SIR PETER BOTTOMLEY: Health, social and spiritual care

This week may appear to be dominated by rail talks, deliberate disruption added to unacceptable unreliability caused by equipment and infrastructure failures and by announcements on the principles and aims in the necessary cooperative talks on how to leave the European Union.

Thursday, 19th January 2017, 10:30 am
The Equitable Life scandal in numbers

At other times there has been a collection of meetings on particular aspects of health and social care.

For a time, I have chaired the Parliamentary all party group on ME, chronic fatigue syndrome or myalgic encephalopathy, an illness of uncertain cause that affects up to 250,000 people in Britain.

There are hearings in Parliament starting this week into how we can better understand ME.

I was introduced to the condition by a senior civil servant when I was serving as a minister in the Northern Ireland Office.

Then Clare Francis, the novelist and yachtswoman, asked me to help.

Her sailing achievements are in my mind as Alex Thompson in Hugo Boss chases hard to the finish of the thrilling Vendee Globe single handed race.

The last time my wife Virginia won a rowing race she had Clare steering.

Also, I am attending a Patients Association event. It monitors trends in patient satisfaction and runs a telephone helpline for patients seeking unbiased healthcare advice. See its website for more advice.

At the end of life, there is better dedicated help for those recognised as having a life limiting condition or illness.

Tomorrow I will be briefed by Coastal West Sussex’s dedicated care hub team. It provides an all hours contact point for patients, loving ones and carers, offering rapid response and their advice helpline.

I value visiting people receiving care. With Virginia, I went on Tuesday to see the remarkable Baroness Trumpington.

Jean Trumpington had claimed for years to have been a Land Girl during the war.

Until recent years, those who served with the Bletchley Park deciphering teams kept silent.

When it became possible to recognise the exceptional dedication and secrecy of their work, the recognition given included Jean receiving the French decoration, the Legion d’Honneur.

I was part of the proud audience when she was invested.

Years ago, the Royal British Legion asked if I would urgently, on behalf of the President of France, attend a Worthing care home to make a similar award to Albert Jacko.

It had been discovered that he has served in France during the Great War. The urgency was because he was hanging onto life until the award was made.

We gathered around his bed. He was magnificent in his great coat. I spoke appropriately. Later that day he died with a smile on his face.

When I told this story to a London reporter, he said he could see the headline: Local MP ends life of war hero.

Financial worries for pensioners should be reducing. Sadly that has not been so for all.

This week we have been considering the continuing losses for Equitable Life policyholders. Some are receiving a quarter of the income they have saved for.

Additionally, I spoke up for the pensioners denied inflation increases by HP after Hewlett Packard bought the computer firm for which they had worked.

My highlight was reading St Paul’s practical exhortations in Romans 12, 6-16, at the monthly parliament service before John Sentamu, Archbishop of York, addressed us.

I hope to return to his advice on society’s well-being. Perhaps he could resolve the rail problems?


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