Friday, 23 December 2016

Hospital Porters in the Media

I’ve been following the way the media portrays members of our ancient and noble profession and I have to confess to being enormously dismayed. Almost universally we are portrayed in one of two forms: nameless cameo roles who come and go in the background while the Richard Chamberlain’s and Kenneth Williams’ of this world bask in the limelight; or as inferior-feeling, insecure individuals who are frustrated with their lowly position on life.
 The media history of hospital porters began in 1964 with the American slapstick comedy film The Disorderly Orderly. It stars Jerry Lewis as a porter at a chronic care sanatorium, roving from one funny and embarrassing situation to the next. The film is very shallow and weak, a pale imitator of the British Carry On films but with none of the Carry On's style and wit. What’s more the Lewis’ character is only serving as an orderly because he couldn’t get into medical school. This is a recurring theme in media portrayals of hospital porters and I’ll come back to that.
The one departure from the two main stereotypes that I’ve come across is in the 1980 David Lynch film The Elephant Man. This is an adaptation of the true-life story of Joseph Merrick, a grossly disfigured man who lived in Victorian London. The original 1942 book written about him by Ashley Montagu is subtitled: A Study in Human Dignity, which is ironic considering how the film dealt with the subject of hospital porters. The film considerably deviates from historical facts to add energy to the plot. One of those deviations has Merrick kidnapped from the hospital where he is being treated by an unscrupulous freak-show owner; and the cruel man who helps to organize the abduction is one of the hospital’s porters, played by Michael Elphick. So the score so far for hospital porter portrayals is: Conformist Stereotype 1- Evil Greedy Bastard 1! Will things get any better?

They don’t. In fact they get far, far worse! The next stop on our journey is the popular and long-running BBC drama Casualty and its spin off show Holby City. The series is set in a contemporary British NHS hospital and nearly all the characters are doctors or nurses, or PAM’s like receptionists, managers and social workers. Only one major character has been a porter and this was Jimmy Powell who was in the series between 1989 and 1991, played by Robson Green. Unfortunately Jimmy’s main purpose in the story, from what I could see, was to walk round with his head bowed and his shoulders slumped in shame whining "I wish I was a nurse, I wish I was a nurse! I wish I wasn’t only a porter!"

This deeply insulting and patronizing characterization of hospital porters stoops to its nadir in the 1990 film Paper Mask. It’s a little-known film, and obscurity has never been so richly deserved! It stars Paul McGann as a hospital porter very much like Jimmy, with a devastating inferiority complex and deep regrets that he hasn’t gone "up the ladder" to do something "better" with his life. Seeing as he hasn’t got the bus-fare upstairs to study and become the doctor he dreams of being, he steals the identity of a doctor at his hospital who gets killed in a car crash. At the time of writing it is available free online: http://hpanwo-hpwa.blogspot.co.uk/2015/07/paper-mask-full-movie-online.html. I’m sad to say that there is only one, single fictional source I know of where hospital porters are portrayed in a positive light… and that’s my own novel Evan’s Land. See: http://hpanwo-bb.blogspot.co.uk/2016/03/evans-land-for-sale.html.

Wednesday, 14 December 2016

Nurse sacked for Praying

I have a few words of advice for anybody seeking a long, successful, secure and trouble-free career in the National Health Service: Do your job as badly as you possibly can. Make sure you are the laziest and most incompetent shit-bag in your department. Come on duty late every day, skive as much as you can, sneak off early before the end of your shift. Take at least one day off sick a week. If... when... you are promoted to senior management grades, be a total greedy, corrupt, stupid, gutless, destructive and irresponsible bastard. I can hundred percent guarantee the NHS will never sack you. On the contrary you'll go a long way; be contemptible enough and you'll be treated as a favourite. The NHS only sacks people for making videos in their spare time, see: http://hpanwo-hpwa.blogspot.co.uk/2013/01/one-year-on.html, or for being "too honest", see: http://hpanwo-hpwa.blogspot.co.uk/2016/08/nhs-whistblower-branded-too-honest.html. The latest news is another prime example. Sarah Kuteh is a fully-trained and highly experienced NHS nurse. She started nursing in London over fifteen years ago and ended up as a ward sister. Since 2012 she had been a sister in the intensive care unit at Darent Valley Hospital in Kent. She then received "complaints" from patients... apparently. Complaints in the NHS are anonymous and can be concocted by management; as in my case, see link above. What were these alleged complaints about Sister Kuteh? Was she slapping people around, groping male patients' bottoms or stealing money from their bedside locker?... No. She told patients she would pray for them and even gave one of them a bible... Yes it really is as bad as that!

