Lachlan passed away in January 2010.  As a memorial, this site remains as he left it.
Therefore the information on this site may not be current or accurate and should not be relied upon.
For more information follow this link

(This Webpage Page in No Frames Mode)

Welcome to Lachlan Cranswick's Personal Homepage in Melbourne, Australia

May to July 2001 remote finding a London UK rental flat / apartment accommodation hints

Lachlan's Homepage is at

[Back to Lachlan's Homepage] | [What's New on Lachlan's Page] | [Other Links] | [Misc Things]
[London UK Accomodation] | [London Quake/Unrealing] | [London Comic Stores] | [London free Concerts, talks, lectures]

[University Based Accomodation Databases] | [On-line Street Maps] | [Letting / Agent websites] | [Tenancy Agreements and Rental Contracts] | [Transport in London] | [Cinemas and Movies in London] | [UK TV Licencing] | [Police, Street Safety and Tube Safety in London, UK] | [NHS - National Health System] | [UK Suicide Rates and Resources] | [London Power, Water, Gas Utilities] | [Borough of Kensington and Chelsea, London] | [Information Gathering and correspondance with London based Agents in the Field]

"My sources are unreliable, but their information is fascinating"

Reality check: before considering London as a place to live - read City of Dreadful Night (1874) by James Thomson (1834-82)

(Early July 2001 update: be depressed - very depressed: My sources are most likely accurate - and the information is quite depressing)

(Main Hint 1: Make use of inside knowledge by those in (and not in) the know) - (this can save you from overpaying by 50% to 100% for a pad. i.e., stop you considering a pad at 200 quid per week that really should be going for 150 quid per week): e.g., from one claiming to be in the know : "It {finding a pad in London} can be very frustrating as there are many lying bastard money grabbing blood sucking leach like agents out there, .."

(Main Hint 2: If a student or getting an academic job, make use of the relevant University accommodation databases. If not getting an academic job, make use of the public parts of the relevant University accommodation databases which have much good advice, legal information / legal rights, and hints on avoiding common pitfalls - often in very clear, easy to read simple English)

(Main Hint 3: London sources state that if you behave like a sucker to an agent (above mentioned as [quote] "blood sucking" and "leach like"), you will be treated like a sucker)

(Main Hint 4 (more a consequence really): If getting a decent, cost effective pad is your priority, you may eventually become as evil and tainted as the agents who hawk them)

(Main Hint 5 : Places advertised on agents' web-sites and commercial websites seem to be 20 to 60 pounds higher than you would probably pay if you went around at the break of day with a knowledgable London based friend and the letting adverts from the local papers.)

(Main Hint 6 : Having good references and a history of not trashing previous rental accommodation can help secure good bargains from landlords)

(Main Hint 7 (more an opinion really): Working (and trying to live) in London on an ordinary wage (which includes academics) can be a "dog's life for dogs")

Starting Consideration from someone not presently in England -
but claiming to be in the know (not Australian or New Zeland born either)

Date: Thu, 29 Aug 2002
From: .dk
To: Lachlan Cranswick []
Subject: Re: Your website

Dear Lachlan,

I wish I could say that I enjoyed living in London....but the standard
of living leaves a great deal to be desired. As Dame Edna Everidge
always says, England is a 3rd world country. Normal creature comfort
seems to reserved for those of noble birth. As is healthy food, colors
other than brown and green and central heating and plumbing of the late
20th century type.

BUT extracting your very last farthing is what they do with consumate
skill. This is the key to all past, present and unfortunately, future

Enough griping. I shall look at your pictures now and contemplate the
wonders of the universe. And eat my tunafish sandwich.


A comment needing storing somewhere

Date: Fri, 30 Aug 2002 14:11:44 +0100
To: Lachlan Cranswick []
Subject: Re: quick question about generating hydrogen bond tables

DYK: temperatures on the tube during the summer frequently exceed those 
permitted by the european union to carry animals in trucks.

Something to Consider when going for IT jobs in the UK, USA and Europe - 2002

Subject: Re: Jobs and work
Date: Thu, 12 Sep 2002 16:14:14 +0100

> Now that I'm looking for consultancy type work, I wondered what good
> routes were to finding *BSD type work that might be going?

Ha ha ha ha! Sorry, but this made me laugh a little. I've been on the job 
market since last November. There is *nothing* out there.

[text deleted]

The main problem is competition. There is a lot of people out here, and not 
so many jobs. As a result, prices are coming down, employers are getting ten 
times as many applicants as they did 2 years ago, and people are coming down 
in job specs to earn money. Somebody who was a tech director of a 2 
years ago, is now hacking PHP together to pay the rent. It's a grim 
situation, and current expectations are that it won't turn around until 
early 2004. Personally, I'm trying to get onto other projects, still 
looking, but also expecting to do something completely outside IT for a 
year, just to get some moolah.

A continuation of the discussion

Subject: Re: Jobs and work
Date: Thu, 12 Sep 2002 16:52:50 +0100

> This is why I'm seeking some constructive comments.. and kind of got
> the feeling there were some people here who were managing to do okay.

I know people who are surviving, or are keeping hold of their current jobs 
because they have to. I don't know anybody who is doing "OK" from the point 
of view of earning decent money (nd being paid!), doing a job they enjoy for 
people they like and with people they like. Only people I could name are all 
in academia and have been for 10 or more years. 

'to Carthage then I came, where a cauldron of unholy loves sang all about mine ears', St. Augustine's CONFESSIONS.

Background on the hell and futility that is Accommodation in London and Southern England: London can be a very crappy place to live if you are on standard wages. Anyone doing an academic or scientific style job in London will be on standard - or below standard wages.

Extract from the Front page of The Times: Friday, August 2001

Extract from: "Teachers get state cash for homes":
By Philip Webster: Political Editor

At the Hold School in Wokingham,
Berkshire, one in six
of the full-time workforce has
resigned: all cited the high cost
of local housing as a factor in 
their decision.
  Martin Harrison, 30, from
Preston, who has taught art at
the secondary school for three
years, said that he was being
forced to move to Warrington,
where houses are considerably
cheaper.  He will take a job
at a Widnes school.  On a salary 
of UKP 20,000 a year, he is
unable to secure a mortgage
for more then UKB 70,000 - placing
him beneath the bottom 
run of the Wokingham properly
  He has been renting a two-room
flat in Reading for UKP 430
a month, and using candles to
save the cost of electricity.
  He said: "I realised I was 
working 60 hours a week, only
to live in Dickensian conditions.
The landlord said that 
he was putting the rent up and
I thought - 'that's it'."

Extract from Byers unveils home loans for key workers : The Guardian - Friday September 7, 2001

Many nurses, teachers and police have been driven from their careers by the spiralling cost of housing in the south-east, despite a plethora of existing ad hoc increased allowances. Figures show house prices in London rising by 17% a year, compared with 7.7% nationwide. The Royal Institute of Chartered Surveyors reports that a flat in Greater London costs an average £170,000, compared with £85,000 in the south-east, £55,000 in the north-west, and £45,000 in the north.

Extract from Prices fuel rental demand: Evening Standard - 26 November 2002

But rent fell for the third month in a row, although the pace of decline eased slightly, with six per cent more surveyors reporting a drop compared with 10 per cent in the previous quarter. The RICS said the falls were only noticeable in London and the South-East with the average monthly rent on a two-bedroom flat in inner London dropping to £1,733 from £1,842 three months ago.

It said other regions had reported modest rises in average rents.

Extract from the Simon Star (The Newsletter of The Simon Community), Issue No 90, October 2002

Recently, amid a blaze of publicity, the government pledged to build 200,000 new homes in a bid to tackle the housing crisis, but what is less clear is just how many of these homes will actually be affordable and where exactly they will be built.

With over 100,000 children in temporary accommodation in Britain today, and an estimated 400,000 single people living in hostels, night-shelters, squats and friends' floors, no-one should believe that homelessness has ended when the reality is the situation getting worse.

The one thing we can be certain of is that something is going terribly wrong with out society.

Extract from Bid to raise council staff from poverty pay: The Guardian - Monday December 10, 2001

The pay award, if implemented, would create a local government minimum wage of £11,000. The current minimum wage for council staff is £9,267.

Extract from Behind the twenty-something malaise: BBC - Wednesday, 27 November, 2002, 16:07 GMT

This may have created what the report's authors call a "crisis of expectations", where Generation-Xers were promised a bright tomorrow but woke up to cloud and drizzle.


This runs contrary to studies in other western European nations, which showed life satisfaction actually improving with every new generation. The UK is unique in having increasingly miserable young people.


Many Generations-Xers may well be earning more than previous generations did in their 20s, but when compared to older members of the UK workforce their wages have slipped by as much as 12%.

Extract from This Scene of Dissipation and Vice: Visions of London: part of the Jane Austen Society of Australia

Roy Porter, in London A Social History, to which this paper is much indebted (all page references are to this work unless otherwise stated), points out that between the two Elizabeths, between say 1570 and 1986, across rebellion, social upheaval, passing revolutions of one kind and another, the invention of indoor plumbing, mass immunisation, the Internet, and the odd world war or two, London was to become, and then to decline from being, the world’s greatest city.

If one looks for defining moments one could, as Porter has done, choose these two. "In 1570, [Elizabeth I] opened the Royal Exchange, - [and] told the world that London was now a great commercial and financial mart."(Porter, p1) Then, "in 1986 Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher abolished the Greater London Council, leaving the metropolis the only Western "world city’ without its own representative government."(p1), thus effectively abandoning "the idea that London deserved a democratic government of its own, like Paris, Berlin, New York and every other major city in the civilised world."(p1). Porter says this "marked the moment when the doctor decided that the case was incurable and abandoned the patient."(p1)

This London of the new Millennium has "critical and intensifying problems, and is no longer routinely offering all its citizens the elementary benefits that Aristotle thought were the city's raisons d’être (sic): shelter. safety, society, support... a downward spiral of infrastructural and human problems that will prove hard to halt."(p3)

More Background - refer: George Orwell's "Nineteen Eighty-Four"

A good book to read if visiting or staying in "the futile city", is George Orwell's "Nineteen Eighty-Four"; as it is all about living in London. Of which an extract of Winston Smith's thoughts follow:

"The fabulous statistics continued to pour out of the telescreen. As compared with last year there was more food, more clothes, more houses, more furniture, more cooking-pots, more fuel, more ships, more helecopters, more books, more babies - more of everything except disease, crime and insanity. Year by year and minute by minute, everybody and everything was whizzing rapidly upwards." . . . but . . . "Always in your stomach and in your skin there was a sort of protest, a feeling that you had been cheated of something that you had a right to. It was true that he had no memories of anything greatly different. In any time that he could accurately remember, there had never been quite enough to eat, one had never had socks or underclothes that were not full of holes, furniture had always been battered and rickity, rooms underheated, tube trains crowded, houses falling to pieces, bread dark-coloured, tea a rarity, coffee filthy-tasting, cigarettes insufficient - nothing cheap and plentiful except synthetic gin. And though, of course, it grew worse as one's body aged, was it not a sign that this was not the natural order of things, if one's heart sickened at the discomfort and dirt and scarcity, the interminable winters, the stickiness of one's socks, the lifts that never worked, the cold water, the gritty soap, the cigarettes that came to pieces, the food with its strange evil tastes? Why should one feel it to be interolerable unless one had some kind of ancestral memory that things had once been different?".

The life of a London Fire fighter - working in London - but not able to afford living in London

  • (London) Fire workers: 'We don't want to go on strike. We just want a decent wage' By Cahal Milmo (19 October 2002)

  • From

  • "Blue watch, the 15 men entrusted with the safety of a large chunk of London yesterday, nodded their heads in grim unanimity as one of their number explained why Britain's firemen yesterday voted for their first strike in 25 years.

    Greg Pattinson, a firefighter for 24 years, said: "Listen, we don't for one second want to do this. But we can't just be told any more that we do a wonderful job. What we want is a decent wage."

    The men of Blue Watch were gathered in a circle, sipping mugs of tea after returning from their last "shout" or 999 call to Wembley Fire Station, north-west London.

    According to London Fire Brigade figures, Blue Watch and their 45 colleagues at Wembley last year answered 1,500 emergency calls ranging from house fires to their first call yesterday, a case of a smoking domestic garage. Because it acts as a support for smaller neighbouring stations but does not have those 999 calls added to its statistics, the real number is more like 2,000 – or 5.5 callouts every day.

    But according to Wembley's firemen, a different set of statistics tell the real tale of life as a firefighter and the overwhelming frustration and anger which has led them to what they call "our very last resort".

    - Only one member of Blue Watch lives in the London borough of Brent where the station is based. Unable to afford soaring property prices, the rest live in places including Peterborough, Milton Keynes, Bournemouth and Dorchester. Four live in the Irish Republic.

    - As a result, every night at least five of the men have to sleep in the fire station regardless of whether they are on night duty. Others prefer a long commute to see their children for an hour each night. One man drives from Cornwall and sleeps in his van in the fire station car park.

    Welcome, say Blue Watch, to the British fire service in 2002.

    Mr Pattinson, a 42-year-old father of three, who has a law degree achieved while in service, had risen at 5am to leave his Milton Keynes home. His shift starts at 9am but he has to arrive at 7am to avoid traffic jams. With luck, he will be home tonight by 8.45pm. After nearly 25 years' service with the London Fire Brigade, he earns £24,500. He said: "People have to know the truth of how this service is provided and that is because of the sacrifices we have made in 25 years of being steadily underpaid.

    "I do this job because I love it, because I and every other firefighter has a strong sense of public duty. But we don't want to be told any more that we are heroes, that we do a wonderful job. We aren't special, we do a job like anyone else but all we want is to do that job for a decent wage."

    The men, with an average age of 35 and an average salary of around £22,000, bristled at any suggestion that their 40 per cent pay claim, meaning £30,000 for a full-time qualified firefighter, was excessive.

    They pointed out that had they received the same percentage pay increases as government ministers since their last national pay formula was decided in 1977, their average wage would be £34,000.

