Peter Reynolds

The life and times of Peter Reynolds

Posts Tagged ‘conference

A Day In Cambridge On Drugs.

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Homerton College, Cambridge.

Homerton College, Cambridge.

George and Dean were where I expected them to be.  In the car park, ‘medicating’ in order to get them through a long afternoon.

The Home Affairs Select Committee (HASC) Drugs Conference took place in the delightful surroundings of Homerton College, Cambridge.  I know there were several others there who were only able to make it because they committed criminal offences in order to maintain their health.  I attended with George Hutchings and Dean Price, leading members of the CLEAR Medicinal Cannabis Users Panel.

Almost everybody who is anybody in UK drugs policy was there and while there were no groundbreaking new revelations or ideas, it was an important occasion.  It marked the current position of the debate on drugs policy in Britain at the end of the first coalition government since 1945. As Keith Vaz, chair of the HASC, said, the conference will influence the drugs policy agenda in the next government.

I know I wasn’t the only person who lobbied in advance for medicinal cannabis to be included in the conference programme.  It wasn’t but what was of enormous significance was that it was probably the single issue mentioned most often, time and time again in fact, throughout the day. I trust that the committee will take this on board and ensure that in any future event, it is given proper attention.

Dr Julian Huppert MP; Lynne Featherstone MP, Minister;Keith Vaz MP, Dr Roberto Dondisch, Danny Kushlick

Dr Julian Huppert MP, Lynne Featherstone MP, Keith Vaz MP, Dr Roberto Dondisch, Baroness Molly Meacher, Danny Kushlick

It’s no good saying it’s a health issue because until the Home Office releases its stranglehold on the throats of the thousands who need medicinal cannabis, it’s the HASC that needs to hold the government to account. CLEAR estimates that around one million people already use cannabis for medicinal reasons in the UK.  This equates closely to the proportion of medicinal users in jurisdictions where there is some degree of legal access.

Julian Huppert mentioned medicinal cannabis in his review of the HASC’s work, confirming that the Liberal Democrats have adopted the policy advanced by CLEAR almost word for word.

Baroness Molly Meacher made an impassioned plea for medicinal cannabis access in her address, expressing her anger and outrage that people are denied the medicine they need.

Jonathan Liebling, of United Patients Alliance, and I also raised the issue independently in questions from the floor. I also dealt with Professor Neil McKeganey’s attempt to dismiss the issue.  He claimed that there are perfectly satisfactory procedures for licensing medicines.  I explained how cannabis cannot be regulated like single-molecule pharmaceutical products and gave a brief description of research on the ‘entourage effect’.

The Home Office minister, Lynne Featherstone, gave the keynote speech and I was delighted that she chose to mention her meeting ten days ago with a CLEAR medicinal users delegation.

David Nutt was as wise and authoritative as ever . Then Neil McKeganey launched into an entertaining rant about how the conference programme, the speakers and delegates were massively biased in favour of reform.  He claimed that this was not a proper reflection of the evidence or nationwide opinion.

I like Neil, even though we are on opposite sides of the debate. In fact, at events like this I prefer to engage with the opposition rather than back-slapping and self-affirming chats with those on the side of reform. I also had good informal discusions with David Raynes of the National Drug Prevention Alliance and Sarah Graham, the magnet-wielding addiction therapist.

Tom Lloyd’s speech was inspiring.  He also made a powerful case for medicinal cannabis and as ex-chief constable of Cambridge, it was extraordinary to see him lambast the new drug driving law as “…outrageous…unjust…will criminalise people who are in no way impaired…”

The final speech was given by Mike Trace, chair of the International Drug Policy Consortium, who is deeply involved in preparing for the UN General Assembly Special Session in 2016 on drugs policy.

So, a fascinating and worthwhile day.  All we need to do now is get through the General Election.  In about two months we will know where we are and unless we have the disaster of a Tory or Labour majority government, then drug policy reform should be high on the agenda.

Extremist Attack On Freedom Renders Cameron And May Unfit To Be Ministers Of The Crown.

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may cameron

Even before Theresa May delivers another speech of hatred, prejudice and bile at the Tory Party conference, the dreadful news is out.  Cameron himself has trailed it and blatantly, unashamedly, these two oppressors of British democracy plan to restrict our freedom of speech and thought in a way never before contemplated.

Cameron explicitly states that it is not just about committing or inciting violence, it is about holding “extremist views”.  All that the Home Secretary has to have is “reasonable suspicion” that people hold views she does not agree with or dislikes and she may lock them up.

This must be stopped. It is the greatest ever betrayal of the British people and Cameron and May have demonstrated conclusively that they are not fit to be in government.  They are hoist on their own petard for their ideas are as extremist as any other and if such legislation is introduced, they should be the first to be arrested and charged

Written by Peter Reynolds

September 30, 2014 at 10:16 am

Back To The Future Of The NHS

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I have grave concerns about the government’s NHS reforms.  I feel like it’s Groundhog  Day.

I was deeply involved in the last major health service reforms back in the 1990s.  I am hearing exactly the same ideas, phrases and promises as we heard then.  Haven’t we done this all before?

