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Alan Johnson, Health secretary, Live webchat here on Weds 16th April 12.20-1.15

(189 Posts)
carriemumsnet (MNHQ) Mon 14-Apr-08 21:18:14

Alan Johnson, Labour's Secretary of State for Health, will be here on Weds to answer your questions about the NHS. He's happy to talk about anything health -policy related, but some of the topics he's specifically covering during "health week" are: access to NHS services, hospital cleanliness, midwife provision, and a "personal" NHS offering maximum choice and control over the services they use.

As always, those of you who can't make it on the day can post your questions in advance here. Or grab a sarnie (healthy of course wink) on Weds lunchtime and come and pose your questions in person.

LittleBella Mon 14-Apr-08 21:31:36

Ooh I larve Alan Johnson. <Simper>

So Alan, what are you going to do about the piss-poor support from the NHS for breastfeeding? One of the most shocking and dismaying things for a new mother, is to find that having read a couple of books about breastfeeding, she actually knows more about the subject than most of the midwives and health visitors she comes across, because they are so badly trained and ill-informed. And yet the long term benefits of breastfeeding are so well-established, that we know it would save the NHS a fortune if our breastfeeding rates were as high as those of Norway, Sweden et al. How high is this on your priority list and what measures are you considering to ensure that BF rates are improved, if any?

wrinklytum Mon 14-Apr-08 21:38:36

Hello Mr Johnson

I have no reason to moan about the NHS from my own recent experiences in my local area.My sn child has received excellent care from paediatric services and an excellent portage service.However from doing a small poll on the special needs board of mumsnet it appears that access to services such as SALT,physiotherapy,portage and so on can be quite patchy countrywide,a bit of a postcode lottery really.How do you aim to improve access to such services for special needs children???Thank you.

sophiebbb Mon 14-Apr-08 21:40:55


See thread above Mr Johnson

TallulahToo Mon 14-Apr-08 22:23:16

Hello Mr Johnson,

Following on from wrinklytum and sophiebbb regarding special needs children. I find that although these services are essential it also helps if diagnosis services are easily available for autistic spectrum children. According to gov stats, autism diagnosis is on the increase but god knows how! hmm

My own ds is approaching 8yrs old and only just about to begin access to this service. He is certainly not alone in this. How long before the NHS stats include a target for access to diagnosis services that doesn't leave a child to go through years of school asking "why am I different?" or "am I normal?" sad

sfxmum Tue 15-Apr-08 09:52:50

wow MN HQ thank you for taking my suggestiongrin

anyway Mr Johnson welcome

my questions are about
1 - miscarriage - this is a very troubling and upsetting event for most women and as someone who has had a few I am shocked at the variation in care women receive.
can we please make sure there are some clear standards of care and common procedures to follow

we need appropriate immediate and sympathetic care we adequate follow up

2- regarding vaccinations I gave my child the MMR vaccine but isn't it better to make the singles available rather than just leave it for those who can afford it and allow others to go without?

3 - breastfeeding like others have said the level of support is shocking most of the support comes from voluntary organisations and places like this but given the low levels of BF in this country can you please do something to start awareness and support much earlier - by the time you have a baby n your hands it is a bit late

many thanks

RubySlippers Tue 15-Apr-08 10:00:48

I don't want choice and control over services - i want to go to my local, clean hospital and not have to wait for months to see a consultant about an ongoing health problem i have

with regard to maternity services, this Government should be hanging its head it shame

The midwives in my area, do homebirths in their OWN time - they are seriously over stretched but still give amazing care

The hospital where i gave birth was fine, and the MWs were excellent in helping me establish breastfeeding, but the HVs that visited afterwards were not helpful in this regard <<puts it mildly>>

RubySlippers Tue 15-Apr-08 10:01:47

should add, the MWs etc give great care, in spite of the circumstances in which they are working

SirDigbyChickenCaesar Tue 15-Apr-08 10:10:03

i also would like to bring up the subject of Breastfeeding.
not only is it important to get midwives and health visitors trained properly but GPs also need to be brought up to speed on the health benefits.
Many of us have been to the GP and are faced with shock and at times even disapproval when we are nursing a child over 6 months.
I'm not suggesting they be trained in proper latch or anything (though in an ideal world...) but just so that they know that breastmilk is best for babies and the health benefits that go along with that.

carriemumsnet (MNHQ) Tue 15-Apr-08 10:38:56

Thanks for these. Please keep the questions coming

Monkeybird Tue 15-Apr-08 10:42:51

excellent, good choice and good timing.

will cogitate on questions...

sfxmum Tue 15-Apr-08 10:46:12

and btw I will personally blame the government if Boris wins London <finger wagging>

meant to ask about dentists too what on earth is going on? we can only get private atm and seriously at least for kids under 18 it should be available in the NHS including proper orthodontics

lulumama Tue 15-Apr-08 10:47:49

so, we are around 10 000 Midwives short, leaving women worried that they cannot have the birth they want as there are not enough staff.. women are being told they cannot have a home birth as there are not enough staff....women and babies are being compromised, nationwide. Women are losing faith in the system.. independent midwives are beyond the financial reach of the majority and due to lack of insurance now, people are put off..

so when are women going to get the midwifery service they need?

one woman , one midwife

a real choice of where to give birth, not just lip service

and also, birth centres and MLUs are being closed, thus taking away real choice

there is no choice if the staff are not there to ensure choices can be met.

a botched delivery or a woman traumatised by her birth experience due to lack of staffing will ultimately cost the NHS more in terms of repairing the woman physically and emotionally...

so how is this going to be addressed?

SquonkTheBeerGuru Tue 15-Apr-08 10:55:12

I heart Alan Johnson.

Will try to think of a question, but I just wanted to say that he is one of the (very) few politicians that I would trust and actually believe what they say.

And may I also thank him for his support to the people of Hull and East Riding during the floods last summer?

Thank you.


ahundredtimes Tue 15-Apr-08 11:05:13

I heart him too.

I shall try and think of a sensible question.

CatIsSleepy Tue 15-Apr-08 11:19:06

sorry haven't thought of a question just wanted to agree with 100x and squonk and say how much I like him

was v. impressed with him on Desert Island Discs

ahundredtimes Tue 15-Apr-08 11:25:23

We're pathetic. We can't just hang about saying what a nice and authentic person he seems. We need to ask penetrating and insightful questions about Health.

CIS - you think of one.

SilentTerror Tue 15-Apr-08 11:42:49

Derar Mr Johnson,can you tell me why myself and my colleagues are under threat of redundancy on a very busy acute paediatric ward,given that we struggle for staff now?
We are undergoing a 'service review' and have been advised by management that jobs may be lost.
Any comments?

Rowlers Tue 15-Apr-08 12:11:26

Mr Johnson,
Or may I call you Alan?
I'd like to ask you to explain and justify increasing gp's pay enormously and simultaneously reducing their work load yet offer nurses (and teachers and police officers etc etc) paltry pay rises below inflation for YEARS and YEARS.
I'd be impressed if you could explain it to me as I do struggle to understand these things.

Sidge Tue 15-Apr-08 12:27:44

Why is dental provision no longer available on the NHS?

Why are you trying to turn primary care services into a service industry akin to something like Tesco?

Why are you closing cottage hospitals and centralising services in massive megahospitals, so that people have to travel further and be away from home to access needed services?

why is paediatric speech and language therapy so difficult to access and therapists working with such massive caseloads that they can't see existing patients more frequently?

bitofadramaqueen Tue 15-Apr-08 13:47:27

I live in Scotland so health is devolved to the Scottish Executive government but I would like to ask him about maternity services. I dont think you can discuss midwifery without discussing the wider area of maternity services.

Given my own experiences over the last year, I'd like to see UK-wide standards for the provision of maternity services. In particular:

1. Like sfx mum, I'd like to see set standards of support and care for those who have miscarriages.

2. Those who are pregnant following a miscarriage should expect the same support and care from a local EPU no matter where they live. Some women have to really fight to get an early reassurance scan. I can only comment on my experiences of early miscarriage, but without early scans, women have to go through an terrifying ordeal wondering whether their baby is still alive.

3. An end to the 'postcode lottery' of ante-natal care. All women in the UK should be offered the same tests and routine scans wherever they live. Like many women, I had to pay £150 for a 20 week scan, which is offered routinely in other parts of the UK. Not every pregnant woman wants every scan/test available but they should be able to make an informed choice about whether to have them without having to consider whether they can afford to pay for them privately. Examples include nuchal fold scans and Group B strep testing.

I know that Alan Johnson cannot influence Health policy in Scotland, but he can ensure that the maternity services in England and Wales are something for the rest of the UK to aspire to.

Hassled Tue 15-Apr-08 13:47:51

I'm with Sidge in wanting to know whether there is anything specific the Government are doing about paediatric speech and language therapy provision, both pre-school and beyond. There seem to be particular difficulties in dealing with the transition to school and maintaining consistent levels of support; the child is transferred to other therapists with enormous caseloads and can very easily just drop out of sight.

As an example, I have a 5 year old with a severe phonological disorder who despite a Statement of Special Needs which stipulates that he needs regular SALT input, has now not been seen by a SALT since January. This is is contrast to the weekly therapy sessions he had been receiving pre-school. The SALTs I have dealt with are hard-working and professional - but either there just aren't enough them, or there is insufficient funding to employ sufficient.

mrspnut Tue 15-Apr-08 14:17:40

I'd like to know why when PCT's were merged last year were trusts that were performing well made to take on other underperforming trust's debts.

