A former deputy governor at the Maze has hit back at claims by an ex-IRA prisoner of assaults by jail staff, branding them “dishonest”.
Tom Murtagh was reacting to allegations made by republican bomber Robert McClenaghan.
Controversy has cast doubts over integrity of the forum
In a documentary When The War Ends, McClenaghan, a member of the Victims and Survivors Forum for more than a year, told of being “immensely proud” of joining the IRA and revealed that it was his “daily job” to plant bombs across Belfast.
Police have said they will examine the claims made by the convicted Provo in the 2011 documentary, which is available to watch on YouTube.
McClenaghan’s (pictured above) claims came to light after Jackie Nicholl, whose 17-month-old son died in a no-warning IRA bomb attack on the Shankill Road in 1971, resigned from the same body for victims of the Troubles after learning of his past.
McClenaghan’s grandfather Philip Garry was killed in the UVF McGurk’s bar atrocity in north Belfast in December 1971.
In the YouTube film he also alleged IRA prisoners were beaten by warders during his time in the Maze.
He said: “I could hear men screaming. You heard punches and slaps.
“If they had kept beating us for that intensity… I don’t know how long you could have lasted.
“It used to terrify you when they walked towards you in uniform.”
But his claims have been rejected by Mr Murtagh, who recently published The Maze Prison: A Hidden Story Of Chaos, Anarchy and Politics, his autobiographical account of his life as a deputy prison governor and administrator.
Speaking to the Belfast Telegraph, Mr Murtagh expressed his shock at the “dishonest portrayal” of the situation at the Maze, particularly that IRA prisoners were beaten and brutalised by staff.
“Whilst I sympathise with Robert and his family for their tragic loss, I was truly shocked by his dishonest portrayal of various events and situations,” he said.
“He (McClenaghan) presented an emotional and completely dishonest account of the situation in the Maze Prison and seemed to attempt to present the IRA and republicans as the main victims of the Troubles.
“His comments could only be interpreted by any fair-minded person as an attempt to rewrite history, especially that of the Maze Prison.”
In the documentary, McClenaghan also gave graphic details of what he described as “the mirror search”, accusing warders of carrying out intimate searches inside the mouths of prisoners wearing gloves covered in excrement.
But Mr Murtagh also rejected this account, branding it “misleading”.
Meanwhile, calls are growing for a change in how people are appointed to the Victims and Survivors Forum.
Members are appointed based on them meeting the legislative definition of a victim, but are not asked for a criminal record declaration as it is not part of the criteria for the role.
Kenny Donaldson, director of the South East Fermanagh Foundation (SEFF) victims’ group, said: “There are a lack of checks and balances around people trying to be appointed.
“These people don’t have to go through any form of AccessNI check.”
With many thanks to the: Belfast Telegraph for the origional story.
Jeremy Corbyn has for decades been a resolute opponent of the Zionist project in Palestine-Israel, and a steadfast supporter of the rights of the Palestinian people. There are many in the Labour party who support Corbyn in this view.
Corbyn’s Labour has a clear lead in the opinion polls, and the arrival of a Corbyn-led Labour government after the next election would probably herald a sea-change in the UK’s relationship with Palestine-Israel.
This prospect has sent a shiver or two down the spines of Israel’s Zionist supporters in the UK.
The most recent controversy with regard to this issue stems from Corbyn’s opposition, via a Facebook post, to the removal in 2012 of an antisemitic mural in the East End of London, on the grounds that this was censorship of an artist. Corbyn has since apologized for not taking into consideration the content of the mural, and said he would have supported its removal given what he found out subsequently.
In April 2016, it was revealed that the Labour MP Naz Shah had called for Israel to be “relocated” to the US and posted a message saying “the Jews are rallying”. Shah apologized, saying her comments had been “ignorant” and “antisemitic”, and was suspended by Labour, though the suspension was subsequently lifted.
Also irking these critics of Corbyn has been his refusal to support the expulsion from the Labour party of his longtime ally “Red Ken” Livingstone, the former mayor of London, for the latter’s highly garbled interpretation of the 1933 Haavara (transfer) Agreement between Germany and German Zionists, to facilitate the emigration of German Jews to British Mandate Palestine in return for the purchase of German goods for the Jewish settlement in that territory.
