The Anonymous Widower

Care Homes In England Had Greatest Increase In Excess Deaths At Height Of The COVID-19 Pandemic

The title of this post, is the same as that of this article on the University of Stirling web site.

This is the introductory paragraph.

Care homes in England experienced the highest increase in excess deaths at the height of the COVID-19 pandemic compared to those in the rest of the UK, according to new research.

The actual figures are as follows.

  • England – 79 %
  • Northern Ireland – 46 %
  • Scotland – 62 %
  • Wales – 66 %

So why are the three Celtic nations, doing better than England?

In A Thought On Deaths Of The Elderly From Covid-19, I said this.

How many undiagnosed coeliacs are there in those over seventy, who because they are coeliacs, have a compromised immune system?

I would be undiagnosed but for that elderly locum!

How many other coeliacs are there in the UK population?

    • Age UK has a figure of twelve million who are over 65 in the UK.
    • If 1-in-100, as stated by Coeliac UK, in the UK are coeliac, that is 120,000 undiagnosed coeliacs over 65.

Will these 120,000 people have a compromised immune system, that makes them  more susceptible to Covid-19?

It has been said, that a good immune system helps you fight Covid-19!

If those 120,000 elderly undiagnosed coeliacs have a compromised immune system, how many are in poor health with cancer, arthritis and general poor health and have decided that a care home is best.

Coeliac Disease And The Celts

The Irish have a history of coeliac disease, which I have heard suggested goes back to the potato famine.

Certainly, the whole island of Ireland is a coeliac friendly place compared to some parts of England. Although, Liverpool with its strong Irish heritage is an exception.


I do wonder, if understanding of coeliac disease in the three Celtic nations is better than it is in England and a higher proportion of elderly coeliacs have been diagnosed.

Any younger coeliac born after about 1980, has probably been picked up, for the simple reason, that most GPs these days take regular blood tests and do seem to be more knowledgeable about the disease than GPs were before about 1980.

According to my GP, to test a child, is normally just a simple blood test and an analysis at a lab. Only a few cases, will need an endoscopy.

So do we have this population of undiagnosed coeliacs with compromised immune systems in English care homes?

Perhaps, everybody in a care home, should be tested for coeliac disease?

If nothing else, it may save money on cancer care, as diagnosed coeliacs on a gluten-free diet are 25 % less likely to suffer from cancer.


August 30, 2020 Posted by | Health | , , , , , | Leave a comment

Surviving Lockdown

People ask if I am surviving lockdown.

I am lucky in several ways.


I live in a spacious house, which is comfortable.

Although, it does have problems.

  • It was built by a Turkish Jerrybuilder, who bought fixtures and fittings at the cheapest price possible.
  • It gets too hot.
  • The plumbing is suspect.
  • The air-conditioner is broken and the service company, have had my money to fix it, but won’t come.
  • The smoke detector above my bed is just hanging there, as I wrote in A Design Crime – The Average Smoke Detector

Hopefully, when we beat COVID-19, I’ll be able to move.


My investments give me enough to live comfortably. If you call, living in two rooms, never talking face-to-face with anybody living comfortably.


I am still fit and can exercise as much as I need and is recommended.

I have a workout that I do twice a day, which includes movements like press-ups, stretches and single-leg stands.

I can do two dozen press-ups straight off or walk three miles, if I need to.


My health is good, despite being a coeliac and suffering a serious stroke ten years ago.

  • I test my own INR.
  • I seem to have survived my fall of a month ago.
  • I only go to the surgery for B12 injections, drug reviews and the odd problem.

Other than that I just suffer from the problems of a healthy man of 72, like arthritis and hay fever.

I do have a strange skin, that leaks a lot of water and doesn’t bleed, when I have an injection or a doctor or nurse takes blood. I never have a plaster after either procedure.


I am a reasonable and very practical cook, or so my son and various friends tell me. These are some meals, I’ve been cooking under lockdown.

Sardines And Baked Eggs

Pasta With Yogurt Sauce For One

Goat’s Cheese, Strawberry And Basil Salad

Cod And Tomato With Basil

Lemon And Spinach Cod Gratin

Smoked Haddock And Curried Rice

I shall add more here.

I won’t starve!


A Marks and Spencer food store is fifteen minutes walk away, so I can get all the food I need.

