Wednesday, 31 July 2013

Friends and Family test results for Ashford and St. Peters Hospitals.

The first figures are out from the ‘Friends and Family test’, David Cameron’s ‘Big Idea’ to fix the NHS. For what it’s worth here is a summary of the results for the first quarter as reported in the Daily Telegraph;

“36 wards were given a negative score in June, 38 in May and 66 in April.

10 A&E units also failed the test at least once between April and June, with the emergency department one hospital, Barnet and Chase Farm, receiving overall negative feedback three months in a row.”


In the end it’s just a gimmick, a very flawed survey where patients are asked whether or not they would recommend their hospital to family and friends, with boxes to tick from "very unlikely" to "very likely".

The reason why it’s no good is because to end up with a final figure number the negative responses are subtracted from the number of "very likely" responses to give each A&E unit and ward an overall score.

Here’s the problem;

The responses are rounded up or down and you end up with a ‘mean’, which doesn’t really tell you very much.

This is because most people who go into hospital are treated reasonably well. What we should be concerned about are the minority who receive bad care. This survey is designed to even away the minority who get really bad care. The fact that the test is biased to the ‘happy majority’ means only a consistently terrible hospital could fail on this test – so bad that it would be obvious anyway.

So far, the limitation of the data allowance on my dongle has prevented me from getting my hands on the raw data. At the moment this is the best I can offer;

If you go on NHS England and then to NHS Choices, select ‘find a hospital’ or ‘find an A and E’, put in your postcode and you will get a series of jolly buttons, telling you that everything is fine.

I’m going to steal some wi-fi and do some digging of my own.

In the meantime take Ashford and St. Peter’s Hospital;

The A and E score is 53 while the hospital score is 74.

The average scores for A&E units for the quarter were 45 for A&E and 70 for inpatient wards.

The silly buttons tell me this is OK, although it seems pretty meaningless without a closer look.

Neil Harris

(a don’t stop till you drop production)

Tuesday, 30 July 2013

The Usual Suspects

British modern Jazz has a tough time getting by, surviving. Really it’s one big collective. Someone gets a booking and it’s a ring round to find a group of musicians who are free. ‘Groups’, just can’t make it.

So, when Simon Spillett (coolish dude in a suit with a sax) formed ‘Standard Miles’, to play standards in the style of Miles Davis, that was quite something. Especially as this is the style of the 1960’s, the Herbie Hancock period.


 The five (round up the usual suspects) had certainly gone to extraordinary lengths to look like the Davies band of that era. Spillett introduced Henry Lowther (Trumpet and Flugelhorn) “I chose him for his uncanny resemblance to the great Miles Davies”. Lowther is short, a little plump, white haired and (how can I put this) very white.

You’ll get the idea that this wasn’t a tribute band or a band of looky-likey’s. They weren’t playing the Miles Davies Greatest Hits. It was just five great musicians playing a bunch of standards they know, in a style they love. A hand in an old glove.

So, Henry Lowther used a mute a heck of a lot and that short staccato stabbing sound, but the mask often slipped a little – did Davies ever play the flugel? He was in good form. There was John Critchinson delicate on piano and Dave Green on Bass. We had a rare treat of a trio – Piano, Drums and Bass on their own.

Trevor Tomkins was really something tonight. When the French government banned Absinthe, the distillers produced a new aniseed flavoured drink that carried a hint of what it replaced but was something new. It was called ‘Pastis’, because it was a pastiche of what went before. TT really took his drums to 1963 tonight and gave everything a certain flavour, a memory of something very familiar but irreplaceable, without pretending to copy what can’t be copied.

There was a taste of it all - urban sax, short and stabby sax and trumpet, fast and furious and very slow and thoughtful.

Even though these five play together a lot, know each other well, there’s nothing like being a group to take it up a gear. A thoughtful night and lots of cheers and whistles too.

Neil Harris

( a don’t stop till you drop production)

Monday, 29 July 2013

What you're missing.

UHands Off !

               It’s Our NHS.