    A 40 per cent increase, they said would only bring them into line with public servants in the police, the health service and schools.

    It would also remove the need for some of them to supplement their income by working up to 42 extra hours a week as taxi drivers, lorry drivers and bar staff.

    Dave Sinclair, an imposing former Royal Marine and Blue Watch's sub-officer, who has to sleep on his chief officer's floor when he is not at home in Bournemouth, said firefighters were being asked to take on more and more duties with diminishing returns. They make educational visits, carry out domestic and business safety surveys and install free smoke detectors for the elderly.

    They are also required to answer any 999 calls within eight minutes and be ready to deal with any incident from a warehouse fire to a multiple pile-up.

    Mr Sinclair, 49, said: "We are professionals just like police officers but we don't receive the same status. We don't qualify for low-interest home loans; that's why none of us live in London. We don't earn enough to pay our mortgages, which is why so many of us have second jobs. What was 25 years of frustration has become a very real anger."

    Kevin Malone, 39, a firefighter for 14 years who lives in Peterborough because it was the only place he could afford, said: "Do you think we really want to see Green Goddesses on the streets? Of course we don't, we are not militants but that is the measure of how bad things are. We must see this through.""

  • Money for reform: the Blairite mantra must apply to firefighters too (19 October 2002)

  • From

  • "For Britain's firefighters to throw away public sympathy for their claim for higher pay requires either real malice or real incompetence on the part of their union's leadership. Of all public sector workers, only nurses come close to firefighters in earning uncritical support from the general public.

    And yet the Fire Brigades Union (FBU) puts that deep fund of respect in peril with a claim for a 40 per cent pay rise, an obstructive attitude towards the mere suggestion of changes to the shift system and, now, a decision to strike which will put lives at risk.

    Of course, the decision to strike was taken by a democratic ballot of the union membership, and it is a measure of the strength of feeling that they are prepared to go so far. But this is an outcome which could and should have been avoided if more imagination had been shown by the FBU and the Government.

    The firefighters have a good case (a) for more money and (b) for modernising the formula which has settled their pay since the last strike in 1977. But that case is not so strong that it could justify a single avoidable death. There must be better ways for the FBU to draw attention to its case than striking, but the union's left-wing leadership is poorly equipped to think of them.

    Its case is not even strong enough to justify the claim for a 40 per cent rise. Much of the arithmetic of the firefighters' grievance is suspect. As a group, firefighters have done reasonably well since 1977. Contrary to myth, they have done better than most other groups in the public sector and their pay has always increased by more than inflation. Their current pay, £21,531 a year, is more than that earned by half the full-time workforce.

    That was what the 1977 formula was designed to do, and for a long time it succeeded in its aim of avoiding the need for strike action. But the employers have made a poor fist of countering the FBU's propaganda about how poorly-paid its members are.

    It is also true, however, that the formula is out of date. Linking firefighters' pay to that of male manual workers is not only sexist, it has produced dwindling returns in recent years.

    The formula ought to reflect the fact that society as a whole owes firefighters a special debt. The reward for their contribution should be set in relation to the incomes of the population as a whole, so the formula ought to fix firefighters' pay in relation to average incomes rather than the earnings of any particular group.

    But this dispute does raise the issue of whether pay ought to be set by national bargaining at all. And it also draws attention to the FBU's refusal to enter discussions about changing working patterns. It seems probable, to put it at its mildest, that the fire service could be organised more efficiently if it were not bound by the two-shift system which is even older than the pay formula.

    Tony Blair is right to insist that the principle of more money for reform applies to the fire service as much as to other public services. But it may be that the only way to achieve reform would be to devolve pay bargaining.

    A review body could fix a new formula to provide a minimum pay level – more than 4 per cent higher than current pay but less than 40 per cent higher. It could then be up to local authorities to offer more money in return for flexible working patterns to suit local conditions, including local labour market conditions.

    The Government should not have allowed FBU members' resentments to build up to such a pitch. But now it has no choice but to pay up. The best it can hope for is to ensure that the money has strings marked "flexible working practices" firmly attached. "

Extracts of paperwork The Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea sent to Landlord (my tenant's copy) October 2002

Re: Mouse and Cockroach Infestation. Public Health Act 1936 & Prevention of Damage by Pests Act 1949.

Notice requiring Owner or Occupier to cary out works.

Whereas it appears to the Council of The Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea that steps should be taken for keeping the above mentioned land free from rats and/or mice.

Notice requiring the Cleansing of Filthy or Unwholesome or Verminous Premises

Whereas the Major, Alderman and Burgesses of The Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea (hereinafter called the "Council") are satisfied upon consideration of a report from one of their officers, or from other information in their possession, that the premises situated in the said Borough and known as XXXX are in such a filthy or unwholesome condition as to be prejudicial to health and are verminous.

NOW THEREAFTER TAKE NOTICE that the Council pursuant to Section 83 of the Public Health Act, 1936, as amended by Section 35 of the Public Health Act, 1961, and as applied by Section 40 of the London Government Act, 1963, hereby require you within 14 days from this date to take the following steps to remedy the condition of the premises: (See Attached Schedule).

London University Accomodaton Databases

London on-line Street maps

London Letting Advert websites / Letting Companies / Agencies

(For those not happy or elligible to use the London University based accommodation systems)

As mentioned above - by default, most advertised flats are unrealistically expensive in London. If you have the chance to search around, it is possible to find bargains (relatively low price and of good standard. There are some non-ratbag agents/landlords in London who offer decent rates, service and accommodation but you do have to look and perservere). It also helps to have good references. Many advertised flats try and make it look their "above average" asking rental prices are actually the "standard" price - be wary and be willing to haggle as if you say you can only afford to pay X per month, agents have been known to be flexible (unpublished verbal reports).

  • Tuesday, 7 May, 2002, 07:43 GMT 08:43 UK - UK rental market 'wobbling'
    • At

    • "Too many landlords

      Ray Barrowdale of RICS told BBC News Online that while landlords were still making a profit, average returns from property investments were falling.

      "What's appearing now, in some parts, is a waiting list of landlords. Normally there is a waiting list of tenants," he said.

      He said people needed to be careful and should do their homework before putting money into property.

      London falling

      Malcolm Harrison, spokesman for the Association of Residential letting Agents (ARLA), told BBC News Online that there had been a decline in rental yields in prime London areas.

      Rental yields were about 5% to 6% in these areas, far off the amounts people were getting a few years ago.

      In simpler terms, this means that people are on average getting between £5,000 and £6,000 a year from rental income on a £100,000 property, rather than £9,000 or £10,000.

      Mr Harrison said that these 9 and 10% yields were "unsustainable". "

  • Winkworth

  • FLATS-R-US, for buying, selling, renting or letting Flats

  • LOOT

  • Net lettings - London flats to rent
    • "Net lettings - London flats to rent. 50+ letting and estate agents in all areas. Accommodation to rent. Holiday flats, studios homes or apartments to rent, real estate to rent or to let. THE London property rental website."
    • At

Around Earl's Court

English / London Tenancy Agreements and Rental Contracts


  • Advice for tenants: Frequently Asked Questions: CONTRACTS:
    • Before agreeing to lease a property, obtain from the landlord/agent proof of permission to let. This is particularly important where a landlord is paying a mortgage. If the landlord/agent does not have permission to let, and stops paying the mortgage, the mortgage company could foreclose on the property and evict you
      A written contract is any agreement between two parties, signed and preferably witnessed
      There is no legal requirement for a landlord/agent to provide a written contract but always try and have one (or provide one yourself), as it helps prevent misunderstanding and disagreement and is proof of what was agreed
      ALWAYS read a contract before signing; you are legally entitled to have a copy of it once signed

  • UOL Landlord site - TENANCY AGREEMENTS :

  • UOL Landlord site - SAFETY LEGISLATION :

  • Welcome to Letlink! (Letlink is an on-line service for residential letting providing a comprehensive Internet site for the United Kingdom letting sector. It lists local letting agents and provides essential information for landlords or tenants, and advice for people relocating to the UK.) :

  • FACTS: Assured Shorthold Tenancy Agreements (The Housing Act 1988 as amended by the Housing Act 1996) :
    • For tenancies created on or after February 28 1997, there is no longer any requirement to serve the tenant with a prior notice of assured shorthold tenancy (the 's20 notice)'
    • Completing the tenancy agreement:

      The usual practice is to for the landlord (or agent) to prepare two duplicate copies of the agreement ready for signing; these are called the Original and Counterpart. When completing the standard form, all details, signatures and dates must be completed on both documents in ink, by hand or typewritten (not pencil). All parts of the form should be completed clearly fully and unambiguously. Should a court be called upon to interpret the agreement, it might uphold the contra proferentem rule where ambiguity is resolved against the party preparing the agreement or else conclude that those parties had still to reach agreement concerning those uncompleted portions (in which case, the agreement as a whole might be declared void).

      Completion details:

      • Date: enter here the date when the agreement was made between the parties. If the agreement is to be signed by the parties at different times, the date of the first signature can be used.
      • Landlord: enter the name(s) of the landlord(s). If the property is jointly owned, include all names.
      • Tenant(s): likewise, enter the name(s) of the tenant(s). The full name(s) of the tenant(s) should be completed on the agreement. Where there is a joint tenancy, all joint tenants should be listed.
      • Property: the property or dwelling being let should be accurately defined within this section of the agreement such that the address or description fully identifies the property and is free from ambiguity.
      • Term: since the changes introduced by the Housing Act 1996, an assured shorthold tenancy need not now be a term certain of at least six months - it can be any length of time. If the fixed term is to exceed three years, then the agreement must be drawn up by deed (consult your solicitor for details).
      • Rent: the agreement should clearly state the amount of rent payable, and the frequency of the payments (the rental period). Generally, the rental period would be monthly although the rent could validly be expressed as a weekly or quarterly amount. If weekly, then a rent book must also be supplied. If the rent exceeds £25,000 per annum, then the tenancy may not be assured shorthold (see above).

  • English Tenancy Deposit Scheme: Legal Documents for renters: (All our documents meet the Clear English Standard of the Plain Language Commission.):

  • - London and UK On-line maps

Public Transport

  • London Transport/Public Transport Page

  • London Transport Bus maps

  • Going Underground
    • At

    • At

    • "'the next train is arriving from another dimension'"

    • At
      • "The London Underground Customer Charter offers a very straightforward refund system for an individual journey delayed more than 15 minutes (except in circumstances outside LU control such as freak weather or security alerts) Claim forms are available at any London Underground station. The refund amount is the standard single fare for the Underground journey you were undertaking." Paul, from London Transport

      • ""Having spent many hours trapped in delayed trains on the Underground, I attempt to gain a level of retribution by completing the Customer Charter Refund Form. This too I find a total bind, so I have developed a small computer program to assist in this task. The system operates by retaining my personal information, as well as that relating to my season ticket. I then simply complete the details relating to that particular claim and insert a claim form in my printer. The program has been set up to fill in the appropriate blanks, except for the last line which is too close to the edge of the page. I then can simply post off the claim and wait for the return. "In addition, the system then records each claim so I have a record of what claims are outstanding, and how long it takes London Underground to process them, as well as a record of the 'value' of my vouchers. "This project started out as a bit of fun, simply for my own amusement. I was however quite appalled when I discovered that London Underground process some 21,000 claims a week. The cost of processing these claims in terms of stationary, manpower, and loss of revenue to London Underground must be horrendous. If anyone, especially from London Underground can corroborate these figures, I would be interested to hear from them. And if anyone is interested in my program please contact me. Who knows, there may be something in this yet!" B Gower "

  • This isn't London : The internet's first, best and only source of untrue, made-up and false facts and information about London.
    • At
    • At

    • This site was created on 3 June 2004 as the web's first, best and only* source of completely untrue - indeed, made-up and unfactual - facts and information about London, The World's Greatest City*. Its creator originally planned an Encyclopedia Errata of untrue facts about things in general, to counter the rising tide of accuracy and diligence on the internet*, only to realise upon being permitted access to the British Library's fabled Mythomaniacal Archive* that the vast bulk of interesting material therein was about London*, his home city.

      This database will be updated hourly* and by September 2004 will contain more than 600,000 entries*.

      *Might not be true.

    • At

    • Outside, above the
      ground, far from the
      city, deer drink from
      streams so pure and
      cold they sparkle like
      diamond; hoarfrost
      rattles in branches and
      rooks call softly through
      the still, pure air. And
      you'll never see it
      because you are trapped
      in a steel box with 500
      other smelly drones.
      Have a pleasant

    • At

    • The Dog Barons

      All of London's dogs are owned by the same company. Amalgamated Canine Industries was founded when the dog population of the city was nationalised under the Attlee government in 1948, and its holdings were leased back to the pooches' former owners. Since then, this company has, in various forms, regulated all dog activity in the capital.

      However, it was not always successful. Inefficiencies and strikes in the late 1970s plagued ACI, and ultimately led to some dogs going as much as three days without walkies. Hampstead Heath was littered with unreturned sticks, and the Minister for Employment struck out at some of those involved, claiming "I have found many to be not very good boys at all".

      In 1987, Thatcher privatised ACI in order to improve its competitiveness, and in 2001 the company rebranded as ProCanis.

      On a related topic, it's interesting to note that, although they operate on a freelance basis, the squirrels of St James's Park are unionised. This makes them the third most organised group of animals in London after dogs and wombles. Wombles do not have their own union, but most are members of Unison, the public service union.

    • At

    • The Sad Tale of the Moquette

      "Moquette" is the robust, deep-pile material used to cover the seats on the London Underground and on London buses.

      For many years these seats were simple wooden benches. When the decision was made to upgrade to padded seats, the Royal Geographical Society despatched explorers to points throughout the British Empire to find a material tough enough to withstand the rears of thousands of Londoners.

      The breakthrough was made by Sir Magnus Larchwood in south-west Africa. In 1923 he discovered a species called the moquette (a relation of the meerkat) that had checked fur in a variety of striking colours, notably orange, purple, blue and brown. A trade in the moquette was set up and Tubes were furbished with their hides.