Harrogate and Craven PCT was an excellent authority but since taking on the debts of all the other PCT's in the area has had to cut services dramatically in order to make savings.

Why should the public have to suffer due to mismanagement of funds by incompetent managers in the NHS?

Why aren't there enough NHS dentists to go around and why has NHS funded paediatric orthodontistry been cut?

mrspnut Tue 15-Apr-08 14:21:16

Whilst I'm already on my soap box

Why is there only one centre in the country offering auditory verbal therapy for children with a hearing impairment (and why is it a charity, and not a service routinely provided by the NHS)?

AlanJohnson Tue 15-Apr-08 14:56:31

Just testing the login smile

Monkeybird Tue 15-Apr-08 14:56:59

How will the government manage the balance needed over the next decade between the health care needs of older people, which will expand, and those of, for example, babies, children and pregnant women?

I've voted labour for years but like everyone else am heartily sick of the patronising notion of choice, when you know that we know that choice is merely a euphemism for poor quality spread thinly.

Be brave: raise taxes... Scandi style is the only answer.

feb Tue 15-Apr-08 15:14:55

Why was the postnatal ward so short staffed that was I unable to get any breast feeding help after the birth of my child, and even then only because i transferred out of the consultant unit to the midwife unit?

why were there no postnatal groups in my town?

why have antenatal classes been scrapped?

why did I have to deliver my dead baby on a busy labour ward, passing new mums with their perfect newborns along the way?

why was i not seen by anyone for 6 weeks after this traumatic event?

the service i have received during the pregnancy and birth of my 1st child, and the loss of my 2nd pregnancy, were on the whole excellent, but this was largely due to the exceptional support i received from individuals in the NHS rather than the system itself, which seems to hinder their efforts.

pyjamarama Tue 15-Apr-08 15:27:35

Mr Johnson,
I am a doctor, and have worked in the NHS for the past 7 years. My first child is due in a few weeks, and after maternity leave i would like to work, and continue to train, part time. However, the government has withdrawn funding for flexible trainees, meaning I am forced to either return to work full time, or sacrifice the career I have spent the last 7 (12 if you count med school)years working towards. This penny pinching will result in the NHS losing many dedicated and experienced doctors it has spent hundreds of thousands of pounds training, and is further increasing the flood of hospital doctors into general practice.
Your excuses please.

AlanJohnson Tue 15-Apr-08 17:06:26


sagacious Tue 15-Apr-08 17:24:35

yes you are dear

itscoldtoday Tue 15-Apr-08 18:07:20

Mr Johnson,
Perhaps you would like to explain your "personal NHS offering maximum choice" when surveys show that the majority of patients want to be treated at their local hospital and aren't much interested in the choice of further flung places?
Isn't it the case that the NHS is a very expensive burden that the government has to shoulder, and that what you would really like is to start privatising it as much as possible? And isn't it also the case that the huge amounts of negative press you are giving to GPs is a part of trying to make primary care as unpopular as possible, easing the transition from free at the point of service care to pay as you go polyclinics? Can you admit that the government, when negotiating the new contract, were wanrned by GPs that if we were given targets to achieve, we would achieve them; so it is a bit unfair to whinge when we do in fact hit those targets and our pay goes up in accordance with you contract? Yes, we are expensive, but you made us that way. Shame you can't pay the nurses, porters, and so on a wage equal to their hard work too.
Is it possible to see that as much as the politicians want shot of the NHS, we'd be quite happy to see the end of the politicians making headline grabbing 'initiatives' instead of addressing problems that need solving.
You shut down 2 of our local Cottage Hospital 2 years ago, and we have had an almost constant beds crisis at the local DGH ever since, with patient care suffering as a consequence. Today I had to argue with that same DGH to keep a patient in because the family could not cope with him at home; had my Cottage Hospital been open I would have kept him there. The hospital had no quarrel with the fact that the patient needed admission, they simply had no beds.
The NHS is a money pit, I agree, but the moeny thrown at it if often thrown in the wrong direction, from the ridiculously over budget computer system to costly consultations with management directors over whether or not the Health Board will save a few quid shutting a Cottage Hospital.
Oh, and while you're here, perhaps you can help me: where am I going to find child care for my 2 children for me to work the extended opening hours that our patients have never asked for, for which there will be no lab back up, and potentially no out of hours coverage for either. The same goes for our receptionists who will be manning the desks - possibly on their own, late at night in an isolated rural practice.
Thanks so much.

JT Tue 15-Apr-08 18:12:22

Hello Alan, I've got a little tip for helping with the superbugs. When my sister did her nurse training in the late 60's woebetide if they went home in their uniform never mind pick the kids up, go for a Tesco shop, stuff their pockets with goodness knows what. Nurses are bloomin marvellous but they look like cleaners. Elderly patients in particular can't work out who is who.

Btw closing down my local A&E means if I have a heart attack I have a 45 minute journey before I get any proper help. Oh yes, I know the paramedics are trained but a ride down country roads ain't gonna help me much.

willow Tue 15-Apr-08 18:48:46

I've got another tip re dealing with superbugs. How about making sure the cleaning staff actually clean? I was in hospital for ten days following the botched birth of my son - for the entire time a huge clot of blood - like a piece of liver - from another mum remained lodged in the plug hole of the bathroom I had to use. (Fortunately I was only allowed showers at that point.) I was way, way too ill to deal with it - and, more to the point, why should I have had to? It was visible to anyone who used that bathroom - that it was never cleaned up (in what is considered a flagship hospital) gives a massive pointer as to one area that needs dealing with sharpish. So what steps are you taking to make sure hospitals are cleaned properly on a daily basis?

JT Tue 15-Apr-08 19:00:19

it interests me this cleaning bit.

I mean WHY should it be any different to years gone by? Maybe the cleaners aren't being managed properly, paid enough, what?

I mean, you've got managers coming out of your ears, but they just don't seem to be, er, managing .....

Monkeybird Tue 15-Apr-08 19:01:52

As I understand it, cleaning is contracted out in many NHS hospitals. Not surprisingly, it isn't done well.

That is surely one thing that can be changed?

brimfull Tue 15-Apr-08 19:21:15

The Project 2000 way of training nurses has led to a reduction in their practical skills ,a ward full of health care assistants some trained to NVQ3 level some untrained.

The trained nurse is left to do drug rounds and paperwork rarely clapping eyes on the patients.

I think HCA's are the backbone of the ward and the NHS would fall apart without them ,but shouldn't the backbone of the ward be actual trained nurses?
Research based degree courses are unsuitable for such a practical job.

Bring back the old style nurses.British nurses used to be admired the world over for their exemplary training.Sadly this is no longer the case.

So my question is ,will you change the way nurses are trained to allow them to actually care for the patients not the paperwork?

kikidee Tue 15-Apr-08 20:27:06

Mrs Pnut - very good question indeed. We are in Scotland and will having to spend a lot of money to attend AVT. Our DLA would cover the appointment cost but won't go anywhere near travel from Scotland.

Anyway, my own question to Mr Johnson is this. My one year old daughter is about to go on the waiting list for a cochlear implant. On the NHS she is entitled to only one implant yet she wears 2 hearing aids and is profoundly deaf in both ears. The first draft of the NICE report on implants recommended 2 for prelingual children but then withdrew that recommendation in the second draft. I wonder why. Could it be that the English PCTs campaigned for the recommendation to be withdrawn on cost grounds? I do understand that NHS resources are finite and need to be allocated on some sort of cost benefit basis. However, we are talking about an extra £20,000 per implanted child to give them a second implant which is effective for their entire life. Several other countries give 2 as a matter of course and the UK is lagging behind. Would Mr Johnson be able to comment on that?

Finally, on a more positive note, we have been extremely well supported by the various healthcare professionals involved with us as a family. She was diagnosed through the Newborn Hearing Screening Program. I cannot stress how glad I am to have had such an early diagnosis for her and I think the UNHS Program is a very good thing indeed.

tatt Tue 15-Apr-08 22:48:54

1. When will the government stop pretending that seeing a paediatrician with an interest in allergy is adequate? My child has seen both allergy consultant and paediatrician (we moved) and there is no comparison. I would like to chose a hospital with an allergy consultant but I don't have that choice!

2. Alternative medicine is sometimes more cost effective than traditional medicine. Why not allow doctors to prescribe it when cheaper?

3. Please look again at the provision of dental care, if you move it is almost impossible to find an NHS dentist.

flossish Wed 16-Apr-08 09:11:26

Dear Mr Johnson,

I too would also like to know about nurses pay. We are encouraged to no longer call the people we treat patients, instead clients or service users. Quite rightly we are constantly striving for a patient centered approach. We are criticised for not smiling enough, the state of our attire and for poor hand washing skills.

We are expected to take on extended roles and do more and more, paperwork and computer work levels constantly increase. And yet we are expected to do all this, smilingly when we are becoming worse and worse off due to below inflation pay rises. The recent changes to taxation means again that nurses working part time are even worse off. Unfortunately our main trade union has no backbone. I fail to see any other reason why we are valued less than teachers, say.

Also If I can raise the subject of budgets. As I understand it, the ward budget has to allow for many factors. If we have a client with expensive dressings it comes out of the wards budget. Some dressings cost thousands for a relatively short course of treatment. Some wards are more likely than others to require this type of dressing and therefore the budget suffers. Another rising cost seems to be the use of interpretors, which can cost hundreds of pounds for only a few hours work.