Sometimes, you have to stop and take stock of why people are doing things. Sometimes they have a hidden motive.

So, when newspapers like the Daily Mail, the Daily Telegraph and the Daily Express all attack what has been going on in the NHS (and it has to be said the Mail and the Telegraph have been doing a really good job this year), you have to remember there is a motive behind it all.

So, earlier this year, the papers were headlining an estimate that 30,000 people a year are dying prematurely as a result of neglect, delay or poor treatment by the NHS.

Then, just before The Keogh report into the 14 underperforming NHS Trusts came out, a conservative election strategist briefed the press that some 13,000 people had died unnecessarily at those trusts.

These figures can’t be checked and are just speculative opinion. It’s vindictive and it messes with people’s morale. That’s what it’s meant to do.

I have some strong opinions of my own.

All of these papers support the ‘free’ market in health care and usually support the Conservative party too. The Mail, the Telegraph and the Express are also part of their respective owner’s vast financial empires. As we have seen with Richard Branson’s Virgin, you would be surprised who would like to get into the provision of healthcare services in order to make a fast buck.

If you want to make money, the NHS is an attractive victim; ring-fenced, massive public expenditure at a time when everybody is broke.

Because this is no ‘free’ market, the ‘customers’ have no choice – if you win a tender to supply services, the patients have to go to you, the Doctors have to refer you.

It’s not big bucks, its mega bucks - £109 Billion a year. That’s a lot of Government cash on the nail, no questions asked. It’s called cash-flow and its every businessperson’s dream to get his/her hands on some.

The purpose of this Blog is not to destroy the NHS but to save it as a public service, based on need and not ability to pay.

That’s a public service not a private profit.

What’s broken is fixable.

That also means having respect for the people who work for the NHS, providing a crucial, life-saving service.

On my other, seriously boring Blog;
You could recently have read an analysis of The Keogh Report or an exposé of the secret briefings and conflicts of interest of the conservative’s election strategist and much, much more.

UHands Off !

                  It’s our NHS.

Neil Harris

(a don’t stop till you drop production)

Sunday, 28 July 2013

Even the bouncers were dancing.

“Am a root, am a toot an a shoot in a shaanty town.”

If you have to dance on the edge of a volcano, my view is that you may as well have a really fine tune. ‘Shanty Town’ is as good as it gets. Or maybe 'Pressure Drop'.

Saturday night saw me at the latest date on ‘The Skasouls’ mad, manic, summer tour – most of which happens in or around Staines. The heat broke, I fought through a wild thunderstorm to get to ‘The Hobgoblin’.

Actually, for a moment I thought I was about 19 and had made my way all across London to ‘The Bridgehouse’, a 1930’s pub set in the bleakest part of Canning Town. In the heart of the far, far east, people didn’t stray much beyond the end of their road at night, in those days.

The Bridgehouse held ‘Mod’nights every week and for a while at the end of the 1970’s it was a place to be and a place to do your thing. The ‘Land of a thousand dances’. It was not an easy journey in those days and I’m not talking about the public transport.

So, Saturday night? A man with a Trojan records tattoo on his arm. Feathercuts. DM’s. Really, really fine DJ’ing from someone called Martin, who steadily worked his way through some of the more interesting parts of Trojan’s back catalogue, some of the more famous examples of Northern Soul and a selection of Mod classics.

Disneyworld for elderly Mods – that’s me.

I have a sense of wonder that I can go out and enjoy some of the best music ever, live and dangerous. Up close and personal.

Did I mention dancing? This was so good the bouncers were dancing. Have you ever seen that?

After midnight, I spilled out into the street. Ringing ears, raspy throat, a good night out.

The rain had stopped and as I left the Police cars were prowling….a certain menace in the air.

Hmmm, where’s the next date?


Neil Harris

(a don’t stop till you drop production)

Saturday, 27 July 2013

Wexham Park Hospital.

Heatherwood and Wexham Park NHS Foundation Trust is the next door hospital to Ashford and St. Peter’s. There have been more than a few closures, justified by the argument that these hospitals are there to help out.

