Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Column, January 15, 2008

I BLAME Casualty.
If you were sitting in your local A&E and hoping to get the attention of the staff there would you want to be cast as a stoic, but unimportant extra, or would you want to be the sort of attention-grabbing drama queen who has Charlie wandering round looking even more careworn than ever, if that’s possible?
Of course, if you were ever sitting in A&E and basing your behaviour on what you knew from a fictional TV drama then you would either be in need of the help of the psychiatry department, not A&E, or else you would be the proud possessor of a skinful of beer.
And that, I suspect, is the answer as to why staff in hospitals and GP surgeries in North Wales have had to put up with 792 attacks on staff, as revealed by the Daily Post. Skinfuls of alcohol, that is.
On the face of it, it would seem to make no sense. Poll any group of members of the public about their favourite, most respected professions and I’ll bet doctors and nurses come out top.
But clearly the public being polled are very different from those being admitted to A&E, or else they’re sober when polled and drunk when admitted.
However, it is an enduring mystery why people in need of medical treatment feel the need to threaten or attack those treating them. It is an extreme form of the boozed up punter who goes into and Indian restaurant and abuses the staff while ordering – good move that, racially abusing people who are just about to prepare your food.
Same deal in A&E, is it really your most sensible decision to threaten and abuse a nurse or doctor who is making decisions about your treatment. Not that I think a nurse or doctor in North Wales would base their decisions on anything other than clinical need – but, having been threatened they may well feel that the patient needs a little longer to sober up – a good long sit in the waiting room with only the Reader’s Digest for company ought to do it.
Part of the problem is the current obsession with ‘respect’. If you don’t get what you want, when you want it, if not earlier, then the person denying you is obviously ‘disrespecting’ you.
This philosophy seems to be based on the outlook of American rappers and sadly has made it’s inevitable way over here, where the viewers of daytime TV show with subtitles like “My mum’s lesbian lover ran off with my man” have adopted it as their philosophy in life.
Of course, acting like a decent human being is too much to ask if they are not being given their due quota of respect – usually pronounced ‘respeck’. And once ‘disrespecked’ this excuses any amount of vile behaviour from that point on.
Personally I think they should all be breathalysed before entering A&E and if they or their acolytes are even remotely over the limit they should be barred until whatever it is that ails them causes them to lose consciousness and thus they no longer pose a threat to anyone.
Of course, this will all change when the Government’s 24-hour licensing laws take full effect and the drinking barns that blight every town shut down in favour of the cafĂ© society we were promised when they pushed through this barmy law.
We all know that A&E is often a repository for self-injured drunks and that they very often become aggressive. We shouldn’t be too surprised then that the people working in those places have to put up with violence and intimidation on any given night.
But that doesn’t make it acceptable in any way though and while, having known a few trainee nurse, I don’t always buy the Angels tag appended to them, they are in a caring profession and deserve protecting from the generation of raging drunks our licensing laws are creating.

THERE are a couple of things you should know about Peter Hain.
Of course, you might think you know a lot about him what with the all the noise about campaign donations.
I must say that I’m mystified why anyone would want to spend so much money to get a non-job like deputy leader of the Labour party, but there you go.
No, what I wanted to remind you about Peter Hain was that back in 1972 the South African security police wanted him out of the way and so they sent him a letter bomb.
It didn’t go off, others had, and they had killed their targets.
Hain remained such a thorn in the side of the apartheid regime in South Africa that they tried to frame him for a robbery that took place in 1974.
So, while politicians today remain obsessed with public this latest funding scandal might yet cost him his job, remember this about Peter Hain, while the world was watching South Africa oppress its people he stood up and was counted, at great personal risk.
Those whose greatest political risk was losing a debate in the comfort of Oxbridge ought perhaps to think about that before calling for his head so readily.

IT’S no bad thing to have been the city that gave us The Beatles, that should do as achievements go.
But having been crowned European Capital of Culture 2008, Liverpool should do more than just remind us of that fact.
Yet the two events that seem to have dominated proceedings so far are a launch event featuring Ringo Starr and a concert later this year by Sir Paul McCartney.
There is, I’m sure, a lot more to it than that, there better be. But when Liverpool won the title, up in its rival city of Newcastle posters went up saying ‘Remember 1968’, implying, with a little sour grapes, that Liverpool’s bid was more about the past than the present.
The Beatles heritage is a rich one, but Liverpool has much more than that to offer and it would be a shame if all 2008 amounted to was a historical re-enactment.

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