reason why some people have wealth and power and other people are starving and destitute.

In the same interview, Sabisky proposed giving all children modafinil, a highly risky ‘mind-enhancing’ drug that cuts the need for sleep by two-thirds, even at the cost of “a dead kid once a year”. Why would ANYONE do that? The drug is known to cause Stevens-Johnson syndrome, a rare and life threatening condition, often caused by an unpredictable adverse reaction to certain medications. 

The syndrome often begins with flu-like symptoms, followed by a red or purple rash that spreads and forms blisters. The affected skin eventually dies and peels off. Stevens-Johnson syndrome is a medical emergency that requires treatment in hospital, often in intensive care or a burns unit. This scary government advisor is clearly riding the fabled rubber bicycle. He lacks coherence, but he makes up for it with his brazen advocacy of despotism. 

The Conservatives have always been fond of Charles Murray’s ranting white supremicism, I’m sure Sabisky fits right in with the elitists in power. Murray, an American sociologist, exhumed social Darwinism and gave the bones of it originally to Bush and Thatcher to re-cast in the form of a poverty of political responsibility and the ideology of blame. Murray’s culture of poverty theory popularised notions on the right that poverty is caused by an individual’s personal deficits; that the poor have earned their position in society; the poor deserve to be poor because this is a reflection of their lack of qualities, poor character and level of abilities.

Of course, this perspective also assumes that the opposite is true: wealthy and “successful” people are so because they are more talented, motivated and less lazy, and are thus more deserving. This is a view shared by most Conservatives.

Sabisky is merely a symptom, not the whole disease.

Just like the widely discredited social Darwinism of the Victorian era, proposed by the likes of Conservative sociologist Herbert Spencer, (who originally coined the phrase “survival of the fittest,” and not Darwin, as is widely held) these resurrected ideas have a considerable degree of popularity in upper-class and elite Conservative circles, where such perspectives provide a justification for privilege in the context of a population that is becoming increasingly impoverished. In addition, poor communities are seen as socialising environments where values such as fatalism are transmitted from generation to “workshy” generation.  

Perish the thought that government policies, which shift public funds to private, well-filled bank accounts under the guise of austerity may be a key cause of growing poverty and inequality. The Tories have taken a lot for nothing in return.

Boris Johnson also claims rich people are more intelligent than others. And so does Dominic Cummings, who recently called to sign up “misfits and weirdos” to help him “transform government.” This is a government that so utterly despises ‘ordinary working people’. The same people the government needs the vote from to stay in power. The vote is gained through dishonesty, dividing the population, using diversionary scapegoats and ‘enemies of the people’ to ensure people direct their anger at others rather than at a government whose policies have created the massive inequalities and increasing absolute poverty that the public are angry about.  

Who can forget the “unpleasant, careless elitism” of Boris Johnson, displayed in 2014, when he mocked the 16% “of our species” with an IQ below 85 and called for more to be done to help the 2% of the population who have an IQ above 130. This flawed, deterministic, eugenic view of people is shared by many in the Tory party, who fail to recognise that IQ tests reveal only how well people perform IQ tests.

A third of wealthy people inherited their wealth, they didn’t earn it by having alleged fabulous personality traits. In act from what I have seen over the last decade, being very rich is correlated with a malignant superiority complex, a malicious contempt for the public and ‘ordinary people, an obscene and obsessive hoarding trait and a psychopathic level of ruthlessness, manipulation, dishonesty, indifference, lack of empathy and a lacking of compassion. 

Johnson made the remarks about the ‘virtues’ of ruthless greed during a speech in honour of Margaret Thatcher, declaring that inequality was essential to foster “the spirit of envy” and hailing greed as a “valuable spur to economic activity”

Downing Street has declined to say which policy area Sabisky is working in, but confirmed he was a contractor working on ‘specific projects’ rather than in the team of permanent advisers. The government have refused to comment on the controversy provoked by his recruitment. I bet Dominic Cummings has urged the party to remain silent. After all, it doesn’t pay to dig a hole even deeper when you want to escape it without being noticed.