When Ashford lost it’s A and E – the choice was to go to St. Peter’s or to Wexham Park.

When Wycombe and then Heatherwood lost their A and E’s – go to Wexham Park.

Now, the Care Quality Commission has issued a report saying that Slough’s hospital at Wexham Park is “failing to protect the welfare of its patients and there was a catalogue of failures”. The problems are mainly at Accident and Emergency, where I suspect they can’t cope with the increased number of patients as a result of the closures of the other local A and E’s.

‘Monitor’ who are supposed to keep an eye on Foundation trusts has demanded a recovery plan – although they are much more worried about the big black hole in the accounts. In April they issued an enforcement notice demanding urgent improvements in finance and governance. This is because the trust is heavily in debt and can only propose yet more closures and a massive sale of precious land and property in a desperate attempt to keep afloat.

Tracey Morgan was interviewed locally – she is the chief executive of Age UK in Slough and a Governor of the Hospital Trust – highly critical of the executives and managers. None of that is surprising. Last year, her 87 year old Mother went in to the hospital with a broken wrist but somehow acquired severe facial injuries while there.

It’s gone unexplained and unpunished. Not surprisingly Ms Morgan became active in trying to reform the trust – despairing of the traditional methods she had used before. Last year she sent the managers an e-mail outlining all the same problems the CQC have now raised.

Nothing was done; this is someone who is on the board of Berkshire Care Association, a Governor of the hospital and Chief executive of Age UK.

“I have seen care homes closed, reputations and livelihoods damaged for far less than the findings here”.

Of course, as a ‘Foundation trust’, this organisation has been freed from the bureaucracy of government (democratic) control and allowed to sink or swim with market forces. I don’t see much swimming going on here.



                IS BUST!

Neil Harris

(a don’t stop till you drop production)

Friday, 26 July 2013


I took my hat, a bottle with some vodka in it, matches, lighter, to a lonely, spooky spot, as you can see. It would have taken some explaining had the Police stopped me. The intention was to end up with something like a 1970’s Hipgnosis album cover, the hat hovering – in flames.


 Unfortunately, even though the label clearly stated; “Keep away from fire”, the darned hat refused to do more than smoulder. Matches gone, vodka burnt off, lighter empty, everything that could burn was burnt except for the hat.

It’s like the sequence in ‘Goodfellas’, where the corpse in the boot of the car starts banging on the boot. Or the end of a cheesy horror movie, the vampire springing back to life, just one more time before the credits.

As it was, the charred hat had to come back home with me and not even Guido is going to model this one for me.

So I had another go.

This time no more Mr Niceguy.


The hat?

That's that.

Neil Harris

(a don’t stop till you drop production)

Thursday, 25 July 2013



Well Whoopdeedoo!

It’s a double celebration for me this month, as apart from hitting 5000 page views, the Blog went over 1000 hits in one month with a few days still in hand.

While I would like to be cool and off-hand about it, I can’t. It means a lot. Thanks.

When I thought I’d won my fight I went round thanking all the people I thought had helped make it work. In fact none of them had been looking at it, or they were too ashamed to admit it.

So, it’s all strangers I have to thank.

Even my other, seriously boring site has now gone over 600 hits and I don’t post there so often.

When I started, I put the number of page views up when it hit 20 – that seemed pretty impressive to me, something to boast about.

So, thanks stranger.

Anyway, I promised to burn my hat at this point – so    here’s the photo, be warned it’s a bit gruesome;








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Neil Harris

(a don’t stop till you drop production)

Hatricide pictures will follow, when I’ve found time. Sniff, sniff.

Wednesday, 24 July 2013

Last outing.

I took my hat out for a last outing this afternoon;

Not long now......

Neil Harris
(a don't stop till you drop production)



While I was sleeping.

This morning, listening to the news, I had a pang of conscience.

I heard the President of The College of Emergency Medicine, explain that only 17% of Accident and Emergency departments have 10 consultants – you need 10 to provide 7 day a week cover.

St Peter’s Hospital only has 6.