I also got plenty of Adnams 0.5% alcohol Ghost Ship beers direct from the brewers delivered last week.

Their beers have been a lifeline, as they are gluten-free, thirst-quenching and don’t get me drunk. Even in quantity!

I also have safe delivery without any contact, as the couriers just ring my bell, we chat through the window about three metres away and they leave the goods on the step.

I didn’t think about lockdown, when I bought this house, but it is ideal for safe COVID-19-free deliveries.

Lockdown Practice

There can’t be many people, now going through the COVID-19 lockdown, wo have locked themselves away so many times in their life as I have.

  • At the age of about six, I spent three months or more, in isolation because I caught scarlet fever.
  • For the summer before A-Levels, my parents went to their house in Felixstowe. For part of the time, I locked myself in my bedroom and read up on my A level Physics.
  • A couple of times at ICI, I self-isolated with a computer to get important jobs done. How many have used an IBM-360 as a PC?
  • I self-isolated to write Speed, my first piece of independent software.
  • Pert7 and other software for Time Sharing Ltd was written overnight sitting in the window of their offices on Great Portland Street.
  • Artemis was written in an attic in Suffolk, with no-one else around for most of the time.
  • The special PC version of Artemis, that was a combined project management, database and spreadsheet program, was also written under lockdown.
  • After Celia died, I wrote Travels With My Celia(c) under lockdown. You can download the pdf file here.

Lockdown has almost been a way of life for me.

But on past form, I certainly have the mental strength to get through lockdown unscathed.


There must be a lot of others in much worse situations than myself.


April 18, 2020 Posted by | Computing, Food, Health, World | , , , , , , , , | 4 Comments

AI ‘Outperforms’ Doctors Diagnosing Breast Cancer

The title of this post is the same as that of this article on the BBC.

This is the first two paragraphs.

Artificial intelligence is more accurate than doctors in diagnosing breast cancer from mammograms, a study in the journal Nature suggests.

An international team, including researchers from Google Health and Imperial College London, designed and trained a computer model on X-ray images from nearly 29,000 women.

I have rarely worked with healthcare data, so I can’t comment on the accuracy of this trial.

However, over fifty years ago, I was able to make a lot of progress in the analysis of mass spectrometry data, by observing operators and asking how they identified various chemicals in the scan from the mass spectrometer.

I wouldn’t be surprised to find some detailed observation of the working methods of radiologists, formed the foundation data for this research.

The research seems to have done it well, judging by the published results.

Should we trust ourselves to methods like this in healthcare?

Undoubtedly! Yes!

Many systems like this are starting to be used in the maintenance of complex entities, as diverse as trains, planes, chemical works and advanced automated distribution depots.

But every fault, is always tested by a trained person.

This is a paragraph from the BBC article.

Prof Ara Darzi, report co-author and director of the Cancer Research UK (CRUK) Imperial Centre, told the BBC: “This went far beyond my expectations. It will have a significant impact on improving the quality of reporting, and also free up radiologists to do even more important things.”

I very much feel we will see very much more of this automated testing of the human body! And not just for cancer!

I already know of groups working on automatic diagnosis of arthritis!


January 2, 2020 Posted by | Computing, Health | , , , , | 1 Comment

Access To Multiple Units

I have been taking some pictures of the grab handles in the doorways of a selection of electric and diesel multiple units.

On most stations, the access between platform and train is a simple step across, but on lots of others, I have to grab the handle to make certain I am safe in the step-up or step-down.


  1. The British Rail-era trains have similar designs.
  2. On some trains, you can’t see the grab handle from the platform, as it is hidden by the door.
  3. The Class 172 and Class 378 Trains are both Bombardier trains of a similar date, but the handles are very different.
  4. The Class 378 train has an asymmetric layout.

I will add more examples.

My Entry And Exit With A Large Step

When I get into a train, where there is a large step, I often poke my head around the door to get a good look at the handle on the right hand side, which I grip with my right hand to balance myself as I step up.

When I get out from a train, where there is a large step, I go to the right, grab the handle and then step out sideways onto my left leg.

I should say that I have the following problems.

