Tag Archives: Jones

The real saboteurs are the Tory Brexiters destroying the NHS | Owen Jones

Who are the real saboteurs? Is it those who want Brexit to be properly scrutinised by parliament to prevent a disastrous deal which could wreck the economy and shred social provision? Those were, after all, the saboteurs who needed crushing according to the Daily Mail when Theresa May called her calamitous snap election. Or are the real saboteurs those who – through bigotry, twisted ideological zealotry and outright stupidity – are damaging the fabric of the public services we all depend on?

Britain’s National Health Service is propped up by 12,000 doctors from the European Economic Area. Without them, our most treasured national institution – which brings us into the world, mends us when we are sick or injured, cares for us in our final moments – would collapse. So it should be of some concern to us, to put it mildly, that nearly half of them are considering leaving the country, and a fifth have already made actual plans to do so.

What a twisted irony. The leave campaigners made a calculated decision to win the EU referendum with a toxic mixture of lies and bigotry. One of the most striking falsehoods was an extra £350m a week for the NHS after we left: instead it’s being emptied out of desperately needed doctors.

And can you blame them for wanting to leave? We’ve now had years of vitriolic scapegoating of immigrants to deflect responsibility from the banks, the tax-dodgers, the unaccountable corporations, the poverty-paying employers, the rip-off landlords, the neoliberal politicians, and all the other vested interests who have unleashed misery and insecurity upon this country. The positive contribution of immigrants was all but banished from public discussion. The campaign reached a crescendo during the referendum, with immigrants variously portrayed as potential criminals, rapists, murderers and terrorists, validating every bigot in Britain and resulting in a surge in hate crimes on the streets. I wonder why European doctors don’t feel particularly welcome right now?

This is about the worst possible time to haemorrhage doctors. The NHS is enduring the longest squeeze in its funding as a proportion of GDP since its foundation; it’s being fragmented by marketisation and privatisation; it’s under growing pressure because of decimated social care budgets while citizens continue to live longer. Plunging morale – because of privatisation, staff shortages and cuts – is affecting all doctors, regardless of where they’re born: a recent study suggested two-thirds are considering leaving. The consequence? We’re having to look abroad for more doctors. This is a recurring irony of Conservative rule. After the first five years of the coalition government, drastic cuts to nurse training places led the NHS to look for one in four nurses abroad.

How have we allowed the bigots and xenophobes of our unhinged tabloid press and political elite to inflict so much damage? Rather than making our live-saving foreign doctors feel unwelcome, surely we should be focusing on how we can tax the booming wealthy individuals and big businesses so we can invest more in our NHS? It should be abundantly clear who the real saboteurs are. They have already inflicted incalculable damage to our social fabric, our public services, our economy, and our international standing. The question is: how do we prevent them from inflicting even more damage?

Owen Jones is a Guardian columnist

The real saboteurs are the Tory Brexiters destroying the NHS | Owen Jones

Who are the real saboteurs? Is it those who want Brexit to be properly scrutinised by parliament to prevent a disastrous deal which could wreck the economy and shred social provision? Those were, after all, the saboteurs who needed crushing according to the Daily Mail when Theresa May called her calamitous snap election. Or are the real saboteurs those who – through bigotry, twisted ideological zealotry and outright stupidity – are damaging the fabric of the public services we all depend on?

Britain’s National Health Service is propped up by 12,000 doctors from the European Economic Area. Without them, our most treasured national institution – which brings us into the world, mends us when we are sick or injured, cares for us in our final moments – would collapse. So it should be of some concern to us, to put it mildly, that nearly half of them are considering leaving the country, and a fifth have already made actual plans to do so.

What a twisted irony. The leave campaigners made a calculated decision to win the EU referendum with a toxic mixture of lies and bigotry. One of the most striking falsehoods was an extra £350m a week for the NHS after we left: instead it’s being emptied out of desperately needed doctors.

And can you blame them for wanting to leave? We’ve now had years of vitriolic scapegoating of immigrants to deflect responsibility from the banks, the tax-dodgers, the unaccountable corporations, the poverty-paying employers, the rip-off landlords, the neoliberal politicians, and all the other vested interests who have unleashed misery and insecurity upon this country. The positive contribution of immigrants was all but banished from public discussion. The campaign reached a crescendo during the referendum, with immigrants variously portrayed as potential criminals, rapists, murderers and terrorists, validating every bigot in Britain and resulting in a surge in hate crimes on the streets. I wonder why European doctors don’t feel particularly welcome right now?