Livingstone’s absurd claim that “Hitler was a Zionist supporter”, though appealing to a kernel of truth he then twisted, overlooked two issues: (1) the dire situation facing German Jews at that time; and (2) that the Haavara agreement, which was designed to foster the migration of German Jews in line with Nazi policy, made no reference to the creation of a Jewish state in Palestine, a vital precept of Zionism. Hitler was a proponent of ethnic cleaning, and the creation of a Jewish state in Palestine, which only occurred in 1948, was certainly not something he had in mind in 1933, or indeed any time before or after.
Livingstone, an ardent supporter of the Palestinian people, continues to be suspended from the Labour party for making his claim, but has so far not been expelled.
The party leadership is deeply divided over Livingstone.
Expelling “Red Ken” would probably seem to some like a good idea, except that there are others high-up in Blighty’s establishment who have displayed a manifest fondness for things Nazi, without facing any real consequences.
The soon-to-be wed Prince Harry was photographed some years ago at a fancy-dress party in an SS uniform (for which he apologized afterwards). He was allowed to go his merry way, though hovering uneasily behind images of the SS-uniformed Harry is archival film of his grandmother, the current queen, being taught as a young girl to give a Nazi salute by her mother, who is on historical record as wanting a policy of appeasement towards the Führer, until Hitler decided it was time Blighty was bombed to smithereens.
In 2011 the Oxford-educated Tory MP Aidan Burley organized a Nazi-themed stag party for a friend at a French ski resort. The Guardian reports this event thus:
Burley was filmed raising his glass in a toast before… another guest beside him made a speech, in which he [the other guest] said: “Let’s raise a toast to Tom for organising the stag do, and if we’re perfectly honest, to the ideology and thought process of the Third Reich.”
The party was said to have moved on to a British-themed pub, where partygoers adopted thick German accents and chanted: “Mein Fuhrer! Mein Fuhrer! Mein Fuhrer!”, “Himmler! Himmler! Himmler!” and “Eichmann! Eichmann! Eichmann!”.
Burley duly apologized, and a report commissioned by his party concluded that while he had acted in a “stupid and offensive way, Mr Burley is not a bad man, still less a racist or anti-Semite”. Burley lost his post as a ministerial aide as a result, but was not disciplined in any other way. He is a member of the Conservative Friends of Israel, and criticism of his “senseless prank”, “high jinks”, and “tasteless antics” from UK Jewish organizations was relatively mild and formulaic when compared to what Corbyn has had to endure.
People such as Burley and his chums in all likelihood typify a rightwing phenomenon known on both sides of the Atlantic, namely, the seemingly incongruous convergence between pro-Zionism and antisemitism. History shows the two are however not mutually exclusive.
A well-known current example of this convergence is Steve Bannon, who during his tenure as the editor at Breitbart News published several articles making derogatory and antisemitic comments about Jews, including one which referred to Bill Kristol as a “renegade Jew”, another which said with regard to the Washington Post columnist Anne Applebaum and “cosmopolitan elitists” like her and George Soros, that “hell hath no fury like a Polish, Jewish, American elitist scorned”. Applebaum, who is married to a former Polish foreign minister, is accused of having the “dream of being Poland’s first Jewish-American first lady”.
People who are disposed to wanting Jews to be in “one place, over there” (such as the American Christian right), can be virulently pro-Zionist, while using their Zionism as a way to shield themselves from their displays of antisemitism. Breitbart uses the same ploy to defend Bannon from the charge of antisemitism.
The irony here is that Red Ken would not in his wildest dreams deck himself out in a Nazi uniform, nor attend a party where a toast was drunk “to the ideology and thought process of the Third Reich”.
Likewise, there has not been a Labour leader with Corbyn’s consistent 40-year record of antiracist struggle.
The UK Board of Jewish Deputies and Jewish Leadership Council organized a protest against antisemitism in Labour outside parliament last week, and claimed Corbyn “personifies” the “problems and dangers” of “left-wing antisemitism”.
Corbyn has since acknowledged that “there are pockets of antisemitism” in the Labour party.
And indeed there is antisemitism on the left—undeniably, there are some leftists still wedded to the pernicious trope of “the Jews controlling the capitalist system”, sometimes accompanied by absurd conspiracy theories about what Rothschild bankers “get up to in secret”, and so forth.