Also I work on a ward where the nursing staff is mainly made up of young women and there also seems to be something in the water! There have been up to four or five members of staff off on maternity leave at any one time, when the budget only allows for two. Therefore the ward budget paying for maternity leave, plus the extra cover costs incurred by this leave means that the money left for basic supplies and equipment is diminished, basically affecting client care. How can this be fair? Could there not be a central budget within each hospital to cover costs like these, which probably balance out over the whole NHS trust?

I'm sure I don't need to tell you that nurses are feeling very demoralised and undervalued. Surely for the government to want NHS clients to receive the best care this issue needs to be addressed and steps made to improve it?

pigleto Wed 16-Apr-08 09:49:31

Dear Mr Johnson

Why is the breast cancer survival rate in this country so low compared with other western countries?

RTKangaMummy Wed 16-Apr-08 09:53:23

Hello Mr Johnson

Why do the PRESCRIPTION CHARGES go up in England

BUT down in Scotland


Why is that fair???????




crumpet Wed 16-Apr-08 10:03:22

Agree with the cleaning - had a cleaner come through the ward regularly (not sure why it had to be before 6am), but while she might have been able to tick a box to say that she pushed tbe broom around, no actual dust/dirt was in fact removed, just rearranged. And don't let me get started on the state of the bathrooms.

At the time I just wished Hattie Jacques would come along and lay down the law - these were obvious and fundemental problems...

And this is not to disparage the understaffed nurses or the cleaners who were probably inadequately trained contractors, but someone must surely be responsible for checking that things are in fact clean. Who are they and why are they not doing this? Not rocket science.

FeverishFish Wed 16-Apr-08 10:05:33

helo mr johnons
i am poorly

FeverishFish Wed 16-Apr-08 10:05:54

(p.s is he the one wiht the groovy son?)

Jampot Wed 16-Apr-08 10:19:34

Why is it that despite obesity being a massive problem in this country and one which will surely put a huge strain on the NHS due to associated health risks such as diabetes, heart disease etc, do GPs not really take this seriously enough?

saltire Wed 16-Apr-08 10:24:48

Why are GP's allowed to charge patients ridiculous amounts of money for a signature on a form?
It doesn't take up hours of their time does it? In most cases, the recptionists fill in any bits of the form that need filled in and all GP has to do is sign it

grouphug Wed 16-Apr-08 10:25:38

Why do you not get a antenatal scan until 20 weeks in Bristol, this is very close to the abortion deadline should a woman need to have one and your family, friends and employer would know you were pregnant by then.

minimymy Wed 16-Apr-08 10:39:18

Hi Mr Johnson.
Am I the first person to post a message?

I am 27 weeks pregnant expecting my 3rd child. Are you going to give mothers the choice of going private if they are not happy about their local maternity provision? I have had horrid experiences with my last 2 births that my husband and I are looking to see if we can afford to have the baby privately this time round.
I cannot go to the other side of London to a better hospital because they are over stretched. What advise would you have for me? thanks

grouphug Wed 16-Apr-08 10:41:13

Why are formula companies able to advertise follow on milk for 6 month old babies as it is not classed as a breastfeeding substitute?? You are not able to give cow's milk to babies until they are one year's old, so how is this not a breastmilk substitute?

grouphug Wed 16-Apr-08 11:15:54

Sexually Transmitted Diseases are increasing. Most sexually transmitted diseases can be cured if they are diagnosed and treated in their early stages so why is access to genito-urinary medicine clinics so difficult and insufficient education being given in schools.

JustineMumsnet (MNHQ) Wed 16-Apr-08 11:19:32

Hi all,
We asked Alan Johnson to send a few advance answers through - as it's unlikely he's going to be able to cover everthing in the alloted time. Here they are for you to digest. He'll be back in an hour or so to talk more.

Alan Johnson:
Hello everyone, and thank you for inviting me to Mumsnet. I probably won’t have time to answer all of your questions, but I’ll do my best to get through as many as I can – I’ll start with a few that were posted yesterday.

Several of you asked about breastfeeding, and support for mothers who want to breastfeed. I agree that breastfeeding is best for babies, and the government recommends breastfeeding for the first six months of a baby’s life. More mums do breastfeed now – more than three-quarters – but breastfeeding rates are lower among mothers under 20 and those from disadvantaged groups, and so apart from all the other benefits, increasing breastfeeding will help us tackle health inequalities – a key Labour government priority. Our recent Obesity Strategy highlighted breastfeeding as a key way of reducing childhood obesity rates, and we’re doing a number of things to promote breastfeeding as the norm for mothers. A lot of that is about education, with an information campaign along with continued support for National Breastfeeding Awareness Week, a National Helpline for breastfeeding mothers, and work to ensure that maternity units have an environment that supports breastfeeding. But we also want to do more to encourage employers and businesses to support employees and customers who breastfeed.

A few questions about dentistry – I know lots of people are concerned about access to NHS dentistry, and we do need to increase access. But we should acknowledge the wider context: children’s oral health is better than it’s ever been. We are making real improvements, and we’re allocating more money to NHS dentistry, ring-fencing dental budgets until 2011, and demanding that Primary Care Trusts deliver year on year increases in the numbers of patients accessing dental services. Also, local health services now have a duty to provide urgent dental treatment to those who need it, so you can get treatment if it’s clinically necessary, even if you don’t have a regular dentist. And we’ve simplified the system of charging for dental treatment, replacing the old system of almost 400 different charges with just three charge bands and cutting the maximum charge by 50%. By the way, as you probably know, children under 18, pregnant women and women who’ve had a baby in the last 12 months are among the groups entitled to free NHS dental treatment.

On maternity services and midwife shortages – the birth rate is rising, and we need to keep pace with that. We’ve recently announced £330 million in extra funding for maternity services over the next three years, and that will pay for a substantial increase in the number of midwives – an extra 1000 by 2009, and an extra 4000 by 2012. That includes encouraging former midwives back into the profession with a “golden hello” package with a grant, free training and help with childcare and travel costs – we want to bring back the expertise of good midwives who’ve left the NHS. This will help us with our commitment to deliver by 2009 choice for all women in where and how they have their baby and what pain relief to use, depending on their circumstances. We’ll also give more choice in antenatal and postnatal care.

Sfxmum asked about MMR – why not make single vaccines available on the NHS? Well, the simple answer to that is that MMR is safe. There just isn’t any credible evidence linking MMR to autism and bowel disease, and more and more evidence that there is no link. We have to base our policies on the evidence available, and the evidence says that MMR is the safest way to protect children against measles, mumps and rubella. We don’t offer single vaccines because this involves more appointments, and more chances that children will miss appointments or catch measles, mumps or rubella in the gaps between the vaccines – if we offered single vaccines, more children would get ill. About 85% of children have received their MMR vaccine by their 2nd birthday, and this figure is going up. That’s good news. But obviously lots of parents are concerned: getting the facts on MMR is really important, and for more on this you should visit http://www.mmrthefacts.nhs.uk.

grouphug Wed 16-Apr-08 11:41:47

More than three quaters of mums breastfeed?? Would you share for how long that is and the report that comes from?

Can someone tell me how you do the live bit?

flossish Wed 16-Apr-08 11:43:36

Yes GH I was thinking the same. Isn't it something like 3/4 of mums leave hospital BF'ing? How many mums do that but then give up within 2 weeks? I know lots.

grouphug Wed 16-Apr-08 11:49:02

He should be quoting how many are breastfeeding to the 6 months as that is the government's recommendation. All GPS have a record at the 4 month vaccination appointment of how the baby is being fed he could use that then he can see the real sorry state of breastfeeding rates in the UK. Arrgggghhhhhh.

cmotdibbler Wed 16-Apr-08 11:57:56

From the latest infant feedint survey:

78% start bfing.
At 1 week this drops to 63%, at 6 weeks 48%, and 6 months 25%.

At 6 months, less than 1% are exclusively bfing.

On the support boards here, we hear time and time again about the lack of community support to keep bfing exclusively, and about HCPs who give advice directly against the national and international recommendations to bf exclusively to 6 months, and to continue bfing to 2 years or beyond. We also hear that HVs have no obligation to keep up to date with breastfeeding advice, and so continue to give information that they received 20 years or more ago.

Bramshott Wed 16-Apr-08 11:59:49

Why is it that we are encouraged to have regular dental check-ups, but not regular health check-ups? Surely an annual / bi-annual check up for weight, blood pressure, cholesterol etc would flag up problems early and save money in the long run.

Monkeybird Wed 16-Apr-08 12:00:12

rofl at Cod. Perhaps he'll get the top NHS honcho on the blower to you immediately cod?

Monkeybird Wed 16-Apr-08 12:02:58

will you point those figures out again in 20 mins cmotdibbler - I doubt he's gonna actually read the thread! He'll have minions picking the questions I imagine...

cmotdibbler Wed 16-Apr-08 12:06:55

I've copied it into a text document for fast posting later !

I hold little hope of any real answers, but who knows ?

FeverishFish Wed 16-Apr-08 12:07:45

i am ill

grouphug Wed 16-Apr-08 12:11:26

how do I post on the live bit?

sfxmum Wed 16-Apr-08 12:11:39

regarding the answers I agree on MMR but I know quite a lot of people who do singles and other who avoid it altogether, Tony Blair's answer quoting privacy did not help matters

about breast feeding a proper campaign aimed at boys and girls long before they become parents is probably best along with contraception education and a more realistic view of what bringing up baby really entails

ColumbosWife Wed 16-Apr-08 12:17:18

Why doesn't the NHS focus more on preventative medicine?