This is about the worst possible time to haemorrhage doctors. The NHS is enduring the longest squeeze in its funding as a proportion of GDP since its foundation; it’s being fragmented by marketisation and privatisation; it’s under growing pressure because of decimated social care budgets while citizens continue to live longer. Plunging morale – because of privatisation, staff shortages and cuts – is affecting all doctors, regardless of where they’re born: a recent study suggested two-thirds are considering leaving. The consequence? We’re having to look abroad for more doctors. This is a recurring irony of Conservative rule. After the first five years of the coalition government, drastic cuts to nurse training places led the NHS to look for one in four nurses abroad.

How have we allowed the bigots and xenophobes of our unhinged tabloid press and political elite to inflict so much damage? Rather than making our live-saving foreign doctors feel unwelcome, surely we should be focusing on how we can tax the booming wealthy individuals and big businesses so we can invest more in our NHS? It should be abundantly clear who the real saboteurs are. They have already inflicted incalculable damage to our social fabric, our public services, our economy, and our international standing. The question is: how do we prevent them from inflicting even more damage?

Owen Jones is a Guardian columnist

The real saboteurs are the Brexiters destroying the NHS | Owen Jones

Who are the real saboteurs? Is it those who want Brexit to be properly scrutinised by parliament to prevent a disastrous deal which could wreck the economy and shred social provision? Those were, after all, the saboteurs who needed crushing according to the Daily Mail when Theresa May called her calamitous snap election. Or are the real saboteurs those who – through bigotry, twisted ideological zealotry and outright stupidity – are damaging the fabric of the public services we all depend on?

Britain’s National Health Service is propped up by 12,000 doctors from the European Economic Area. Without them, our most treasured national institution – which brings us into the world, mends us when we are sick or injured, cares for us in our final moments – would collapse. So it should be of some concern to us, to put it mildly, that nearly half of them are considering leaving the country, and a fifth have already made actual plans to do so.

What a twisted irony. The leave campaigners made a calculated decision to win the EU referendum with a toxic mixture of lies and bigotry. One of the most striking falsehoods was an extra £350m a week for the NHS after we left: instead it’s being emptied out of desperately needed doctors.

And can you blame them for wanting to leave? We’ve now had years of vitriolic scapegoating of immigrants to deflect responsibility from the banks, the tax-dodgers, the unaccountable corporations, the poverty-paying employers, the rip-off landlords, the neoliberal politicians, and all the other vested interests who have unleashed misery and insecurity upon this country. The positive contribution of immigrants was all but banished from public discussion. The campaign reached a crescendo during the referendum, with immigrants variously portrayed as potential criminals, rapists, murderers and terrorists, validating every bigot in Britain and resulting in a surge in hate crimes on the streets. I wonder why European doctors don’t feel particularly welcome right now?

This is about the worst possible time to haemorrhage doctors. The NHS is enduring the longest squeeze in its funding as a proportion of GDP since its foundation; it’s being fragmented by marketisation and privatisation; it’s under growing pressure because of decimated social care budgets while citizens continue to live longer. Plunging morale – because of privatisation, staff shortages and cuts – is affecting all doctors, regardless of where they’re born: a recent study suggested two-thirds are considering leaving. The consequence? We’re having to look abroad for more doctors. This is a recurring irony of Conservative rule. After the first five years of the coalition government, drastic cuts to nurse training places led the NHS to look for one in four nurses abroad.

How have we allowed the bigots and xenophobes of our unhinged tabloid press and political elite to inflict so much damage? Rather than making our live-saving foreign doctors feel unwelcome, surely we should be focusing on how we can tax the booming wealthy individuals and big businesses so we can invest more in our NHS? It should be abundantly clear who the real saboteurs are. They have already inflicted incalculable damage to our social fabric, our public services, our economy, and our international standing. The question is: how do we prevent them from inflicting even more damage?

Owen Jones is a Guardian columnist

Terry Jones: ‘I’ve got dementia. My frontal lobe has absconded’

Terry Jones first exhibited signs that all was not well with his health in July 2014. He and his close friend Michael Palin were performing with the rest of the surviving Monty Python’s Flying Circus troupe in a show of sketches and songs, Monty Python live (mostly) at the O2 in London.

“Terry was always very good at remembering lines,” recalled Palin last week. “But this time he had real problems, and in the end he had to use a teleprompter. That was a first for him. I realised then that something more serious than memory lapses was affecting him.”