      Sadly, such was the demand for moquette skins that the native population quickly dwindled. The ranks of this noble beast were further eroded after the second world war when they fell prey to Wrigley's Disease, a malady spread by discarded chewing gum. The last moquette died in captivity at the Royal College of Fashion in 1974 during a desperate attempt to equip the new Jubilee Line.

    • At

    • Poetry on the Underground #2

      Hammersmith: 'So bad it's good'

  • Going Underground's Blog - Saturday, July 31, 2004
    • At

    • At
    • At

    • Saturday, July 31, 2004: Tube Ad banned : Smelly Food Ad Pulled for insulting Italians
      Friday, June 04, 2004

    • Friday, July 16, 2004: Threat of Tube Strike and Deafness

      What a great start to the day as there's going to be more discussions on more industrial action today (I'll keep you posted on the outcome), but just in case that's not cheery enough it looks as though being on the tube could cause hearing loss.

      According to the BBC "An expert measured sound levels louder than a pneumatic drill and advised regular passengers to consider wearing ear protection." The expert in question measured noise levels on the Victoria Line and found that found that the noise peaked at 118dB, louder than a pneumatic drill. Apparently the average level was between 88 and 89dB.

    • Wednesday, June 16, 2004:

      Our Shiney Modern Tube
      trains are so full of
      aggravated passengers
      in the hot summer
      months that they even
      exceed E.U. legislation
      for cattle transport.

      Our advice?

      Drink some water or
      maybe get off a bit early
      if you're feeling a bit faint
      you winging pansy.

    • At

    • Friday, April 02, 2004: London Dungeon advert:

      "If you think that being squashed together buttock to buttock, armpit to nose, hurtling through putrid rat infested tunnels is bad, go back 300 years and get a trouser wetting, heart pumping feel of what it was really like to be punished as a traitor. We'll shove you on a boat ride to HELL. You'll be screaming to get back on The Tube."

    • At

    • Friday, March 26, 2004: Oh God, a Bag, I'll pretend I didn't see it

      If you suspect it, leave it
      Don't start asking questions who it belongs to. You'll only embarrass yourself and everyone else.

      London, don't make a fuss.

    • At

    • Wednesday, October 15, 2003: Reading over people's shoulders

    • At

    • Wednesday, August 27, 2003: Tube poet

      Forget to say that last Friday 22nd August on the Northern Line at about 6ish (not my normal line thank God) I saw this tube poet/busker reciting a poem about commuting. He was white, quite skinny, skinhead with a strange long strand of blue hair protruding from the front.

      He got on the train and said something like "Ladies and Gentleman can I have a moment of your time?" (which is tantamount to saying - "I am a tramp or a nutter and about to embarrass you") He then recited a "poem" about tube commuting which I wish to the life of me I could have remembered, but it's something like:

      A is for the arseholes that we travel with everyday
      B is for Bureaucracy that always makes you pay etc etc

      I made the above two up, but some actual ones were:

      J is for the jealousy for those that have a seat

      M is for the announcer saying Mind the Gap
      N is for the newspapers that are always full of crap

      P is for the pervert who is staring at your crutch

      He went through the whole alphabet, during which there a few smiles and then lots of shuffling as it was going on a bit too long and we wondered what he'd do at the end. When it did actually end, there was a silence, and he said "Ah come on folks - you can do better than that" - still nothing. Then he looked all hurt and stood in the corner swigging from a bottle of mineral water and got off at the next stop.

      Does the poor man do this every day?

      Does anyone else know the whole poem or can you fill in some of the lines?

    • Wednesday, October 15, 2003: Reading over people's shoulders

    • At

    • Friday, July 11, 2003:

      Urban Intervention No.5
      When a tourist next asks you for direction insist on personally taking them to their destination, even if this involves catching a bus or taking the Tube

      Urban Intervention No.6
      If you are asked for directions and are unable to help, consider recommending an alternative destination that you would find equally interesting

    • At

    • Saturday, May 17, 2003:

      Found a strange little site that had linked to my tuberules page today which compares London with Hong Kong in bullet point form.

      It's starts with the Underground:

      MTR: Wonderful & modern. Very efficient.

      Underground: Complicated network with rats. Can stop between stations for 15 minutes without air-conditioning.

      For more comparisons of London with Hong Kong

  • The Tubeprune (Tube Professionals' RUmour NEtwork)
    • At

    • Tube rules - Underground Etiquette
      • At

      • [Don't read over my shoulder] [When to give up your seat] [Don't stand so close to me] [Look before you sit] [Don't barge onto trains] [Stand clear of the closing doors] [Mind the Gap] [Stand clear of the droning bores] [Talkin' loud and saying nothing] [When did your bags last buy a ticket?] [Throwing up] [Rucksacks!!!!] [Stand on the right] [Shut your legs] [No kissing either] [Coughs and Sneezes] [Don't fall asleep on the tube] [How to get a seat] [Trust no one] [You are not invisible all the time] [The art of balance] [Try not to faint] [Don't look at anyone] [Barriers are there for a reason] [Don't blow your nose] [Watch your brollies] [Have consideration for tourists!] [Multiple swipers should be banned] [Don't stare at seats too long] [You might meet your future partner] [How to be first on the tube]

      • Lesson twenty three - Avoid eye contact :

      • Perils of the decrepit District Line :
        • "There is no moral high ground in any argument against the private car, and there can be none until we are provided with public transport that is more than adequate and utterly reliable. "

    • It's hell down there (what it is like to work in the London Underground)
      • At,4273,4093320,00.html

      • "The London underground is a great example of familiarity breeding contempt. The lucky Victorians who travelled through the tunnels from Farringdon to Paddington - in steam trains - were amazed and enthralled by the feats of engineering. When the escalator was introduced, the underground had to employ staff to ride it to prove its safety to an overawed public. The stations built in the 30s are among the finest examples of art deco architecture in London. Yet when I told a friend I was applying for the job of station assistant he warned me, quite accurately, that underground staff rank alongside traffic wardens in the London public's hall of disdain."

      • "In the old days, wages were poor, drinking among staff was rife and the fact that King's Cross did not burn down every day truly is a reason to believe in God. After the 1987 fire, however, nothing could be the same again, and the so-called Company Plan shook up the organisation with a lot of mission statements, sackings and wage rises. Those who held on to their jobs were soon mingling with graduates and ex-professionals who had not found anywhere else to earn such a living wage. "

      • "For the humble station assistant - fortunately not stuck behind glass - the only way to avoid all this is simply to skive. The younger staff are quite brutal about this, going to the toilet for 20 minutes at a time and taking two hours to go three stops up the line and back again. But the older staff, schooled in the heady 70s, when doing your duty meant getting your round in, are in another world. "

      • "Once one of the managers went to him during the round of pay talks. "What do you think of this rubbish the RMT want, Derek," he asked. "They're never going to get a 35-hour week, you know." "Thirty-five-hour week!" Derek spluttered. "No one's getting me to work a 35-hour week!"

        Of course, the familiarity Londoners have with the tube tends to be familiarity with overpricing, overcrowding and under-running. The consequences of 30 years of efficiency savings has left a skeletal system that has no slack to accommodate the inevitable mishaps. In addition, the inexorable rise in passenger numbers means that even a fully functioning train service is bursting at the seams.

        Meanwhile, the organisation is being broken up in preparation for the most bizarre sell-off of them all, so that contractors working for the Victoria line, for example, cannot now attend an emergency job under the Northern line's jurisdiction - even if they are on the same station.

        The current crisis on the national rail system is a sure indicator of the direction the underground is taking as management fragments and the staff are required to be multiskilled, in order that one person can do three people's jobs. If the underground has avoided the catastrophes of the train network, it is only because it has not yet succumbed to the full-blown idiocy of privatisation. "

      • "The tube's managers are hamstrung by the fact that - since for the most part they are much too lazy to do anything - their warnings and threats can be taken lightly, at least for the first five years or so. The managers who bounce in, full of energy and enthusiasm, are soon worn down by the sloth and malaise of the whole place. "

    • Connex: Nobody should be charged for an experience so awful - By Barrie Clement, Transport Editor - 28 June 2003
      • At

      • Commuters with no history of mental illness have been known to stand on platforms and growl. Others have been seen smashing to bits their umbrellas. One man made a mock announcement to hundreds of passengers that the managing director of the train operator had been taken out and shot. His fellow commuters cheered.

        Welcome to Connex, the company that can turn the garrulous into the catatonic, the religious into foul-mouthed sociopaths.

        Apart from the lateness of services, the chewing-gummed filth one has to sit in, there is the lavatories. When the Networker trains were introduced, the company trumpeted that they were vandal-proof. Predictably, Kent's ne'er-do-wells saw this as a challenge and now they are frequently trashed and often unrepaired.

        Eight-coach trains, which are divided into two four-car sections, should have a functioning lavatory in each. That is rarely the case. Sometimes neither works; rarely are they both operational.

        Passengers are advised not to sit anywhere near the WC, invariably the centre of a disagreeable and health-threatening microclimate. On one occasion when I did, the lavatory door suddenly came flying across at me, having been kicked off by a drunk who stuck inside.

        Connex tortures its "customers" by only opening station toilets on platforms that are not receiving home-bound services in the evening. So commuters who go for a drink - especially those fond of beer - can be left in some discomfort because there is no guarantee the train will have one either.

        It would be nice to know where the trains are going. Each locomotive has an electronic sign on the front. Sometimes they are in use, sometimes not. Inside the coaches there are other electronic displays to show which stations the train is stopping at. Sometimes they are operational, sometimes not.

        Drivers are supposed to tell passengers where the services are going. Sometimes they do, sometimes they don't. This might be to do with the bloody-mindedness of drivers, but it is also the legacy of a recent "human relations" director at Connex whose stated aim was to destroy Aslef, the train drivers' union. The company would have been better off if his mission had been to ensure the drivers provided a decent service.

        Apart from the main London stations - where occasionally a disembodied voice may vouchsafe some information - Connex does not announce the destination of trains in the evenings. On the platforms are electronic signs to show where the next few services are going. But because trains are inevitably late, the sequence of arrivals is changed. The station signs are often some way from where the train stops, so no one is entirely sure where they are going. And during serious delays, passengers are often left to speculate about the cause.

        Sometimes there is violence. I once saw a man being "glassed'' on a train. I pulled the communication lever and the driver spoke to me through an intercom, but it was impossible to tell what he was saying. At last we pulled in to Gravesend - and the two assailants fled. They were never caught.

        A few coaches have CCTV but security staff no longer travel on the worst trains. The only time one sees Connex employees on the train is when they try to catch passengers without tickets. It comes as something of a surprise that one has to pay for the Connex experience.

    • Power lines blamed for widespread chaos - By Paul Peachey - 28 June 2003
      • At

      • Power lines down, two of Britain's main routes out of operation and services cancelled or delayed for hours yesterday. Yet another day of high blood pressure for the train commuters of Britain. Elsewhere, Connex services seemed to be running without disruption.

        Midland Mainline advised passengers to travel only "if absolutely necessary", Thameslink said its services were "severely disrupted" and GNER said services would not be running normally again until this afternoon. The chaos was caused by the downing of power lines on two of the busiest routes into and out of London, although no rail company or Network Rail could say yesterday why it had happened.

        The result of the problems at Luton, Bedfordshire, and near Grantham, Lincolnshire, was cancellations, a series of shuttle buses and hours of delays for thousands of passengers travelling with five different operating companies.

        Alan Street, 61, left his home in Nottingham yesterday planning to travel to the High Court in London, where he was due at 10.30am. He first went to Nottingham, bought his £121 first-class return ticket and then left the station when he found out the Midland Mainline service would not get him to London on time. He travelled across to Grantham, where he finally made it to a platform and learnt that owing to the problems on GNER's east coast route, he would be going nowhere, apart from back home.

        "The meeting I was hoping to go to was an important one, but not vital," said Mr Street, a semi-retired consumer protection expert and a member of the Rail Passengers' Council. "Had it been vital, I would have gone last night, I simply won't trust the reliability of services for vital meetings."

        Signalling problems had only been cleared up in the Bedford area less than three hours before the new problems in Luton.

        A Network Rail spokesman said: "We apologise for the severe delays passengers have experienced. We will work round the clock to try to sort the problem out."

        There were problems near Newquay, Cornwall, after a vehicle hit a bridge and near Doncaster, South Yorkshire, and Great Malvern, Worcestershire, because of apparent suicide cases.

        As Richard Bowker, chairman of the Strategic Rail Authority, made clear yesterday in his letter to long-suffering customers of Connex South Eastern, which is to lose its franchise: "It is business as usual for train services."

    • Underground History - Disused Stations on London's Underground

    • Inquiry ordered over 'bus fare nun' trial

    • The 100f Tube journey home

    • tube map from the "Have I Got 1997 For You" book
      • At

      • Seven sisters
      • Seven brothers
      • Seven brides
      • Annie get your gun
      • Oklahoma
      • South Pacific
      • Indonesia
      • East Timor (Closed for Massacre)
      • Caution - busker
      • And he's playing an Oasis song
      • Wonderwall
      • Face pressed into armpit of sweaty sewage worker
      • See package
      • Get nervious
      • Thing about metioning it to someone
      • Move quietly to other carriage
      • Pickpocket central

    • Subterranea Britannica: Research Study Group: Sites: Brompton Road

    • Things to do in London

    • An Aussie in London - stories of Australian share house hell in London

    • About London - An Aussie in London - stories of Australian share house hell in London

    • Dust to dust - 04 April 2003
      • At

      • Remember the wrong kind of leaves? And after that the wrong kind of snow? You might have thought that we had already reached the reductio ad absurdam when it comes to unbelievable excuses for delays on the railways. But no. Yesterday London Transport announced that the Central Line was to reopen after being out of service for nearly 10 weeks. (Residents of the metropolis prepare yourselves to weep, and the rest of you wipe that smug grin off your faces: this line every week carries more passengers that all the national rail network put together. Or it is supposed to.)

        Well it came back all right. For just 41 minutes, before being closed again because of a fire alert, a defective train and ... wait for it ... the wrong kind of dust on the platforms. You couldn't make it up.

