Tuesday, 22 November 2016

Are there really 500 vulnerable elderly people at risk of harm and neglect in Cornwall's residential care homes?

Just had a quick flick through the Care Quality Commission's online publication of inspection reports.  Filter by Cornwall and then search those rated as "requires improvement" and you can see just how many residential care homes have been given exactly the same rating as the Panorama'd Clinton House, St Austell.

I make it 16 homes, with an average of 30 residents each - so around 500 elderly, vulnerable people, just waiting for an undercover reporter with a hidden camera.  I'm happy to list those homes if anyone wants - one is run directly by Cornwall Council, another by its spawned charity Cornwall Care Ltd; the rest are completely private.

The CQC says there are 227 care homes for the elderly in Cornwall, and none is currently rated "inadequate."  But the lesson of the Clinton House case is that a rating of "requires improvement" is, a bit like the CQC itself, inadequate.

I have previously blogged about the risks of a long memory.  Does anyone else remember this speech in the House of Commons, from 1997?  The sound of chickens arriving home?

Friday, 11 November 2016

Coming soon - the new Jerusalem

Much relief at County Hall yesterday over the St Ives planning decision, in which the courts have ruled that councillors acted properly in allowing a ban on new-build second homes.  The implications for local development plans across Cornwall are immense.

Among those sharing the love was Rob Nolan, Liberal Democrat Parliamentary candidate for Truro and Falmouth (or wherever the Boundary Commissioners decide) who took to BBC Radio Cornwall to denounce the development of green field sites.

Of course, it was only radio - but it sounded remarkably like the same Rob Nolan who chairs Cornwall Council's Strategic Planning Committee, and who recently, and enthusiastically, supported the 236-lodge Camel Creek holiday resort between Wadebridge and St Columb - which is, er, in the open countryside.

Wednesday, 9 November 2016

Will Trump now come to Tintagel?

Congratulations to John Mappin, the Tintagel hotelier whose bank balance is about to be swelled by his astute punt on the outcome of the United States Presidential election.

Mr Mappin correctly identified a growing "sod the lot of them" attitude among voters, responsible for the Brexit decision in the UK earlier this year and which he believed was also prevalent in the US.

I'm listening to Donald Trump on the radio right now.  He sounds less loony than he did yesterday, saying he now wants to "reach out" to those who didn't vote for him.

We shall see.  For the Democrats, the lesson is clear.  They should have gone with Bernie Sanders.

Tuesday, 8 November 2016

Cornwall's care crisis

Last night's news about the Clinton nursing home at St Austell, closed because of as-yet-unspecified "safeguarding" issues, throws sharply into focus the crisis caused by an ageing population and an underfunded service.  For "underfunded" I could just as easily have written "uncaring" - it is all about priorities.

The Clinton home is part of the Morleigh group and can take up to 46 residents.  Many have dementia.
In February, the Care Quality Commission made an unannounced inspection, found several things wrong, and told the management to pull their socks up.  You can read that report here. 

Such was the inspectors' concern - scalding risks, incontinence odours, residents forced to share flannels, inadequate respect for dignity etc - that they went back a few weeks later.  Things appear to have gone downhill from there.  Perhaps the real question is why it took nine months before anyone thought it was a good idea to move the residents somewhere else.

Sunday, 6 November 2016

Never a good idea for a politician to duck a straight question

And just for the record, the correct answer for any leader of the Opposition, when asked if he/she wants a general election, is always "yes."

Saturday, 5 November 2016

Maybe I should move to Finland

For reasons which might become clear over the next few weeks, I am currently investigating a variety of alternative funding models for journalism.  The conventional media - hooked on listicles, click-bait and "sponsored content" - has seen its reputation plummet since I started this game 40 years ago (not that I think it's all my fault.)

There seems no doubt that the British press has set a benchmark for low standards and that the current regulatory framework has completely failed the public. Of all the 28 countries in the EU in 2014-15 the written press had the lowest trust rating, below even Greece and Serbia, according to a EBU report this summer.

Friday, 4 November 2016

Britain after Brexit

This is what's at risk if we allow elected Members of Parliament to debate Article 50:

Thursday, 3 November 2016

Gina Miller - woman of the year?