Jones, now 75, later passed standard tests designed to pinpoint people who have Alzheimer’s disease. His speech continued to deteriorate nevertheless. “He said less and less at dinner parties, when he used to love to lead conversations,” said his daughter Sally.

Eventually, in September 2015, Jones was diagnosed as having frontotemporal dementia (FTD), a condition that affects the front and sides of the brain, where language and social control centres are based. When cells there die off, people lose their ability to communicate, and their behaviour becomes increasingly erratic and impulsive. Unlike Alzheimer’s, there is no loss of reasoning or orientation. However, planning, decision making and speech are affected, and patients often seem less caring or concerned about their family and friends.

Sally recalls that even though her father’s speech was faltering, he was still initially able to outline his plans and thoughts by email. “However, the emails slowly became more and more jumbled, and by autumn last year he had to give up,” she said. “For someone who lived by words and discussions this was tragic.”

Jones’s family revealed his condition to the public six months ago, and at last year’s Bafta Cymru ceremony in October, his son Bill had to help his father collect his award for outstanding contribution to television and film. The only words that Jones was able to utter were to tell his audience to “quieten down”.

Jones was not expected to talk to the press again – until last week, when his family requested an interview to help promote public awareness of FTD, a condition that affects tens of thousands of people in the UK but which remains a relatively little-known medical problem. Their hope was that information about Jones’s responses to his condition might help others cope with it.

“Many patients, particularly those in the early stages of the condition, are often unaware they have anything wrong with them at all,” said Professor Nick Fox, a dementia expert who has been involved in the diagnosis and care of Jones. “It is only later – when FTD is diagnosed – that you get some inkling of the root of their earlier behaviour. People may not show sympathy or concern for others, including their spouses – much to the consternation of the rest of their family,” added Fox, who is director of the Dementia Research Centre at University College London.

Loss of language nevertheless remains the most noticeable symptom of FTD. In the case of Jones, his dialogue is now restricted to a few words, usually uttered to agree with those who are speaking to him. Apart from that, he looks fit for his years. Dressed in black trousers, shirt and jacket and lurid purple socks, he cut a trim figure during our interview. He remains an enthusiastic walker, likes his beer and wine, and watches old films compulsively. Some Like It Hot is a favourite.

Palin is a frequent visitor to Jones’s home and the affection between the two men is clear from the start. They clasp each other warmly on Palin’s arrival and Jones looks relieved to see him. “The thing that struck me was how Terry reacted to his diagnosis,” said Palin. “He was very matter of fact about it and would stop people in the street and tell them: ‘I’ve got dementia, you know. My frontal brain lobe has absconded’.

“He knew exactly what was affecting him and he wanted to share that knowledge – because that is the way that Terry is. FTD may cause loss of inhibition, but Terry was never very inhibited in the first place.”

Palin and Jones first started working together in 1965 on The Frost Report, a collaboration that culminated in the formation of the Monty Python Flying Circus team in 1969. Jones was also co-director (with Terry Gilliam) of Monty Python and The Holy Grail before directing the Python films Life of Brian and The Meaning of Life. He went on to direct other films, including Personal Services and The Wind in the Willows. He has also written books on medieval history and the Iraq war (to which he was bitterly opposed).

The Pythons in 2014, at the time of the last live show.


The Pythons in 2014, at the time of the last live show. Photograph: Andy Gotts/PA

The pair still regularly have lunch together. “We chat – well, I chat,” added Palin. “But when the meal is over he makes it clear he has to move. He has to get to the next thing on his agenda and he just puts his head down and goes. I have never felt discomfited in his presence, however. There is no embarrassment. He doesn’t shout or show his bottom.”

Only taxis cause problems. “He always wants to give directions and he hates traffic,” said Sally. “That is nothing new in a sense. He always knew a better way and would always let the taxi driver know that very early on in the journey.” At this point, Jones nods vigorously.

In contrast with other forms of dementia, walking or moving around is not usually a problem with FTD. “Terry still goes on very long walks across Hampstead Heath, often following the most obscure routes, and it is very hard to keep up with him,” said Palin. “His old pal Barry Cryer, the comedian, came round one day and said he would like to join Terry on a walk on the heath, and nothing would deter him. It was a muddy day and Barry kept slipping while Terry just walked on and on. In the end, Barry fell over so many times he gave up. He told me that there he was on his backside in the mud while his friend who had dementia was striding out miles ahead of him across the heath.”