    • London Black Cabs

    • - best place to buy cheap UK rail tickets

    • UK National Rail Network

    • From the London Metropolitan Police Service
      • Crime Prevention in London:

      • London Streetwise Guide to Safety on the Street:
        • What should I do when I am walking on my own?
        • How do I stay safe on trains and buses?
        • Are Taxi's safe?
        • Travel Tips

      • Extract: Trains and tubes

        Carriages on trains

        Go into open ones, where people can walk through, rather than closed compartments. Older British Rail trains have closed compartment carriages marked with a red line on the side above the windows. Avoid these if you are on your own. There will be open-style carriages somewhere else on the train. Look for a carriage with several other passengers in it, preferably not all in the same group: it's always safer to have a mix of people around you.

        On the Tube (The London Underground)

        Go into the front or middle carriages. They are less likely to empty suddenly. Try to choose a carriage which will stop near the exit at the station you are travelling to.


        They like stations and trains, where people are often in a hurry and slightly careless of their possessions. Keep your valuables secure on you - wallets and purses in inside pockets; bags carried forward, with your hand on them.

        If you have a heavy bag or box, don't dump it several feet away from you. It will get in the way of other people and may cause an accident. Also, you run a greater risk of having it stolen - it only takes seconds to snatch something when the train stops at a station.

        Put big or heavy items on the rack above your head (if there's room) or on an empty seat, where you can keep an eye on them.

        Rush hours and peak times

        When it's crowded and you have to stand, try and find yourself a strap or partition to hold onto, to save getting thrown about.

        Be especially careful when you are joining a tube or train from a crowded platform. Also take extra care when getting off crowded trains. Look before you step and "mind the gap".

        If you are in a crowd and someone is touching you or rubbing against you in a way you don't like, don't put up with it. Either tell them to move back a little or, if you can't face it or aren't sure who's doing it, stick your elbows out to create some more space for yourself. As soon as you can, move to a different part of the carriage. Even in a thick crowd, if you keep saying "excuse me" politely but determinedly, people will make way for you. If you are frightened, TELL someone immediately. Choose a family group rather than a single person, and ask if you can stay with them until you feel safe. And ALWAYS report this kind of thing to the police - even if your information is vague, it will still be useful.

        Emergency handles

        Notice them. They are marked out in red. If the nearest one is too high, look for another one nearby which you can reach by climbing on a seat. Tubes have pull down handles and push buttons. Some BR trains have emergency chains to pull rather than handles. They all have the same effect.

        If you find yourself alone in a carriage with people who frighten you, get next to the emergency handle/button/chain, stand straight and let them see you're prepared to use it if there's trouble. Don't be afraid of changing carriages when the train gets in to the next station, if it makes you feel more comfortable.

        Platforms on British Rail

        If the platform is empty or there are people on it who make you uncomfortable, you can usually stay near the ticket office, or the ticket collector, until the train appears.

        Underground platforms

        Usually near escalators, stairs or lifts, where people will be coming and going. If someone on the platform makes you anxious, go to wherever there are people around who make you feel safe. It's better to miss a tube and get the next one than put yourself at risk.

        Always stay in well-lit areas. Many tube station platforms now have Help Points with both emergency and information buttons which you can push. Many also have public telephones.

    • - London and UK On-line maps

    • Friday. Rush-hour. On the Tube. Now tell me public services are improving By Steve Richards : 03 February 2002
      • At

      • "The Government is in danger of believing its own propaganda. With a new zeal ministers are proclaiming improvements in public services and, more ominously, are reluctant to hear about examples of failure. Let's talk about the good times they protest. Don't mention a dodgy hospital, let alone a crumbling train.

        This new form of self-censorship, or what one minister describes euphemistically as "anecdotal selectiveness", arises from a fear that soon nobody will have any faith in public services and will look to the privatising Tories for salvation."

      • "This is how grim it is. Last Friday the northern part of the Piccadilly Underground line in London was suddenly closed down at the height of the rush hour. Passengers were heading for work, meetings and the airport (the line goes to Heathrow). I was one of them. Here is reportage from the front line.

        For 10 minutes there was no information at all about the delay. Finally a packed Tube headed off for two stops. Then there was another delay. After several more minutes there was not one explanation but three. That is how it goes with explanations: you wait and then three come along at the same time. One announcement blamed a defective train down the line, another suggested smoke in a tunnel, and from another crackly loudspeaker came news of a station closure. What none of the conflicting announcements could convey was the likely length of the delay.

        Another 15 minutes later we were all turned out beneath the grey, wet skies of Wood Green. The queues for the buses stretched for hundreds of yards. People were desperate. Planes were being missed and working days ruined. Windswept passengers were banging on the rain-splattered windows of buses pleading to be squeezed on, although those who were already on board looked as if they were about to expire. None of the buses was moving because of gridlock on the high road. Perhaps people had heard there were no Tubes and had taken to their cars. More likely, a growing number of people can no longer trust public transport, and therefore have no choice but to drive.

        No doubt the extraction of a single anecdote will bring forth the Government response that this is what Iain Duncan Smith did with the NHS. He used one misleadingly emotive example to make a wider point. But there is no doubt that this example does make a wider point. The state of the Underground, and indeed the overground trains, is not a trivial matter. The unreliability, high fares and overcrowding together amount to a national emergency and should be treated with the same urgency as the outbreak of foot and mouth. After all, three-and-a-half million people use the Underground every day."

      • "Before we were all ejected from our stationary Tube the woman next to me said she had arrived from West Africa 25 years ago and had been amazed how well services in England worked. "Nothing works any more ... Now we have the same services as my country without the good weather," she observed calmly as we headed up the escalators for what looked like a war zone.

        Mr Blair is heading for her country of origin this week. I am not one of those who believes a prime minister should be more or less banned from leaving this island, but I hope he does not offer his hosts any advice about how to run a transport system. "

    • Furious ministers to strip rail chiefs of power
      • At

      • By Barrie Clement, Transport Editor - 05 January 2004

        Rail bosses are to be stripped of much of their power by ministers, who believe the ramshackle network is running out of control, The Independent has learnt.

        The decision will concentrate power in the hands of Alistair Darling, the Secretary of State for Transport, and represents a dramatic stage in the "creeping nationalisation" of the industry which was privatised in 1995. Mr Darling is planning to extend his control by taking power from the Strategic Rail Authority, the semi-independent body which receives billions of pounds of taxpayers' money but has failed to enhance performance, relegating it to the same status as the Transport Department's Highways Agency. It will have fewer resources, less power and more accountability to the Government and parliament.

        The move follows what was in effect the renationalisation of Railtrack, the infrastructure company replaced last year by the state-backed Network Rail. Mr Darling's decision reflects his dissatisfaction with the style and performance of the authority's chairman, Richard Bowker.

        He may be forced to resign because of the humiliating nature of the initiative, but ministers are determined to press ahead with a fundamental shake-up in a desperate attempt to turn the industry round before the next election.

        The SRA has been banned from issuing its annual strategy document. Drafts have been dismissed by ministers as a "wish list" which only show up the failings of the industry. The present semi-independent structure, over which the SRA presides, was denounced last night by a senior industry source as "a massive waste of public money".

        The SRA's spending is understood to be running £200m ahead of its budget. That comes on top of the industry's £2bn deficit registered last year. Apart from the network's reputation as a multibillion-pound black hole, the authority has gained a reputation for extravagance. The SRA employs 500 staff and spends £140m on office costs, including £50m a year on consultants. Mr Bowker, whose authoritarian style has angered senior colleagues, is also seen as a "bringer of bad news".

        In a recent meeting in Whitehall, Mr Darling reacted angrily when the SRA chief told him it would take 25 years to recoup the costs of ERTMS, a full protection system for stopping trains going through red lights. The bluntness of the SRA chairman, a former senior director at Virgin Trains, is viewed in Whitehall as political ineptitude.

        The SRA's colourful communications chief Ceri Evans has also angered Mr Darling. Mr Evans came to the minister's notice when he called Lord Berkeley, head of the Rail Freight Group, a "f***ing dilettante" in a voice-mail message. Then he told The Independent that the Rail Regulator, Tom Winsor, was little more than a supermarket price-checker. More recently, he said Mr Winsor's decision to allow Network Rail an extra £7.4bn to maintain the system, was like giving "whisky to an alcoholic". The regulator's decision had been endorsed by Mr Darling, who was reportedly "furious".

        But it has been the industry's ability to spend massive and increasing state subventions, and the dire performance of train operators that have been the key motivators for the new approach. Despite an increase in spending, punctuality had failed to improve and, in the case of inter-city services, had deteriorated. The Department for Transport had also become concerned that the SRA was getting "too big for its boots" by trying to assert control over Network Rail and the much-delayed West Coast Main Line project.

        The industry's reputation for financial incompetence was reinforced on Friday when Network Rail failed to pay its 15,000 employees amid rumours that the organisation had gone bust. A spokesman said that the company responsible for making the payments had failed to take into account that last Thursday was a bank holiday.

    • Unhappy new year for commuters with fare rises and delays - 05 January 2004
      • At

      • By Danielle Demetriou - 05 January 2004

        Thousands of commuters returning to work today after the Christmas break face a miserable journey, with a series of major roadworks, a 25 per cent rise in some Tube fares and a hike in the cost of train journeys making the resumption of the daily grind more painful than usual.

        On the roads, long-term lane-widening work is expected to start this morning on the busiest section of Britain's most-congested motorway, the M25. The work is scheduled to take place on the western section of the London orbital road, including Heathrow and the junction with the M4.

        The M62 in West Yorkshire, between junctions 32 and 33 is undergoing bridge maintenance, resulting in a 50 mph speed limit. Work on the A1 at Newark-on-Trent, Nottinghamshire, is expected to resume today.

        There will be further rush-hour delays between junctions 19 and 20 of the M5 near Bristol, due to lane closures. Resurfacing work is scheduled in Greater Manchester on the M58 at the M6 interchange,

        "The first day back after the Christmas break is traditionally the busiest day of the year for breakdowns," said Nigel Paget, the director of roadside operations at the RAC.

        "Monday 6 January 2003, was our 17th busiest day in the last 10 years with 15,000 breakdowns and [today] is likely to be just as busy."

        For many, the alternative of using public transport will be no more appetising. Despite the fact that one in five trains continues to fail to run on time, commuter fares will rise today by well above rate of inflation. While the average ticket price will rise by 4.1 per cent, some fares will increase by as much as 9 per cent.

        The increases were described as essential by train companies in order to carry out much-needed improvements but were condemned by passenger organisations as an unsavoury legacy of privatisation.

        "Rail commuters will have to pay more for the privilege of travelling to and from work with a one in five chance of being late, thanks to the workings of the privatised rail system," said Cynthia Hay, spokeswoman for the London pressure group Capital Transport Campaign.

        Caroline Jones, of the Rail Passengers' Council, added: "Passengers are not happy with performance, they're not happy with the state of trains and they're not happy with the cost of their tickets."

        Commuters using the London Underground for the first time since the festive break also face a significant price hike.

        Single tickets in zone 1 increase from £1.60 to £2, while bus fares in outer zones rise from 70p to £1 for cash-paying customers.

        The new fares were justified by Ken Livingstone, the London Mayor, as a way of encouraging people to use pre-paid tickets, which will help cut queues at Tube stations and speed up bus journeys.

        The only passengers exempt from the new prices are those with an Oyster smartcard, which has a pre-pay facility and enables passengers to travel at 2003 prices.

        The rises were announced after a £64m shortfall was found in the Mayor's transport budget, caused by revenue from the congestion-charging scheme being lower than anticipated.

        Some (alledgede) actual announcements that London Tube train drivers have 
        made to their passengers:
    "Ladies and Gentlemen, I do apologise for the delay to your service. I know
    you're all dying to get home, unless, of course, you happen to be married to
    my ex-wife, in which case you'll want to cross over to the Westbound and go in
    the opposite direction".
    "Your delay this evening is caused by the line controller suffering from E & B
    syndrome, not knowing his elbow from his backside. I'll let you know any
    further information as soon as I'm given any."
    "Do you want the good news first or the bad news? The good news is that last
    Friday was my birthday and I hit the town and had a great time. The bad news
    is that there is a points failure somewhere between Stratford and East Ham,
    which means we probably won't reach our destination."
    "Ladies and gentlemen, we apologise for the delay, but there is a security
    alert at Victoria station and we are therefore stuck here for the foreseeable
    future, so let's take our minds off it and pass some time together. All
    together now ... 'Ten green bottles, hanging on a wall ...'".
    "We are now travelling through Baker Street, as you can see Baker Street is
    closed. It would have been nice if they had actually told me, so I could tell
    you earlier, but no, they don't think about things like that".
    "Beggars are operating on this train, please do NOT encourage these
    professional beggars, if you have any spare change, please give it to a
    registered charity, failing that, give it to me."
    During an extremely hot rush hour on the Central Line, the driver announced in
    a West Indian drawl: "Step right this way for the sauna, ladies and gentleman.
    Unfortunately towels are not provided".
    "Let the passengers off the train FIRST!" (Pause ...) "Oh go on then, stuff
    yourselves in like sardines, see if I care - I'm going home ..."
    "Please allow the doors to close. Try not to confuse this with 'Please hold
    the doors open'. The two are distinct and separate instructions."
    "Please note that the beeping noise coming from the doors means that the doors
    are about to close. It does not mean throw yourself or your bags into the
    "We can't move off because some idiot has their ****** hand stuck in the door"
    "To the gentleman wearing the long grey coat trying to get on the second
    carriage - what part of 'stand clear of the doors' don't you understand?"
    "Please move all baggage away from the doors (Pause ..) Please move ALL
    belongings away from the doors (Pause ...) This is a personal message to the
    man in the brown suit wearing glasses at the rear of the train - put the pie
    down, four-eyes, and move your bloody golf clubs away from the door before I
    come down there and shove them up your a**e sideways"
    "May I remind all passengers that there is strictly no smoking allowed on any
    part of the Underground. However, if you are smoking a joint, it's only fair
    that you pass it round the rest of the carriage".
    "the next train is arriving from another dimension"

    • British universities attracting China's best and brightest
      • At

      • From the students' point of view, it is a chance to learn and live in a culture far removed from their previous experience.