Downing Street have also previously declined to comment on eugenic comments written by Johnson’s chief adviser, Dominic Cummings. His comments, in a 237-page essay written in 2013, were disclosed by the Guardian long before Cummings was installed in Downing Street.

cummings-gove

and:

cummings-herit

The bottom line is that this is how the entire government thinks. The Conservative’s culture of entitlement is propagated by the employment of arrogant like-minded strategic ‘advisors’ that design justification narratives to prop up the elite, to protect the balance of power and to present polished lies and excuses regarding draconian policies aimed at disempowering and dispossessing the bulk of the population. That is the current status quo.

Sabisky demonstrates all too well that bigots are gifted with a multi-tasking trait, when he also controversially claimed that women’s sport is is more comparable to the Paralympics than it is to men’s.

This deep black hole of human kindness also suggested more black people are “close to mental retardation”. Crass misogyny, crass prejudice towards disabled people. Class prejudice.

sabisky

It gets worse. Sabisky’s comments on Reddit, according to the National Scot newspaper, include ‘advice’ given to a correspondent on ‘rewiring’ his Mormon wife into “39 flavours of slut on command”: Under the username thedovelamenting, Sabisky responds by urging him to try to “rewire” her brain “to the point where she no longer, consciously or subconsciously sees a conflict between a good Christian woman and serving you up 39 flavours of slut on command.” There were other similar comments from his account.

It’s reported that Sabisky deleted the posts after being contacted for comment.

Sabisky is profiled on ResearchGate as being a member of University College London (UCL) in the Department of Psychology and Human Development.  

His presence at the secret Intelligence conferences held on UCL grounds is unsurprising, given it is mostly attended by scientifically semi-literate cranks, who are white supremacists pretending to be something else – not just ‘weird’, but ignorant and bigoted. Sabisky is listed as a speaker at the second Conference on Intelligence in 2015, on ‘The efficacy of early childhood interventions in improving cognitive outcomes’. That is when he first proposed the ‘intervention’ of mass-medicating children with modafinil.

Speakers at the conferences had included blogger Emil Kirkegaard, who has advocated the rape of sleeping children by paedophiles as a way to relieve “urges” (he later said he did not support the legalisation of paedophilia but advocated “frank discussion of paedophilia-related issues”), and Richard Lynn, who has a long-term association with Mankind Quarterly, a journal that has been criticised for support eugenics . 

The conferences had been booked, as external events, by UCL lecturer Dr James Thompson, and held in secret, until Toby Young – who has previously written about “progressive eugenics” – attended one and after being told not to write about it, wrote about it. Sabisky, like Cummings, has no formal training or record of study in the disciplines that they both claim to understand. Earlier this month Johnson claimed that his government “will be governed by science and not by mumbo-jumbo”.

The Tories are absolute masters of mumbo-jumbo and pseudocscientific bullshit. To date, the government have propped up justification of draconian policies on the scaffold of pseudoscience, with no evidence to support their policy decisions. Or their superiority complex.

The Conservatives are only interested in weaponising such pseudoscientific nonsense for political gain and power. The role of advisors like Cummings and Sabisky is to break down traditional ethical boundaries and push the public towards compliance with the government’s  ill intent.

Sabisky, who calls himself a “super-forecaster”, has also ridiculed the “net zero” climate change target. I think he’s more of a far right super-authoritarian, neoliberal numpty, personally.

Sabisky wrote on Cummings’s website in 2014: “One way to get around the problems of unplanned pregnancies creating a permanent underclass would be to legally enforce universal uptake of long-term contraception at the onset of puberty.

“Vaccination laws give it a precedent, I would argue.”

Super-authoritarian, as I said.

In another blogpost, discussing female genital mutilation, he claimed: “It is still unclear to what extent FGM represents a serious risk to young girls, raised in the UK, of certain minority group origins. Much of the hue and cry looks more like a moral panic.”

Seems like the master of creating folk devils and generating moral panic about population ‘traits’ is a self serving, rank hypocrite.

Jon Trickett, Labour’s Cabinet Office spokesman, said: “There are really no words to describe Boris Johnson’s appointment, as one of his senior advisers, of a man who is on record as supporting the forced sterilisation of people he considers not worthy.