Certainly Jones is no shuffling, helpless victim of cognitive degeneration. “He still enjoys his beer, his wine, his walks, his films and a good joke,” added Palin. “These are not things you associate with a depressive illness.” However, the condition can still cause problems, as Fox stresses.

“The frontal lobe contains the brain cells which act as our social censor,” he says. “Essentially it is a handbrake on our behaviour. Take that off and you start to act impulsively. People get into all sorts of trouble – particularly if they are also losing the ability to speak and to explain their actions.

The team in Monty Python and the Holy Grail, which Jones co-directed with Terry Gilliam.


The team in Monty Python and the Holy Grail, which Jones co-directed with Terry Gilliam. Photograph: Allstar

“People with FTD end up in prison in this way. It is made worse because people with FTD have no insight into their condition. They are not aware that things are going wrong for them.”

This lack of insight can have profound consequences, Fox added. “The head of a company in the early stages of FTD has no idea that his insight has been compromised and can make decisions that have enormous consequences. There are companies that have lost all their money this way.”

A tendency to impulsive action is also noticeable. “Food can be a particular problem,” said Sally. “As soon as it is put down in front of him he will grab it and eat it. We made him a birthday cake a few weeks ago. He started to eat it before we could get him to blow out the candles.”

And then there are other people’s perceptions of his condition, which can also cause distress. “Friends often ask: will he recognise me?,” added Sally.

“I tell them: of course he will. It is his speech that has gone. In fact, he loves seeing friends. His only problem is that he no longer has the ability to tell them how pleased he is to see them.”

It is a point endorsed by Palin. “I think that must be the most difficult thing – not to be able to say quite simply how you are feeling on a given occasion. We assume that he is happy, but that assumption could be wrong. We just don’t know.”

Certainly, it is hard to believe that Jones is unaware of his condition. However, he is clearly consoled by the support of his family, who help to keep his life enriched.

It is also obvious he gets strength from the presence of Palin. Towards the end of our interview, Jones reaches out to grasp his hand, giving it a good squeeze. The pair hold hands for a couple of minutes, a gesture that perfectly reflects their 50 years of friendship – and its importance in sustaining Jones through his tribulations.

Where to find help

The FTD support group provides practical help and information for people with the disorder and their families. Their website gives details of meetings in different regions of the UK – an important way to meet others coping with similar problems that may seem very different from those experienced in more common dementias.

A specialist progressive aphasia support group offers help for those whose speech and language are affected.

Jargon-free research updates can be found at www.ftdtalk.org

The dementia research centre at UCL has a specialist focus on young-onset dementias and is linked to the cognitive disorders service at the National Hospital for Neurology and Neurosurgery, which receives NHS referrals for people with FTD.

Join Dementia Research enables people both with and without dementia to register an interest in taking part in research.

Labour has shifted focus away from the NHS crisis. For what? | Owen Jones

The NHS is in crisis: a “humanitarian crisis”, in the words of the Red Cross. The service is Labour’s invention; at this moment, it should be the party’s focus. A pledge of £350m extra a week for the NHS was critical to the triumph of leave in the EU referendum. It was second in importance only to immigration. As Vote Leave campaign director Dominic Cummings put it: “Would we have won without £350m/NHS? All our research and the close result suggests no.”

I’m not going to join the Twitter outrage over the Labour leadership declaring last night that it was “not wedded” to the right of Europeans to freedom of movement. We on the left sometimes fail to appreciate the distance that exists on immigration between us and the wider population. Name your demographic group: 18- to 25-year-olds, black and minority ethnic Britons, Londoners, Scots – all decisively report a desire to reduce immigration.

Does that mean Labour just blindly tails public opinion? No: that’s not what leadership is. Labour can credibly argue that the economy comes first and membership of the single market is the party’s priority. But it needs, at the very least, a language that reaches a public that overwhelmingly wants less immigration: basically, it must not make most Britons feel as though the party is flashing a V-sign in their face.

But Labour has now shifted the focus away from the NHS crisis, and for what? It is difficult to match what was trailed yesterday and what Jeremy Corbyn has said in his round of interviews today. The leader’s message on radio and TV was not, let’s say, very clear. Many supported Corbyn because they felt he would bring clarity: no more wishy-washy, middle-of-the-road, vacillating leadership. Fists would be swinging, there would be unequivocal opposition to the Tories. Today the leadership has antagonised many of its natural supporters, who are furious about what they see as concessions on freedom of movement; but those who take a different view on immigration will have heard little from Corbyn today that resonates with them.