        First impressions among the Chinese students are that the streets are safer in their homeland - many would be reluctant to walk home after a night out in the UK.

        Christine Zhang, 20, who has adopted a Western name since coming to the UK, is studying finance and accounting management. "I have a part-time job in a French restaurant and do go back home at 2am," she said.

        "Sometimes you will meet some drunk people but they don't attack you. I do walk but that is because my home is near. If it wasn't I wouldn't."

Cinemas and Movies in London

  • Prince Charles Cinema - near Leicester Square, London
    • At

    • Date: Tue, 23 Jul 2002 12:12:16 +0100
      From: The One who can be named
      To: Lachlan Cranswick []
      Subject: links
      Can't believe you havent heard of this, maybe you are just forgetting??
      Its not the biggest/poshest place, but cheap. I think they refurbished in
      2001 anyway, and i havent been recently.
      Mondays: 2 quid all day. Same for weekday matinee. Evening+weekend is
      3.50, tho if you are a member (5 quid) then you get a quid off all those.
      You have to look at the listings regularly to see whats on, sometimes new
      stuff, sometimes weird arty stuff.

English / UK TV Licensing

  • UK TV Licensing information website
    • At

    • At

    • "When visiting your home our officers will always show their identity cards. For your own safety you can confirm an officer's identity by contacting the TV Licensing hotline on 08457 77 55 44. If you admit that you are using a television without the right licence or if we suspect that you are, our staff can and will ask to interview you according to the rules of the Police and Criminal Evidence Act 1984. Should we decide to take further action, we will follow the Crown Prosecutor's Guidelines, taking into account your circumstances."

    • If you are not there at the time, they may leave something like this on your door.

If you are not using an existing TV in England / UK

Subject: Enquiry TVL Reference No : XXXXX
From: "" []
Date: Mon, 16 Jul 2001 11:34:10 +0100
To: "" []

Dear Lachlan

Thank you for your enquiry.

You do not need a television licence is you are not using a television 
to receive or record television programme services.  Removing the aerial 
would be sufficient.

I must inform you that an Enquiry Officer will visit your property in 
due course to confirm the situation.  We also send enquiry letters at 
regular intervals to addresses where we do not have a record of a 
current licence, and you may be contacted in this way in future.

I hope this clarifies the situation for you.


[Agent Friendly and Helpful]

Customer Services

Police, Street Safety and Tube Safety in London

Scams, theft methods, etc

  • University of London website: Is London Safe? - Some Hints and Statistics
    • At

    • Extract: "One of the most common questions that is asked by students about an area is "Is it safe?". This, however, is a difficult question to answer."

    • Extract: However, again this list though could give you the impression that London is a dangerous place. It is worth remembering that London is one of the safest capital cities in the world.In addtion crimes against property are four times more frequent than violent crime against the individual.
      However, this does not mean that you should be complacent. You can reduce your chances of becoming a victim of crime by taking a few sensible precautions. The Metropolitan Police carries useful advice about being "Streetwise".

  • 'Why I was a mugger' - BBC News - Monday, 15 April, 2002

    • While advising potential victims on how to avoid being robbed he offered an insight into how a mugger thinks.

      "Have they noticed you behind them? Do you know where their money is?"

    • Martin's safety tips at a cash point
      • Never leave your receipt in the till - it shows how much money you have
      • Put your money away immediately - it's easy to snatch in seconds

    • Martin's safety tips on mobile phones
      • You're an easy target when chatting or texting on the street
      • Musical ring tones make your phone more visible
      • A sophisticated ring tone means a higher sell-on price

    • Martin's street safety tips
      • Never walk around with your purse in your hand - it's easy to snatch
      • Never put your wallet in your back pocket

    • Shopping centres
      • Beware of security camera blindspots
      • Try not to flash your cash too much

  • From the London Metropolitan Police Service

  • Extract: Safety on the street

    Here are some Streetwise tips for going places easily and safely . . .

    Look confident. Walk with your head up, as if you know where you are going. Keep your hands free - don't walk about with them in your pockets.

    Stay alert. Leave your personal stereos off - they stop you being aware of what's going on around you.

    Keep to well-used roads. Don't use alleyways or short cuts.

    Walk against the flow of traffic, to avoid kerb crawlers.

    In the dark, always stick to well-lit areas.

    If you think you are being followed, cross the road.

    If the person follows you, cross it again. If you are still worried, go at once to a place where there are lots of people, such as a busy shop, and tell someone what's going on. If you can, choose a police officer; if not, go to a family group rather than a single adult and tell them. Always report this kind of thing to the police, even if it's now over. You won't be wasting police time.

    Carry a torch or a whistle, or better still, a very noisy screech or shrill alarm. They are not expensive and if you carry a personal alarm, you will feel more confident.

    If you start to be frightened, try not to panic. Always try to think around situations.

  • Extract: Trains and tubes

    Carriages on trains

    Go into open ones, where people can walk through, rather than closed compartments. Older British Rail trains have closed compartment carriages marked with a red line on the side above the windows. Avoid these if you are on your own. There will be open-style carriages somewhere else on the train. Look for a carriage with several other passengers in it, preferably not all in the same group: it's always safer to have a mix of people around you.

    On the Tube (The London Underground)

    Go into the front or middle carriages. They are less likely to empty suddenly. Try to choose a carriage which will stop near the exit at the station you are travelling to.


    They like stations and trains, where people are often in a hurry and slightly careless of their possessions. Keep your valuables secure on you - wallets and purses in inside pockets; bags carried forward, with your hand on them.

    If you have a heavy bag or box, don't dump it several feet away from you. It will get in the way of other people and may cause an accident. Also, you run a greater risk of having it stolen - it only takes seconds to snatch something when the train stops at a station.

    Put big or heavy items on the rack above your head (if there's room) or on an empty seat, where you can keep an eye on them.

    Rush hours and peak times

    When it's crowded and you have to stand, try and find yourself a strap or partition to hold onto, to save getting thrown about.

    Be especially careful when you are joining a tube or train from a crowded platform. Also take extra care when getting off crowded trains. Look before you step and "mind the gap".

    If you are in a crowd and someone is touching you or rubbing against you in a way you don't like, don't put up with it. Either tell them to move back a little or, if you can't face it or aren't sure who's doing it, stick your elbows out to create some more space for yourself. As soon as you can, move to a different part of the carriage. Even in a thick crowd, if you keep saying "excuse me" politely but determinedly, people will make way for you. If you are frightened, TELL someone immediately. Choose a family group rather than a single person, and ask if you can stay with them until you feel safe. And ALWAYS report this kind of thing to the police - even if your information is vague, it will still be useful.

    Emergency handles

    Notice them. They are marked out in red. If the nearest one is too high, look for another one nearby which you can reach by climbing on a seat. Tubes have pull down handles and push buttons. Some BR trains have emergency chains to pull rather than handles. They all have the same effect.

    If you find yourself alone in a carriage with people who frighten you, get next to the emergency handle/button/chain, stand straight and let them see you're prepared to use it if there's trouble. Don't be afraid of changing carriages when the train gets in to the next station, if it makes you feel more comfortable.

    Platforms on British Rail

    If the platform is empty or there are people on it who make you uncomfortable, you can usually stay near the ticket office, or the ticket collector, until the train appears.

    Underground platforms

    Usually near escalators, stairs or lifts, where people will be coming and going. If someone on the platform makes you anxious, go to wherever there are people around who make you feel safe. It's better to miss a tube and get the next one than put yourself at risk.

    Always stay in well-lit areas. Many tube station platforms now have Help Points with both emergency and information buttons which you can push. Many also have public telephones.

Credit Card and Cash Machine Scams

> Sent: 15 April 2002 19:31
> Subject: ATM SCAM
> Importance: High
> Dear  All,  
> For your information, please be advised of the following ATM scam:
> Beware the next time you use an ATM.  Criminals are inventing ever more
> ingenious methods of relieving you of your cash.  The latest scam
> involves thieves putting a thin, clear, rigid plastic 'sleeve' into the 
> ATM card slot. 
> When you insert your card, the machine can't read the strip, so it
> keeps asking you to re-enter your PIN number. 
> Meanwhile, someone behind you watches as you tap in your number.
> Eventually you give up, thinking the 
> machine has swallowed your card and you walk away.
> The thieves then remove the plastic sleeve complete with card, and empty
> your account.  The way to avoid this is to run your finger along the card
> slot before you put your card in. The sleeve has a couple of tiny prongs
> that the thieves need to get the sleeve out of the slot, and you'll be
> able to feel them.
> The police would like as many people as possible to be aware of this
> scam, so pass this on to your friends.

UK / London Power, Water and Gas Utilities

People dying of cold in poor quality British housing

  • UK Fuel poverty: Case studies
    • At
    • "The gap between how much rich and poor people spend on gas and electricity is widening, with many going without to save money.

      The Consumers' Association says seven million people in the UK are spending at least 10% of their income on electricity and gas.

      Their problems are exacerbated by the fact that the poor have been encouraged to pay by pre-payment meters which cost more than other forms of payment."

  • Plan to cut deaths in cold homes : The government has launched a 10-year plan to eliminate deaths among pensioners who cannot afford to heat their homes during winter.

  • Call for action on cold weather deaths : Age Concern says more needs to be done to reduce the number of elderly people who die over the winter period.

  • Pensioners found dead after gas was cut off over £140 bill
    • At

    • By Arifa Akbar and Jeremy Laurance - 23 December 2003

      The discovery of two pensioners who died weeks after their gas supply was cut off because of an unpaid bill of £140 led a coroner to call for a review of the law yesterday.

      George Bates, 89, and his wife Gertrude, 86, were found on 18 October in the living room of the house they had lived in for 63 years after a neighbour called the police.

      Mr Bates, a retired postman, had died of hypothermia in his armchair and Mrs Bates was lying on the floor having died of a heart attack.

      While the case was being heard, the Faculty of Public Health issued a warning that 2,500 elderly people were expected to die in the week before Christmas, because of the cold. Poor housing, inadequate heating and "fuel poverty" - defined as any household which has to spend more than 10 per cent of its income to keep warm - were the main causes of the excess winter deaths, the faculty said.

      Mr and Mrs Bates were discovered 13 weeks after British Gas disconnected their cooking and heating supplies because they failed to respond to repeated requests for payment. After their deaths, £1,400 in cash was discovered in the house. The couple also had £19,000 in a building society. British Gas told Westminster coroner's court that the company was prevented from informing social services about the disconnection because of the Data Protection Act, which prohibits the disclosure of such information without consent.

      Dr Paul Knapman, the coroner, said that he would contact the Information Commissioner, who administers the Act, "bringing his attention to the fact that this disconnection could not be brought to the attention of the social services because of the ... Act."

      But the Information Commissioner disputed the company's interpretation. In a statement on the case, he said: "In any circumstances, for example age or infirmity, where there are grounds for believing that cutting a particular household off would pose significant risk then the Data Protection Act would not prevent an energy supplier from notifying the relevant body."

      Mish Tullar, a spokesman for British Gas, said that the company had routinely informed social services of disconnections until 10 years ago but had been advised that this was against the law once the act came in.

      He said that a British Gas representative had spoken to Mrs Bates on her doorstep on 9 June about the unpaid bill and she had given no sign of being unable to cope or understand.

      Dr Knapman said the decision by British Gas not to enter the house at the time of disconnection on 1 August- the meter was outside - may have contributed to the tragedy. He said: "Had they entered it is likely they would have seen the situation that these elderly and vulnerable people were living in."

      Neighbours said that the elderly couple were good humoured and active. Mr Bates was known as an immaculately dressed pensioner who would entertain staff with jokes and coin tricks at his local convenience store.

      Jagdish Patel, 50, the owner of the couple's local post office and grocery shop, said that Mr Bates was meticulous about money. "If he was ever short by a penny or two, he would refuse to buy it on account. He would walk home to fetch the extra money rather than go without paying the full bill. This should have not happened to this wonderful couple," he said

      Mrs Bates, who was known by her middle name, Marjorie, would sometimes accompany her husband but she was regarded as quieter and more vulnerable.

      National Statistics, formerly the Office of National Statistics, said that between 24,000 and 49,000 extra deaths happened during the winter months in recent years.

      The number depended on weather conditions and the level of flu in the community. Professor Sian Griffiths, president of the Faculty of Public Health, said that too many people were dying of the cold in Britain "because we haven't taken the problem seriously".

      She said: "The UK remains one of the worst countries in the world at coping with unseasonal low temperatures. All of us must be vigilant and look out for family, friends and neighbours who may be suffering. Often fatal illnesses develop two or three days after a cold snap has finished."

      The Meteorological Office said that an extra 8,000 deaths were expected for every one degree Celsius the temperature falls below the winter average.

  • Anger over 'cold' weather deaths : A leading Scottish charity claims thousands of pensioners die every winter because of poor housing.

  • Government urged to end cold weather deaths : The government is being urged by MPs from all parties to reduce 'fuel poverty' and cut the 30,000 deaths caused each year by cold weather.
    • At
    • "The Liberal Democrat MP, Dr Peter Brand, a GP, told the Commons that the UK suffered more cases of hypothermia than Scandinavian countries despite their much colder climate.

      This was the result, he said, of fuel poverty. He asked the government to take action to insulate the homes of those at risk, most often elderly people living alone, in order both to increase energy efficiency for the sake of the environment and to reduce fuel bills for the least well off.

      'Ten million suffer in winter'

      He said: "There are probably 10 million people shivering in the winter unnecessarily. What we need is homes fitted with materials and appliances which prevent energy loss and which provide sufficient heating."

  • Cold 'killing 50,000' each winter : Campaigners are calling for action to help prevent 50,000 deaths from cold in the UK each year.