An example is pregnancy nutrition advice. Pregnant women are given relentlessly negative and often hysterical advice in this country - don't eat too much tuna, don't eat runny eggs, avoid nuts etc - instead of focussing on the good and positive ways you can help your chances of having a healthy baby, by trying to eat a really good overall diet.

It also seems a bit odd that hospitals lecture pregnant women about what not to eat yet allow Burger King etc. in many hospital food courts. What can be the possible justification for this ( other than balancing the books)?

TheDevilWearsPrimark Wed 16-Apr-08 12:21:53

I don't have much to ask as it's all been asked already, but will watch this with interest.

I hope he's a faster typer than David Cameron.

carriemumsnet (MNHQ) Wed 16-Apr-08 12:22:02


The live bit is just like normal Talk, we ask and he answers

JustineMumsnet (MNHQ) Wed 16-Apr-08 12:23:52

Hi all,
Alan Johnson is now in the building (dining room) so will firing away shortly.

MrsClinton Wed 16-Apr-08 12:23:54


How can polyclinics be right for every community?

Will they be imposed everywhere, regardless of what BMA/patients think?

cmotdibbler Wed 16-Apr-08 12:24:45

Alan, I think you have chosen to quote the ‘best’ figures on breastfeeding

From the 2005 infant feeding survey:

78% start bfing.
At 1 week this drops to 63%, at 6 weeks 48%, and 6 months 25%.

At 6 months, less than 1% are exclusively bfing.

On the support boards here, we hear time and time again about the lack of community support to keep bfing exclusively, and about HCPs who give advice directly against the national and international recommendations to bf exclusively to 6 months, and to continue bfing to 2 years or beyond. We also hear that HVs have no obligation to keep up to date with breastfeeding advice, and so continue to give information that they received 20 years or more ago.

Its also very apparent that there is little publicity regarding the benefits of exclusive breastfeeding to 6 months, and virtually no support for those mothers who work and breastfeed, especially beyond 6 months.

On another note, would you like to comment on why the NHS, which should have the greatest buying power of any healthcare system in the world, doesn’t buy equipment centrally to exercise that buying power ? This wastes many millions of pounds a year on capital equipment costs alone.

AlanJohnson Wed 16-Apr-08 12:27:52

Hello everyone. Really pleased to be with you today even though it's meant me travelling to North London! As a South Londoner I'll go anywhere for Mumsnet!

In answer to Branshott - there is a debate about the value of annual/bi-annual check ups particularly because of the concern that GP surgeries, pharmacies etc will be full of the worried well whilst those people who are particularly prone to certain diseases are not catered for.Nevertheless you will have seen our announcement recently about vascular checks where everyone between 40 and 74 will be seen on a call and re-call basis every 5 years which will really help in the fight to prevent illnesses such as heart disease, kidney disease and diabetes.

VeniVidiVickiQV Wed 16-Apr-08 12:28:46

"Several of you asked about breastfeeding, and support for mothers who want to breastfeed. I agree that breastfeeding is best for babies, and the government recommends breastfeeding for the first six months of a baby's life. More mums do breastfeed now – more than three-quarters – but breastfeeding rates are lower among mothers under 20 and those from disadvantaged groups, and so apart from all the other benefits, increasing breastfeeding will help us tackle health inequalities – a key Labour government priority. Our recent Obesity Strategy highlighted breastfeeding as a key way of reducing childhood obesity rates, and we're doing a number of things to promote breastfeeding as the norm for mothers. A lot of that is about education, with an information campaign along with continued support for National Breastfeeding Awareness Week, a National Helpline for breastfeeding mothers, and work to ensure that maternity units have an environment that supports breastfeeding. But we also want to do more to encourage employers and businesses to support employees and customers who breastfeed."

The Government recommends exclusive breastfeeding for the first six months of a baby's life - if it doesn't recommend breastfeeding beyond that, why is follow-on still allowed to be sold, since it's very clearly a breastmilk substitute.

The National Helpline is to be applauded, but the funding is lamentable compared with the number of women who start breastfeeding in this country - and I have had to dig to find information about it - it's not been advertised much. Smoking cessation gets FAR more support - the NHS has a dedicated helpline, etc. We know women want to breastfeed, we know breastfeeding is best for babies AND for mothers - and, I believe, for society as a whole - why isn't there more funding being put into breastfeeding support across the country?

"The current UK position regarding baby milk legislation has been likened to the practice of securing your home by locking the front door and all the windows but failing to close the backdoor. It gives the baby feeding industry in the UK the key to the expansion of the baby milk market - the use of the health care system as a market place. The NHS is left to pick up the costs - estimated to be £35 million for gastroenteritis alone" (http://www.babyfeedinglawgroup.org.uk/resources/whychangelaw.html)

£35 million is a lot of money that, if a decent breastfeeding strategy existed in the UK, could be diverted into other areas of the NHS. It would only take one generation of properly trained healthcare workers to bring about a change in thinking - hospitals ought to be told they have to go Baby Friendly (NICE says the BF standards should be the MINIMUM), for instance. Or maybe, and this is a bit radical, admittedly - make breastfeeding training and updates mandatory for all NHS staff - it currently isn't, which is outrageous.

Have you signed the Breastfeeding Manifesto, Mr Johnson? http://www.breastfeedingmanifesto.org.uk/mp_supporters.php It would appear not, but I would urge you to do so.

I could go on... Some would say I already have. Please feel free to visit me at www.howbreastfeedingworks.com

cmotdibbler Wed 16-Apr-08 12:31:08

I'd like to second VVVs question about follow on milk, and also ask why the formula companies still aren't complying with the 2005 legislation, and have been allowed to delay the 2008 ?

Would you like to show your support of the breastfeeding manifesto ?

VeniVidiVickiQV Wed 16-Apr-08 12:33:44

<that post was, courtesy of HunkerMunker, btw grin>

Mr Johnson, do you boycott Nestle?

Also, with Northwick Park Hospital in the news again with a second closure of its maternity services in 18 months, and the wildly varying standards of maternity care in the UK, what plans do the Government have to improve services across the board for pregnant women and new mothers?

VeniVidiVickiQV Wed 16-Apr-08 12:35:01

I'd also like to question the labelling on baby food that still indicates a suitability age range of 4-6 months, which is in direct conflict with the Governments 6 months exclusive breastfeeding recommendation. Why is this allowed to happen and what are you doing about it?

emmybel Wed 16-Apr-08 12:35:03

Hi Alan, do you feel you've missed your chance to become leader of the labour party after Blair left? Were you tempted to put your hat in the ring.

AlanJohnson Wed 16-Apr-08 12:35:35

There have been many points being made here about breast feeding including a question as to whether this was a Government priority. It is and it's also something that I feel very strongly about. The issue emerges in various departments, for instance our move to increase maternity leave orginally to 26 weeks and soon to 52 weeks was in part driven by the fact that we've been signed up to the WHO policy of encouraging breastfeeding for the first 6 months for many years but our maternity provision didn't reflect this policy. Many of the points that have been made here about the disparity between information and advice and poor training for some midwives and nurses about the importance of breastfeeding are ones that I will take away and talk to colleagues in the Department about. We want to improve the situation particularly given that as some correspondents have said that many women give up having initially been persuaded to breastfeed and there is obviously more we could be doing in this area. As already mentioned our policy on health inequalities will address breastfeeding because of the evidence that those from more deprived backgrounds are less likely to breastfeed and our policy on tackling obesity already has a major element relating to breastfeeding. Finally, on the question on infant and follow-on formula we have recently implemented new regulations with the Food Standards Agency to more strictly control advertising of all types of Formulae to ensure that breastfeeding is not undermined by the marketing of such products. I believe that the FSA have finished consulting on draft guidance notes for the regulations and will publish them shortly. An independently chaired review will be formed to look at the arrangements - and I hope Mumsnet will be a crucial part of this review which will begin next month.

grouphug Wed 16-Apr-08 12:35:49

Yes why is 6 month follow on milk not considered a breastfeeding alternative under legislation and the formula companies able to advertise. I was sent formula sachets to my home after they got my details when I was in hospital I think via a bounty women who I had no idea who she was as I had only delived 45 minutes earlier!!!

ColumbosWife Wed 16-Apr-08 12:37:12

Mr JOhnson said: "In answer to Branshott - there is a debate about the value of annual/bi-annual check ups particularly because of the concern that GP surgeries, pharmacies etc will be full of the worried well "

Wouldn't it be better to have clinics full of 'worried well' rather than the current approach where many people only reach the NHS in an emergency?

This concept of 'worried well' is a politician's excuse for not doing anything.

I think that Branshott's point was that these annual check-ups should be a universal right, reaching everyone, in order to prevent worse - and more expensive - long term illness.

ColumbosWife Wed 16-Apr-08 12:37:12

Mr JOhnson said: "In answer to Branshott - there is a debate about the value of annual/bi-annual check ups particularly because of the concern that GP surgeries, pharmacies etc will be full of the worried well "

Wouldn't it be better to have clinics full of 'worried well' rather than the current approach where many people only reach the NHS in an emergency?

This concept of 'worried well' is a politician's excuse for not doing anything.

I think that Branshott's point was that these annual check-ups should be a universal right, reaching everyone, in order to prevent worse - and more expensive - long term illness.