“He must of course be removed from this position immediately.” 

Cummings, once senior adviser to the UK Secretary of State for Education, provoked a a lot of complaints by allegedly claiming that “a child’s performance has more to do with genetic makeup than the standard of his or her education.” In response, he insisted that he had “warned of the dangers of public debates being confused by misunderstanding of such technical terms.” He’s a technocrat who thinks we should re-model our society based on his theories of bullshit and lip curling, supremacist pseudoscience.

Now, Cummings’ eugenic approach is dangerously affecting public policy, imposed by an emboldened authoritarian government that blatantly makes eugenic association of genes with intelligence, intelligence with worth, and worth with the right to rule.

Steven Rose, Emeritus Professor of Biology, a detailed analysis of Cummings’ comments in New Scientist, concluding:

“Whatever intelligence is, these failures show that to hunt for it in the genes is an endeavour driven more by ideological commitment than either biological or social scientific judgement. To suggest that identifying such genes will enable schools to develop personalised educational programmes to match them, as Cummings does, is sheer fantasy, perhaps masking a desire to return to the old days of the 11 plus. Heritability neither defines nor limits educability.”

Intelligence isn’t something you have, it is something you must do. All an IQ test can demonstrate is how good someone is at performing IQ tests. 

The eugenics of indifference

One of humanity’s greatest assets is our diversity. History shows us that the results of elitist ‘selective breeding’, narrowing the gene pool has been provably disastrous – from the “Habsburg jaw”, incapacitating disabilities amongst the rulers of ancient Egypt to Prince Waldemar of Prussia’s death from his wounds on a battlefield in 1945having bled to death because inherited haemophilia from Queen Victoria’s genetic line.

Hitler’s operationalization of eugenics with such terrible consequences convinced post war societies that such steps were inhumane, unethical, and totally unacceptable. Universal human rights were drafted, so that such events as the Holocaust would never happen again. 

Suella Fernandez and fellow MP John Penrose opposed the EU Charter of Rights because, among other things, it disallows eugenics. The Conservatives have imposed two eugenic policies on the poorest citizens: the restriction of child tax credits and universal credit to only the first two children in a family, and the other being the benefits cap, which discriminates against larger families. Both policies were explicitly designed to “change the behaviours” of poorer families, to stop them having ‘too many’ children. It seems that Perkins’ book persuaded a small scientifically illiterate but very technocratic minority, after all. 

Ministers promoted the policy, along with the benefit cap, to make households ‘take responsibility’, by teaching them that “children cost money” and discouraging them from having a third child, and from assuming that a mythically discrete class of people – ‘the taxpayer’ – will ‘let you avoid the consequences of such choices others have to make’. Presumably by ‘funding’ welfare – a state provision that is and always has been funded by the public for the public. Most people who claim financial support have worked and paid into the social security system, many move in and out of insecure, low paid jobs. 

Working families on low wages have been hardest hit by the policy changes.  

The hardworking taxpayer myth is founded on a false dichotomy, since it is estimated that around 70% of households claim benefits of one kind or another at some point in their lives. In the current climate of poor pay, poor working conditions, job insecurity, and high living costs, the myth of an all pervasive welfare-dependent something for nothing culture is being used to foster prejudice and resentment towards those unfortunate enough to be out of work. It also serves to bolster right-wing justification narratives that are entirely ideologically driven, which are aimed at dismantling the welfare state, while concurrently undermining public support for it.

Infrahumanisation

A few years back, one Tory councillor called for the extermination of gypsies. In their manifesto last year, the government have pledged to target the Roma, gypsy and travelling community, to confiscate their belonging and drive them from their homes and off their land.  

More than one Tory MP has called for illegal and discriminatory levels of pay for disabled people. Apparently we aren’t worth paying the minimum wage. A Conservative deputy mayor said, unforgivably, that the “best thing for disabled children is the guillotine.

And who could forget Ben Bradley, the Tories’ youth supremo for ill-advised blog posts advocating vasectomies for the unemployed, more recently.