Sister Kuteh is a devout Christian and regards this as extraneous to her job. However, like all front line NHS staff, patients liked to talk to her about their personal feelings. As far as I'm concerned that is an important part of the healing process. In fact one of her duties was to ask patients about their religious beliefs. This is normal practice for ITU patients, basically for the grim reason that in case they get a terminal prognosis they might request the last rites or something similar. This questionnaire often led to a discussion about religious faith and if the patient was interested in Sister Kuteh's beliefs sometimes she offered to pray for them. However management at the Dartford and Gravesham NHS Trust were "concerned" that her "unwanted discussions" were "upsetting the patients". No doubt the words "offensive", "unprofessional" and "inappropriate" came into the conversation at some point. She had received warnings previously that she had supposedly not heeded. As a result she was summarily suspended from duty and escorted from the hospital site, and was forbidden to talk to her colleagues, other than her union representative. She broke down in tears as she described this experience to a reporter. She was dismissed in August and had her appeal rejected. She was not allowed to bring any witnesses to the tribunal. The mother of three children is now suing the trust for unfair dismissal. I can't wish her success enough in her campaign for justice against the deplorable scumfucks who always float to the top in NHS administration. It sounds like a similar case to my own. I'm very concerned at the way Christians are treated in modern society, and this is me speaking as a non-Christian (I'm a lapsed Catholic). It would be regarded as socially unacceptable to treat a Muslim, Jew or Hindu in this way; indeed even atheists are now, quite correctly, asserting their human rights. See the background links below for more examples. Sister Sarah Kuteh is a thought-criminal and a prisoner of conscience. Her enemies are both the NHS and the political correctness agenda. I salute her as a civilian colleague who has been persecuted and expelled because "her relationship with the Trust had broken down" and wish her all the best for the future.

Monday, 12 September 2016

Hospital Porter Awarded

John Jackson is a porter at the Royal Blackburn Hospital and has just won the Kate Granger Award for Compassionate Care. The award was set up by Dr Kate Granger MBE when she was terminally ill with cancer; she sadly died in July after selecting the latest winner. She wanted to decorate healthcare staff who show especially kind and thoughtful conduct towards patients. I am overjoyed at this news. My extremely proud and dignified brother porter, John Jackson, has my most sincere congratulations. Source: http://www.elht.nhs.uk/news/Compassionate-Care-National-Accolade-for-Hospital-Porter-John.htm. Here's Dr Granger's blog: https://drkategranger.wordpress.com/.

Friday, 2 September 2016

New Junior Doctors' Strike

In the spring of 2016, NHS junior doctors went on strike for the first time ever in the Service's seventy year history. They did it to protest against new contracts which will cause a cut in their pay and increases to their workload. There was a lot of public support for them and they even wrote a song that went to the top of the hit parade, see: http://hpanwo-hpwa.blogspot.co.uk/2016/03/national-health-singers-yours.html. This has become the biggest act of industrial action ever in the NHS. Strikes in the NHS are a very serious matter. When the railways go on strike long distance commuters might miss a day's work. When health services go on strike people die. There's no doubt about that. This is the dilemma we face. However, the state of healthcare in Britain today is such a sorry one that I think it is now immoral not to strike. We need to do whatever it takes to change things. Far more people will die from our inaction than from any walkouts. I made this point over last year's JR porters' strike, see: http://hpanwo-hpwa.blogspot.co.uk/2015/08/jr-porters-strike-update-2.html. The first junior doctors' strike could begin as soon as the 12th of September. Coverage of the strike in the media has been predictably scathing. Here's a prime example: http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-3766081/Junior-doctors-plotting-five-day-strikes-Staff-want-stage-walkout-month-end-year.html. The word "plotting" is deeply pejorative and the article emphasizes the loss of service the strike will cause, therefore portraying the doctors as selfish and heartless.