Private Health Insurance and the UK NHS - National Health Service of UK / England - equivalent of Australia's Medicare

  • Recommended: BUPA - Private Health Insurance
    • At

    • Joining BUPA:

    • Gossip of this is that you should get private health insurance when in the UK. Articles following give an indication why. Word on the street is that BUPA is the best; but you may have to get various quotes from different agents (which may have varying costs for the same deal) and request if there are any special deals the job/career you are in (as they can offer special deals for scientists, academics, etc - if you know to mention this)

  • NHS - National Health Service

  • Dentists charging extortionate fees for private work - By Jeremy Laurance Health Editor - 27 March 2003

    Trivia Time: Claim 1 - The UK NHS accidentally kills 20,000 people a year


    • Simon Carr: The Sketch : A simple question but an answer of glorious dullness : 16 November 2001

    • Plus: Simon Carr: The Sketch : Dull debut boy has little to say: a big improvement on his predecessor : 18 October 2001
      • At
      • "We've drifted away from Mr Duncan Smith. His second group of questions. Quite powerful questions, actually. Why do a quarter of all doctors want to leave the NHS? Why do nine out of 10 think the new plan won't work? And what about his constituent who had lain on a trolley for nine hours, died, been ignored for three days, and when the family turned up the body had been lost?"

    • Plus: House of Commons Hansard Debates : Mr. Duncan Smith: 17 Oct 2001 : Column 1167
      • At
      • Mr. Iain Duncan Smith (Chingford and Woodford Green): Why does the Prime Minister think that more than a quarter of all family doctors now want to leave the NHS?

        The Prime Minister: There are huge strains on family doctors at the moment because they are going through a period of enormous change. We are moving the whole of primary care to primary care trusts. However, I think that family doctors believe that primary care trusts are the right way forward. They also believe, as the right hon. Gentleman will see from the survey on which he based his question, that the services that they offer to their patients today are greatly improved compared with a few years ago.

        Mr. Duncan Smith: "If that is the case, why does the same British Medical Association survey show that nine out of 10 GPs believe that the Prime Minister's reforms are unachievable, and two thirds think that his plans will do nothing to improve care for patients?

        It is not only the doctors. A constituent of mine--[Interruption.] They do not like it. A constituent of mine recently died in hospital after waiting nine hours on a trolley. His family were not aware that he had been admitted or, for a further three days, that he had died. When they came to pay their respects, they found that the body had been lost. Does not the Prime Minister think that all his promises of a better tomorrow will sound hollow to such people?

    • Plus: The Sketch: Simon Carr : Ask the same old questions - and you'll get the same old answers : 08 November 2001
      • At
      • "The Tory leader still hasn't quite got the hang of this question time thingy. It's early days yet, of course, but it's not too early to realise that Tony Blair's been giving the same answer to most questions for the last - what? how long has he been Prime Minister? Ten years? For health his all-purpose answer is: the Government wants to put the money into health, and your party wants to take it out.

        How long, oh Lord, how long will it be before the Tories either neutralise that point, or failing that, ask a different question. Goodness knows, it's only rocket science (which is to say very, very simple). But week after week, they put their heads down and run full tilt at the wall and fall backwards reaching, more in hope than expectation of success, for their brains.

        Why do we hear so little of the waiting list targets that forced varicose veins ahead of cancer operations? Clinical distortions that have been imposed on doctors and patients by vile politics? What about the dead? What about the waste? What about tracking the money and finding out exactly where it evaporates?"

    • The Sketch: Simon Carr - Duncan Smith, minus the growl and scowl, lands a telling blow on Blair - 20 December 2001
      • At

      • "The National Audit Office had investigated the mechanics of hospital waiting lists and uncovered a scandal. Under pressure from the Government, the Mr Duncan Smith put it to the Prime Minister, hospital administrators had waited until potential patients went away on holiday and then offered them an operation slot.

        "This was a major breach of public trust!" he declared.

        And because he didn't growl it, or scowl it, or accompany it with one his gruesome rhetorical flourishes, the Government claque did something very odd. Which was nothing. Normally they roar at this sort of thing. They bellow. They wave and jeer. They pick up his tone and amplify it in a bestial feedback system - this continues until it is impossible to hear what is being said.

        So Iain Duncan Smith achieved his first parliamentary victory by creating the mood of the House. It was factual information that shut them up on the Government back benches. He cowed them. They were unable to jeer him down.

        Only 4,000 or 5,000 places were misallocated, the Prime Minister claimed; yes, but only nine hospitals were investigated, IDS rebutted. There was a hush at that. Yes, and each hospital had their own rules. It appeared one had sent out a letter saying "we will contact you in 93 weeks". There was a deeper silence at that. Ninety-three weeks!

        Here's the rule for a successful Tory attack on Tony Blair: no raised voice. No growling. No overt aggression, even. People seem to like Tony Blair (look at the polls). Attacking him attacks the electorate. So just show us the scandal; allow the audience the luxury of indignation. The artist prepares a cup for others to drink from, he doesn't slobber it off himself."

    • The Sketch: Simon Carr : Loud cries of 'disgraceful!' from both sides - for different reasons : 24 January 2002
      • At

      • "When you brush the cobwebs off Erskine May, the holy writ of parliamentary practice, you find that MPs are forbidden to quote from newspapers on the floor of the House. Stupid book. No wonder it's ignored. As Matthew Parris pointed out, newspapers used to report what happened in parliament: now parliament reports what happens in newspapers.

        Iain Duncan Smith took up the Evening Standard story of the blood-encrusted 94-year-old grandmother who spent two days on a trolley in Accident and Emergency. He wondered whether the Prime Minister would care to apologise to the old lady? The Prime Minister replied that the newspaper report was strongly disputed by the hospital, that the Tories were to blame, and that things were going to change.

        In the ensuing hubbub, he demonstrated a mastery of parliament by dropping his voice to be heard. "Rather than trying to denigrate everything, let him applaud, for once, people working to deliver excellent standards of care."

        This leitmotif will run for months, I fear. Smith castigates Blair for failing to apologise; Blair castigates Smith for failing to pay tribute. I'm sick of it already.

        "Paying tribute" is the last refuge of the ministerial scoundrel, as we know, so we can say that the exchange was a score draw. That is, a win for Mr Duncan Smith."

      • "Mr Blair is one step ahead (that's not enough steps). He can diagnose the Tory strategy but doesn't disable it. "The reason he wants to run down the NHS is to make the political case to get rid of it." There may be a few operations that go wrong, he admitted, but "the vast majority" found standards to be "excellent".

        Even the Prime Minister's abilities in the arts of sincerity can't carry that one off. There are 100,000 people from the past five years who don't believe it - mainly because they're dead, killed by the bug that lives in unwashed, unswept wards.

        Then you hear him say: "They kept her in a medical assessment unit. Perfectly properly." The unit turned out to be a chair in a corner of A&E which had been reclassified as a Medical Assessment Unit.

        We must all want to believe the Prime Minister - his ratings remain high as a kite, after all. But how difficult it is when you listen to him."

    • The Sketch: Everyone appears to be Scottish, whether they need to be or not : By Simon Carr : 13 February 2002
      • At

      • "The minister may be the single most important reason why Scottish tourism is declining. She's got a big, Stalinist presence with hair like Futurama's Mom. Any criticism of the way Scotland is being run she evades by saying: "That is running Scotland down!" It's the most disgusting thing a minister can say which is why , they all say it. It started in Health (Question: "Why are wards so dirty that 20,000 people a year die of infections?" Answer: "Stop running down our hardworking doctors and nurses."). It spread to Home, and thence to everywhere else. Even Scotland."

    • The Sketch: It's Kafka, cried Ian Thing. Yes, oldies are being turned into cockroaches : Simon Carr : 21 March 2002
      • At

      • "There were no operations because there were no beds, and there were no beds because there were no homes. "That's Kafka care!" he cried. Whether the elderly were being dragged into a kangaroo court to be tried without being charged or whether they were all being turned into cockroaches he didn't make clear.

        The Prime Minister said £300m had been allocated to alleviate delayed discharges. And so successful was the spending that 1,000 beds had been freed up. Thirty thousand pounds a bed seems a bit steep, doesn't it? How does £300,000 a bed sound, when you've done the math for the second time? Even those of us who no longer expect to take seriously anything the Prime Minister says were surprised."

    • The Sketch: Hoo hoo! I don't want to ape Mr Smith but his sums are a bit off-balance : Simon Carr : 12 April 2002
      • At

      • "A fragrant pot-pourri of parliamentary points. Desmond Swayne said that Scottish health spending had reached Mr Blair's target but hadn't done a wretched thing for Scottish health. David Ruffley puzzled over the Chancellor's adviser's repudiation of "post-classical endogenous growth theory". Tony McWalter mentioned a billionaire who was not paying any tax, but was rather getting benefits out of the Treasury. And Tim Loughton gave us the ratio of beds to managers in the NHS (1.15 managers to every bed.)"

    • Health care in Europe shames the NHS; is there really nothing to learn? : 16 April 2002
      • At

      • "For it is axiomatic that, as Mr Duncan Smith says in the foreword to the document, "the problems of the NHS are not just a matter of money. It is the system that is failing". Indeed, there is evidence to suggest that the NHS is incapable of sensibly spending even the 7 per cent annual increase in funding that it has received recently.

        To see the sort of dramatic change in the quality of NHS provision that matches the rhetoric on all sides about a "world-class service", there has to be a dramatic shift in the balance of power towards the patient. Only by ensuring that cash follows them through choices, exercised inside or outside the NHS, can there be any hope of such a radical improvement.

        Despite the 10-year plans, the targets and the exhortatory speeches by ministers, the structures of the NHS remain deeply unfriendly to the interests of the patient. Alan Milburn, the Secretary of State for Health, and his colleagues appear well aware of that but seem unwilling to take on the vested interests. If the pre-Budget spin is to be believed, they will try to make the NHS work through piecemeal, modest reforms linked to a vast infusion of money."

      • "This is why it is so short-sighted of the Government to insist that we have nothing to learn from the experience of other countries. Backed by the findings of the Wanless report, ministers say that we have the most equitable system of funding for health care; yet the World Health Organisation (WHO) places us only seventh in the league table of developed economies for the "fairness" of the way we fund the NHS. We lie 17th for the responsiveness of our system, rating poorly for "respecting the dignity of the individual". An NHS that is only slightly less fair in the way it is funded but that can treat many more patients quickly and relieve much more suffering is surely worth thinking about.

        Why not learn from abroad? Why not look at the German system of social insurance, judged fairer by the WHO than our tax-based approach? Why not examine the Dutch tradition of independent hospitals, which stimulates competition? Why not a larger role for the private sector, smaller in Britain than most other developed countries?

        The NHS is not the envy of the world, if it ever was, and we will not make it so until we drop our chauvinism and admit that other countries do things differently - and sometimes better."

    • Jeremy Laurance: Can the NHS learn to treat patients as customers? : 'Money is not the problem ? and this explains Treasury jitters ? it is capacity' : 13 April 2002
      • At

      • "I believe," Alan Milburn said yesterday, "the best days of the NHS are ahead of us not behind us".

        These are the words of a man who knows his pockets are about to be stuffed with gold. The Secretary of State for Health was speaking to an NHS leadership conference and it is hard to remember a time when any minister awaited a Budget announcement with such confidence."

      • "There are just over one million people waiting for hospital in-patient treatment but for much of last year people were being added to the list by GPs as fast as they were being taken off it into hospital. Hence the disappointing progress towards cutting waiting times - down by just three days from an average 18 weeks to 17 and a half."

      • "Meanwhile, doctors whose specialties have not been singled out for special support under one of the national service frameworks are losing heart. One senior consultant, in an area not designated a priority, told me yesterday: "Wherever the Chancellor's billions have gone, they are not reaching the front line. I find despair among many of my colleagues over this. I don't trust the politicians at all.""

    • Angry nurses want 10 per cent pay rise : By Jo Dillon Political Correspondent : 28 April 2002
      • At

      • ""Nurses are certainly in no mood to accept a poor pay deal. They want to see the colour of the Government's money and they want us to get on and pull this deal together."

        There is, as yet, no threat of industrial action. But nurses are setting up a fighting fund to tide them over in case they are forced to go on strike.

        The Government argues that they have improved nurses' pay since 1997 and will continue to do so.

        But a source said: "In the past there has always been an attitude that says let's pay our Florence Nightingales properly. I think the mood is slightly different now. There have been some substantial increases in nurses' pay and there is not the level of public support for more money to go on pay, because people want to see this money going on heart monitors and new beds."

        Trust chief executives have also expressed concern that the money announced in the Budget for the NHS might be swallowed up by huge pay demands.

        But the nurses have vowed to make their case. And there is a persuasive body of evidence to back their claim, especially against a background of nurse shortages, continuing problems with retention, and a market for British-trained nurses overseas.

        Jacque Stanway, 32, a student nurse from Belfast, struggles to bring up her daughter Clare, three, and train as a nurse. She is paid a bursary of £679 a month. After her £200 mortgage, regular bills, and childcare costs of £300, she has £2.70 a month to live on. Child benefit of £15.75 a week has to stretch to feed and clothe both mother and daughter, along with money from extra night shifts. "It is a very dire situation," she says.

        Further up the pay scale things are not much better. Andy McGovern, 34, works at the Royal London Hospital as a paediatric nurse on a cancer ward. His take-home pay is £1,200 a month. After £500 rent, £60 travel costs, and £80 for bills in his shared house in Stratford, he ends up with £60 a week for food, clothing and living.

        Even after 30 years as a nurse, Gareth Phillips, 50, from Ynys Mon, Wales, cannot make ends meet on £1,200 a month as a regional specialist in forensic psychiatry. He has a wife and two teenage children. He said the situation had put nurses in a "militant" frame of mind."

    • NHS Direct calls cost taxpayer more than visits to GP : By Ben Russell, Political Correspondent : 17 June 2002
      • At

      • "Each call to NHS Direct, the 24-hour helpline launched to ease the burden on the health service, costs the taxpayer about 25 per cent more than a visit to the doctor.

        Official figures have revealed that the average cost of each call to NHS Direct was almost £18 last year - £4 more than the estimated £14 cost of each visit to a GP.