When the “internal market” was introduced and the first NHS Trusts were “founded”, the idea of  marketing was introduced to the NHS for the first time.  I saw the opportunity, organised a conference at the QEII conference centre and built a nice business, thank you very much, for several years as an expert in the field.    I was an advisor to several health authorities and a number of the new NHS trusts.  I undertook marketing and communications audits, ran training courses and I made something of a specialty of designing, writing and producing annual reports.   I learned a lot and I felt I contributed a lot.  Why is it all being done again?

Marketing is a perfect description of the way the health service should work.  It is the management process responsible for anticipating, identifying and satisfying customer needs efficiently.  The 1990s NHS model was that  “purchasers”, health authorities and GP fundholders, would buy services from “providers”, hospitals and community health services.  “Purchasing” was later renamed “commissioning” to reflect how complex the task is. It’s about understanding what services are required and making complex choices as well as actually contracting for them.

Strategic Health Authorities (SHAs) were always a redundant tier of bureaucracy in my view.  District Health Authorities (DHAs) were to be the principal commissioners but the plan was that GP fundholders would eventually take over most of it with DHAs becoming centres of expertise rather than administration.  Then there was a rather messy fudge between GPs and community health services and we ended up with Primary Care Trusts (PCTs).

There is a huge amount of expertise required in commissioning.  The complexity of the tasks involved – understanding, assessing, testing, planning, choosing, contracting and much more, is enormous.  GPs will have to buy in that expertise which will build a bureaucracy which we will call – what?  We will have gone round in a circle.

One of the biggest mistakes made about the NHS is the endless stream of attacks on managers.  Almost all the problems that the NHS has and that people complain about are management problems.  NHS managers have a hugely demanding and thankless task for which they are regularly pilloried and censured.  They are, actually, crucial to an effective NHS, just as much as the clinicians.

So now we are to have “Foundation Trusts” and GP commissioning.  It is the same thing, yet again, under a slightly different name.  The NHS is not broken. It is, in fact, greatly improved.  It doesn’t need fixing.

We do not need more reform.  We need some adjustments.  There have been great achievements on waiting times.   Now, we need to shift the emphasis towards outcomes.  We need targets on quality rather than quantity.  It’s a tweak rather than a revolution.

Banker Robbers Still On The Loose

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If I considered it as the plot for my next novel, I would discard it immediately as being completely unbelieveable.  It is outrageous.  The story of the way the banks have wriggled and wormed away from their responsibilities is the biggest scandal the world has ever seen.

The Very Worst

Today the shameful figures are revealed of the number of complaints that our high street banks receive.  See here.  It is an appalling litany of failure and disrespect of customers.  Complaints are at the very bottom of their priorities.  They are inefficent.   They have bonus systems that discourage staff from accepting complaints.  Santander, which so many used to know as the Abbey or Alliance & Leicester,  cannot manage to answer even half of its complaints within two months!  It is shocking.  It hasn’t got better since we all bailed them out.  It’s got worse.  Oh, except for the bonuses.  They just get bigger and bigger all the time.

These problems,  affecting the modest balances of ordinary people, may seem trivial in the context of the billions that the banks have already cost us but they are not.   They are crucial.   This is real money belonging to real people and needed to pay real bills.  It’s not the cocaine, champagne, Ferrari fantasy of some City boy ponce.   These figures indicate precisely the contempt, the utter disregard which bankers have for us even though it is we, ordinary people, who have been called on to rescue them from their catastrophic mistakes.

Actions Not Words!

Where is Vince Cable now?  He is the biggest disappointment of the coalition government.  His brave words as recently as the LibDem conference are all hot air.  He has let us all down.  His promises were empty.

We want the banks split up so that they are no longer too big to fail.  Only today, in Ireland they are realising that their nation is still held to ransom by its bankers.  So is ours.

We want retail and transaction banking separated entirely from casino investment banking so that there can be no more threat to our economy from the spivs and gamblers.  We don’t want any of these sharks anywhere near our  money.   John Diamond, the putative new head of Barclays has made a £100 milion fortune on the back of the taxpayer and the banking crisis.  He is not a fit and proper person to be in charge of a British bank.  The government should ban him immediately.

Wide Boy Spiv

Late last year the Office of Fair Trading let the banks off a £40 billion hook.  These were the extortionate charges illegally debited from customers’ accounts over the previous six years.  See here. This was in addition to the £850 billion cost of the original bailout.  See here.

How much more are they going to get away with?

When will David Cameron, Nick Clegg, George Osborne and Vince Cable stop dithering?

Stop the banker robbers now!

The State Of Israel According To Iran

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President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad of Iran

President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad of Iran

I am more than a little concerned about this pre-planned walkout in response to President Ahmadinejad’s speech at the United Nations anti-racism conference.  I am no friend of his xenophobic, oppressive government and there is no doubt that his speech was inflammatory but there was a deal of truth in it too.  This walkout was not in the spirit of  “We will offer the hand of friendship if you will unclench your fist”.

There is no doubt that Israel is a racist government and a repressive and cruel one.  These are matters of fact which were dramatically proved in the recent invasion of Gaza and which continue every day.

The boycott of this conference by many western countries and this petulant display by the British and the French do nothing to advance the cause against racism.