BEFORE YOU START: Please note that although I currently volunteer for both the Stroke Association and Age UK, the views expressed in this blog are strictly my own. I am not a spokesperson for either (or, indeed, for any) organisation, and I accept complete responsibility for the views expressed herein. I've tried to use the Glossary to explain any ambiguous terms, but if you think there is anything I've missed, please message me.

Tuesday, 24 July 2018


I must relate something which happened to me last week.

First, I'll set the scene. Last month, I had a blood test to check that the new empagliflozin tablets I'd started taking weren't harming my kidneys. I also need a prescription every month for other meds. The doctor's surgery is a half-mile away - I can just about make it but I need plenty of breaks along the way, and it is exhausting. The upshot is that I combined the blood test with picking up the new prescription. Normally, I drop the request in and it gets fulfilled by the dispensory, but this time the nurse printed the prescription out directly.

When the doctor's normally fulfil a prescription, you get two slips of paper. The first is the prescription itself, which can then be taken to a pharmacy to exchange for the meds, the second is a slip to allow you to order some more meds in a month's time. By issuing this slip, it ensures that the process can go on and on every month.

During my visit to the nurse, she printed the prescription out, but didn't give me the slip to order any more. In fairness, I forgot to check, there and then, but I shouldn't have to. When I did realise this, I just thought I'd pop along to the surgery and ask them to print this slip out for me.

Again to try to minimise my trips to the surgery, I waited until I needed some more meds. Which was last week. So I walked to the surgery - the normal hard work - and asked them to print off my form. The receptionist I spoke to refused me. Just refused me - without even offering any avenue by which I could get my meds.

So I had to walk home empty-handed. bear in mind that my disability must be pretty obvious to all but the most obtuse observer, and there was this woman just sending me away! And from a doctor's surgery!

Once home, I decided that theonly way I was going to get my meds was by seeing someone in authority, so I phoned them up again, this time to make an appointment with a doctor. The doctor agreed that my not having any meds was an emergency, and indeed made all the right noises along the lines "this should never have happened". So I got my meds prescribed, although the process took two trips to the surgery instead of one, and five hours instead of five minutes.

I was still unhappy with how I'd originally been treated, so I decided to complain to NHS England. The consequences weren't over, however. The two trips to the doctor's had exhausted me.....and I had agreed to go grocery shopping later that afternoon. I go to the supermarket, but had to abandon it halfway through because I was exhausted. Lots of things I normally get, I missed. So this last week has been, literally, bread and cheese.

The thing, really, that makes me so angry about this is that this receptionist must have seen that I was disabled, but decided to be obstructive anyway. As a consequence, I had to do without a lot of food for the week, and might also have had to do without my meds. And all this from a place which should be pretty hot on dealing fairly with disabled people. I wouldn't mind, but there are security questions in any case when somebody picks a prescription up, so refusing to print out a request slip for me makes no sense from a security point of view - I'd have had to answer the security questions in any case.

I mean, right now, I don't particularly think there'll be any wonderful resolution - the NHS usually looks after its own - but I'll keep you posted.

Monday, 16 July 2018

Getting Rid (of an MP)

Something I'm thinking about a lot right now. For members of both the Commons and the Lords, I think that there should be a mechanism for subjecting somebody for re-election should they behave sufficiently poorly. I'm clear that, for MPs certainly (as they are elected) the people who should judge "sufficiently poorly" are the electorate themselves, but I'm less clear about how such a mechanism would work.

Because the MP's constituents should be involved in the process, I suppose a petition would be the way to go. But there's a technical issue in making sure that somebody who signs the petition is actually a constituent. It's difficult to get this 100%, even if you cross-check signitaries against the electoral register. But I suppose the safeguard is that the consequences of the petition would only be a by-election, in which the incumbent would be allowed to stand, so I suppose we can get past that one.