More puzzlingly, Corbyn floated a proposal for a maximum level of earnings. As tax justice crusader Richard Murphy puts it: “A practical policy on high pay is to deny a company corporation tax relief on payment of all salaries of more than 10 times UK median wage.” This is a workable proposal that Labour should certainly explore and – I would argue – adopt. But why today? First you distract from focusing on the NHS with immigration, then you distract from your immigration distraction. Labour needs a clear vision backed up with clear messaging, not randomly throwing proposals into the ether.

As I’ve written before, the risk with the NHS is it becomes Labour’s crutch, and clearly it needs a much wider vision. But the NHS is currently in crisis. The government is under pressure over it. Labour should be hammering away at this uncompromisingly, and parking everything else. The Labour leadership has been privately discussing a big red bus to Copeland in advance of the byelection, emblazoned with a Labour promise to implement the £350m per week NHS pledge. This is a good idea, but Labour’s Treasury team worries about costs. On this policy – at this time – surely a Corbyn leadership can afford to throw a bit of caution to the wind?

There are some ardent Corbyn supporters who believe leftwing writers should not be making these sorts of public criticisms. The rest of the media have it covered, after all. But the Tories should be on the defensive on everything from Brexit to the NHS. Instead, they are currently, shamelessly, getting away with it all. Labour should be honing a clear, straightforward message, and sticking to it. Time is against them. They only have so many opportunities, and they need to seize them.

Gay men are battling a demon more powerful than HIV – and it’s hidden| Owen Jones

It had been three years since I’d met up with my first boyfriend – let’s call him Steven. When he walked into a Brixton pub in June, it was a shock. I’d first met him well over a decade ago, and back then he was sporty, a bit of a health freak: other than the usual occasional student alcohol binge, relatively strait-laced. This Steven had dilated pupils, red marks on his arms, and his head jerked erratically as he spoke manically. He was addicted to crystal meth, and had an abusive relationship with other drugs and alcohol.

Steven’s story is all too revealing about a silent health crisis afflicting gay men. The words “health crisis” in conjunction with “gay men” normally conjures up the HIV catastrophe that decimated the gay and bisexual community in the 1980s. In the developed world, HIV is no longer the death sentence it once was, although the treatment can cause health complications, and in the UK an estimated 6,500 men who have sex with men live with undiagnosed infections. A far greater menace is mental distress – impossible to disentangle from a society riddled with homophobia – and the drug and alcohol abuse that can follow.

Steven has been clean for 66 days, has enthusiastically taken to treatment and volunteers at his local support group. But why – like so many gay men – did he succumb to addiction? When Steven came out, at the age of 15 years old, his parents drove him to a pseudo-clinic run by fundamentalist Christians to be cured of his homosexuality. But he doesn’t speak with bitterness. “I know they love me and they were doing the best they could,” he says. “They didn’t know what I needed, so they looked to their own experience, a culture that taught that if you were gay it was a disaster. You’d be lonely, you’d get Aids, you’d find life difficult. They felt they were trying to support me.”

The problem was far broader than his family, though. Coming out as a teenager in the early 00s meant almost inevitable bullying at school, a lack of awareness of where to find positive role models, and homophobic voices amplified by the media. “Taken together, it meant I was isolated and thought that I was the problem.” Internalising that shame at such a young age inflicts long-term damage – and explains much of his current turmoil.

It’s an issue covered by the former Attitude editor Matthew Todd in his utterly brilliant – and disturbing – recent book Straight Jacket. He identifies a number of problems that most gay men, if they were honest, would at least recognise: “Disproportionately high levels of depression, self-harm and suicide; not uncommon problems with emotional intimacy … and now a small but significant subculture of men who are using, some injecting, seriously dangerous drugs, which despite accusations of hysteria from the gatekeepers of the gay PR machine, are killing too many people.” He lists a disturbing number of gay friends, acquaintances and people in the public eye who struggled with addictions and took their own lives.

The statistics are indeed alarming. According to Stonewall research in 2014, 52% of young LGBT people report they have, at some point, self-harmed; a staggering 44% have considered suicide; and 42% have sought medical help for mental distress. Alcohol and drug abuse are often damaging forms of self-medication to deal with this underlying distress. A recent study by the LGBT Foundation found that drug use among LGB people is seven times higher than the general population, binge drinking is twice as common among gay and bisexual men, and substance dependency is significantly higher.