As the Parliamentary Select Committee pointed out yesterday, if you don’t get planning now, when the winter crisis at A and E arrives it will be a nightmare this year.

My complaint against the hospital – they’ve done nothing since February – no meeting arrainged, nothing.

I think I’ve been letting them all off the hook.

Hats, indeed.

Beer, hmmph.

Time to start fighting again, I think.

Neil Harris

(a don’t stop till you drop production)

Tuesday, 23 July 2013


What goes around, comes around. When I turned up at my Jazz Club, who should be there but Roy, who runs the Staines Riverside club, and who introduced me to The SkaSouls. That’s Jaaazzz for you.

Hottest day of the year so far and I wasn’t so enthusiastic when I saw Jimmy Hastings on the bill – he’s always heavy on 1970’s fusion – the name Chick Corea flashes onto my retina like a cut price neon sign.

I’m being a bit of a grouch – Hastings plays the flute, the tenor and soprano sax and does it all very well, but even feeling bad and having had a lively Friday, the desire to tap a foot is always there. Corea never did it for me.

There is something about the jazz flute – for me it’s the sound of the Gil Scott Heron band, afro hair styles, wide flairs, flowery shirts. Can’t help it, that’s the image – somewhere between 1971 and 1973.

In contrast, Jimmy Hastings looks like a retired bank manager but he plays like a dream.

The first one up was Joe Hendersons ‘Isotope’, and John Donaldsons keyboards were amazing – as he was throughout the evening – the piano solos had the crowd cheering.

Oscar Pettiford’s ‘Two little pearls’ was a highlight, almost classical, certainly orchestral and written by a bassist it gave Tim Wells a rare chance to really explore his bass.

Gary McFarlane’s Street Dance was lively – a wild Trevor Tomkins was using all his drums today, even ones I’d not heard before. The dust was flying.

The end was two – you can guess – Chick Corea pieces. I didn’t mind, it was a virtuosos evening.

Mind you, next week is all Miles.

That’s ‘Miles of Smiles’.

It’s Cookin’, Walkin’, Workin’….

I’m being silly – TT has formed a band to play Miles Davis numbers from the 1960’s, the ‘Herbie Hancock years’, and I am so looking forward to that.

Shhhhh, don’t tell anyone – get there late because I don’t think anyone will be interested.


Neil Harris

(a don’t stop till you drop production)

P.S. if your getting a bit irritated with all this silliness – take a look at my other Blog, the serious boring one;

Over the last few days, I’ve been posting some hard hitting stuff and in a few days I’ll put up my analysis of the Keogh Review into the 14 failing NHS Trusts.

Hey you, yes you at the back – stop yawning, its good stuff..

PS 2 Comin', is a Miles joke.

Monday, 22 July 2013

The Doctor's prescription.

It’s been a sad sort of weekend, not least because I was taking a long time to recover following my Friday night out. The conversation with a doctor should go something like this;

Me: “I’ve been feeling ill and tired”

Doctor (Looking thoughtful): “Does this always happen after you’ve been out dancing into the early hours?”


Doctor: “Hmm, I think you may have been overdoing it with the washing, cleaning and cooking – you need to cut down on dangerous activities like that”.

“I see, what about the Ska?”

Doctor: “Very healthy indeed, I’m going to increase the prescription”.

Actually, the reason I was feeling sad, apart from the end of a classic Tour De France, was that I’d been listening to Amy Winehouse’s album, ‘Back to Black’. In fact I wasn’t, I’m not a great fan of that LP, I was listening to the bonus disc that came with my copy – various pared down versions and a couple of demo’s including the original, first demo of ‘Love is a losing game’.

These are all great tracks, very sparse and bare. Just Amy and a couple of musicians, being very understated. Just her talent.

It’s no accident that ‘Monkey man’ and ‘Hey Little Rich Girl’ are there, that they are reggae numbers and that they are so great. They are both mainstays of the Skasouls sets too. Real classics. There is also a really great version of ‘Valerie’, better by far than the more famous Mark Ronson version.