These weren’t “slips”, it’s patently clear that the Conservatives believe these comments are acceptable, and we need only look at the discriminatory nature of policies such as the legal aid bill, the wider welfare “reforms” and research the consequences of austerity for the most economically vulnerable citizens – those with the “least broad shoulders” –  to understand that these comments reflect how Conservatives think.

This is a government that is using public prejudice to justify massive socio-economic inequalities and their own policies that are creating a steeply hierarchical society based on social Darwinist survival of the fittest neoliberal “small state” principles.

The Tory creation of socio-economic scapegoats, involving vicious stigmatisation of vulnerable social groups, particularly endorsed by the mainstream media, is simply a means of manipulating public perceptions and securing public acceptance of the increasingly punitive and repressive basis of the Tories’ welfare “reforms”, and the steady stripping away of essential state support and provision.

The political construction of social problems also marks an era of increasing state control of citizens with behaviour modification techniques, (under the guise of libertarian paternalism) all of which are a part of the process of restricting access rights to welfare provision and public services, and nudging the public to accept the destruction of the social gains of our post war democratic settlement .

Hannah Arendt wrote extensively about totalitarian regimes, in particular Nazism and Stalinism, which she distinguishes from Italian Fascism, because Hitler and Stalin sought to eliminate all restraints upon the power of the State and furthermore, they sought to dominate and control every aspect of everyone’s life. There are parallels here, especially when one considers the continued attempts at dismantling democratic processes and safeguards since 2010, and the introduction of behaviourist strategies (nudge, for example) to align public perceptions and behaviours with politically designed outcomes, without the public’s consent.

Many policies are aimed at ‘incentivising’ certain behaviours and perceptions of citizens, using psychology, particularly behaviourism, to align them with political and defined economic goals. Citizens are increasingly seen by government as a means to an end.

Jacque-Philippe Leyens coined the term infrahumanisation to distinguish a form of dehumanisation from the more extreme kind associated with genocide.

However, I don’t regard one form of dehumanisation as being discrete from another, since studies show consistently that it tends to escalate when social prejudice increases. It’s a process involving accumulation.

According to infrahumanisation theory, the denial of uniquely human emotions and qualities to an outgroup is reflective of a tacit belief that they are less human than the ingroup

Disabled people, poor people, homeless people and welfare claimants are the frequently outgrouped. It is these most stigmatised groups that some people seem to have the most difficulty imagining having the same uniquely human qualities as they do. This removes the “infrahumanised” group from the bonds, moral protection and obligations of our community, because outgrouping de-empathises us.

This would explain why some people attempt to justify the cuts, which clearly fall disproportionately on the most vulnerable citizens. This may be why fighting the austerity cuts is much more difficult than simply fighting myths and political propaganda. I think the government are very aware of the infrahumanisation tendency among groups and are manipulating it to create and sustain division, because growing social inequality generates a political necessity for social prejudices to use as justification narratives.

During a debate in the House of Lords, David Freud described the changing number of disabled people likely to receive the employment and support allowance as a “bulge of, effectively, stock.  Not people, but stock.

After an outraged response, this was actually transcribed by Hansard as stopped”, rendering the sentence meaningless.  He is not the only person in the Department for Work and Pensions who uses this profoundly dehumanising term. The government website describes disabled people entering the government’s work programme for between three and six months as 3/6Mth stock.

This dehumanised stock are a source of profit for the companies running the programme. The Department’s delivery plan also recommends using  credit reference agency data to cleanse the stock of fraud and error”.

Cleanse the stock. Horrific, dehumanising language.

This type of linguistic downgrading of human life requires dehumanising metaphors: a dehumanising socio-political system using a dehumanising language, and it is becoming familiar and pervasive: it has seeped almost unnoticed into our lives.

Until someone like Johnson, Sabisky, Cummings or Freud pushes our boundaries of decency a little too far. Then we suddenly see it, and wonder how such oppressive, prejudiced and discriminatory comments could ever be deemed acceptable and how anyone could possibly think they would get away with such blatantly offensive rhetoric without being challenged.

It’s because they have got away with less blatantly offensive comments previously: it’s just that they pushed more gently and so we didn’t see.