There is no room for abhorrent sentiments of this kind on the left, as Corbyn himself has said.
But how are vile assertions about “the Jews controlling the capitalist system”, or Ken Livingstone’s perverse and uninformed assessment of Nazi history, really different from today’s routine alt-right pronouncements about the malign influence and power of “liberal cosmopolitan Jews” (this of course being an absolute staple of Nazi propaganda)?
So Bannon, whose Breitbart News peddles guff about “liberal cosmopolitan Jews”, gets invited into the White House’s Oval Office to be the Orange Swindler’s senior adviser until he was ousted in a power struggle with “Jarvanka”, while Red Ken is suspended from the Labour Party.
Oh wait, the alt-right in both the US and UK are pro-Zionist, despite oftentimes being visibly antisemitic.
There is nothing more palpably antisemitic than espousing the purportedly pro-Zionist “theology” of the American evangelical right, which enjoins that Israel has to exist in order for the apocalypse or Day of Judgment to occur, at which time G_d will decree that Jews have to convert to Christianity or be consigned to eternal damnation.
Israel condones American evangelical antisemitism because the latter’s pro-Zionism helps ensure that US politicians, afraid of the powerful evangelical voting bloc, approve virtually unlimited military aid for Israel.
The UK is not similarly beholden to a significant voting bloc with this crackpot pro-Zionist antisemitic theology, but Zionism still exerts its pressures on British politics.
The elephant in the room in all of this farrago is Corbyn’s and Livingstone’s enduring support for the liberation of the Palestinian people, and of course the fact that “liberal cosmopolitan Jews” tend to be amongst the strongest critics of Israel’s extensively criminal treatment of the Palestinians.
The Zionist strategy here has been evident for a long time: when dealing with anti-Zionists such as Corbyn, do everything to blur the line between anti-Zionism (which has become increasingly acceptable in the mainstream as a result of Zionist Israel’s systematically brutal treatment of the Palestinians), and antisemitism (which, given what Jews have had to suffer in their long history, is categorically unacceptable).
The rote and reflex conflation of anti-Zionism with antisemitism will probably make it harder for actual antisemitism to be responded to with the seriousness it always merits.
Many are maligned routinely as antisemites because they oppose Israel’s repellent treatment of the Palestinians– if time after time, principled pro-Palestinians such as Nelson Mandela and Desmond Tutu, let alone Corbyn, are deemed antisemitic by virtue of their insistence on Palestinian legal rights vis-à-vis Israel, then there will be more than a few, some of whom may in truth alas be antisemites, who will be inclined to laugh-off this imputation of antisemitism.
Nelson Mandela an “antisemite”? Give me a break, as the Americans say! Most of the legal team which helped Mandela avoid the death penalty at his treason trial were Jews. In fact, Mandela made Arthur Chaskalson, a Jewish member of his legal team at this trial, the first Chief Justice of post-apartheid South Africa. When the ANC decided to engage in armed resistance, the head of its military wing and its chief of military intelligence were both Jews– Joe Slovo (born Yossel Mashel Slovo) and Ronnie Kasrils respectively.
Mandela showed it is absolutely possible to be a lifelong comrades-in-arms with Jews and not be a “friend” of Zionist Israel.
Mandela thus had many closer personal associations with Jews than many of the phony philosemites who populate the American Christian right, who would be absolutely appalled at the prospect of (say) a secular Jew becoming the US Chief Justice.
Can one somehow anticipate here the response of Trump’s for-now Attorney-General, Jeff Beauregard (“Beauracist”) Sessions, at such a dreadful possibility?
Corbyn in recent weeks has had to endure the media-driven charge that he was a Czech spy. Corbyn sued the Tory MP who propagated this accusation, the latter settled out of court, and paid undisclosed damages to a charity of Corbyn’s choice.
Corbyn then had to face rightwing tabloid accusations that he was a “Putin stooge” when a Russian double agent, exiled in the UK, and his daughter visiting from Russia, succumbed in a quiet English town to almost lethal doses of a toxic nerve agent. Putin was blamed, immediately, by the poll-faltering Tories for the attack.