She was such a great talent and in the way of young people, she stole the best of the past, muddled it up and produced something electrifying. It would have been wonderful to watch her grow up – the songs she would have sung.

I remember when I heard that she had died – I was sat in a Lidl’s car park in Hayes, in the middle of a torrential thunderstorm. Wondering why the radio was playing back to back Amy.

At the end of the night, the Skasouls always play ‘You’re wondering now’, with its chorus line ‘this is the end’, also on the Amy bonus disc. Whenever I hear that or ‘Monkey Man’, I always think of her.

And, she would have loved my new hat.

Neil Harris

(a don’t stop till you drop production)

Sunday, 21 July 2013

Guido, the male model, shows off my new hat.

Today, I made an exhibition of myself and got so excited I forgot to go to Tesco’s.

My hat is due to be burnt – I’ve hated this hat since I bought it.  Sometime next week when this Blog hits 5000 page views, the flames will take it. It seemed like a good laugh a few weeks ago when 5000 seemed impossible, I’d assumed summer would be over by then. I have another hat but that’s quite cool and it’s reserved for nights out. I needed a chemo-hat and was even contemplating a trip to central London. I wasn’t too keen on the struggle.

Today, I spent the afternoon in Egham and was on my way to Tesco’s when I popped in to the Shelter Charity shop and found a hat! It fitted, it had class, it was unworn, a good make (Uniqlo) and it was only £4!

I got so carried away that the people in the shop must have thought that I’d lost it. I even forgot to go into Tesco’s on the way back.

I’ve asked my good friend Guido, the male model, to show off my new hat, so that you can see it in the best possible light.


Now that really is a hat.


Neil Harris

(a don’t stop till you drop production)

The Hattites.

Since I said I would burn my hat when the page views passed 5000, the protests go on. I've been sent this old poster from the machine breaking era of protesting;

By all that if right and proper in our land, it hath come to the notice of  timeferved and indentured hatmen that unfcrupulouf and blafpheming manufacturerf of hatf fuch af mafter Jofeph Bicorne of Leedf hath confpired against thofe whofe only defire if the fupport of their familief, by importing machinery and the power of water and fteam by and of the devil, for the making of hatf by the dozenf and thoufandf, humbling thofe fkilled working men af fhall be forced onto parifh relief and into ftarvation and want and begging for almf af a confequence of fuch devilifh actionf.


The men of Capn. Ned Hatt fhall meet on the moor at midnight on the 30th day of July 1814, when the moon if full and fhall thofe mechanifmf of the devil be not gone that very night, fhall bring Mafter Jofeph Bicorne of Leedf to account for hif actionf and fhall break and burn faid devilifh devicef by their own handf and with the mighty hammer of Capn. Ned Hatt.

In the name of our lord, the freemen and hatmakerf of yorkfhire fwear thif folemn oath.

figned: Capn. Ned Hatt and hif men.

Neil Harris
(a don't stop till you drop production)

Saturday, 20 July 2013


I think I was kidnapped.

I know I left home intending to go to a concert of chamber music – a string quartet perhaps. Eine Kleine Nachtmusik would have been most acceptable on a sunny summer evening. A little light opera perhaps.

Somehow I must have taken a wrong turning.

It started alright – like this:


But then it ended like this:




And I have no idea who this was:


 They described themselves as a lot of ‘Rude Boys and Girls’. Well, I can only agree. It was rude boy this and rude boy that and then strangely ‘Rudy got married’. Then this vulgar person kept shouting ‘Guns of Navarone’ in my ear. I have no idea what that was about either.


 And what is moonstomping?

I took in another date (thanks Walton) on The Skasouls riotous summer tour, and very tolerant they all were to the ill old man in the corner in a Jamaica T-shirt and carrying an Ian Dury walking stick. There was dancing till well after midnight and a police car followed me a lot of the way home. I think I lost them.

Special, special night.

Did I mention ‘The Specials’? And Desmond Dekker.
If you check out;
you can see some proper pictures, and hear some fine sounds.

