The Anonymous Widower

High Speed Two And Brexit

This article on the BBC, is entitled HS2: High-Speed Line Cost ‘could Rise By £30bn’.

Brexiteers like Boris Johnson and Nigel Farage have said in the past, that they are minded to cancel the project.

But surely Boris and Nigel believe that we’ll all be better off under Brexit, so we will have the money for the NHS, kicking the foreigners out of the UK, building a wall to stop the emigrants walking across the Irish Border and High Speed Two.

They can’t have it both ways!

Or is it that both wouldn’t be seen dead on a train?

July 20, 2019 Posted by | Transport | , , , , , | Leave a comment

A Double Database Cock-Up From The NHS

At three on Sunday morning, I phoned NHS 111 to ask for a bit of help with my terrible cold that was stopping me from even getting to sleep.

I had some advice which helped, but I was also booked in to see a doctor at 09:00 in a surgery a short bus ride away.

So far so good and no complaints.

I duly saw the doctor and he prescribed several drugs, which I took to my local Boots later in the morning.

I should say at this point, that four years ago, I officially changed my name from the one my parents gave me to the one I’ve used continuously since 1968. I was starting to get problems with some airlines, where my passport had a different name to my bank account. My current GP has only ever known me by the latter name and I’m registered with their surgery using it.

When I got to Boots, they initially rejected the prescription, as for some reason it showed by old name, although my address, NHS number and other personal details were correct.

How did the wrong name get on the prescription?

Luckily, Boots were pragmatic and as they recognised me, I got some of thew drugs.

But not all!

The pharmacist recognised that two drugs were incompatible with the Warfarin I take.

So why did the NHS computer system allow the doctor to prescribe the drugs?

As someone who was at the forefront of database technology, I believe, these two problems are inexcusable.

My incorrect name could have led to failure to obtain needed drugs.

The lack of interaction checking, could have led to serious problems for a patient.

January 7, 2019 Posted by | Computing, Health | , , , , | 4 Comments

NHS Is Still Reliant On Fax Machines

The title of this post as the same as that of an article in The Times last week.

This is the first paragraph.

Hospitals are still using 9,000 fax machines according to a survey that highlights the NHS’s with modern technology.

Other points from the article.

  • The survey was done by the Royal College of Surgeons
  • Newcastle on Tyne NHS Foundation trust had 603 machines.
  • Barts Health uses 369 faxes.
  • Only ten trusts said they didn’t own any faxes.

Coupled with another report last year, which showed that NHS hospitals still use an estimated 130,000 pagers, it surely shows the NHS is stuck in the past, as far as communications are concerned.

But this is not all!

A friend told me, he is trying to analyse the computer network of a trust, that stretches across three English counties.

These days, computers and complicated equipment usually have an address on the network, which in most organisations follow a logical pattern controlled by a sensible comprehensive specification.

But the NHS does things differently, with each county relying on one person in their area to create idividual node names.

How much could the NHS save, if they sorted out their communications and computing?


July 16, 2018 Posted by | Computing, Health | | 2 Comments

Gluten-Free Food On The NHS – Again

In August 2015 , I write Gluten-Free Food On The NHS.

My view hasn’t changed. But my list of foods has changed slightly.

I still think, that those prescribed a gluten-free diet, should get a small payment each month, either as a voucher or a direct transfer into your bank account.

The current system is bureaucratic and expensive. A lot of money also goes on products that are crap and I wouldn’t give to a starving beggar!

March 28, 2017 Posted by | Food | , , | 3 Comments

A Personal Vitamin D Tester

I’ve thought that the ability to purchase one of these over-the-counter in your local Boots, Superdrug or any or the umpteen pharmacies, would be very worthwhile for some time. But I’ve nver found anything on the web.

Tonight I found this article on the Natural News web site, which is entitled Over-the-counter vitamin D tester would be a boon to public health, cancer prevention.

The writer makes some good points and would be very in favour of the sale of such a device.

Read the article and see what you think.

With my engineering hat on, I can only think that no-one has come up with a simple method akin to the one I use to test my INR.

I also believe there are a lot of doctors, who believe patients doing their own testing is a no-no! Possibly becuase it blows a hole in his staff needs and therefor reduces their budget. Nurses doing lots of testing gives the feel-good factor of a busy surgery.