Corbyn, mindful of how his then party leader Blair had joined Dubya Bush in faking so-called military intelligence justifying the overthrow of Saddam Hussain, called for detailed and conclusive evidence before responsibility for this attack was placed on Putin.
Corbyn had been an opponent of the Iraq war, unlike the feckless Blairites in his own party and the Tory parliamentary chorus which, without exception, also sang to Blair’s twisted and bellicose tune.
Corbyn’s caution regarding the ascription of blame for the nerve-agent attack could perhaps be justified by taking a look at recent history, not just the fakery used to justify the Iraq war, but also the precipitate and disorderly collapse of the Soviet Union, which left its biological and chemical warfare facilities unguarded and available for plunder by a range of state- and non-state agents until a semblance of order was restored.
The “Corbyn is a figurehead for antisemitism” campaign is the latest in such recurring attempts to discredit the most radical party leader in Labour’s history.
There are likely to be many more such attempts to tarnish Corbyn and his supporters made by the UK’s rightwing tabloids, joined by the Blairite vipers in the Labour party (some of whom joined last week’s protest against antisemitism in their party, having been notably silent when the Tories ran a viciously Islamophobic election campaign against the Muslim Sadiq Khan, who was Labour’s candidate for London mayor (Khan won)—as well as the more genteel but equally cobra-like hacks in the supposedly “liberal” Guardian newspaper who support these Blairites tooth and nail.
The thirst of the Zionists, and their convenient abettors in Blairite Labour and the latter’s supporters in the UK media, in wanting Corbyn’s “apologies” in order to undermine him and his allies, is unslakable.
As exemplified by the cases of Prince Harry and the Tory MP, a swift apology, however insincere, can work wonders with those predisposed to permit wearers of Nazi uniforms off the hook.
Corbyn though is not in the position of the elite’s insouciant antisemites.
Such perfunctory apologies– along the lines of Prince Harry’s blithe “OK, I got caught, let’s do damage control” — will be rejected when tendered by staunch anti-Zionists.
As Corbyn is discovering, every apology or promise of an inquiry he makes now is disdained as “insufficient”, “too weak”, and “too late”.
The strategy of Corbyn and his supporters has therefore to be simple: be unyielding in battling the antisemitism in some sections of the left, and be equally intransigent in challenging those who have a deeply vested interest in conflating anti-Zionism with antisemitism.
For Zionists and their allies, the pro-Palestinian Corbyn and his supporters will always be irremediable “antisemites”. Zionists allow us no alternative to this travesty.
Meanwhile, one suspects that Corbyn and his team, like the Zionists wanting to undermine him, know that politics is war conducted by other means.
With many thanks to: Kenneth Surin for CounterPunch.
Sinn Féin’s northern leader has said an agreement with the government to release money for Troubles-related inquests still stands.
Michelle O’Neill said the funding would be forthcoming despite the collapse of power-sharing talks earlier this month.
Ms O’Neill was speaking at a march for survivors and relatives of those killed by loyalists and the security forces.
Meanwhile, the victims’ commissioner said a political deal was desirable but not necessary for progress on legacy.
Since the latest round of talks collapsed, the two main parties – Sinn Féin and the Democratic Unionist Party (DUP) – have blamed each other for the breakdown, saying there was disagreement over legislation for the Irish language.
While not in the so-called draft agreement, Sinn Féin said they had a separate “commitment” from the government to put inquest funding and other measures to deal with the past out to public consultation.
The legacy inquests include some of the most controversial killings of the Troubles, and Northern Ireland’s most senior judge previously asked for money to deal with the backlog of outstanding cases.
The DUP has said it was not aware of the deal between Sinn Féin and the government in the absence of an overall agreement.
The government has said that all its discussions were in the context of how it would respond to an overall deal.
On Sunday, Ms O’Neill said: “I am crystal clear that we have an agreement with the British government that they would release both the legacy inquest funding and a consultation on the legacy mechanisms.
“That position still stands – I met with Theresa May last week and I put that to her that they need to not play fast and loose with victims.”
Ms O’Neill was among several thousand people to turn out for a rally in Belfast city centre on Sunday.
Victims’ campaigner Raymond McCord, who was at the rally, said the event was a step in the right direction but legacy issues should not be politicised.
“I want to see an even bigger event. I want to see Royal Avenue flooded with victims and the general public,” he said.