It’s also the case that the government distorts people’s perceptions of the  aims of their policies by using techniques of neutralisationAn example of this method of normalising prejudice is the use of the words “incentivise” and “help” in the context of benefit sanctions, which as we know are intentionally extremely punitive, and people have died as a consequence of having their lifeline support withdrawn.

As Gordon Allport’s scale of prejudice indicates, hate speech and incitement to violence and ultimately, genocide, start from often subliminal expressions of prejudice and subtle dehumanisation, which escalate. Germany didn’t wake up one morning to find Hitler had arranged the murder of millions of people. It happened by a process of almost inscrutable advances, as many knew it would, and was happening while they knew about it. And many opposed it, too.

The dignity and equal worth of every human being is the axiom of international human rights. International law condemns statements which deny the equal worth of all human beings.

As a so-called civilised society, so should we.

Allport's ladder


 

Boris Johnson Leaves For PMQs

Here’s a list of some of the controversial things Boris Johnson has said:

In August 2018, he wrote a column in the Telegraph opposing Denmark’s ban on burqas and niqabs in public spaces, though he still believed it was “absolutely ridiculous that people should choose to go around looking like letter boxes.” 

He added that if a constituent came to his surgery wearing a burqa or niqab, he would “feel fully entitled to ask her to remove it so that I could talk to her properly” and added female students who turn up to school or university “looking like a bank robber” should be asked to uncover their faces.

He told LBC: “Keeping numbers high on the streets is certainly important. But it depends where you spend the money and where you deploy the officers.

“And one comment I would make is I think an awful lot of money and an awful lot of police time now goes into these historic offences and all this mullarkey.

“You know, £60m I saw was being spaffed up a wall on some investigation into historic child abuse.”

In 2002, Johnson wrote in the Telegraph: “It is said that the Queen has come to love the Commonwealth, partly because it supplies her with regular cheering crowds of flag-wearing picaninnies.”

The word “picaninnies” is a racist term used to describe black children.

In the same column he also talked about then prime minister Tony Blair, and wrote: “They say he is shortly off to the Congo. No doubt the AK47s will fall silent, and the pangas will stop their hacking of human flesh, and their tribal warriors will all break out in watermelon smiles to see the big white chief touch down his big white British taxpayer-funded bird.”

Johnson later apologised for these comments.

Writing for The Spectator in 2002, he suggested: “The problem is not that we were once in charge, but that we are not in charge anymore.”

“Consider Uganda, pearl of Africa, as an example of the British record. The British planted coffee and cotton and tobacco, and they were broadly right. If left to their own devices, the natives would rely on nothing but the instant carbohydrate gratification of the plantain.

“The best fate for Africa would be if the old colonial powers, or their citizens, scrambled once again in her direction; on the understanding that this time they will not be asked to feel guilty.”

He has been criticised for allowing a number of articles deemed racist by some, to make it on to the website, including one article about racial eugenics that said “orientals” had “larger brains and higher IQ scores” while “blacks are at the other pole.”

Johnson was force to apologise for comments he made about the country in 2006: “For 10 years we in the Tory party have become used to Papua New Guinea-style orgies of cannibalism and chief-killing, and so it is with a happy amazement that we watch as the madness engulfs the Labour Party.”

After then US president Obama removed a bust of Winston Churchill from the Oval office, Johnson wrote a column in The Sun in which he claimed the move was “a symbol of the part-Kenyan president’s ancestral dislike of the British Empire – of which Churchill had been such a fervent defender.”

He was accused of racism for this comment, unsurprisingly. 

In May 2004 he wrote a column for the Telegraph about obesity titled: “Face it: it’s all your own fat fault.”

When he became the new foreign secretary, Johnson inaugurated his new position by penning a poem about Erdogan after an attempted coup in Turkey that left more than 161 people dead.

In the poem that indicated Johnson’s woeful lack of diplomacy, he called the president a “wankerer” had wrote that he “sowed his wild oats with the help of a goat.”

There’s something missing from Boris Johnson. He has no moral boundaries, empathy or remorse.


 

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