  • My left hand and arm isn’t the best, as my humerus was broken by the school bully.
  • I tend to avoid using my left hand.
  • My stroke a few years ago damaged my eyesight low down on the left, so when descending I like to have something to grab.
  • I have a touch of arthritis.
  • I am only one metre seventy tall.

On the other hand, my right hand and arm are strong. I also have no vision problem on the right hand side.

Could Grab Handles Be Designed Better?

They could certainly be designed better for me!

But I am one of millions, who are less than one hundred percent!

I wonder if a University or Design Consultancy has ever looked at the problem of designing a perfect grab handle for a train.

My ideas could include.

  • A grab handle that is longer and goes lower, so it is better for short people and lder children.
  • A grab handle that protrudes slightly from behind the open door, so that entering passengers can see it.
  • A grab handle with a textured surface.
  • Should the grab handle layout be symmetrical.

I would suspect, that if a better design of grab handle could be found, this would speed up entry and exit from the train. Surely train operating companies would like that?

This is not the finished post. Any suggestions and comments will be welcomed.


February 11, 2019 Posted by | Transport/Travel | , , | Leave a comment

I Think My Bilbao Trip Did Me Good

Yesterday, I had lunch with an old friend, S.  She thought that I might have got the old twinkle back in my eye.

But there have been various changes I’ve noticed since my return.

The major one is that my body seems to have gone much closer to like it was, before I had the stroke three and a half years ago. My fitness trainer came round on Monday and she got me to do stretches that I have found impossible in the last few years. I could actually put my left arm up my back and my right arm over my left shoulder and touch hands.  Which is something, I probably haven’t done since 2009. In this area, I’ve also noticed that I can fold my arms in front of my chest.  And both ways to boot!

I walked today to the Regent’s Canal and my feet behaved themselves with only a touch of the pain doctors say is arthritis, that has been with me since the 1960s and at times has been bad in the last ten years.

I also had two glasses of wine with S.  And both of them tasted like wine. For the last few years, a lot of wine could have been anything, as it was tasteless.  The only thing, that seemed to have taste, was the Waitrose lemonade, that I use virtually as a mouthwash.

I certainly tasted the chilli-enriched shepherd’s pie tonight.

Even my nose doesn’t seem to running so much and  certainly the dull pain in my lower jaw and teeth has lessened. My nose hasn’t bled either!

My brain seems to be on top form, and I’m fairly certain, that the mean time, it takes me to solve the Super Fiendish sudokus in The Times has decreased. My short term memory seems better too!

I can now wear my watch on my left hand and even doing up shirt buttons is easier.  I suspect the latter might be a clue, as men do up shirt buttons with just their right hand, and mine wasn’t affected by the stroke.  But I have found buttons difficult for the last three years.

Also, since I arrived in Biarritz, I have found taking my INR a lot easier and much less messy.  Could it be that my skin has absorbed a lot of water and now it is much more normal. It certainly feels a lot less dry. The only thing I put on my hands are water, soap and gloves. Moisturisers are for wimps. And on the subject of my hands, I can now cut all my nails myself a lot more easily!

Can all of this be down to the mild, sunny, humid weather I encountered on my trip to and from Bilbao? I had in fact, first noticed the return of the arm crossing ability, when I was lying in bed in the hotel in Bordeaux.

To try to recreate that lovely atmosphere, I’ve had my humidifier on full since I returned and a hire company is delivering a bigger one tomorrow!

I intend to prolong this good feeling.

December 19, 2013 Posted by | Health | , , | 6 Comments

Equine Research Day at Leahurst

The purpose of my trip to Leahurst was to go a series of presentations, about the work of the equine work of the School of Veterinary Science at Liverpool University.

It was a comprehensive series of talks, ranging across the whole field of equine welfare research.

One of the biggest areas talked about was colic and how to prevent it.  I was quite surprised at how much of the research was done using computers to analyse databases of incidences of colic and other collected and observed data.  I always believed that analysis of events is a very powerful tool to getting to the bottom of problems and my software; Daisy, has been used in numerous applications, although it’s all stagnated a bit, due to my illness.

There was also a presentation on obesity in horses, which is just as serious for them, as it is for humans.

But in some ways the biggest surprise was all the work done on arthitis in horses and humans, which is being funded in part by Arthritis Research UK.  The aim is to learn more about this disease and be able to diagnose it earlier in all animals.