“And victims from unionist and nationalist communities standing with each other.
“Sinn Féin is heavily involved here and I want to see an event with no political parties whatsoever for all victims.”
Victims’ Commissioner Judith Thompson said the parties were “not a million miles apart” on how to deal with the past but any consultation must not be marred by political fighting.
“There are people marching in Belfast for truth,” she said.
“People who have waited four decades for inquests and investigations, and the same people exist in every constituency.
“It’s really important we deal with this stuff and an argument between our parties about a political context, which is clearly very difficult right now, must not get in the way of things they are broadly in agreement with.”
With many thanks to: BBCNI for the origional story
An amnesty for soldiers will not be accepted by the families of those who died in the Ballymurphy Massacre, a Bloody Sunday commemoration has heard.
A special Mass dedicated to the memory of the 14 people who died after Paratroopers opened fire on civilians in Derry’s Bogside on January 31, 1972, was celebrated at St Mary’s Church, Creggan, on Friday.
Wreaths were laid at the Bloody Sunday Memorial in Rossville Street following a prayer service attended by the relatives of those killed.
Several hundred people took part in a March for Justice organised by the Bloody Sunday March Committee.
This culminated at Free Derry Corner where Eileen McKeown whose father, Joseph Corr, was shot dead by paratroopers in the Ballymurphy massacre in August 1971, addressed the crowd.
She said that after 46 years the Ballymurphy families were now preparing for the inquests in September into the deaths of 10 of those killed in Ballymurphy, and warned they would reject any proposal to introduce an amnesty for soldiers.
Ms McKeown said: “In September, at last, the inquests into the deaths of 10 of our loved ones get under way.
“This is another significant achievement that took a long time to come but finally, direct result of many years of hard work from families, we will have our day in court.
“It will provide us with a legal process to uncover the facts about how our loved ones died.
“The attempts by the British Government to introduce an amnesty for British soldiers is totally unacceptable to the Ballymurphy families.
“This Thursday a delegation of Ballymurphy families went to Westminster to make our views known about this and we told the Chairperson of the Defence Select Committee, Julian Lewis, that an amnesty in any guise will never be acceptable to the families of the Ballymurphy Massacre.
“This is yet another attempt by the British state to stand in the way of truth and justice. And for what? To win a few votes.”
A recent defence committee report favoured a controversial statue of limitations for members of the Armed Forces, coupled with a truth-recovery process to help families bereaved during the Troubles.
However, the report, published last month, stopped short of recommending the proposal for all sides during the Troubles as it “would be for the next government to decide”.
The concept of an amnesty has gained traction among a number of Westminster backbenchers, who claim recent prosecutions of former British soldiers were tantamount to a “witch-hunt”. However, prosecutors and police in Northern Ireland insist such allegations simply do not stand up to scrutiny, with a breakdown of figures showing no disproportionate focus on ex-security force members.
Meanwhile, the Museum of Free Derry this week hosts a poignant exhibition of shoes, called In Their Footsteps. John Kelly, whose brother Michael was among those who lost their lives 46 years ago during the Bloody Sunday Civil Rights march, said: “These shoes were gathered during the island-wide In Their Footsteps campaign for truth, with over 200 pairs donated by families bereaved in the conflict and exhibited in Dublin, London and Belfast. This year we relaunch In Their Footsteps with a call for families to contribute to this ever-growing display, highlighting the lack of progress in historic cases.”
With many thanks to the: Belfast Telegraph for the origional story
NAMES of what are believed to be prison officers have been painted on a wall in Derry.
It has been claimed the names along with a sniper’s crosshairs appeared close to Creggan shops earlier this week.
The words “We only have to be lucky once” and the letters ‘IRA’ were also painted on a nearby wall in the republican area, while the words ‘Maghaberry human rights abusers’ were also daubed on another wall.
Sources claim the names of the same group of prison officers were put on walls in the Creggan area last month but were later removed.
When the Irish News visited the area last night it appeared that graffiti had been freshly painted over.
PSNI Chief Inspector Alan Hutton said: “Police in Derry/Londonderry are aware of graffiti that appeared in the Creggan area of the city yesterday, Tuesday 9th January, including on a wall close to shops in the Central Drive area of Creggan and on a wall in Ramore Gardens in Ballymagowan.
