This week my writing comes from the fair city of Glasgow. My apologies in advance for the political nature of the column, but it was obvious in a heartbeat just how politicised the country has become. Amongst my musings are indications of how the Scottish First Minister is faring. But firstly to the Arts, which are still feeling the covid hammer blow, by being denied the chance to schedule live performances.


Scotland’s museums, galleries and theatres are in line for £97 million in financial assistance, as part of a £1.57 billion package from the UK government. The ‘repayable finance for these loans will be issued on general terms to ensure they are affordable.


I do worry slightly that no matter the generous regional allocations made from central government, there will be a machiavellian manoeuvre amongst die-hard SNP supporters, to undermine anything positive that Boris Johnson and central government does for members of the Union. Nicola, if you think it’s easy to be the first minister of a population of 5.5 million, it’s a different game of footie entirely, to be prime minister of a population of 67 million. As an example, I’m a parent of only 7, and there are never less than 9 opinions in my house. Mind you, it’s not a true democracy, but I digress.


Let’s roll back the referendum, and imagine Scotland had voted out of the UK, and to stay in the EU. How well might Ms Sturgeon have done, had she been obligated to now fund the furlough scheme for a devolved Scotland, instead of receiving critical funding through central government? I doubt she’d be smiling quite so much over her publicity ‘cup of tea’ these days, given that Scotland has hugely declining industries across many sectors. Those seeking devolution can always throw stones at Westminster. The mis-quote of Scones and Tea Houses, comes to mind.


We’ve just had the final Clap for Carers to thank the NHS for its industry over the past 3-4 months; next, we’re going to see a Smile for Sunak, to thank the Treasury for supporting our livelihoods, for we know in other countries people have suffered massive deprivation and been forced to queue at food banks, to make ends meet. This has been the case in the USA, with people being given a welfare package worth $1,200 each, plus $500 for each dependent, to help them through. Of course, many Americans don’t have Healthcare provision either, if they’re not insured. In the scheme of things then, the UK has a lot going for it. So smile, and be grateful.


Taking a peek at Ms Sturgeon’s leadership profile within the media, it was interesting to see her described as the ‘Hermione Granger of politics.’ [Times on Sunday]. The Scottish Mail on Sunday says she should be `putting game-playing on hold, and engaging with the UK government in good faith.’ Quite right.


I have seen worrying reports commenting on a rise in English nationalism, which came as a bit of a surprise for someone who has lived in London for 25 years. Not sure I have heard anyone speak on this, although of course the northern push for independence has been often discussed. My heart sinks when I hear how fast Nicola Sturgeon is driving residents north of the border to break away from the UK, and I think what most of us really want, is a more UNITED Kingdom, and for that there can only be one King of Thrones. Mr Johnson, you have the mandate,


The GP will ‘virtually’ see you now. Ha-ha! Recent reports in The Telegraph [6th July] show that almost 50% of GP appointments are now conducted via phone or video, compared to 14% in February. Now, this might be fine and dandy if your child has chicken pox, or you have a throat infection. You can point a camera at your throat. But it is not fine if you have a stomach pain, or like myself you have some silent symptoms, perhaps as yet undiagnosed, that you perhaps can’t quite pin down.


During the coronavirus crisis one could completely forgive GP practices for doing phone consultations, but now we have been promoted to having video consultations. Essentially they are keeping their doors shut, in case – even with the rapidly falling, almost zero cases of coronavirus in the community – your GP should suddenly pick up an infection, and suffer an ignominious death. Chas v’sholom.


I have to ask, ‘what about the people who were working in the hospitals on the Front Line?’ They didn’t say they wouldn’t go to work, or shut their doors. Many of them became very sick and unfortunately some died. Now that coronavirus has all but gone, the health services should be open, (almost) as usual.


When you’re speaking on phone or video, you may decide not to bother mentioning something because: he’s a busy man; others are more sick than you, etc etc. With a wee wave of the magic wand, YOU could find yourself – like me – in a position of terminal disease, with no chance to press the rewind button.