Why? As Todd puts it: “It is a shame with which we were saddled as children, to which we continue to be culturally subjected.” The problem gay people have isn’t their sexuality, but rather society’s attitude to it. It is “our experience of growing up in a society that still does not fully accept that people can be anything other than heterosexual and cisgendered [born into the physical gender you feel you are]”. There’s the weight of centuries of hatred and bigotry, with legally enforced discrimination only dismantled in very recent times. All gay and bisexual men – as well as women and trans people – grow up hearing homophobic and transphobic abuse. “Gay” is a word used in the playground as the repository for all that is bad. Popular films and TV programmes have largely lacked sympathetic, well-rounded LGBT characters, often resorting to crude homophobic tropes. Even the inability to hold hands with someone you love in almost any public space is a reminder that a depressingly large chunk of the population still rejects you. Coming out – a process that isn’t a one-off, but a wearingly repetitive event in different contexts – involves constant stress. And for those who think it’s all inevitably getting better, since the EU referendum, there’s been a 147% rise in homophobic hate crimes.

Society has damaged – and continues to damage – LGBT people. That’s not to overstate the case (and focusing on my experience as a gay man): being gay does not mean being in a state of misery. As Todd puts it, there are lots of contented, successful gay people, and progress in recent times has been astonishing, including equal marriage. Coming out is like coming up for air for the vast majority of LGBT people: the alternative is so much more miserable. But this is a health crisis that is not spoken about enough: the toxic combination of mental distress, drugs and alcohol abuse.

It is a crisis that is not being dealt with. Despite the government’s promises to grant mental and physical health parity of esteem, last year Mind reported an 8% real terms drop in mental health services funding since 2010. Cuts, according to health thinktank the King’s Fund, have contributed to “widespread evidence of poor-quality care”. Many LGBT services in particular have been devastated: as the TUC pointed out in 2014, they were “already coping on a shoestring. Some have faced drops in up to 50%.”

Because of our internalised shame, LGBT people often find it difficult to talk about the problems we collectively face. The danger is always of reinforcing the damaging stereotypes that have already caused so much distress. But we have to confront a crisis that is damaging health and taking people’s lives. Society has to take responsibility, too: it is its continued refusal to treat LGBT people as equals that is causing so much pain. If Theresa May’s government really does want to prove it isn’t just a pound-shop Ukip tribute band, perhaps it should take this issue seriously and review David Cameron’s cuts. The lives of LGBT people depend on it.

In the UK, the Samaritans can be contacted on 116 123. In the US, the National Suicide Prevention Hotline is 1-800-273-8255. In Australia, the crisis support service Lifeline is on 13 11 14. Hotlines in other countries can be found here

We should be ashamed of what we’re doing to Britain’s children | Owen Jones

A society should be judged by how it treats its children. A country that fails to invest in its children is imperilling its future. And that’s why we should all be alarmed by the crisis of mental health among Britain’s girls and boys – and the chronic lack of support to overcome it.

Nearly a quarter of a million young people are receiving specialist health care for mental distress, ranging from depression to eating disorders. Disturbingly, it is a crisis that is getting worse: Childline reports a doubling in five years of the number of children contemplating suicide. But the services simply aren’t there to support them. A Guardian poll finds that seven out of 10 specialist nurses believe mental health services for children and adolescents are inadequate, and 43% believe the services are actually getting worse. Overwhelmingly, a lack of nurses and delays in appointments are identified as the main culprits. The price of this failure is our children’s wellbeing – and, more horrifyingly, even their lives.

It is easier to diagnose a crisis than to cure it, of course. Part of the problem is the expectations society places on our children: changing them is necessary, but will not be easy. Research by Girlguiding finds that just 61% of girls and young women aged between seven and 21 are happy with their bodies, a sharp decline from 73% in 2011. That over a third of girls aged between seven and 10 say that they are made to feel their looks were the most important thing, or that 38% felt they were not pretty enough, is chilling. For those aged between 11 and 21, an astonishing 80% felt looks were the most important thing about them. Here are the consequences of a sexist society that imposes impossible standards that even little girls are expected to abide by.

Gender expectations damage boys, too. A rigid and unreconstructed form of masculinity is enforced, sometimes brutally, in the playground. Boys deemed to be insufficiently manly face being abused as “girls” or “gays”. Speaking about mental distress is certainly not seen as “manly” – it is “weak” – and that there are more boys in contact with mental health services is striking.