Neil Harris

(a don’t stop till you drop production)

Thursday, 18 July 2013


I've been having a lot of fun with this site recently, but there is serious stuff going on at my other Blog - you should check it out, now and then at;

As a sample I'm posting this from today, so you can see what you're missing.




There’s no messing about on this site – back in May I applauded the BBC in researching and publishing the list of ‘Never Events’, that’s where hospitals mess up in ways which the NHS has indicated should never happen – they are unnecessary and preventable. I put the figures into an easy to read form and republished them. I also highlighted the ‘bottom 21’ as a real cause for concern and I picked out Barts as a trust that should be investigated. Here’s what I wrote back then;




“My own ‘Lantern Rouge’ (that’s the Tour de France prize for finishing last) is because I’ve picked out the two separate entries for ‘Bart’s’;

Barts & The London NHS Trust 8

              Retained foreign object post-operation 4

              Wrong site surgery 2

              Misplaced naso-or oro-gastric tubes 2

Barts Health NHS Trust 11

               Retained foreign object post-operation 4

               Wrong site surgery 3

               Misplaced naso-or oro-gastric tubes 2

               Wrong implant/prosthesis 1

               Air Embolism 1

and I did so because Barts Health was formed on 1 April 2012 by the merger of Barts and the London NHS Trust, Newham University Hospital NHS Trust and Whipps Cross University Hospital NHS Trust.

For starters that means that St Bartholomew’s may have had its figures split in two and actually had 19 ‘never happen’ incidents over that four year period which is seriously worrying. Even more worrying is that the newly combined Trust – the four hospitals together- seems to have had 11 incidents in just under a year (2012/13).

If you want to get really frightened, add up the number of incidents over the four hospitals for those four years – it’s a total of 27. Or is there duplication in these figures? Have they tried to separate the new from the old, producing double counting? I hope so – mind you where the NHS is concerned the problem is usually undercounting problems.

Either way, it’s not what I would call a centre of excellence.

So if Barts it isn’t being investigated right now, it’s time it was.”


That was two months ago. This is from today’s report from the ‘London Standard’;

“An inquiry was ordered today at Britain’s biggest health trust in response to the deaths of 28 patients due to medical blunders last year.

 Barts health trust — which runs six London hospitals — was declared at “high risk” of failing patients, with major concerns about delays in cancer care and hundreds of emergency cases readmitted for further treatment.

The inquiry was ordered by England’s new Chief Inspector of Hospitals, Professor Sir Mike Richards, in his first day in the job. It comes after Barts last night said it was calling in financial trouble-shooters to address a £93 million debt.

Sir Mike was alerted by whistle-blowers, patient complaints and key measures indicating the performance at Barts was markedly worse than the national average. This included 10 “never events” — things that should never happen in surgery — involving seven cases where swabs were left inside patients, two cases where the wrong teeth were removed and one where the wrong eye implant was inserted.


Barts also admitted 348 serious incidents in 2012/13, including 129 at The Royal London Hospital in Whitechapel, and 105 at Whipps Cross in Leytonstone. Of these, 28 resulted in death.



The investigation — one of four announced into London trusts — is a setback to Barts’s hopes of becoming a self-governing foundation trust by 2016. Fifteen months ago Barts took control of Newham and Whipps Cross hospital trusts to become the biggest NHS trust in Britain, and the busiest A&E service in London with more than 6,000 attendances a week. Sir Mike said: “There is too much variation in the quality of care patients receive — poor hospitals will need to up their game and learn from the best. I will not tolerate poor or mediocre care.” Barts is preparing to axe up to 1,000 vacant posts and move overlapping services to single sites in a bid to save cash.

It has been hamstrung by private finance initiative costs of about £115 million a year for the new Royal London site; a fall in patient numbers; and an £8.5 million redundancy and redeployment bill for 112 staff axed following last year’s merger. It has also had fines for leaving orthopaedic patients to wait more than a year for treatment.

The other London trusts being investigated are Barking, Havering and Redbridge; Croydon; and South London Healthcare.”

Remember, you read it here first.


Neil Harris

(a don’t stop till you drop production)