        The revelation has provoked calls from the Conservatives for a full review of the service, which was launched in a blaze of publicity to take pressure off GPs and hospitals' accident and emergency units by giving advice over the telephone.

        The Liberal Democrats also criticised the low-cost helpline, warning that four out of five of the 1,150 nurses working for NHS Direct had moved from jobs elsewhere in the health service. NHS Direct has faced repeated criticism since it began four years ago amid fears that experienced nurses are leaving vital hospital posts empty to join the telephone and internet helpline."

    • High Security Hospitals: Janet's been in for 22 years. If she admits she's mad, they'll let her out : By Sophie Goodchild, Home Affairs Correspondent : 16 June 2002
      • At

      • "Janet Cresswell, like other patients held in Broadmoor, is not allowed glass in case she harms herself. On her 71st birthday this year, the writer had to use a plastic chamber pot to display the bouquet of freesias and carnations from her daughter.

        For 22 years, she has lived amid child killers and serial murderers. Ms Cresswell has killed no one. She was sent to Broadmoor after taking a vegetable knife to her psychiatrist's buttocks; a serious crime but not one that would normally carry a life sentence.

        Ms Cresswell's name does not appear on the hospital's list of patients deemed eligible for transfer to a bed in a medium secure unit. She refuses to go under the supervision of a Home Office psychiatrist. She refuses because, she says, she is not mad.

        In a case reminiscent of Catch 22, as long as she insists she is not a dangerous psychiatric case, she will be detained as a potentially threatening mental case.

        When this newspaper highlighted her case two years ago, Ms Cresswell was receiving neither medication nor psychotherapy. However, just days after the story was published, the grandmother was taken to the intensive care wing at Broadmoor and forced to take anti-psychotic medication against her will.

        Since then, her privileges and those of other patients have gradually been eroded, beginning with a Home Office ban on patients in secure hospitals owning computers, a draconian measure imposed after male inmates at Ashworth hospital on Merseyside were found downloading internet pornography.

        Before her word processor was confiscated, Ms Cresswell wrote letters, essays and a play, The One Sided Wall, which was performed at London's Bush Theatre. She won the Arthur Koestler prize for an essay on the history of Bedlam, the notorious lunatic asylum.

        Until recently, one of Ms Cresswell's favourite hobbies was bowls. When Broadmoor officials decided that men and women could not mix socially, her matches on the hospital's bowling green came to an abrupt end.

        In letters to mental health campaign groups, the hospital authorities have justified Ms Cresswell's continued incarceration by telling them she is suffering from "classic symptoms of a major mental illness".

        Independent medical experts disagree. Professor Alec Jenner, a retired professor of psychiatry at Sheffield University, who has corresponded with Ms Cresswell, says she is "quite harmless". Her flaw, he says, is that she is stubborn.

        "If she had played ball with the authorities then she could have been released a long time ago," he said. "I can't see any need for her to be staying there. But neither side is prepared to compromise enough for her to be released."

        Until a compromise is reached, her daughter Jane, a nurse, must tell her teenage grandchildren that Broadmoor is their grandmother's home.

        "They just want people to rebel and then have a reason for keeping them in there," she said. "I've tried everything but I'm banging my head against a brick wall.

        "It is so awful that I do not take my children. They are doing exams. I don't want them to have stress. They speak to her on the phone and they just know that is where she lives."

        At Christmas in 2000, Ms Cresswell tried to commit suicide by hoarding her pills, but her daughter was not officially informed. Instead, she found out from night staff at Broadmoor.

        "It's going from bad to worse," Ms Johnson said. "I got friendly with one of the nurses who had left the hospital. She told me someone had written a report to say my mother had smashed up the kitchen, but the nurses refused to sign it because it was untrue.

        "They have to have a reason for keeping her in there."

        The Independent on Sunday approached Broadmoor for a comment on Ms Cresswell's plight but the hospital refused to give one. "We are unable to comment on individual cases," said a spokeswoman.

        The poetry of privation

        WHAT NEXT ?

        people were dumped and stuck in the bin

        Found they couldn't get out so kicked up a din

        'Can't stand that' said the minders,

        And found other jobs - like scouts for odd bobs.

        So the minders' minders got grim.

        They searched through their statute books

        For old tricks with new looks,

        The crooks.

        Try this and try that,

        How tiresome of people to see through old hat.

        Trying, tribunal, tri's three and bin all.

        No, not Triad, tribunal, try gooning for all, annually.

        Shut everyone away, but make them all play.

        And when they're tired of the game turn away.

        Shut away.

        When tiredness wins out,

        It's the time to get out

        And start up the game a new way.

        Janet Cresswell

        Broadmoor Special Hospital

        Leading voices call for change

        Erin Pizzey, founder of the first women's refuge:

        "Unless you are prepared to grovel to the authorities you are punished. If she [Janet Cresswell] had been assessed today, she would never have been sent to Broadmoor. I hope they see sense and let her out. I had a breakdown for three months; if you're a woman people say you're mad.""

    • High-Security Hospitals: Scientist attacks 'gutless' mental health policy : By Sophie Goodchild, Home Affairs Correspondent : 16 June 2002
      • At

      • ""The Government are either totally ignorant or intellectually dishonest. It's all about spin for them, and I find that nauseating," said the broadcaster, a self-confessed depressive and user of the anti-depressant Seroxat.

        Last week, The Independent on Sunday revealed that more than 400 patients in Britain's high security mental hospitals should have been released years ago but remain locked up because beds cannot be found for them outside.

        The paper is campaigning for the transfer of these people to accommodation where they can be treated properly. Some forgotten prisoners have languished in places such as Broadmoor, Ashworth and Rampton for more than 20 years."

      • "One case that highlights the plight of patients held in secure hospitals is that of Janet Cresswell, a writer who has been held in Broadmoor for more than 20 years.

        Her word processor was confiscated under a Home Office ban on patients in secure hospitals owning computers, after internet abuse. The draconian measure was imposed after male inmates at Ashworth hospital on Merseyside were found downloading internet pornography.

        Joan Smith, chair of the Writers in Prison Committee and a columnist for this newspaper, said Ms Cresswell's case was particularly disturbing:

        "She appears to have been punished for somebody else's misdemeanors and denied a basic human right. If you've taken away someone's liberty, one of the few things they have left is freedom of thought and expression," Ms Smith said. "For many people in prison, writing is one of the most important things that they can do.""

    • Wednesday, 4 December, 2002, 10:59 GMT : UK has 'Third World' TB levels
      • At

      • "Tuberculosis rates in some parts of the UK are at 'Third World' levels, experts are warning.

        Some London boroughs, as well as other places in Europe, have rates which are higher than those in China and parts of India and Africa.

        The Stop TB Partnership, which includes a range of organisations campaigning for more recognition of the rise in TB, said the increase in cases in western Europe was caused by increased travel and population movement.

        It says billions of dollars of investment is needed to identify and cure more patients with the disease.

        Two separate studies from the British Thoracic Society (BTS) highlight concerns about TB treatment in the UK.

        One suggests up to half of patients attending A&E departments with TB are "slipping through the net" and not being diagnosed correctly.

        The research, carried out in Newham Chest Clinic, east London and the Middlesex Hospital, suggests that as many of those affected are homeless, refugees or asylum seekers, staff can face language difficulties when trying to make a diagnosis.

        A second BTS study found Bangladeshi patients with TB were often reluctant to discuss their diagnosis outside their close family.

        The high level of stigma linked to the disease even led to one in eight feeling TB could affect the sufferer's prospects of marriage.

        Rates doubled

        At a Stop TB Partnership briefing of Westminster MPs, Dr Chris Dye of the World Health Organization, said: "London is a snapshot of the global epidemic."

        Paul Sommerfeld of UK-based charity TB Alert added: "Rates of TB in Britain are at a 10-year high.

        "Rates in London have doubled in 15 years with rates of TB in some London boroughs now at Third World proportions and cases of its most dangerous drug-resistant form on the rise.

        "Already 50 people a week develop TB in London and TB in Britain has increased by more than 20% in the last decade."

        The rate rose by 80% across London over that period.

        The borough of Brent has the highest rate of TB in the capital with over 116 cases per 100,000.

        These rates compare with 113 per 100,000 in China and 64 per 100,000 in Brazil.

        Across Europe, the highest rates are 42 per 100,000 in Portugal and 20 per 100,000 in Spain. "

    • Documents expose farcical response to nuclear attack - 15 December 2002
      • At

      • "A top-level exercise to simulate a jumbo jet crashing into a nuclear power station ended in high farce, an unpublished report obtained by the Independent on Sunday reveals.

        Designed to test Britain's readiness to respond to a large-scale terrorist attack, the operation focused on Bradwell atomic power station in Essex, and exposed an astonishing series of failures in emergency responses.

        Warnings about the disaster were incomplete, key staff could not find the control room, phones did not work, there were long delays in controlling the catastrophe and protecting the public. At one stage, officials were even dealing with the wrong power station. It was found planning was based on "assumptions", and there was little data on the nature of the release of the radioactivity.

        Instructions from the Nuclear Installations Inspectorate caused "a considerable delay in putting out the reactor fire" and there was a delay of more than five hours before the public was given potassium iodate tablets to protect against radioactivity.

        The failure to cope with the simulated attack further undermines confidence in the Government's ability to handle a catastrophic terrorist attack. As reported in last week's IoS, confidential Downing Street documents disclosed that the nation's civil defence "effectively no longer exists".

        The power station simulation, codenamed Operation Isis, supposed a 747 cargo plane crashing into the reactor, 30 miles north-east of London, setting it alight and causing many deaths and evacuation of the public.

        The ordering of the simulation over-rode opposition from the owners of the reactor, British Nuclear Fuels,who claimed that the scenario was unrealistic.

        Yesterday BNFL confirmed that a thousand people from 60 organisations had been involved, in 20 different locations around the country.

        The report on the exercise, however, describes it as a chaotic shambles.

        Last night, Stewart Kemp, chief executive of the Nuclear Free Local Authorities, group blamed the fiasco on "decades of underfunding" of the emergency services.

        Norman Baker, the Liberal Democrats' environment spokesman, called the exercise a "grotesque farce". "

  • Nuclear catastrophe test descends into farce as services fail to cope - 15 December 2002
    • At

    • "It was like a day-long episode of The Keystone Cops when Britain's elite emergency nuclear squad struggled to cope with the simulated effects of a 747 cargo jet being flown into a nuclear reactor, setting it alight.

      Operation Isis – specifically ordered "at the highest political level" to reproduce a terrorist attack, and the biggest exercise for five years to address the effects of a nuclear catastrophe on the public – began at 6.40am on Friday 10 May, when Essex police reported "a major incident at Bradwell power station".

      However, the confidential official report admits, "there was no information on the type of incident, wind direction, wind speeds, etc", all vital for working out how to tackle the accident and to protect the public.

      Five minutes later, further notification was received from the Essex ambulance service but "the on-call doctor could not contact the ambulance paging service to confirm the veracity of the information". Another alert "left an incomplete message" on an automatic system at the Department of Trade and Industry, the owner of British Nuclear Fuels which operates the reactor.

      Confusion descended into farce when yet another alert to the Food Standards Agency led officials to concentrate on the wrong nuclear power station, thinking that the disaster was at Sizewell, 45 miles away. Yet another alert turned up, "not for the first time", at "the wrong place".

      It got no better when around 50 emergency experts – from government departments, key official agencies, local authorities, the nuclear industry and the police, fire and ambulance services – had trouble in finding their way to the "main strategic co-ordinating centre" at Essex police headquarters at Springfield, in Chelmsford.

      "The direction maps were difficult to follow," says the report. "When the HQ was found, it was not clear where anyone was supposed to go." Alarmingly for security, "there was no identification check on entering".

      Once there, the experts were soon caught up in a shambles in "very cramped" and "noisy" conditions, where people had difficulty even finding the lavatories. Some key officials were not allocated phonelines and other telephones "kept being cut off". Fax messages "were not picked up" and "some replies from the fax machine were not getting through until several hours after they had been sent".

      Papers "became disorganised", notice boards "were not updated frequently enough", and lettering on the computer screens was in white, making it "invisible when printed".

      The quality of the operation reflected the chaos in the control room. A direction from the Nuclear Installations Inspectorate caused "a considerable delay in putting out the reactor fire. There was "very little information about the nature of the release" of radioactivity, and meteorological information, particularly vital to determine where the fallout would go, was "lacking until late in the day".

      There was "little communication" with the health authority early in the day, and it was often advised too late that radioactive emissions from the reactor had increased.

      But most alarming of all, there was a delay of more than five hours before the public could be given potassium iodate tablets, which must be taken immediately to protect the thyroid against radioactivity.

      The report says: "Decisions to protect the public were made by the health authority at 0900 hrs when Essex ambulance service requested to order stocks of potassium iodate from the Department of Health/ NHS Logistics.

      "Significant delays in the response from the DoH/ NHS Logistics resulted in access to the tablets being agreed at 12.20 hrs, with their despatch at 12.30 hrs and their delivery to Ambulance HQ at 14.20hrs."

      But there was some good news. The report says: "There were plenty of refreshments throughout the day".

      The report, written by BNFL, concludes that the exercise was "a successful demonstration of the ability to extend existing detailed emergency arrangements". "

  • NHS managers up 17.6 per cent - By Jeremy Laurance, Health Editor - 28 June 2003
    • At

    • Grey suits are replacing white coats in the NHS, according to official figures published yesterday

      The number of NHS managers expanded by 17.6 per cent last year, compared to a 5 per cent growth in hospital consultants, 4.9 per cent in nurses and 1.6 per cent in GPs.

      The Department of Health, which published the figures, said it was asking NHS organisations to reducespending on "all areas other than patient care". A spokesman said: "An organisation as big and complex as the NHS needs good management. But it needs to reduce bureaucracy."

      Opposition parties claimed the NHS was becoming over-bureaucratised and the extra billions of pounds being invested risked being swallowed up by administration costs.