Monday, 29 August 2016

YouTube comment I'm Pleased With

I don't often share my social media activity on the HPWA blog, but I'm going to on this occasion. I watched a YouTube video by an Irish user called Dave Cullen who goes by the handle "Computing Forever". The video is a critique of another YouTuber I like called "Sargon of Akkad"; and I've mentioned him before, see: http://hpanwo-voice.blogspot.co.uk/2016/07/royal-troon-admits-women.html. The nature of Sargon's and Dave's argument doesn't matter in this context; my concern comes at about twenty-three minutes into the film, for about fifteen minutes, where the subject of "janitors" comes up. "Janitor" is what the Irish call a cleaner. It's a similar situation to Richard Dawkins' pronouncements on an Indian street cleaner, see: http://hpanwo-hpwa.blogspot.co.uk/2015/10/an-open-letter-to-richard-dawkins.html. What Dave and Sargon say speaks for itself: https://youtu.be/h25OMMZ8qrA?t=23m. Below is a copy of my comment:

23:00 I don't agree with Sargon, but... On the subject of janitors, what we in England call "cleaners", earning more. You're right, they should not get paid as much as the software designers whose offices they clean, let alone the CEO. However (correct me if I misunderstood you) it's a mistake simply to shrug (like Atlas ;-)) your shoulders and pull the bottom out of their employment contract. They are still essential members of the company's team, in their own way. No software gets produced if the offices are dirty and the bins overflowing. Likewise if Wall Street is not swept clean, Manhattan would very quickly become buried under a mountain of its own waste. These jobs may be low-skilled, but they're not no-skilled. In departments of so-called "menial" jobs where the staff turnover is too high, the unwritten tricks of the trade become lost. I was a hospital porter for twenty-three years and I watched it happen. I saw the service degenerate over time and this resulted directly in loss of quality across the board to the point where over five thousand patients a year were dying in the British NHS from preventable infections. So you neglect the janitors etc at your cost. By all means keep their wages and conditions down to a reasonable level, but not too low. Keep their services professional and not casualized. Make those people feel appreciated and proud of their contribution to the business.

Wednesday, 24 August 2016

NHS Whistblower branded "Too Honest"

Maha Yassaie used to be a chief pharmacist in the NHS' Berkshire West primary care trust. She was dismissed after disciplinary procedures when she alerted senior management of her concerns; these included a colleague of hers who was being bribed by a pharmaceutical company to prescribe certain drugs and a doctor who attempted to commit suicide using controlled drugs from her pharmacy. Mrs Yassaie was then labelled a "bully" by management. She was cleared of the allegations, but was still sacked in the end on the grounds that "her relationship with the trust had broken down"... how conveniently vague. She believes this was their attempt to cover up the misconduct that she had alerted them to. The independent investigator appointed told the former pharmacist that "...if I had your values I would find it very difficult to work in the NHS." Source: http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/2016/04/03/nhs-whistle-blower-told-she-was-too-honest-to-work-for-the-healt/?utm_source=dlvr.it. There are some parallels between Mrs Yassaie's experience and my own dismissal in 2012. I was also accused of bullying. In my case the allegation was particularly heinous because my alleged victim was "disabled"; meaning that he suffers from a comparatively minor learning difficulty and is registered under the Protection of Vulnerable Adults law. I also suspected even back then that honesty is not the best policy if you want a long and fruitful career in British public healthcare. During the last St Theo's Day party, see: http://hpanwo-hpwa.blogspot.co.uk/2016/06/happy-st-theos-day-2016.html, I found out that a particular man I served with up to the time of my discharge is still there. This man is notoriously bad at his job. He is lazy, untrustworthy, incompetent and unreliable; yet he is tolerated when I wasn't. He is still there when I am not. Management simply will not sack him, or even reprimand him. I've christened porters like these "untouchables". This man understands his status very well and arrogantly laughs in the face of anybody who criticizes him, every time he sneaks away for another three-hour cigarette break, or disappears off duty early, only to be late the next day or off sick for no reason. A lot of porters will back me up on this; the better you are at your job, the more you get picked on by the boss. It's very frustrating. It's as if the NHS doesn't want decent servicemen. They actively favour dullards and delinquents who they know will run the system into the ground. When I posted this story on social media the other day, lots of people commented to say that they also had been victimized for being honourable and hard-working. As each day passes I regret the ending of my NHS portering career less and less. Maybe this is why.