MrsClinton Wed 16-Apr-08 12:38:09


Would you like to put a bid wodge of cash Mumsnet's way to trawl for our expert opinions (like a big focus group), and in return we'll help to shape Govt health policy? smile

pretty please..

cmotdibbler Wed 16-Apr-08 12:39:52

We'd love to be part of the review - however, the regulations do not cover follow on milk, and fail to include press placement such as we saw recently in OK magazine.
I also believe that Trading Standards find it hard to enforce the current legislation, and that the manufacturers have been given outrageously long times to comly.

Baby foods should also be covered to ensure that complementary foods are not labelled as suitable under 6 months.

NK39ec0374X118a328be19 Wed 16-Apr-08 12:41:46


What is the Secretary of State’s Department doing to help ensure that parents get help to support their children’s language development? I read recently that in some areas between 40-50% of children have some form of communication difficulty.

Does the Secretary of State recognise that for mums and dads of children with these difficulties, getting information and access to services is a major worry?

AlanJohnson Wed 16-Apr-08 12:42:05

To the question Itscoldtoday and others asked on the question of choice - choice is not an end in itself, it's a mean to an end, the end itself being better quality. It's not the only way of achieving better quality but it's an important facet of achieving better quality healthcare. I think that the view of the NHS was that people should be grateful for what they received whereas if you wanted things like choice and a more personalised service that was somehow the exclusive provision of the private sector. Of course we want every hospital to be of the highest quality and most of them are. However, somebody going in for a hip replacement will want to know what the rate of healthcare acquired infections is; what the food is like; the visiting times etc and may want to have the operation in a hospital closer to where their family lives. The vast majority of people will go to their local hospital but it seems to me to be an anomoly in the 21st century for us to insist that whereas citizens have choice in so many areas of their live now that it should somehow cease when they enter the portals of the NHS. Incidentally, now that we have established the single tarrif so that the NHS pays the same amount for eg a hip operation wherever it takes place, it means that we can utilise private hospitals to ensure that we have adequate capacity and that we don't go back to waiting times of 2 years and more as happened under the previous government

cmotdibbler Wed 16-Apr-08 12:43:37

Sorry, and yet again, you've missed the fact that breastfeeding should be exclusively for 6 months, and continue for 2 years.

Infant nutrition is vital as it shapes a childs future health in terms of obesity, diabetes, allergies and autoimmune conditions, which is why marketing, advertising and labelling is crucial in this area.

We know that parents and families fail to get good support from their HCPs, and so are very vunerable to the sophisticated marketing of companies like Nestle

saffy1 Wed 16-Apr-08 12:43:48

I'd like to know how you think Gordon Brown is doing? Do you think he'll survive the current turmoil?

TheDevilWearsPrimark Wed 16-Apr-08 12:45:50

I love you for mentioning the North/ South divide, in your first post even! Genius!

AlanJohnson Wed 16-Apr-08 12:47:57

To the question asked by monkeybird, JT, willow etc on hygeine, cleaning and superbugs - to be frank I don't think that the NHS treated this as the high priority issue that it is. There was a certain complacency in the system which is thankfully being eliminated. NHS frontline workers knew how important cleanliness was but it didn't figure large enough in the overall priorities. In terms of what we're doing now, it's not just deep clean - there is no single solution to the problem and deep clean was symbolic of the need to ensure the highest standards of cleanliness and hygeine. The three crucial areas remain - hand washing, responsible prescribing of anti-biotics and isolation facilities with cohort nursing. The latest stats show MRSA rates down by 18% on the previous quarter; C.Diff down by 21%. Across Europe most countries are seeing an increase. The question of nurses uniforms often comes up. There is actually no evidence that this is a major part of the problem. However, in many trusts nurses are not encouraged to wear uniforms outside of the hospital because if the public perceive this to be part of the problem it helps public confidence to ensure that it doesn't happen. We wouldn't dictate this kind of issue from Whitehall and it is a matter for local Acute Trusts.

MrsClinton Wed 16-Apr-08 12:48:03

Wasn't the recent "deep clean" just a PR exercise? (which failed anyway)


stoppinattwo Wed 16-Apr-08 12:48:23

Alan do you use cut and paste?....I ask because your typing is very nice and you could teach some peeps on here a thing or three about speed typing grin

grouphug Wed 16-Apr-08 12:49:52

Why do you have to wait until you are 20 weeks pregnant to get a scan in some parts of the country I'm in Bristol? Mine was at 23 weeks what would have happened if I had needed an abortion, it would have been carried out past the legal limit and everyone would have known I was pregnant as I would have been showing and the emotional trauma I don;t even what to think about it. Will you change policy that every women gets a scan at 12 weeks.

sitdownpleasegeorge Wed 16-Apr-08 12:49:59


The way things are all going a bit Pete Tong for old Gordon at the minute, I'm sure AJ will get another crack at the job before too long. grin

Mr Johnson

Do you believe that all women should have the right to give birth the way they prefer, even if that means they opt for an elective c-section ?

TheFallenMadonna Wed 16-Apr-08 12:50:20


My daughter was referrred to the speech and language threrapy service when she was 2 years and 9 months. She had her initial assessment 8 weeks after that, was put on the waiting list, and was given her follow up appointment 13 months after that, when she had already turned 4.

Is this due to a crisis in recruitment or funding? Are there targets for SALT waiting lists?

AlanJohnson Wed 16-Apr-08 12:51:24

In response to saffy1 and others - as I said to somebody who asked me this yesterday I think Gordon Brown is a serious man for serious times. If you want somebody who will invite the cameras in while he shakes out the shreddies over breakfast he's not your man and he won't be telling how many girls he kissed behind the bike shed. That's not to say that Gordon's not good company - he's just a very private man and he is absolutely focused on the major problems which this country faces. I suppose you wouldn't expect me to say anything other than this, but I really do believe that he's a good man, leading a good government that's doing good things.

AlanJohnson Wed 16-Apr-08 12:52:30

To stoppinattwo - I have found a wonderful way of improving my typing both in relation to the quality and the speed - she's called Sue!

cmotdibbler Wed 16-Apr-08 12:53:31

I think the NHS cleaners did treat it as a high priority - when it was inhouse and there was a cleaner with responsibility for a particular area, so they had real pride in keeping their ward spotless.

I have worked in the NHS before and after cleaning became an outsourced area, and it was patently obvious that it was at that point that standards slipped hugely. Cleaning was then just treated as something that someone would pop in and do once per day, rather than the continuous process that could occur before. And anyone who has no feedback or feeling of responsibility for their job, just won't clean to the same standards.

MrsClinton Wed 16-Apr-08 12:54:03

well done Sue smile

stoppinattwo Wed 16-Apr-08 12:54:25

So your talking and sue is typing..........grin I knew it.....no man can speed type and think at the same time wink

Hi sue <<shakes hand>>

MrsClinton Wed 16-Apr-08 12:54:49

that's how bbc do it, webchats that is smile

VeniVidiVickiQV Wed 16-Apr-08 12:54:58

Do you boycott nestle?

slalomsuki Wed 16-Apr-08 12:56:22


A bit of a cheap shot there re the shreddies and kissing.

My question would be how would you encourage mothers to re enter the work place and give them affordable and flexible working arrangements and child care. I know of a number of highly qualified women who have opted out of a career to have children and cannot get back in to the career ladder due to the inflexibility of employers.
How would you incentivise them both?

AlanJohnson Wed 16-Apr-08 12:57:19

To pyjamarama - your specific point is I think related to the attempts to ensure Government money for further and higher education is focused remorselessly on the millions of people who have no qualifications at all and where the Leitch Report predicted that we would have serious problems if it wasn't addressed. However, having said that, I am concerned that one of the reasons why so few women end up in senior positions in the NHS is that although our medical schools have more and more women graduates, the system doesn't allow any flexibility at senior level. In one sense this is understandable given that consultants have to be called back out to see patients when problems occur. I am convinced that there is more we can do in relation to the kinds of opportunities we can offer to women coming back into the NHS after maternity leave or any other reason for a break in service. I have talked to our senior clinicians in the Department about this and we will be working on this over the coming period. I'll also look at the specific point you've raised in relation to funding because I can see how counter-productive it is to lose the investment that the tax payer has put into putting the investment in providing you with the skills you have.

TheDevilWearsPrimark Wed 16-Apr-08 12:58:50

Dear Alan, is the Kinder Hotel advert on this thread annoying you as much as it is me?

But back to the serious stuff. How do you propose to solve the problems midwives and mothers have to deal with in continuity in care?
I saw seven different midwives with my first, and as a result hired a Doula for my second. Not everyone can afford such a luxury. Why are maternity services so underfunded and why do the midwives have to struggle through a system they know is wrong but can do nothing about?

Hi Alan,

How likely am I to have repeat experience of this if I miscarried in a year, 5 years, 10 years?

a) The A&E waiting room had no loo roll in the toilets, and as I was dripping blood the receptionists went through their own personal handbags to find me their own tissues!

b) The treatment room in a&e had no soap in the loo, and with hands covered in blood I had to come out and ask three different nurses for soap. The best they could do was give me surgical scrub.

c) The used a nithtgown for me to lie of for an internal, and a night gown to cover me because they hadn't enough sheets.

d) A nurse spent 15 mins looking for some gel for my internal

e) They tied a surgical glove around my arm instead of a strap to take my bp

f) They took ages trying out different extention leads to find one that would reach a lamp for my internal.

And another quick question:

a) If Breastfeeding is a priority, why have the two breastfeeding clinics in my area shut down?

Thank you!

VeniVidiVickiQV Wed 16-Apr-08 12:59:18

from hunker...