But then the Healthcare Industry all over the World, is the last one to start using Twentieth Century managenment methods. In private medicine, it is a sensible way to inflate the bill and in the NHS, it means you don’t have to make unnecessary staff redundant.



January 11, 2017 Posted by | Health | , , | 3 Comments

Do We Need A National Health Service?

You might say that’s what we’ve got, but what we really have is a National Illness Service

But it is not making best use of resources to make sure we don’t need it.

Consider some of the things that have happened to me in the last couple of days.

I ran out of statins yesterday, which indicated to me that I’d got to get a repeat prescription from Boots. But where was the message to say it was time to pick them up?

It doesn’t matter to me, as  the Boots I use, as did my grandmother before the First World War, is only a bus ride away.

Whilst waiting for my prescription, I got talking to a young lady from Cancer Research UK, who was also waiting for her prescription. I teased her about not smoking and I was glad to see she didn’t. I wish my son George had been so sensible.

I then got talking to a lady, who must have been around eighty and we discussed how I tested my own INR. She was familiar with the device and had wanted one for her mother, who had had a stroke. But the cost was just too much, so the surgery used to send a nurse round.

I feel very strongly, that in the right hands self-testing is a real life improver, as any diabetic will tell you. After all, most of us can now use a well-designed device.

We also talked about my coeliac disease, as her two great-daughters had both been diagnosed, but she didn’t know, it can be a cause of not getting pregnant.

When I was diagnosed as a coeliac, a lot of the information I received from Addenbrookes was far too comprehensive and not very practical. But,  gradually with the help of various trusted web sites and a previous GP, I’ve found a regime that works for me.

Perhaps, what is needed is a network of local mentors for diseases like coeliac disease, as what you can find differs very much as you go around the country.One regime definitely doesn’t fit all!

For instance, Cambridge, Glasgow and Liverpool are much easier than say Blackpool, Ipswich or Middlesborough.

Incidentally, on Sunday, a young lady and her boyfriend had been a bit confused as to what bread to buy in Marks at Waterloo station, so as I do when asked an opinion, I guided her through the gluten-free section. To be fair to Marks, their staff are usually helpful.

Over the last few months, I’ve been involved in the testing of a new anti-cholesterol drug, at the William Harvey Research Institute.

On a selfish note, it has allayed a lot of fears about my health.

I would certainly recommend that if you have a medical or psychological condition, that you check out the research around your local area and see if you can help by joining a suitable research project.

From my experience with Liverpool University, I know they are looking for people to assist with research, much of which is psychological and just involves answering a few questions.

Over the years, I’ve been involved in research at Moorfields Hospital, Liverpool University, Oxford University and the University of East London, none of which involved any more than looking at a computer screen or filling in a form.

The Moorfields research was in some ways the most interesting, where I had my eyes tested on a series of new machines and was then asked to say which ones I preferred. The project was attempting to find the best machines for the NHS.

So if your local University is looking for research volunteers, in something that might be to your advantage, why not volunteer.

After all, it is our National Health Service and we should bend it to our needs.

With the anti-cholesterol drug, I’ve seen some of the best doctors in the field and I’ve learned to inject myself. Hopefully, it’s a skill I won’t need again.


November 15, 2016 Posted by | Health | | 1 Comment

Gluten-Free Food On The NHS

As a coeliac, I get no food from the NHS.

If you take bread as an example, I get through a couple of slices a day, usually spread with honey, in a sandwich or as something to eat with say hummus.

If I was to get this bread on the NHS, a month’s worth would leave me with no space in the freezer and I’d have to defrost each slice as I needed it.

Also, the bread from Marks and Spencer is far superior to anything available on the NHS.

I probably spend about a fiver on specialist gluten-free food every week, but mainly I eat the sort of food, that is naturally gluten-free, like meat, fish, vegetables and fruit.


A more cost-effective system would be that all coeliacs got a monthly payment to help with food costs. If they spent it on cigarettes, then that is their affair!

So what do I think are the best gluten-free foods?

Bananas – A snack in its own wrapper.


Black Farmer Sausages – Made for real men

Celia gluten-free beer

EatNakd Bars

Eat Natural Toasted Muesli With Vine Fruit – Not the Buckwheat!


