Archive for February, 2011

Pregnancy, Group B Streptococcus and Bonkers NHS Policies

February 10, 2011 1 comment

Unfortunately the wife has it. It means that all plans for a water birth and a home birth have gone out the window. Monique, who dislikes both hospitals and needles, will have to be fed antibiotics intravenously through the labour. Bad though this all, the more we think about it the more grateful we are that it was discovered at all. We had gone to see a GP about an unrelated matter. The locum doctor, an older chap who seemed much more interested in treating patients rather than rushing them out the door, decided that Monique should have a precautionary swab taken. On reflection we think this doctor just used the other matter as a pretext to conduct a de facto screening for GBS. Which isn’t NHS policy.

In fact, the more  I read about it the more puzzled I’m becoming about the NHS policy regarding this disease. Here is what I’ve found about GBS;

Group B streptococcus is found naturally in the vagina of about 20-30% of pregnant women. It usually has no symptoms and no harmful effects to the carrier. However, a baby born to a woman with untreated GBS has a 1 in 300 chance of contracting a number of diseases through it. These included blood poisoning, pneumonia and meningitis. Of course these can be fatal or cause lasting damage to the baby. Treatment, IV antibiotics during labour, drastically reduces the risks, right down to 1 in 4,000 (or 1 in 6,000. Depends what you read).

With such a high incidence of latent GBS and such a dramatic lengthening of the odds on treatment, at first glance it seems this would be a prime candidate for screening. In fact in the US they already do this; at 36 weeks all pregnant women are screened for it. So why not here?

Apparently one argument it that the current screening process is unreliable; 50% of cases are not detected. Yes, OK NHS,  so what? 50% of cases would be detected! We’ve got the numbers; about 700,000 babies are born in the UK every year. At least 20% of these will be exposed to GBS, that’s 140,000 babies. 50% of those at risk, 70,000, could benefit from the treatment under a screening regime. 1 in 300 of 70,000 is 233. So screening could prevent 233 babies contracting life threatening illness’. If the problem is actually cost, then one wonders what the cost of care is for 233 seriously ill babies, or the lifetime cost of a person with meningitis (not just to the NHS, but to society as a whole). Then there is the human cost to consider. Now here’s the next argument for screening; the unreliable tests are being superseded by newer tests with much greater chance of detecting GBS.

So, there seems less and less reason for the NHS to not conduct screening of all pregnant women for Group B Streptococcus. Because not everyone will bump into a wile old doctor who cares more about patients than the NHS does.


Your Everyday Logistics Miracle

February 9, 2011 Leave a comment

There is a town in the centre of the United Kingdom that is, in most respects, so very normal. Most of the six thousand or so residents are neither rich nor poor, their houses neither grand nor falling down. It is, by almost any measure, completely ordinary.

But in this town is a prime example of the quiet miracle of our modern life. It is a supermarket. On it shelves sits the most amazing agglomeration of the World’s produce. Infusions from the sub-continent, fruits from South America and Africa, meats from the other side of the World. And all this is  freshly available seven days a week, 363 days a year, whatever the season, whatever the weather.

So perfected is this miracle, and so gradually has it been introduced, that the population of the town never, ever stop to consider the wonder that has appeared in their midst. Other peoples, in other points in history, would surely be staggered by this achievement. Such a vendor would be the pride of ancient Rome, the great Phoenician traders would be humbled by it’s choice and variety. They would then be dumb-founded to discover that stores like these could be found everywhere in the modern World.

To fully comprehend the amazing achievement of our modern transport system try this mental experiment; Imagine that this ability to move product around the globe happened suddenly. One moment we are relying on what can be made or grown just a few miles from home, then the next day we have everything the World has to offer, available cheaply and delivered right to our door. It would be a front page headline everywhere. It would be like man landing on the moon, or finding a cure for cancer.

If human society is a body then transport is it’s life blood. We already call our main transport routes arteries to reflect this. Indeed whenever a society faces acute need, like during a war or natural disaster, it has an urgent need for good transport, a rapid infusion of which can literally mean life or death. And like our blood, transport hides in plain sight. Ask most people to identify the organs of modern society they will talk about industry, government, science and public services, just as they would talk about the heart and lungs of the body. But all of this can only function with the life blood of transport. It’s always there, hardly noticed, ebbing and flowing through societies arteries, veins and capillaries. Whilst we are awake and during our sleep it brings both our essentials and our luxuries, then whisks the waste away after our consumption. We only notice it when it fails or appears in the wrong place. The vast majority of the time it does it’s job with such quiet equanimity that we don’t notice this miracle. This miracle that meets our needs and desires from all over the World.

And like all parts of society it is made of people. So this article is in praise of all those countless souls who make up our transport industry. It’s to say thank you to all those managers, planners and innovators, constantly working to hone the system. It’s to the warehouse workers and fork-lift drivers beavering through night and day. It’s to the pilots and captains of planes and ships, guiding the colossi of the transport World. And it’s to the drivers of the vans and trucks, the bedrock without whom there would be none of this wonderful, miraculous, everyday logistics miracle.

I just love it!

February 6, 2011 Leave a comment

New media that is. Or social media, the information super highway or whatever you want to call it. Fibre-optics by another name would transmit as much. Young people of today just won’t understand the miracle of it all. Being an information junky back in the 1980’s was hell. You had to rely on whatever some pompous writer or TV company deemed acceptable to tell you. There were no forums, there were no blogs, no wikis. Like some undiscovered bedouin tribe we lived in the desert without knowing anything different. For goodness sake, we had just three TV stations in the UK! Then the waters came. Not from the few stingy media gods, but channelled to us by people like us. Now we live with an abundance of information, a land flowing with megabytes and terabytes. If nothing else the plethora of information let’s us see the World in all it’s confusing glory. No longer do we have an excuse to simplify the World’s problems down to the level of our own prejudices.

And not only can all this information flood in, it can flood out as well. Whatever creativity we may have had needed to pass the scrutiny of editors and other naysayers. Before our work could even be available to receive public scrutiny it had to run the gauntlet of these people’s preoccupations, prejudices, corruptions or hang-ups. Nowadays we can post it, Tweet it, Press it or Blog it. However we choose to vent our creativity, ‘it’ can be out there instantly and with no interference, where it will live or die solely on it’s own merits.

So here is to Facebook, WordPress, Twitter, Blogger et al! Here is to Flickr, here is to Youtube. Here is for being allowed to judge for myself between trash and genius, and which information is right and which is wrong.

And here is to being able to publish, just by going… click.

Now it’s getting real!

February 3, 2011 2 comments

Whoaa! Life over the last few years has seldom been dull, but now things seem to be stepping up a gear. Shortly after trying to be Jeremy Clarkson I got the results of my CPC national freight exams and, I’m pleased to say, I passed. This allows me to be a transport manager (one that is actually required by law) for companies or individuals that have trucks. Not wanted to hang around, I got straight on the case and put up a website to offer myself in this capacity to the World. I can now report that SEO (search engine optimisation) is an extensive, complex and time consuming discipline.

Then there was the interview and driving assessment for Morrisons supermarket, which I’m also pleased to say I passed. So all I have to do now is to pass a medical and I’m in.

But of course all this is the side-show to the main event; the arrival of little Yasmin. Unless both scans were wrong, in which case it’s the arrival of little Patrick, and I have some re-painting to do. The midwife is still giving the thumbs up for a home birth, and Monique is doing so well. So now the room is painted, the Swedish furniture is assembled, the birthing pool is ready to go and the baby is due anytime in the next few weeks. Yeah, this is getting SO real!