Yes, we need investment in services. But there must be a remorseless focus on what drives children to mental distress in the first place. Overcrowded and poor housing. Poor diet. Lack of exercise. Family conflict. The stresses of poverty, from internalised shame to being conscious of not having the same opportunities as other children. Consumer capitalism, which judges and defines children by what trainers they wear. An educational culture obsessed with exams. If we want a society that promotes happiness and wellbeing among children, these are all problems that have to be addressed. How tragic, then, that life is being made harder for children by both government policy and ever harsher attitudes and expectations. The children will suffer for it, and so will our country’s future.

NHS dentistry is in a state of serious decay | Owen Jones

Finally, some outrage about the national scandal that is dentistry. The health of our teeth matters, but dentistry has long been a neglected arm of the NHS. The British Dental Association has just revealed that 600,000 people have made futile appointments with GPs over dental problems in a year, at a cost to the NHS of £26m. It’s a statistic that has provoked mockery – one person tweeted: “I wonder if the 600,000 people a year who go to the GP for dental care ask electricians to fix their roofs as well?” But it is not the patients who should be shamed – it is the government.

As the BDA points out, nearly one in five patients have postponed treatment because of fear of what it might cost. The government has slashed funding for NHS dentistry by £170m since the Tories first entered No 10, and it is expecting patients to make up the shortfall. This year, dental charges were hiked by 5%, and they’re expected to increase by the same amount next year. On the current trajectory, in 16 years’ time most of the NHS dental budget will be funded by patients rather than by central government. But the whole point of the NHS is that it should be free at the point of use, and treatment should be provided according to need, rather than ability to pay.


One in seven children haven’t visited a dentist by their eighth birthday

Even children, who are entitled to free NHS dentistry, are being let down by a system that is unable to provide enough dentists to cope with demand. Earlier this year, more than 400 dentists signed a letter advising that dental health was collapsing to “third world” levels in parts of Britain. “The NHS dental system in England is unfit for purpose,” was their stark warning. So severe is this crisis that more than 62,000 people – mostly children – end up in hospital every year because of tooth decay; half of adults haven’t seen a dentist in a two-year period; and one in seven children haven’t visited a dentist by their eighth birthday.

When dental charges were first introduced in 1951, Nye Bevan – the architect of the NHS – resigned from the government in protest. Sixty-five years on, the service is marred by underinvestment, excessive charges and a lack of NHS dentists. We should aspire to properly publicly funded NHS dentistry, free of rip-off charges. Tragically, we’re headed in the opposite direction. The teeth of lower-income Britons – particularly children – will suffer as a consequence.

The NHS must show it cares about gay men’s lives – and roll out PrEP HIV drugs | Owen Jones

The health and lives of gay men matter. That’s what the high court ruled on Tuesday morning. Last year, NHS England decided against rolling out a treatment called PrEP – which prevents the transmission of HIV. The wellbeing of gay men was overriden by other priorities. Given it costs substantially more money to treat HIV than to prevent it, even financial considerations weren’t a good reason.

Related: NHS can fund ‘game-changing’ PrEP HIV drug, court says

On Tuesday, NHS England was defeated in court and told it was responsible for funding the treatment, and that they have a “preventative role and power to commission preventative function”. Pressure must now be placed on the NHS to start rolling this drug out immediately. As the British Medical Journal pointed out, “delays by NHS England will cost lives”.

If you want to stop HIV spreading, then PrEP is one among many solutions. It works. As studies in the United States have shown, if taken every day, it has been shown to reduce the risk of HIV infection in high-risk individuals by up to 92%. The objections to PrEP, in truth, are based on moral objections. If you do not want the risk of HIV, goes the argument, then wear a condom. Those who get HIV are, by implication, morally condemned for bringing it on themselves.

Of course, safer sex messages must always emphasise the importance of condoms: after all, they protect against many other STIs. But – in the real world, rather than the non-existent world of the morally self-righteous – things are more complicated. People get carried away; people get drunk (yes, in the real world imperfect people sometimes drink more than the recommended daily amount); condoms break. The same moralising is used against the right of women to have control over their own bodies, whether it be the right to abortion or even the morning-after pill. The standards set by the “morally pure” cause harm – or even kill.

We have come so far with the treatment of HIV, once a disease that ravaged the gay world. But according to the Terence Higgins Trust, there are 45,000 men who have sex with men living with HIV; and thousands of them do not know they even have it. The annual rate of newly infected men in 2014 was higher than the decade before. If you genuinely want to send HIV infection rates hurtling into reverse, then PrEP is not the only solution – but it is a good one.