“Enquiries are ongoing.
“Police were present this morning, at the request of the Department of Justice, when a private contractor was brought in to remove the graffiti.”
It is believed the prison officers identified are based at the high-security Maghaberry jail.
Tensions between staff and republican inmates at the Co Antrim prison have been high in recent years.
Two prison officers have also been killed by the organisation known as the ‘IRA’, which is sometimes referred to as the New IRA.
Prison Officers Association chairman Ivor Dunne last night condemned the graffiti.
He said the previous graffiti identifying prison officers was “extremely distressing” for those named.
“It is very serious whenever staff have been singled out,” he said.
“Staff are carrying out their job with impartiality and with dignity.”
Mr Dunne also said such incidents have “ramifications on people’s families and home life” and he wanted to reiterate “how despicable an action this is, for young staff to put on the uniform and are underpaid for the job they do and people seem to forget that”.
In November 2012 David Black was shot dead as he made his way to work at Maghaberry Prison along the M1 motorway.
Adrian Ismay, who worked as a tutor in the Prison Service College, also died 11 days after a bomb exploded under his van in east Belfast in March 2016.
During the Troubles prison staff were also regularly targeted, with the vast majority of attacks being carried out by republicans.
Meanwhile, sectarian graffiti scrawled on a factory wall in west Belfast has been removed.
The slogan ‘FG’s loyalist not welcome’ appeared on the wall of the Caterpillar plant, a former FG Wilson base, close to the Springfield Road on Monday.
Trade unions and politicians had condemned the incident.
With many thanks to: The Irish News for the origional story
Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt has apologised to patients in England affected by a decision to postpone tens of thousands of operations in January.
Non-urgent treatments had already been cancelled until mid-January, but NHS England said on Tuesday that would now be extended to the end of the month.
It came after hospitals reported they were struggling to cope with the surge in patients being seen since Christmas.
Mr Hunt said it was “absolutely not what I want”.
But he said the move was needed given the pressure hospitals were under.
“This is the busiest week of the year for the NHS.”
And he also said the whole country was grateful for the work NHS staff were putting in working “incredibly long hours through the night, beyond the call of duty in every possible way”.
His thanks were echoed by Prime Minister Theresa May, who also denied the NHS was in crisis.
“The NHS has been better prepared for this winter than ever before,” she added.
Winter pressure health campaign launched
NHS to cancel ops to cope with winter
Reports have emerged of patients facing long waits for treatment and being stuck on trolleys in corridors, while ambulances are left queuing outside A&E.
It has prompted a number of hospital trusts to declare major incidents – sometimes known as black alerts – which can lead them to divert ambulances elsewhere and call in extra staff.
Meanwhile, some ambulance services have started asking 999 callers with less serious problems to make their own way to hospital so they can prioritise the most life-threatening calls.
NHS England’s Prof Keith Willett admitted the pressures were severe – the worst he had seen since the 1990s – but said plans were in place.
As well as the cancelling of non-urgent treatments, such as knee and hip replacements, hospitals have been given the green light to put patients on mixed sex wards and to bring GPs into A&E to help deal with patients.
“A crisis is when you haven’t got in place mitigations and you haven’t got a plan to deal with it,” Prof Willett said.
“We’ve gone into this winter in a way we’ve never prepared before.”
Media captionNHS chief tells Today service is not in crisis but says they may need to cancel more operations in future
Doctor warns of ‘huge tragedy’
But Prof Suzanne Mason, of the Royal College of Emergency Medicine, said the measures were “too little too late” as hospitals simply had no beds free and these treatments would have had to be cancelled anyway.
She added: “Patient safety is being compromised – there’s no doubt about that. When patients are in crowded emergency departments and staff cannot actually move between patients and provide the basic level of care that’s required, then safety is compromised.
“Patients who spend many hours on a trolley – and these are often elderly patients – they are the sickest patients in our department.
“They are much more likely to have a poorer outcome and even die as a result of their experience in the emergency department. And that is a huge tragedy for us in our specialty and that’s why we are so desperate to see things improve.”