The other thing would be, how many voters would need to sign such a petition? It's tempting to say that the answer to that is so many percent of the number of people who voted for the MP. Except, of course, we don't know who those people are. If we say that 75% of voters is enough to trigger a no confidence petition, then what happens in a very marginal constituency, where maybe the winner only got 50.1% of the vote? There's 49.9% from the get-go who might be persuaded to have no confidence in the MP, regardless of the MPs actual performance. If the threshold is 75% of the votes cast for the MP (or even 95%), then that becomes achievable pretty much automatically. In fact, even if you go over 100%, the numbers would skew, say, a very safe seat.

I think if you're going to have a mechanism for getting rid of people, you still have a petition, but you may as well pluck the numbers out of thin air. You have to fall back and say that the worst consequence is that the incumbent MP faces a by-election.

Unless anybody has any better ideas?

Saturday, 14 July 2018

Complex Tasks

I hate how my stroke makes everything so much effort. If you're able-bodied, you probably never worry about complex tasks. You know, when you want to complete A, but to do so you also need to complete B. And to complete B, you need to do C, and so on. But I do. Each of these is, to me, a task in its own right, and the thought of all these tasks makes me give up before I even start.

A case in point today. Over the last few days I decided that I'd quite like to replace the dishwasher. I'm looking online, and I think I've found something which is ideal, but before I buy, I want to make sure it fits in the space. Can I find a tape measure?

I've had loads over the years, I'm pretty sure I'll find at least one of them in my toolbox, but that's out in the garage, which, these days, is a major faff to open up. So I feel I can't have a dishwasher. I wouldn't mind, I'm sitting here with my credit card.

A tape measure would also be useful because I'd quite like to get a chain curtain to put over the back door, which will allow me to keep the door open wide, but will keep flies out. Like you might have in your local butchers. But the first thing these vendors want to know, not unreasonably, is how big the doorframe is. So, I can't have that either.

Reminds me of that old nursery rhyme:

For want of a nail the shoe was lost.
For want of a shoe the horse was lost.
For want of a horse the rider was lost.
For want of a rider the battle was lost.
For want of a battle the kingdom was lost.
And all for the want of a horseshoe nail.

O how true these old sayings are!

Monday, 2 July 2018


I've already had a productive morning so far, I was up at just after 7am, got straight into the shower, then dressed. If you can call tee-shirt and boxer shorts "dressed" 😄.

I was on the phone to the DWP shortly after 8am, which is when their phone lines open. When I've contacted them in the past, I've had to wait in line for an hour or so, so I've asked the operators whether there is a "best" time to call. I've been told that the best time, compared with all other times, is pre-9am. It seems to be true, as my wait today was a mere 30 minutes!

My question? Well, my PIP benefit is due for renewal. I sent the forms back a month ago, but haven't heard anything back from them. Also, my form would have arrived a day or two after their deadline, so I wanted to make sure there wasn't a problem in that respect. They put my mind at rest. They received the form ok, it was a couple of days late, but had been passed on to my local assessment centre anyway. Because of backlogs at assessment centres, I can be waiting 8 weeks or longer for a response (which will probably be to invite me for an interview). But, as long as the form is received, the benefit continues in the meantime, so I'm not out of pocket.

I must admit, I have heard some terrible horror stories about the DWP, but, so far, I have found them perfectly reasonable. In both their rules and their customer service. I can criticise the length of time it takes them to answer the phone, but at least it is a freephone number. And, I have the time, of course. In the cold light of day, these benefits are the thing that saves me from eating away at my savings, so really, they have to be priority #1.

I'm conscious that I've been in a couple of work environments where my direct colleagues have said "so-and-so is a real bastard", and I've originally thought "they seem ok to me", only to come around to colleagues' thinking over time. But I do try and see the best side. So I wonder if there'll be a moment like that with the DWP? Maybe I get "gold" treatment because I've aleays paid NI throughout my working life? Maybe I get a response which seems reasonable, just because I try to be very reasonable with them myself? My daughter, for example, has such a negative opinion of everything that I can easily imagine her rubbing people up the wrong way. I try not to - I might think it, but fortunately there is a disconnect between my brain and my mouth.

The reason my form was late, by the way, is because I'm unable to write and need to sort out a scribe to help me out. So, I'm reliant on another person, and can't really expect their priorities to fit in with mine. I must mention this at the assessment, to see if they can help.