I am somewhat heartened by your response and look forward to the consultation period.

However, I would also like to know whether the issue of formula manufacturers having forums of their own will be addressed and also the disingenuous helplines that claim you can ring them for breastfeeding advice and speak to their trained midwives/health workers - who will often persuade you to use formula, even if your baby is only a few days old (we tested them on Mumsnet). The forums are clearly posted on by representatives of formula companies - posing as mothers - to perpetuate the "you mustn't let anyone make you feel guilty" message, which is part of their marketing strategy and discourages open debate about the risks of artificial feeding. It's a good way to get round the infant formula promotion ban in place in the UK, but I honestly believe that advice about infant feeding in general ought not to be found via formula company websites. Far better that it's left to independent sites such as Mumsnet.

Also, formula companies won't even give out information about their own products - so why should they be able to perpetuate these myths and muddy the waters surrounding this most important time in a baby's development. After all, if we were feeding any other group in society one food for a prolonged period of time as their sole nutrition, it would be far more regulated. As it is, formula doesn't even have to have safe guidelines for its reconstitution printed on the packet in this country, exposing babies to potentially fatal bacteria.

(Oh, and in case you're like me and prefer a clickable link www.howbreastfeedingworks.com wink)

FeverishFish Wed 16-Apr-08 13:00:47

i have glandular fever nad it stinks


The government are so keen on parents going back into work, i'm a mother of a 3yr i work full time, but because of my income levels i don't get that much help from the government, to fund childcare etc. for instance i earn just under 1000 a month, but my Daughters school fees alone are 700. i know so many ppl who are much better off not working that working but that should be the way should it really?

I wonder how many girls Gordon did kiss behind the bike sheds?

Could you ask him and get back to us?

Are you interested in supporting women's choice to breastfeed for as long as they wish.

are you interested in addressing the problem of sophisticated marketing of formula to health care profs.

my consultant told me antenatally that he is all for 'choice' when it comes to infant feeding.

I told him that so was I. And that 76% of women choose to initiate breastfeeding after giving birth. At 6 weeks half that number have given up and 90% of those who had given up wished to bf for longer.

This info comes from the DOH's own infant feeding survey for 2005.

FYI, over 35million pounds per year is spent every year on treating Gastro intestinal infections alone in children under 12 months.

so I asked my consultant what could our hospital do with an extra £35 million.

He had no answer to that but suggested I become a politician.

AlanJohnson Wed 16-Apr-08 13:03:14

To sitdownpleasegeorge - I think this takes us back to the question of choice but on a far more profound level. I do instinctively feel that a woman should have the choice of how they give birth. Maternity Matters is the policy that was developed with a wide range of interested parties. It means that by 2009 all women giving birth will have more choice over how to access primary care, for instance they can self-refer to a midwife rather than a GP if they wish. They will also have more choice in anti-natal care, in where to give birth and in accessing post-natal care. The two problem areas that prevent me from saying that there should be an absolute choice in these matters is that the NHS probably couldn't afford to give C-Section on request and in any case I feel that it should remain the decision of the clinician as to whether to go down that route. The other problem is that the extended choice we've given on elective surgery cannot yet be extended to maternity care. I think its very important that women are able to choose the maternity hospital that they want to use but that's something that will take a little longer to implement.

AlanJohnson Wed 16-Apr-08 13:05:16

To VeniVidiVickiQV - no I don't boycott Nestle and I'll get back to you on the breastfeeding manifesto issue.

slalomsuki Wed 16-Apr-08 13:05:27

I am in the same position as you muppet but with 3 kids. I spend as much on after school care and holiday clubs as my monthly salary and would be better off at home. What incentives do I get? Nothing except personal ones.

Like many people (women) I work with I have a string of qualifications and experience that count for very little once you have children. I couldn't get a position anywhere nearly as senior as I had before children and tokk something lower paid. Where is the equality in that, you might as well tell a 16 year old girl not to bother as many do despite all wanting the best for our children

MrsClinton Wed 16-Apr-08 13:05:54

isn't he talking about health?

TheDevilWearsPrimark Wed 16-Apr-08 13:06:01

shock Starlight that is disgraceful!

Monkeybird Wed 16-Apr-08 13:06:07


Given the rising birthrate and the ageing baby boom, how do you plan to manage competition for healthcare resources in future years?


cmotdibbler Wed 16-Apr-08 13:06:22

Its hard to have choice in where to give birth though, when the midwife led units are being closed at a rate of knots to centralise services.

In Sussex and Kent, even the hospital units are being shut and downgraded, leaving women to travel for up to an hour to get to their maternity unit.

grouphug Wed 16-Apr-08 13:07:49

Next time I am pregnant can I choose to have a 12 week scan at any hospital or wait until 23 weeks again in Bristol.

JeremyVile Wed 16-Apr-08 13:07:50

"From Hunker"


ktmoomoo Wed 16-Apr-08 13:08:12

hi i would like to know about the post code lottery !!!!!!!!!!1 i wish to have an opperation but i live in lincoln and nhs say no , but if i was living some where else it would be yes to the opperation i think this so unfair as this opperation would ne life changing for me , i have appealed twice now with no luck , im distaught sad

slalomsuki Wed 16-Apr-08 13:08:55

Isn't the issue of working mothers and having a stautus and self actualistaion state through recognition and work related to mental health and the health of the kids. Also he represents the government.

VeniVidiVickiQV Wed 16-Apr-08 13:09:00

I'd like to echo Starlight's experiences with my maternity experiences in North London's Chase Farm.

Made to wait from 10am till 4pm for test results for pre-eclampsia, and then till 9.30pm for a bed. During this time no food or drink offered.

Also, within an hour of giving birth, being bullied into having a shower because the room was needed, and my partner wasnt allowed to go and get my wash bag. Was told I would be fetched a towel and soap to use but it didnt happen and I ended up having to dry myself on a used gown on the floor of the shower room.

This kind of thing is quite common place in my experience at Chase Farm. Yet, recent surveys have shown that it did well in maternity services. How do you explain this?

VeniVidiVickiQV: It WAS Chase Farm! A&E though!

Minerva1 Wed 16-Apr-08 13:11:17

Dear Mr Johnson,
If you are still here and reading through these. I would just like to point out a couple of things. It would be really refreshing for the govt to encourage mothers to stay at home to look after their children rather than go back to work and create a society where children are a nuisance extra and in nurseries at a young age where they don't have one-on-one attention which is what they need. It would also be refreshing for a govt to concentrate on post-natal services in this country and children's services which are becoming extinct. There is no or little help in hospitals on wards once you've actually delivered. There is little or no help to get mums breastfeeding. Health visitors are a dying species, and those we do have certainly in my area are completely useless when you actually can get hold of them. Further to that I"m disgusted that you no longer get sent reminders about jabs for kids. I had to beg my local clinic to actually book me in for my child's MMR. No reminders were sent out or information. And I"m English speaking, middle class, on second child. What happens to all new mothers who don't know about jabs and suchlike. You are currently failing our children. Not to mention the fact that getting a doctors' appointment is nigh-on impossible, and most of my friends are sacrificing something to go privately to see a "family" doctor for their kids, so that illnesses are dealt with and picked up more easily. The NHS even in the past two years has pretty much given up on children (unless you're really ill and in hospital). Can you do anything about any of these issues??????

Monkeybird Wed 16-Apr-08 13:11:44

What cmotdibbler said: we'd ALL like to know I imagine whether and why the NHS still contracts outsources cleaning?

I am of the view that you pay the people who do the most difficult jobs as much money as you can. Difficult can mean well-educated and making difficult decision but it also means doing those personal care and dirty jobs that most of us can't bring ourselves to do.

So FGS pay the people who mop up our blood, vomit and poo a bit more. And the people who hold the hand of the sick and dying.

[Sue, are you on MN?]

AlanJohnson Wed 16-Apr-08 13:12:36

There's been several questions on GP access. Let me first of all make it clear that we are not seeking to go back on the GP contract we negotiated in 2004. There is a loss of collective memory in some quarters. Prior to 2004 there was a real problem in recruiting people into General Practice and a real fear that with so many GPs due to retire there would be a crisis in provision. We were quite right to raise GPs' pay which was very poor and to reduce their hours whilst enabling them to spend more time with each patient. I find it incredible that GPs were expected to be bright and efficient at 9am, having been out half the night dealing with call-outs. It was a system that had to change and we changed it. Access is not about out-of-hours. We do intend to go back to the 24/7 coverage by each GP. What we do want is for patients and the public to have greater choice about when they see their GP. People now work in a completely different way than they did 50 years ago and in those Practices where they do open in the evenings and on Saturday mornings they find not only blue-collar workers who have difficulty getting time off from employers during the week but also those mothers with children that some people told us were perfectly satisfied with the current arrangements. We have put extra money into the system and we are not asking GPs to do this for nothing. 92% of BMA members voted for greater access and I think it's very much in tune with what the public expect from the health service that they fund.

ktmoomoo Wed 16-Apr-08 13:12:47

has he gone i really wanted answer to my dilema

TheDevilWearsPrimark Wed 16-Apr-08 13:12:50

I have another question, about out of hours healthcare. Why do you concede with GP's opinions that they shouldn't work outside office hours, why can they not work shifts as so many other people have to?

My daughter was quite ill recently, she came down with a high fever around 6pm and I got no response from the 'out of hours' number our GP practice gave us. I eventually got through to a nursing team (from the yellow pages) who told me to go to a clinic around an hour from our home (we are in London and would have to use public transport)

Eventually I took her to childrens A&E and thankfully it was nothing serious, but what a waste of overstretched resources when a doctor could have reassured us far easier?