Dr Adrian Harrop: “I feel like I’m fighting a losing battle”
Reports have emerged of serious problems in a number of places:
Nottingham’s Queen’s Medical Centre is asking patients to avoid its emergency department as it is on black alert, after seeing 140 patients at its peak on Tuesday evening
Southend Hospital said it was dealing with an “internal critical incident”, which has led them to call in extra staff
A consultant at University Hospitals of North Midlands NHS Trust apologised for “third world conditions” in his hospital department
Milton Keynes University Hospital is telling people only to attend for emergency treatment
Two ambulance trusts in the east and north-east of England have said they are on the highest alert and are asking some of the least serious cases to make their own way to hospital
Doctors and nurses have also speaking about their own experiences.
Dr Adrian Harrop, an A&E doctor at Scarborough Hospital, said he felt he was “fighting a losing battle” as he was not able to do his job properly and care for his patients in the way he wanted.
Mark Nevison, a senior nurse in the north-east, said he had worked in A&E for 10 years and had “never been so ashamed of the sub-standard care” now being offered.
Why has this happened now?
The first week of the year is always difficult.
The lack of availability of community services, such as GPs, over the festive period means hospitals tend to see a surge in really sick patients at the turn of the year.
Respiratory illnesses also tend to spike after families have been mixing over Christmas bringing frailer older relatives in contact with young family members, increasing the risk of infections being passed on.
But it is also true to say that this is part of a pattern.
Last January was the worst in a generation and that followed the previous worst the year before.
Commentators have blamed this trend on the squeeze on NHS finances – the health service is in the middle of its toughest cash settlement since it was created.
Since 2010 annual rises have been limited to about 1% on average each year, compared to more than 4% it received previously.
Labour shadow health secretary Jonathan Ashworth believes this record is squarely to blame for the situation in which the NHS finds itself.
“Tory underfunding and cuts have left our health service more vulnerable than ever before.”
How bad is the situation? It is very hard to tell. The performance stats – covering waits in A&E, the number of ambulances queuing outside A&E and the amount of operations that have been cancelled – will not be known for a few weeks.
In the lead-up to Christmas, all the indications were that the NHS was in as bad a position as it was the previous winter.
Twice as many patients as there should have been were waiting for more than four hours in A&E, while bed occupancy rates were well above safe levels.
But last winter the really bad spell only lasted a couple of weeks before the pressure eased.
Therefore, it will only be later in January that it will be known whether the NHS is facing a sustained problem.
What should patients do?
The public are being urged to play their part by using the health service responsibly.
NHS England said calling 111 was often a quicker and more convenient way of obtaining clinical assessment and advice in non-emergencies and allowed staff in A&E to focus on the sickest patients.
The Royal College of GPs has also set out three basic steps that all patients should consider before seeking an appointment with their GP for an acute illness including self-care, using online guidance from NHS Choices and consulting with a pharmacist.
With many thanks to: BBC England for the origional story.
The report says 120,000 children are homeless and living in temporary accommodation
Homelessness in England is a “national crisis” and the government’s attitude to tackling it is “unacceptably complacent”, a committee of MPs say.
A Public Accounts Committee report found there were more than 9,000 rough sleepers and some 78,000 families living in temporary accommodation.
The cross-party research said there was a shortage of housing options for homeless people and those at risk.
The government says it is investing more than £1 billion on the problem.
The definition of homelessness under law includes rough sleepers, single people in hostels and those in temporary accommodation.
Since 2011, the number of people sleeping on the streets has increased by 134 per cent, the report says.
Meanwhile, those living in temporary accommodation has risen by about two-thirds in the last seven years.
Some 120,000 children are among those without permanent housing, the report says.
‘I asked to go to jail, rather than stay homeless’
Ten-year goal to end youth homelessness
Labour MP Meg Hillier, who chairs the committee, says the government’s approach to tackling the problem of homelessness has been an “abject failure”.
“The government must do more to understand and measure the real world costs and causes of homelessness and put in place the joined-up strategy that is so desperately needed.
“That means properly addressing the shortage of realistic housing options for those at risk of homelessness or already in temporary accommodation.
“More fundamentally, it means getting a grip on the market’s failure to provide genuinely affordable homes, both to rent and to buy.”
Ms Hillier suggests action such as providing financial support to local authorities with acute shortages of suitable housing.
With many thanks to: BBC England for the origional story.