Gay people, their health and their lives, matter. That’s a court judgment. NHS England must now accept the defeat – and start doing its job: protecting health and saving lives.

A £10 charge to visit a GP would be just the commence of a slippery slope for the NHS | Owen Jones

A GP with a patient

A GP with a patient. ‘This ideological assault is being accompanied by an actual try to dismantle and privatise the NHS.’ Photograph: David Sillitoe for the Guardian

A slow hand clap for Andy McGovern, a London hospital nurse who has proposed that the Royal School of Nursing support a £10 charge to check out a GP. On its very own terms, the proposal is an unacceptable assault on the very foundations of the NHS: that it is free at the level of use. But the suggestion is so menacing due to the fact of where it originates from. The a lot of enemies of the NHS – who have to be diplomatic, understanding that the NHS “is the closest the English have to a religion”, as Nigel Lawson after put it – will rejoice. “Aha!” they will believe. “Now even the nurses are debating NHS costs, we have been offered the political cover we require!”

That the NHS has just been declared the world’s greatest healthcare method by the Washington-primarily based Commonwealth Fund should be a matter of national pride. But the institution is in mortal danger. The totally free industry crusaders who 1st took power in the late 1970s have extended regarded NHS as an aberration. It is an irritating example of a service run on the basis of social need, rather than private profit – and, even worse, it is loved for it. As lengthy as it exists, it serves as a defiant reminder that there is an substitute to the neoliberal undertaking.

No wonder it is below constant assault. Nick Seddon is the former deputy director of rightwing thinktank Reform before that, he was head of communications at Circle Partnerships, which boasts of becoming “Europe’s largest healthcare partnership”. Reform is an outfit funded by personal healthcare firms such as Bupa Healthcare, the Basic Healthcare Group and BMI Healthcare. Seddon has backed charging to see a GP, NHS budget cuts and the sacking of frontline workers. Last year, he became David Cameron’s well being adviser.

Then there is Lord Warner, a Labour peer who in March published a report with Reform calling for a £10-a-month NHS membership charge. What he didn’t mention was that he performs for personal businesses that rely on the NHS.

Even in this newspaper, Simon Jenkins and Ian Birrell have been floating tips to dismantle and privatise the NHS. And then there is Ukip, that famed anti-establishment get together whose financial policies are largely about cutting taxes for members of the establishment and handing them public assets. Paul Nuttall, Ukip’s deputy leader, has declared “that the extremely existence of the NHS stifles competition”, claiming that the “as extended as the NHS is the ‘sacred cow’ of British politics, the longer the British folks will suffer with a second rate well being services”. Read through the Commonwealth Fund report and weep into your Milton Friedman textbook, Mr Nuttall.

This ideological assault is being accompanied by an real attempt to dismantle and privatise the NHS. I’m not going to insult people’s intelligence by pretending that the final Labour government was some socialist utopia: it also promoted a private sector agenda, including personal finance initiatives which saddled hospitals with lengthy-term debt. But which is nothing at all in contrast to this government’s Well being and Social Care Act. Again, realizing the acceptance of the NHS, the government did not have the guts to place what it was going to do to the British public, and promised no further “best-down reorganisations”. Panic stations should have been manned just before the general election, when it was revealed that the personal workplace of Andrew Lansley, who would turn out to be Tory health secretary, had been bankrolled by the former chairman of Care United kingdom to the tune of £21,000. And lo, beneath Part 75 of this government’s legislation, the NHS is driven to place its services out to competitive tender. In Surrey, community overall health services were handed to Virgin Care in 2012 final 12 months, NHS outsourcing well worth £1.1bn was announced in Cambridge and Peterborough. And so on.

On top of all of that, the government is implementing the most protracted squeeze on NHS spending since its basis throw in the government’s savage cuts to regional authority spending – which is placing pressure on the NHS as solutions like social care are hit – and get into account our ageing population, and a serious crisis without a doubt is on its way.

And so it’s up to us. We can let our NHS be trashed by the privatisers and cutters, the private overall health organizations and their assortment of outriders and valuable idiots. We can surrender the principle of a support cost-free at the stage of use. We can move towards the grotesquely inefficient and unjust US technique we have long ridiculed. Or we can defend a correctly funded, publicly run, universal technique that is cost-free at the stage of use. It’s make our thoughts up time.