Let’s remind ourselves about those who in the days of old wouldn’t have gone to A&E, because they felt the hospital would be ‘too busy,’ or the problem,‘too insignificant.’ They may at least have gone to the GP. Now these same patients won’t go there either, because in all likelihood the GP won’t physically see them, or send them for investigation. Besides, the spectre of coronavirus could be here forever…. There will also be folks with anxiety or mental health issues who need that 1:1 contact. So, I’m sorry but I think health professionals should ‘see’ their clients, unless you have something visible, and non-intimate. Dr Dan Poulter, Conservative MP, former health minister and psychiatrist, expressed his concerns that,‘GP’s are unable to properly examine a patient during a virtual appointment.’ If you have something potentially embarrassing or difficult or awkward, you’re hardly going to say to the GP, ‘I’ll just point the camera at ‘it.’ You likely won’t even mention ‘it,’ and so you’ll persevere, perhaps only finally going to the GP or your A&E when ‘it’ has become a major problem. I haven’t talked often about my initial diagnosis of cancer, but I will mention it again for those who are new to the column. Had I not gone to the surgery and mentioned a few seemingly irrelevant issues, thereby allowing my GP to have a quick poke under my ribs, and order up some blood tests, I very much doubt that my diagnosis of pancreatic cancer would have been picked up. He would have had no need to order blood tests as I wasn’t even jaundiced, the biggest red flag in the pancreatic torpedo room, and even today, I doubt I would likely feel ‘ill enough‘ to seek medical attention. This inertia will seal the fate of many going forward, who will consider themselves fit enough, well enough to not waste the GP’s time.


The chairman of the Royal College of GP’s predicts a 50% split between these traditional and virtual appointments in the future. In my own practice you’re not given the choice, in fact you may even be triaged or ‘prescribed’ something by the receptionist. Now no matter how talented and lovely they are, they are not qualified doctors, and even if they’re following a checklist of ‘call-out symptoms’ (much like the 111 service), this is insufficient and too removed to show due diligence. Once again I say emphatically, there are patients out there who will just simply not make the call.


Let’s get our surgeries properly open, and the doctors on the ‘domestic’ front-line back to work. No virtual consultations please, unless specifically asked for, or for straightforward minor cases. The onus is on the GP to bring you in for a face-to-face because this could be important. I asked my GP how many pancreatic clients he had (euphemistically) lost in his career? One. And I know I will likely be next. With only 6:100 surviving five years, it drops down to a woeful 1:100 if you are stage 4. Therefore, that visit could be lifesaving.


The covid-19 crisis could additionally lead to an extra 35,000 cancer deaths this year,  because of late diagnosis and delayed access to treatment. We knew this was coming.


Research by data-can, revealed by the BBC Panorama programme, has shown that by the end of May, urgent cancer referrals were down by nearly 50%. Professor Pat Price,  clinical oncologist [Imperial College], said too much treatment was being delayed on the basis of NHS guidelines in a ‘very high risk strategy.’ She further added, ‘guidelines for radiotherapy were to delay or avoid (it) in some cases, and consequently the machines were left idle when they could be saving lives.’ At least we should have been given the choice. Petty – yes, W(h)itty – no.


Lastly, an update on my own treatment. After suffering again from the alopecia of Abraxane, I made the difficult decision to stop it, awarding myself a treatment break, after which I’ll hopefully have a repeat scan. It’s likely I may go back on Folfirinox, as I seemed to cope with it fairly well. At least, I felt like a regular person who just happened to have cancer, as opposed to a person who looked like a cancer patient, with all the negativity and attention it attracts. My most recent scan shows stability in my primary disease, improvement in the lymph nodes and a stalemate on the lung lesions. In any exam score, 2 out of 3 is a pass. In the interim I’m continuing all my alternative therapies and making no plans to ‘go out,’ and I don’t mean to the shops. I will keep laughing, keep busy and keep fighting.


Cheerio the noo


Jacqueline x