Wednesday, 1 June 2016

Happy St Theo’s Day 2016

On behalf of every serving hospital porter, every former hospital porter, and everybody else who loves, appreciates and supports us, with all the Pride and Dignity of my Extremely Proud and Dignified Brother and Sister Porters, I'd like to wish all my friends and readers, a very happy St Theo's Day. For the first time I have covered my pre-St Theo’s Day procedure on HPANWO TV: http://hpanwo-tv.blogspot.co.uk/2016/05/st-theos-day-2016.html

Friday, 20 May 2016

St Theo's Day 2016 Fliers

The fliers for this year's St Theo's Day are finished. Pretty soon I shall print and distribute them. This year, as with last year, I have produced two different fliers, one for the Oxfordshire hospitals on my doorstep; and another to be distributed to other institutions around the country. I will send the second national flier by post, addressed to the Porters in those institutions.

Sunday, 8 May 2016

Wittgenstein's Poker

On the evening of the 25th of October 1946 that great hospital porter... and occasional part-time philosopher... Ludwig Wittgenstein was at a philosopher’s meeting, the Cambridge University Moral Sciences Club, with one of his contemporaries, Sir Karl Popper having a debate, the details of which are described in the book linked below. I didn’t realize this, but philosophers’ debates can sometimes become very vitriolic, and in this case the hot-headed hospital porter became so enraged that he walked over to the room’s hearth, picked up a poker, and moved to attack his civilian colleague with it. What happened next is a bit vague, but one version of events relates that another philosopher, maybe the famous Bertrand Russell who was also in the room, managed to hold Wittgenstein back and pacify him. Wittgenstein then stormed out of the room. If something like that got his goat, then I wonder how he maintained his poise with the fickle and arrogant pharmacists at Guys Hospital The story was related in a bestselling book in 2001: http://www.amazon.co.uk/Wittgensteins-Poker-David-Edmonds/dp/057120547X.

This story has an interesting conclusion. During the intervening seventy years the room where the meeting took place has been refurbished and the poker was removed and lost, as often happens renovations, but amazingly it has recently resurfaced and Alan McFarlane has put a label on it; I imagine he’ll mount it on the wall in pride of place or put it in a museum or something. See: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vBmt2sCdd5E. This story inspired me to name my Mind Set radio show The Poker, see: http://hpanwo-radio.blogspot.co.uk/2015/11/the-poker-programme-10.html.

Sunday, 13 March 2016

National Health Singers- YOURS!

One of the biggest industrial actions ever undertaken in the NHS is underway now. The junior doctors' decision to strike was not taken lightly. They know that it will cost lives. The government also know this and this is why they have always taken advantage of NHS employees through moral blackmail. The doctors' courageous resistance to the usual trickery has gained a lot of public support. As a result they have produced a song called YOURS that has had over a hundred thousand views merely on its official YouTube channel, see: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MFl5yB6_9OI. I played the song on Programme 178 of the HPANWO Show on HPANWO Radio, see: http://hpanwo-radio.blogspot.co.uk/2016/03/programme-178-podcast-gary-heseltine.html.