I believe they are putting the presentations on the Internet and I will link to them, when they are available.

March 9, 2013 Posted by | Health | , , | Leave a comment

Poor Quality Arthritis

I mentioned in an earlier post, that a couple of weeks ago, I was suffering arthritis in my right knee. This was probably the reason, why after the stroke, my left leg was stronger than my right.

But after some physio ten days ago, it seems to have gone or at least died down.  I also went t0 the physio yesterday and she said it was a lot better.

I’m saying thanks for small mercies.

September 15, 2010 Posted by | Health | , | Leave a comment

Now I’ve Got A Gammy Knee!

Over the last couple of days, I’ve had a minor difficulty getting up from a chair.  I was just getting a bit of pain in my right knee.  I had to see the GP yesterday and she looked at it.  I had thought it might be something to do with the stroke, but it was just a touch of arthritis.  As I was seeing the physio after the GP, she had something else to do and she gave it some therapy.  It’s a lot better this morning.

The gastroenterologist I saw on Friday last week told me that I had some sort of bio-chemical problem and this was resulting in my poor nails.  They took some blood to check what it was.

Now before I was diagnosed as a coeliac, I had lots of problems and pain in my left knee.  These had started when I was about 25 and one doctor in those days, suggested I had an operation.  When we moved to Suffolk in 1975, a new doctor, recommended some exercises and except for the odd stickiness when I got up from the floor, I never had any more problems.

All of these knee problems got a lot better with a gluten-free diet.

So now it’s the other knee!

Ever since I’ve had the stroke, I’ve worried that something is wrong with the bio-chemistry of my body.  I’ll laugh like a drain if I’m low on vitamin B12!

But what do I know about medicine! Not a lot! But I do know my body!

In addition to the knee and nails, I’ve also got a certain amount of the runs and I am sleeping a lot and very well. The latter is probably due to the body needing time to recover.

September 9, 2010 Posted by | Health | , , | 1 Comment

The Juice Carton Spanner

I have a weak left hand due to a stroke and find opening the plastic cartons for things like Innocent smoothies, a little difficult.  But I’m getting better and I had no trouble a few minutes ago. However, there must be many others who do, as perhaps their hands are worse than mine because of arthritis or missing fingers.

But all the caps are the same and it should be possible to create a small plastic ring spanner that mates with the cap perfectly.  Companies like Innocent might even give them away free with an advert on them, as they’d only cost a few pence each to make.

There are still so many things that need inventing!

I always remember my father had a wonderful pair of round-jawed pliers, that were always being used to open difficult bottles at home.  I’v never seen anything like them since.

June 15, 2010 Posted by | Food, World | , , , | 5 Comments

The Power of Twitter

It would appear that Twitter has been having a hard time, as a war of words goes on about the NHS between Britain and the United States.  Or at least between some people with axes to grind.

I am quite a regular user of NHS services in that I am a coeliac and have a B12 injection every three months, free prescriptions for bread mixes, ongoing issues with cholesterol, my left foot, which got injured on a beach by a shell and my left humerus, which got broken by a bully at school.  Nothing is that serious and I suspect, I’m quite a way below average in my consumption of services. I never have a problem and I can always get an appointment when I want with my GP.

If I look at the last few weeks of my late wife’s life, I can’t fault the services she got from both the hospital and from the GP.  She eventually died at home in her own bed, which is surely the way we’d all like to go.  If we have to go at all!

But I’m not saying the NHS is perfect, but on the whole in mine and my many of my friends’ experience it works pretty well.  I think we’re also lucky here in West Suffolk, in that we have two hospitals within reach; Addenbrookes and Bury St. Edmunds.  For specialist problems, Papworth and London are not too far away.  So if I have a problem, I’d make sure I get the right consultant from a choice of several.

I have never used the US healthcare system so I can’t comment directly, but whereas none of my friends in the UK would put healthcare to the top of their list of worries, many of my American friends do. I worry about living alone and perhaps having a heart attack by myself, but I don’t worry about the care I would get.

Recently, I’ve had experience off two other health systems in Europe; Italy and Holland.  So in the latter it’s only indirectly, but the episode in Naples was only the second time, I’d had a ride in an ambulance.  The ambulance was rudimentary, the hospital was very tired, but the care was good and there were lots of doctors and nurses.  Compared to the UK, the buildings are a lot worse, the staff seem to work a lot harder, but the result is probably about the same.