MrsClinton Wed 16-Apr-08 13:13:21

but what about polyclinics?

are they for everyone ?

AlanJohnson Wed 16-Apr-08 13:14:41

To sfxmum and others who've asked about our policy with regards to mis-carriage - it seems to me from your comments and from talking to the Mumsnet people here that we really should seek to ensure a common set of standards across the country. I think I'm in at the start of a new campaign and it's something I will talk to Ministers about when I return to the Department. Mumsnet have informed me that I will not be allowed to forget this issue!

VeniVidiVickiQV Wed 16-Apr-08 13:14:46

What plans do you have for improving our (I use "our" in the loosest sense of the term) Health Visitor service.

They appear to be shockingly understaffed, training, knowledge and clinics vary wildly, and a different system seems to be set in place from borough to borough.

One of the biggest bugbears parents have on Mumsnet is due to incorrect information disseminated by Health Visitors. I note that another parenting website has teamed up with Health Visitors. I am concerned that a question be asked, and then the thread closed so that you cannot see what advice is being handed out to this person, which in my view, isnt a step forward.

Your thoughts?

Monkeybird Wed 16-Apr-08 13:15:01

Have you gone, mate?

I actually think you'd make an excellent leader (deffo the housewives choice grin not that I am one).

And I do actually see some improvement in health services in my area (though it started from a pretty low starting point). So much more needs to be done though.

lalaa Wed 16-Apr-08 13:16:02

I have a (totally selfish) question about testing for gene mutations. I need a test (my Genetics Consultant says so) but my hospital won't fund it. My sister's hospital will. The difference is purely geographical - I'm in Bath and she's in Cambridge. Why does this happen?

farking hell Starlight, that sounds like Baghdad A&E at the height of their erm, liberation.

or do you think it was A&E Gaza stylee.

Minerva1 Wed 16-Apr-08 13:16:56

Just to clarify, I ask about health visitors as they are the only point of contact for mums to ask questions about child's development etc before child starts school. In my area, Barnet, my 3yr old wasn't seen after his six week check until he was 2yrs old (and then only because he was home when the health visitor was checking my 10 day old baby. Also, my baby is now 14 months and hasn't had a 1 year check up and there is no sign that any clinic near me will offer one. Is this really right in a developed country?

god heavens VVV, it isn't just Health Vis. who have crap breastfeeding knowledge, none of the midwives I have encountered and seen plenty of posts here on MN where the Midwives are just as inept. sad

this is partly why formula has to stop being advertised to hcp's and they should be given proper training in bfing.

they, like HVs do not have to update their knowledge

are you still listening Mr J?

VeniVidiVickiQV Wed 16-Apr-08 13:19:57

Indeed Starlight. Chase Farm is one of the worst hospitals I've had the misfortune to be in (and that beats having a bed in Edgware General with squished cockroaches next to it).

Yet recent reports and reviews of its maternity services have flagged it up to have done quite well. This is entirely in conflict with experiences I, and other mothers have had there. I suspect that Alan Johnson has gone, but I'd like him to look into this if he could.

The attitude of some members of staff were so appalling it reduced me to tears at a time when I really needed some support and help. I dont understand how surveys and reports can be so wildly different to my two experiences of maternity services, and several experiences at A & E.

AlanJohnson Wed 16-Apr-08 13:20:55

To ktmoomoo - the most common complaint about postcode lottery is the availability of drugs but you have pointed to another aspect relating to procedures. The policy is that once NICE has approved a drug or procedure it should be available everywhere. This is an area that we are considering addressing in the NHS Constitution that we plan to publish on the 60th Anniversay of the NHS in July. There is a problem in respect of the amount of time that it takes for NICE to properly consider whether to licence drugs or procedures. In the period upto licencing PCTs have discretion. I think the way we should seek to resolve this, particularly with cancer drugs, is by speeding up the NICE proceedure, if we possibly can. One final point on this - if the NHS isn't to be a hugely centralised command and control system so that it can be clinically led and locally driven there are bound to be differences between different regions of the country. But this shouldn't relate to the availability of drugs and procedures as I've mentioned above. Many people have asked about Scotland - I support devolution. It was a Government policy successfully implemented and we cannot complain that having devolved power, the Scottish Executive decide to do things differently. However, the basic principles of the NHS haven't changed and issues such as free prescriptions and car-parking etc whilst important do not represent the central issues around which the NHS is established.

VeniVidiVickiQV Wed 16-Apr-08 13:21:14

Oh I agree Kiski, but the are classed as a slightly different resource so I wanted to clarify the distinction between the two, even though both services are sorely lacking.

flossish Wed 16-Apr-08 13:24:27

>sigh< I obviously always ask really pants questions. Either that or I don't speak loudly enough. ahem grin

AlanJohnson Wed 16-Apr-08 13:24:36

To cmotdibbler and monkeybird - I wish the issue of health care acquired infections was as simple as who does the cleaning. Unfortunately, it's not. In the worst case, which was Maidstone and Tunbridge Wells, the cleaners were directly employed. We find examples of hospitals which have completely overcome the problem where the cleaners are contracted. I think that the important point about cleaners is that they must be a central part of the NHS team and feel valued as such. Five years ago, hospitals felt that cleaning should only be done at night or when there was as few people around as possible. Now everyone wants their cleaners to be visible. As I saw at the Royal Free yesterday, where they do have directly employed cleaners, it's the way cleaners are treated that's important. Many hospitals are going back to directly employed cleaners but, as I say, there's no evidence to suggest that contracting out was the major cause of the rise of superbugs.

cmotdibbler Wed 16-Apr-08 13:24:56

If you haven't gone Alan, I would be more than happy to share with you the horrors that I endured during my three miscarriages. If you would like to think about how it is to be told that your baby has died during a routine scan, left in a room filled with pictures of babies for a hour when you then find that they have forgotten about you, and then sent on your own to traipse through a hospital to then explain yourself what has happened to more staff, then that was just the start of my first miscarriage and it got worse from there.

Please, please, anything that you can do to push the subject of care for women and their partners in this area would be wonderful - the MC Association do what they can, but with a budget of only 200,000 a year to do the only real support and information for families they can't do a lot.

ktmoomoo Wed 16-Apr-08 13:25:11

so alan , wat can i do to get my opperation or do i have to keep waiting till lincoln get their act together , is it worth apealing again

flossish Wed 16-Apr-08 13:25:23

Oh! You're still here. Please excuse me!

ktmoomoo Wed 16-Apr-08 13:26:13


flossish grin know that feeling lol!

AlanJohnson Wed 16-Apr-08 13:27:30

To Minerva1 and others - the biggest complaint that I hear is that there are not enough health visitors. I committed Government last year to increase the numbers and I'm working very closely with Ed Balls at DCSF to ensure that in Sure Start centres for instance we have the right level of cooperation with the health service which usually involves health visitors. The issue about quality of training hasn't come up as often but I will look into this particularly as it relates to the earlier point about breastfeeding in general and a feeling that perhaps very good professionals who have been in post for a long time are not being kept up to date with new developments.

cmotdibbler Wed 16-Apr-08 13:27:59

Oh, and absolutely - its not about so much who the cleaners are employed by, but how they are empowered to make decisions, the area they are expected to clean per time unit, and whether they are paid enough to recruit and retain staff who wish to and can do a great job.

I'm glad that you saw that for yourself at the Royal Free, although I'm sure they didn't show you the parts of the hospital which are in such a poor state that no one should be expected to work there.

Tutter Wed 16-Apr-08 13:28:53

<<runs in late>>

<<scans thread>>

whispers: he's not doing too badly eh? better than some we could mention...

ktmoomoo Wed 16-Apr-08 13:30:09

grin lol tutter

Tutter Wed 16-Apr-08 13:30:22

very quick comment:

i had excellent labour care with both of my children - really

i had shocking postnatal care. this is common, according to my unscientific poll of friends

i understand that problem re not enough hv's alan.

however, if they do decide to get more, can they also have proper training? especially in infant feeding issues - erm, breastfeeding.

not having myths handed down from the old hands to the new ones. and certainly not cross-fertisilised withinformation propoganda provided by the formula companies.

Monkeybird Wed 16-Apr-08 13:31:28

cmotdibbler, like the Queen and roses, I imagine AJ has a permanent smell of bleach and Purell handrub up his nose...

Minerva1 Wed 16-Apr-08 13:32:14

Thank you more health visitors would be great. I shall wait to see if it materalizes in my area. Please please read the rest of my post too, even if you don't directly reply. I feel really strongly that we should be encouraging women to stay at home to look after their children (as they do in many European countries - see France) rather than put them in nurseries, institutions at such a young age to the detriment of social behaviour and standards in general. I know everyone here is complaining mainly about NHS services for maternity/miscarriage/children/cleanliness and all that and it needs attention but please think about changing the way our society works and views children. It would dramatically affect our future for the better I believe. Read any Steve Biddulph to understand!! Great to see you on here by the way. Hope you take away lots of useful stuff and act on it!