Fish – Always skinless and boneless

Goats Milk – It lasts forever in the fridge



Marks & Spencer’s Beefburgers –

Marks & Spencer’s Bread – It’s all excellent

Marks & Spencer’s Calves Liver – All that B12

Marks & Spencer’s Still Lemonade – I use it to clear my throat of catarrh

Marks & Spencer’s Welsh Goats Cheese

New Potatoes – I use them as nibbles too!

Rachel’s Yoghurt with Honey – It doubles as a quick pasta sauce!





Rump Steak – Always top quality

Waitrose Chicken Breast Chunks – So many simple meals start with these!

Waitrose Prepared Mango, Melon and Pineapple

Whisky – Scotch or Irish

I do tend to buy food that doesn’t need preparation, as my knife skills aren’t that good and being on Warfarin, I don’t want to cut myself. I also buy the Waitrose prepared fruit, as to buy a whole mango, melon or pineapple would mean I would waste a lot.

I should say I don’t need to live frugally, but if I had to, I could fund my energy, water, Council Tax, phone and daily food from well within my State Pension. Obviously, I get travel in Greater London free and I don’t have a car



August 18, 2015 Posted by | Food | , | 3 Comments

Avoiding The Real Issues In The NHS

All the political parties seem to be promising more and more to the NHS in this election, be it money, drugs, doctors, nurses or midwives.

Money could be the least of the problems, as it will probably come from improvements to the economy or some tax-the-rich measure, depending on your political point of view.

As drugs are not really a drug problem, but usually a money one, we are left with where to we get the tens of thousands of staff we need to provide health-care.

The trouble is that being a health professional, is a skill you can use anywhere in the world, as all human beings are the same under the skin, even if they come in various colours, speak different languages and have certain different diseases governed by genetics or environment. So just as we can recruit paramedics from the Antipodes, nurses from the Philippines and doctors from virtually everywhere, other countries can entice our health professionals away.

We live in an increasingly global society, and working abroad for a few years is often in many peoples desired career profile, be it in health care or not. Healthcare like certain other professions is one of those that gives you a passport to a lot of interesting places.

All manpower planning in the NHS seems to believe that those trained here, will stay here. But all good training does is hand everybody that passport to travel.

To make matters worse, good training for some professions, is an excellent grounding to starting a business or working in the private sector.

So the first issue we must face, is this one of where do we get the staff. The NHS has shown itself to be not very innovative in this area.

Some have suggested in the past, that anybody trained in the NHS must contract to work for the service for so many years. This is just cloud-cuckoo thinking.

The one positive thing that can be done to help staff is to provide better working conditions and rewards for those working in the NHS. Most of the NHS buildings, I’ve seen in the last ten years have been pretty sound, with perhaps the odd exception, so we must look at the problems of staff with respect to organisation, management, pay and pensions.

What I do find interesting is that all of the Practice Nurses I’ve met in GPs surgeries seem to be so much happier in their work than those in hospitals. It’s only a small survey, but it does say something about the difference between GP’s surgeries and hospitals.

When I’ve spent time in hospital in the past few years, it has been been twice in good NHS hospitals and once in an expensive private one in Hong Kong. There was little difference in the equipment or methods used, but as an IT professional of some years experience, I don’t believe that hospital systems are what an engineer or manager would accept if they worked in say a modern car factory in the UK.

So we must get hospital and GP health systems to the levels that patients and staff expect in their personal life.

Where is an on-line copy of my health record, that I can read to get to the bottom of my problems, that seem to occur seasonally in the Spring?

But things are changing and we must create a health communication and information system, that is an order of magnitude better than what we have today.

No political party is saying they’ll fix this important gap in the NHS.

Everything in our lives is going on to our computers or phones, but healthcare in the NHS hasn’t changed that much since I was born in 1947.

Some people rightly worry about such a computer system. But at its best it would only be like an on-line shopping system, where if you don’t see what you need on-line at your favourite store, you go and look at a physical one.

In all the politicians posturing on health, they very much ignore the users of the NHS and what they can do to improve the service and its efficiency.

I would be interested to see an analysis of how much the average patient costs the NHS. I suspect that because of the lack of a fully joined-up computer system, if I had complete access and wanted to find out how much I cost the NHS last year, no accurate value could be calculated.