Holland is interesting in that everyone has to take out insurance, even if you’re unemployed.  If you don’t then you don’t get treated.  So take your European Health Insurance Card with you! One guy in Holland got charged 740 Euros to remove a tick!

So we can find holes in every health system and these are going to get publicised all of the time.  But they actually stop real debate about the way we’re going to have to manage health care in the future.

When I had my last B12 injection, the nurse told me that increasingly her time is taken up by the problems of the obese.  It would appear that what the US and the UK do, that they can’t get to grips with this problem.  I suspect it may be solved in the US, by the health insurance companies charging a lot more and people will either have to diet or take the consequences.  So perhaps, their system has this control and that because the NHS is free at the point of delivery for all, the system will overload here in a big way in the next few years.

And then there is smoking!  And excessive drinking, that leads to all sorts of problems. And don’t forget illegal drugs.

So to me the key to getting health costs under control, is to take action against obesity, smoking, excessive drinking and drug abuse. Do this and I suspect that the money will be there in the NHS for all the exotic drugs coming on stream.

According to this article in the Telegraph, in 2007, the NHS spent £750 million on drugs to combat unhealthy lifestyles.  That is about 9% of the total drug spend of £8.37 billion.

But I do wonder about some of these drugs. And also the effects of the drug companies.

I am a coeliac and although it has been shown to affect about one-in-a-hundred of the population, there is very little research into the subject.  Why?  Because, everyone knows that the cure is to keep to that gluten-free diet and that if a drug came, that allowed you to eat gluten, most coeliacs wouldn’t trust it and would leave it in the pharmacy.  You could argue too, that if we tested everybody for coeliac disease, this would save quite a bit of the drug bill, as many undiagnosed coeliacs suffer all sorts of problems like arthritis.

I wasn’t on any drugs before diagnosis, but I nearly had a couple of serious operations on my knees.  Luckily I didn’t!

So better and earlier diagnosis would probably cut the drug bill.

I should also say, that many patients think that for every disease they need a magic pill.  We are prescribing Tamiflu to all and sundry, when many commentators, think that bed, whisky and paracetamol might well be better for the run-of-the-mill cases.

I’m not taking it for a start, unless I get a serious dose of flu.

My late wife had a horrific cancer and they tried to use a drug to prolong her life.  It failed and made her life worse.  So on another point, I would never take a drug unless I had all of the facts.  We must not judge success by an extra day of life, but by the quality of that life as well.  The number of people in favour of assisted suicide shows that the general public rate the quality of life pretty high.

But we must also remember that over half the costs of the NHS are staff costs, whereas the total cost of drugs is a lot less than that.  I can’t find accurate up-to-date figures, but the drug cost is probably between ten and fifteen percent.

So to get a better health service, we need to cut out those bad lifestyles and provide the tools for the NHS, so that we get more greater value for the large amount we pay staff.

I’ll give one personal example here.

To be diagnosed for coeliac disease, you need to have a full endoscopy. I’ve had two and they’re not that bad, but they cost the NHS a lot of money.  On the other hand, before I had the first endoscopy, I was diagnosed as a very likely coeliac by just a simple blood test.  I went on a gluten-free diet, my chronic dandruff disappeared immediately and I felt a lot better.  In other words why bother with the endoscopy?

NHS rules say you can’t get gluten-free goods on prescription unless you are diagnosed by endoscopy.

There are several things wrong with this policy.

  • Some coeliacs have a negative diagnosis by endoscopy, despite losing all symptoms on a gluten-free diet.
  • My wife said that it could be construed as child-abuse to use a gluten challenge and endoscopy on a child.
  • A lot of coeliacs get little on prescription, as much better offerings are available in the supermarket.  I only get a bread mix.

How many other areas could better and more scientific procedures make the NHS more efficient?

Whoever wins the next General Election in the UK has a lot of scope for efficiency improvements in the NHS, but the entrenched views of those who work there will make it difficult.

What am I going to do?

Keep slim and fit!  And not stand on any more razor shells on Holkham Beach.

And also use Twitter to publicise all the waste.  It has a lot more power than anything else.

August 14, 2009 Posted by | Health | , , | Leave a comment