Tutter Wed 16-Apr-08 13:32:34

what, he ash the smell of the Queen up his nose? shock

AlanJohnson Wed 16-Apr-08 13:32:45

To flossish - I hope that you will reconise the huge advances made in pay and conditions and indeed in the number of nurses since 1997. Agenda for Change was an enormously important agreement with all the Unions and Royal Colleges and it gave nurses a substantial real terms increase in salary. I'm not trying to curry favour here but I was the Minister in a previous capacity who defended the pension arrangements for nurses, teachers and civil servants. The pension is of course an important part of the package. Last year's staged pay increase caused understandable concern and resentment. I haven't got time to go into that here, but what I can say is that I've recently concluded negotiations on a pay deal that will give nurses an 8.1% pay increase over the next 3 years. RCN and Unison fought very hard to tackle issues such as the long banding structure and those on low pay and we've done a lot in this deal to address those concerns as well as setting up on-going discussions to do more in this area. In the context of public sector pay which in the last 10 years has risen by more than private sector pay I do think nurses have received fair treatment although given the work that they do I can understand the feeling that more should be done.

Tutter Wed 16-Apr-08 13:32:52

ash has

bitofadramaqueen Wed 16-Apr-08 13:33:14

I'm delighted to read that you'll be looking into the standards of care given to women who miscarry. I really hope that this includes the care and support available to women who are pregnant following prior pregnancies.

If you put together a set of standards, can you encourage those in the Scottish Executive Govenrment to follow them too so that standards are UK wide.

JustineMumsnet (MNHQ) Wed 16-Apr-08 13:33:37

Thanks everyone, and to Alan (and Sue) especially for your thorough responses and for staying a bit longer than he should have.
Alan has promised to come back to us on a few things and we promise to make sure he does and to keep the pressure on with regard to miscarriage and a nationwide code of practice.

VeniVidiVickiQV Wed 16-Apr-08 13:33:46

Oh it's not a feeling Mr Johnston. It is fact that HV's often recommend "topping up" with formula, or even worse "you need to top up with Aptimil".

Advice for non-sleeping at 4 months..."try a little baby rice"

Advice (this one to me directly) when asking how to get a child to take soya formula when used to b/feeding, and suggesting mixing formula and breastmilk - the reply I got from an "experienced" HV was "eww yuk, dont do that". No suggestion to carry on b/feeding and ways to help me do this whilst working part time. No positive advice on how to get my daughter to take soya formula (cows milk allergy).

A later experience with 2 other HV's to help with b/feeding and thrush was miles better, but, I think it was largely down to the fact that they both breastfed, and in fact one was still breastfeeding her 11 month old.

Experience is great, but only when it's relevant. I think there is a point in there somewhere....grin

Can you answer my earlier Q about Northwick Park Hospital please?

sfxmum Wed 16-Apr-08 13:33:57

I agree with Tutter on both posts

but also facilitating not just mothers but father too especially for the first 2 yrs

AlanJohnson Wed 16-Apr-08 13:34:28

Thank you very much for all of your posts - as a former post man I'm used to dealing with a different form of communication but this was very interesting and genuinely enjoyable. For more information on what we're doing on health you can also visit www.labour.org.uk!

S1ur Wed 16-Apr-08 13:35:22

Bugger has he gone?

I meant to say. The one-to-one system of midwifery care is SUPERB and needs to be assured continued funding and rolled out over the uk. The levels of successful home births are brilliant under this system and women are given decent care and choice. So is the one-to-one system going rto have its funding pulled?

He's gone hasn't he.

flossish Wed 16-Apr-08 13:36:00

Oh Thank you!! I hadn't heard about the pay deal (looks over shoulder at past two nursing standard copies unopened...) 8.1 percent is certainly more than I was expecting and I for one and pretty pleased!

S1ur Wed 16-Apr-08 13:36:03

b u g g e r

Tinker Wed 16-Apr-08 13:36:04

Oh, I love Alan Johnson.

mumoftwo37 Wed 16-Apr-08 13:36:33

Mr Johnson Why are hospitals so dirty? I had a major op in the QMC Notts in Jan and begged my consultant to send me home(which he did do) after 48 hours as the elderly lady in the bed next to me had suspected c.diff. She was not in isolation nor being barrier nursed and was having many accidents. The toilets and bathrooms should have been condemened - they were gross!

Another point why are the waits for CAMH appts so long? Our 13 year old son has OCD and we have waited since December for an appointment finally got a cancellation for next week.
I have spent all my working life in the NHS and it is getting WORSE not better

Minerva1 Wed 16-Apr-08 13:37:10

Oh VeniVidiVickiQV I agree with you. HV give the most nonsensical advice in my area too. Always suggest topping up with formula. grrrrr. They all need retraining. If they good and accessible in strong numbers we've vastly cut down trips to GPs for trivial matters and would be better more confident mums.

PerkinWarbeck Wed 16-Apr-08 13:37:21

<tries to suppress nascent crush on AJ>

TheFallenMadonna Wed 16-Apr-08 13:37:48

I know you had lots of questions, but I really think SALT provision is worth you having a look at. Or at least delegate it to a flunky wink. The waits are too long. Please ensure our children get the help they need before they go to school.

TheDevilWearsPrimark Wed 16-Apr-08 13:38:40

And another.

My grandparents are both pretty ill. My grandad is recovering from Bowel cancer and my gran has emphysema.

My gran was dishcharged from hospital with a cannula still in her arm and it took two days for a practice nurse to come to their home and remove it. They are frequently let down by health visitors/ social workers who promise them support but give them none. It's hard enough for them to visit when they say they will.

Why would it be that the families are the ones left to care for them and try to chase up test results etc, even just basic care? They are extremely vulnerable but too proud to complain as they are reluctant to accept the health they get. I wonder how many elderly people are in this position who don't have family to look out for them?

sfxmum Wed 16-Apr-08 13:39:07

thanks MN HQ very interesting and timely
especially making the point about miscarriage

VeniVidiVickiQV Wed 16-Apr-08 13:39:30

8.1% over 3 years?

That's not that fantastic.

Current rate of inflation is 2.5% - yes? So, 2.5% this year, 2.5% the next year, and 2.5% the year after....assuming things remain the same.

Or are my maths totally wrong here?

TheDevilWearsPrimark Wed 16-Apr-08 13:39:59

If he's fecked off we can discuss this between ourselves surely?
Lots of important points haven't been addressed.

VeniVidiVickiQV Wed 16-Apr-08 13:40:40

Yes, like the further 3 deaths at Northwick Park Maternity unit.

Tutter Wed 16-Apr-08 13:40:47

guys, he's gone

cmotdibbler Wed 16-Apr-08 13:43:30

Yup - I think that too. In the case of all the London hospitals I've been to (and thats a fair few), the bits they show to anyone bear no resemblence to some of the less 'popular' departments. St Thomas' (nice view of the Houses of Parliament across the river) is a very good case in point - the subterranean journey to some departments through corridors filled with stuff is incredible.

Quattrocento Wed 16-Apr-08 19:21:55

Gosh he's said an awful lot more than David Cameron. And all of it made sense. The Tory King of Smarm never answered anything - well he managed about three posts and all of them were evasive and shifty

I heart Alan Johnson too now

Quattrocento Wed 16-Apr-08 19:21:56

Gosh he's said an awful lot more than David Cameron. And all of it made sense. The Tory King of Smarm never answered anything - well he managed about three posts and all of them were evasive and shifty

I heart Alan Johnson too now

flossish Wed 16-Apr-08 19:38:58

vvv - better than 1.9% though - actually works out apparently at like 2.7 this year, 2.4 the following and 2.2 the third. Not great at the end, but hey, still better than 1.9%! grin

tatt Wed 16-Apr-08 20:15:01

nothing said about allergies, nothing on alternative medicine - pity I couldn't be here today to try and get an answer or to ask if he's had a dental emergency and tried to get treatment recently! I know someone who has and is still waiting to hear anything 10 days on. Meanwhile her gp is having to prescribe antibiotics for the infection.

So he gave better answers but they don't actually translate into action out here in the sticks......

Bramshott Wed 16-Apr-08 20:24:23

Ooh, ooh he answered my question (and FIRST at that!). Bit of a crappy answer but never mind, at least it means he actually read (or someone read out to him!) what I said and maybe he'll keep thinking about it!

JustineMumsnet (MNHQ) Wed 16-Apr-08 23:30:42

Hi all,
We've done an edited transcript of Alan Johnson's live chat here.

And you can see the report of it on the Labour party site hwew (though i have to say the pics don't do any of us justice shock).

VeniVidiVickiQV Thu 17-Apr-08 00:18:03

Excellent Justine. THe youtube clip was very positive.

Will he be back at all? There were one or two points I feel he didnt answer.

SquonkTheBeerGuru Thu 17-Apr-08 07:45:43

erm... Justine... those two links take me to the same place. Is that right?

I would like to see the edited version of his answers (I found it a bit hard reading without paragraphs yesterday blush) But both those links seem to take me to the labour party page.


flossish Thu 17-Apr-08 07:52:20
SquonkTheBeerGuru Thu 17-Apr-08 07:59:18

thank you flossish grin

Nbg Thu 17-Apr-08 10:14:16

who's dining room was that?

just being nosey

SilentTerror Thu 17-Apr-08 12:49:17

Didn't say anything about the threat of nursing jobs being lost though did he?
Nicely avoided that one.

Solitaire Thu 17-Apr-08 14:45:29

ST you don't actually think the minister gives a toss about nurses do you. He can always go to underdevloped countries and nick theirs if the ones hes got go off

FeverishFish Thu 17-Apr-08 14:46:16

i was ill, i TOLD him i was ill.
he was uselss.

no beside manner.

fishie Fri 18-Apr-08 11:18:28

sue seems to be a man in that youtube pic.

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