Nothing like a good old constitutional crisis to sell newspapers (or blogs.)  Expect a good deal of humbug as we now play "hunt the issue."  The Brexit referendum decision is one thing.  The right of Parliament to scrutinise and debate the process is another.  If you want to know who is winning, watch the markets. Within the past few minutes, the pound has risen by 1 per cent.

Wednesday, 2 November 2016

On-farm slaughter, Mad Cow Disease and the balance of risk

Decades ago, long before the then minister John Gummer sent his press office into meltdown by trying – in front of TV cameras - to make his young daughter eat a beef burger when she clearly didn’t want to, I was one of those nosy-parker reporters who kept asking awkward questions about Mad Cow disease.
I’m sorry to say that I made myself thoroughly unpopular with many in the agriculture industry, particularly the National Farmers Union, because it was a story that just would not go away.  When a cat called Max, in Bristol, was shown to have died from Bovine Spongiform Encephalopathy, ministerial assurances of a so-called “species barrier” suddenly collapsed.

We later learned that there had been a long-running and very serious feud between the Department of Health and what was then called the Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food over the level of risk to humans.  I’m happy to report that although scores of humans did indeed die from a variant of the illness, which the government accepted was “most probably” caused by eating infected beef, fears of a widespread epidemic claiming thousands of lives appear to have been overblown.

And although there is the occasional, unexplained, spontaneous outbreak of BSE, the raft of regulations introduced in the wake of Mad Cow disease ensures that the risk to humans remains vanishingly small.

You might therefore think it is surprising that I would now promote the case for relaxing one aspect of those regulations.  I do so for two reasons – first, because the regulation itself fails to do the job it is required to, and secondly because there would be widespread social and economic benefits to rural Cornwall.  This is the rule book relating to mobile on-farm slaughter.

On-farm slaughter used to be widespread, but has now almost completely disappeared because – after Mad Cow disease – the government was determined to clamp down on any risks associated with high-risk offal, particularly from bovine spines.  Instead, cattle now have to be transported – often over long distances – to reach slaughterhouses which meet very high standards of clinical cleanliness.

What makes the existing rule fall on the wrong side of “daft” is that it is still perfectly OK to slaughter “at home” provided you eat the beef yourself, and don’t try to sell it to anyone.  The Food Standards Agency says: “It should be noted that home slaughter is likely to carry a greater human health risk than slaughter that takes place in approved premises.”

But there are still some farmers, particularly smallholders, who do not like the potentially distressing business of transporting livestock to slaughter.  So how do you safely slaughter on your farm?  The answer is that you call an expert – but experts now are themselves becoming very rare.

One such expert is Paul Marshall, of Wadebridge (left,) whose family has worked in the livestock slaughter business for generations.  He could well be the last mobile slaughterman in Britain.  Paul’s job is not without risk.  Not from the livestock, but from bureaucrats.

Technically, if he kills the beast it has been “placed on the market” and both he and the farmer risk prosecution.  If he merely “assists” in the slaughter, then he is in the clear.  The farmer still risks prosecution if any meat is sold because the rules say “the owner must only supply his immediate family.”  So presumably spouse and children are OK, but great uncles and second cousins are not.

From the point of view of protecting human health, the rules are at best very weak.  They should be re-visited and re-written.  There would also be a social and economic benefit to keeping the value of this part of the meat trade within rural areas, rather than see it lost to multi-national corporations.

The rules, of course, have their roots in an office in Brussels.  It might be that Brexit changes the game.  My essential point is that it was not traditional mobile slaughtermen who caused Mad Cow Disease, more than 30 years ago.  It was most probably contaminated cattle feed and a high-tech industrial approach to agriculture.  We might have thrown the baby out with the bathwater.

Before you park your car, think of a word to describe your sex

This is part of a car parking survey which a firm of consultants is currently carrying out on behalf of Cornwall Council.  It certainly made me think.

How would I describe my sex? I'm not sure I understand the question, but surely you can tell by the brilliant way I park my car. You have to feel sorry for the poor official who had to reply on behalf of the council: "It is important to know things like gender orientation so we can target services.  By collecting monitoring information we are able to provide evidence that we are reaching people that need our services and identify when we are not," she said."