Many people calculate their motoring costs to the last penny, but even if they wanted to, it’s probably impossible with healthcare, even though all the data is there.

Eventually, everybody will have this figure, as it could be a powerful tool for a GP to classify and better treat their patients and as a motivator to patients to improve their lifestyle.  You’ll never change some patients, but many could be nudged in the right direction.

We must also do more to ease our load on the NHS. On a personal level, I look after my INR, by doing my own tests. A Committee of MPs has stated that all NHS patients who can, should do their own testing to save the NHS a lot of money.

How many other measurements can be taken by patients to ease the load? And are we doing enough to encourage more and better devices?

In no political party’s pontifications on the NHS, can I find anything about bringing the patient more into his or her own healthcare. But many doctors and nurses have said to me that we should take more responsibility for our own health.

After all, many of us now carry a tablet or phone, that has more computing and information accessing capability than existed anywhere ten years ago. Is this being used to give us better healthcare? Not really!

Political parties are not tackling the problems caused by our poor diet, lifestyle and environment.

Where I live, there are more unhealthy takeaways than you need to try a new one every week of the year. Not one sells any gluten-free food, so their chances of seducing me with their crap is non-existent.

Even the Sainsburys Local that I use is not a store,where you can always get the staples you need to create a healthy meal. Yesterday, I needed a couple of haddock fillets for supper, but except for some very bedraggled and unappetising cod, there was no uncoated fish. So I had to take a bus to the Angel to get some from Waitrose. Does a lack of healthy food locally mean that many don’t eat as healthily as I do? I am out and about in London most days using my Freedom Pass, so it is not difficult for me to pick up what I need on the go. But a young mother with an infant in a buggy doesn’t have that luxury. It’s not the shops’ fault, as they only stock what the shop sells!

The only positive thing government can do in this area, is to give local authorities more power to decide what shops they allow in their area.

I haven’t seen anything like this in any manifesto.

We should also do things to curb air pollution, which can get bad at times. All city centre transport, should either be electric or very low emission vehicles.

But again, no-one wants to annoy people, except the Greens, who won’t win anyway.

I suppose smoking comes into this area. Any candidate for London Mayor, who decides to ban it in public parks, squares and in the vicinity of bus stops gets my vote next time.

Perhaps candidates for the election, should have to declare if they smoke or not and what car they drive on the ballot paper!

Do we also give our children an education that will help them get through the minefield that is health? We give sex education in schools, but surely health education is just as, if not more important!

We need to think radically, about how we deliver healthcare and before we throw money at it, we should sort out the details on how it is delivered, how it interacts with patients and the fasctors that affect it.

Conservative 1940s thinking has failed and we must bring the NHS into the twenty-first century.



April 11, 2015 Posted by | Computing, Health | , , | 2 Comments

Greater Manchester To Control Local Health Budget

\This report on the BBC entitled Greater Manchester Councils ‘to control £6bn NHS budget’, is surely the way for healthcare to go in the UK, as I suspect that health needs in various parts of the country can be very different.

Manchester is getting increasingly like London with an elected mayor responsible for various issues. Some of these issues are related, like the provision of good public transport to and from hospitals, so it is only right that they are dealt with locally. I am lucky in that my three local hospitals; the Royal London, Homerton and University College are all an easy bus ride or train journey away, but what proportion of the UK population, need to get a car or taxi to their local hospital?

February 25, 2015 Posted by | Health, Transport | , , | 3 Comments

Mansion Tax To Pay For 1,000 Nurses In Scotland

This is the front page headline in The Times. It is subtitled.

Labour targets southern England to woo north.

These headlines are based on a policy statement by Jim Murphy, the Scottish Labour Leader. The Times also says he didn’t clear it with Ed Miliband.

My house would probably not be worth enough to pay a mansion tax, although knowing politicians, they’d probably change the rules to make most houses in London and the South East pay the tax.

But I thought that the NHS in Scotland was devolved.

One thing I find, is that if I talk about the NHS to people in England and Scotland, those in places like London, Liverpool and East Anglia, are much more satisfied with prerformance than those north of the border.

January 6, 2015 Posted by | Health | , , , | 1 Comment