      Liam Fox, the shadow Health Secretary, said: "These figures are truly shocking. It is startling enough that the number of managers and senior managers increased by 17.6 per cent in just a year. It's simply appalling that the number of new managers far outstripped the number of extra doctors."

      The NHS Confederation, which represents managers, said that despite the rise, the number of managers was still small at 30,900 in 2002, and that as a proportion of the NHS it had fallen from 3 per cent in 2001 to 2.6 per cent in 2002.

      Gill Morgan, its chief executive, said: "Staff are the lifeblood of the NHS. Years of under investment [have] left the service not just short of doctors and nurses, but lacking the management and support needed to drive improvement."

      The figures show 1,288 more consultants, 497 GPs and 17,100 nurses joined the NHS in the past 12 months, but the British Medical Association said the Government was not on course to meet targets for doctors set out in the NHS Plan.

      The UK and Ireland are more reliant on recruiting nurses from the developing world than any other Western nation, a report by the International Council of Nurses, the World Health Organisation and the Royal College of Nursing, said.

  • Revealed: How GPs cheat on their patients - By Andy McSmith, Political Editor - 29 June 2003
    • At

    • Doctors' surgeries are deliberately obstructive to patients who want to book appointments because they interfere with the drive to meet government targets, according to a leaked NHS memo.

      Patients are being told they will have to ring again another day, so that when they eventually see a doctor, they can be listed as having been seen within 24 hours. Documents seen by The Independent on Sunday show that health ministers are aware of the ruse, but are powerless to order doctors to stop doing it.

      Although only a few surgeries are known to be involved, they have provoked what civil servants label a "significant level" of outrage from patients, much of it heaped on the heads of local MPs. One caught in the firing line, ironically, is the Health minister responsible for GPs, John Hutton, MP for the Cumbrian town of Barrow-in-Furness. One of the surgeries which has generated the largest number of complaints is in Cumbria.

      By refusing to allow patients to book appointments, surgeries can show that, on paper, they are making progress towards the so-called "24/48" target set out by the Department of Health in the NHS Plan, which says that "by 2004, all patients will be able to see a primary care professional within 24 hours and a GP within 48 hours". Last year, the department set aside more than £83m to help surgeries towards this target.

      The Government set up a network of centres run by a National Primary Development Team (NPDT) to make sure they had the necessary technology and administrative training to cope with patients' demands. There were also offers of payments of up to £5,000 for surgeries which could show progress.

      The official statistics soon showed improvements, with 90 per cent of patients reportedly being seen on the day of their choice. Yet some MPs were deluged with complaints from members of the public being told they were no longer allowed to book an appointment.

      Now, an internal memo written by the deputy head of NPDT, Guy Rotherham, has warned that a few surgeries risk discrediting the campaign. "We are aware of some practices which have sought to deliver the 24/48 hour access target by simply restricting pre-booking and forcing people to be seen on the same day. While this satisfies the 24/48 hour target, it is not patient-sensitive. Restricting pre-booking is not only unhelpful to patients, it takes out the benefits to the practice of applying the true principles of advanced access.

      "It only takes a small number of practices to generate a significant level of complaints. We are aware of three practices which have refused to stop embargoing pre-bookable appointments, one of which is in Cumbria. While we will continue to encourage them to be more flexible, there are no formal mechanisms to stop the practice."

      The Tories blamed a target-hungry government for creating the problem. The Shadow Health Secretary, Liam Fox, said: "This shows the amount of emotional blackmail which those working in the NHS are now routinely subjected to. Ministers' pathological obsession with targets now leaves no part of the NHS untouched."

      A department spokesman said: "It is not the case that doctors' appointments must be made only on the day of the visit, or only up to 48 hours in advance. Patients should be able to make appointments in advance, and this must remain the case in a modernised and responsive service."

From someone claiming not to be in the know: Querying how to transfer NHS registration from "up North" to London

Date: Wed, 18 Jul 2001 11:10:59 GMT
From: [The One Who May Not Be Named]
Subject: Re: NHS? Re: I'LL TAKE IT!! Re: Any news on XXXYYYZZ Road?

Hi Lachlan,

  I probably know less about the awful NHS system than you! I have still
never seen my official doctor in 10 years. Transfer is very easy. I presume
you have a paper NHS card. You simply go to the new doctor with the old
card and doctor's name on it, and reception completes the new details
and posts it off to Timbuktoo (may be to Newcastle?). A new card then
comes back to your current address. (I have only used the NHS system
twice, and on one of those occasions is was only to get referred to
a private consultant so that I followed the private health insurance
rules, and the 2nd it was for some eye-drops that needed a prescription.)
I have to say that compared to France (which beats the USA when it comes
to health care), the UK is distinctly third world at times - some of the
hospitals here hardly differ from those I have seen in rural China!

  Will keep you informed as to progress,

            Cheers,  [The One Who May Not Be Named]

  • Wednesday, 19 December, 2001, 20:01 GMT : Crackdown on waiting-list 'fiddles'

  • Wednesday, 19 December, 2001, 14:19 GMT : Hospitals respond to 'fiddling' report

  • Wednesday, 12 December, 2001, 17:59 GMT : Tory chief says Blair 'clueless' on NHS

  • Friday, 7 December, 2001, 11:43 GMT : Top surgeon: 'NHS dreadful'

  • 'Chaotic NHS cannot improve' : Mathematical rules mean that Gordon Brown's plans to pump vast sums into the health service will have little impact, says a surgeon.

  • NHS delays 'causing blindness' : Thousands of people are losing their sight every year because they are not receiving prompt treatment on the NHS, according to eye charities.

  • NHS buildings fail on safety : A report finds a third of NHS buildings in Wales fail health and safety standards while millions is wasted due to bad management.

  • New hospital menus are 'slop' : New hospital menus devised by TV chef Loyd Grossman have been described as "slop" by NHS nurses.

  • NHS blasted for 'same old errors' : The NHS makes the same mistakes again and again, despite warnings from the Health Service ombudsman, the watchdog says.

  • How can the NHS be turned around? : BBC Correspondent Karen Allen on the implications of the damning Audit Commission report into A&E waiting times.

  • War veteran 'let down' by NHS : A hospital in Plymouth apologises after a war veteran has his hip operation cancelled for the sixth time.

  • Diabetic died after 'flat lemonade' advice An inquest hears how a Devon woman slipped into a coma after an NHS Direct nurse advised treating her with flat lemonade.

  • Analysis: How to beat NHS 'gridlock' : BBC Health Correspondent Karen Allen looks at the problem of "bed-blocking" in the wake of government plans to tackle it.

  • NHS 'medieval' says French minister : The French health minister says that the UK spends far too little on its health service.

  • Heart patient dumps NHS for South Africa : A heart attack victim worried he will die while waiting for his heart operation has sold his house to pay for treatment in South Africa.

  • Report damns NHS complaints : Pressure to reform the ailing NHS complaints system is mounting following the second stinging official report inside a week.

  • NHS 24th in world health league : The UK ranks just 24th in the world when it comes to the efficiency of its health system, World Health Organisation analysts say.

  • Ministers blamed for NHS failings : Health leaders say ministers are to blame for the failure of the NHS always to treat those patients most in need first.

  • Medical profession welcomes report : Despite wide-ranging criticism of the NHS, the medical profession welcomes the report.

  • Milburn gives NHS pledge : Health Secretary Alan Milburn steps into the row over private funding of public services by pledging NHS principles "are not up for sale".

  • Lack of NHS resources 'no excuse' : The health service ombudsman accepts a link between poor health care and resources, but says it is not an automatic excuse.

  • Braces 'to be rationed on the NHS' : The number of children receiving free orthodontic work on the NHS is to be slashed, say specialists.

  • More people 'will pay for healthcare' : Even people who may struggle to afford private health care will consider paying to skip lengthy NHS waiting lists, a survey says.

  • Doctor quits 'shabby' NHS : A GP who has resigned from his practice in rural practice in Kent says it is impossible to provide proper care.

  • NHS trust refuses cardiac cash donation : A health trust turns down a "substantial" cash gift for a cardiac unit in an area with some of Wales's worst heart problems.

  • NHS trust refuses cardiac cash donation : A health trust turns down a "substantial" cash gift for a cardiac unit in an area with some of Wales's worst heart problems.

  • NHS 'failed' suicidal daughter : A woman whose husband killed their manic depressive daughter to end her suffering blames medical staff for repeatedly failing her family.

  • NHS unveils 'Masterchef' menus : New hospital menus devised for the NHS by top chefs have been unveiled.

  • NHS negligence claims soar : The cash-strapped NHS is facing clinical negligence claims totalling £3.9bn, 10% of a single year's budget.

  • Cancer test blunders report due : A report from the NHS inspectorate into mistakes by one pathologist is expected to look at the use of freelance doctors across the NHS.

  • Lib Dems reveal health plans : The Liberal Democrats say the top priorities for the NHS must be to recruit more staff and to prevent people getting ill in the first place.

  • MS sufferers 'let down' by NHS : Multiple sclerosis sufferers say they are being "badly let down" by the NHS, according to a survey by the MS Society.

  • NHS arthritis care 'inadequate' : Four out of five people with arthritis are unhappy with the standard of care they get from the NHS, a leading charity has revealed.

  • New NHS menus 'too expensive' : New hospital menus devised for the NHS by top chefs are too expensive to work on existing NHS budgets, warn hospital caterers.

  • NHS aims to improve patient safety : All medical mistakes will have to be officially reported, whether or not the patient has been harmed, in a bid to improve safety in the NHS.

  • Matrons back on the wards : Matrons are to be brought back onto the hospital wards for the first time in 30 years to improve standards in the NHS.

  • Hepatitis ruling to cost NHS millions : The health service faces a bill of at least £7m after a ruling that patients infected by hepatitis-contaminated blood should be compensated.

  • Grim reality of the NHS : Long waits in A&E and cancelled operations are still the grim reality for many patients in the NHS, a BBC documentary has found.

  • What do you we want from the NHS? : BBC Doctor Colin Thomas asks what we can reasonably expect from the NHS.

  • NHS 'shunned private cancer patient' : An NHS hospital turned away a patient with suspected breast cancer because she had been referred from a private clinic.
    • At
    • More than a dozen cases in hospitals, GP surgeries, and in one case, a pharmacy, were highlighted in the report.

      They included:

      • A case in which poor staffing over a weekend may have contributed to the death of a patient following surgery
      • A case in which a patient died after a pharmacist dispensed the wrong drug
      • A case in which staff failed to spot the infection which could have contributed to the death of a premature baby

  • NHS told to use PR spin during crisis : A BBC investigation claims Health Minister Jane Hutt has urged health bosses to divert attention from winter crises - with "good news" stories.

  • Call for end to 'NHS secret society' : Health Secretary Alan Milburn promises a reform of the health service to give patients better protection during their treatment.

  • Cancer patient's 'NHS death sentence' : A woman whose husband's cancer operations were delayed for four months says he has been handed a death sentence.

  • NHS 'fails to respect patients' : Sir Donald Irvine, President of the GMC, calls for radical changes in the culture of the NHS.

  • Hospitals 'failing' hygiene tests : One in three NHS hospitals are still failing hygiene tests in spite of government attempts to improve conditions, a report says.

  • NHS 'shake-up' set after baby inquiry : An inquiry into the deaths of 29 babies at the Bristol Royal Infirmary could result in big changes in NHS culture.

  • Mixed reports for hospitals : The first "healthcheck" inspections at NHS hospitals find they are generally doing well.

  • 'Winter could break NHS' : Lung specialists warn that an epidemic of chest problems this winter could swamp the fragile NHS.

  • Bullying 'ruining NHS workers' lives' : Many NHS workers feel their lives are being ruined because of bullying at work, according to a survey.

  • Blair: 'NHS faces tough winter' : Prime Minister Tony Blair admits the NHS will find it tough to cope this winter but says the service is better prepared than ever before.

  • NHS crisis 'here already' : A top health worker warns that the NHS is already suffering from serious problems even before the expected surge in demand this winter.

  • Record nurse numbers flee country : Record numbers of nurses are leaving both the NHS and the country - threatening to derail the government's recruitment drive.

  • Elderly 'failed by NHS complaints system' : Older patients face endless obstacles if they try to complain about the care they receive, according to Age Concern.

  • NHS inspectorate shows its teeth : The first investigations by the new NHS inspectorate has proved that the fledgling organisation pulls no punches.

  • Grossman to spice up hospital food : BBC Masterchef host Loyd Grossman will lead some of Britain's best chefs in an initiative to improve the standard of NHS food

  • Cash handout for London nurses : Nurses facing high living costs in London and the south of England will get a significant salary boost.

  • Most NHS nurses 'consider quitting' : Eight out of 10 nurses have considered leaving their NHS jobs because of either low morale and poor pay, according to a survey.

  • NHS complaints increase : The number of complaints about treatment received from the National Health Service in Scotland rises.

  • £100m dentistry plan criticised : The government announces a £100m package aimed at ensuring everyone has access to an NHS dentist by 2001.

  • Regional lottery in NHS waiting times : Patients in England wait an average of seven months for hospital treatment, with worse delays in many parts of the country.

  • NHS failing heart attack patients : Thousands of people die unnecessarily from minor heart attacks because NHS hospitals fail to provide adequate care, say doctors.
    • At

    • Thousands of people die unnecessarily from minor heart attacks because NHS hospitals fail to provide adequate care, a study has found.

      Research carried out by doctors found that patients who are admitted to hospital with serious heart pain are just as likely to die as those who have major heart attacks.

      They discovered that many hospitals were discharging patients without carrying out all of the recommended treatments.

      They found that 15,000 patients die or have a major heart attack six months after being in hospital.

      More than 120,000 people are admitted to hospital in the UK each year with serious heart problems."

    • "According to the study, almost all of the patients should have been given an angiogram to assess the condition of the heart.

      However, just one in four patients were given this treatment.

      Patients with angina problems are also recommended to be given aspirin or heparin, a blood-thinning drug.

      But, according to the study, almost a third of patients did not receive heparin while in hospital.

      It also found that six months after been discharged nearly a quarter of patients were no longer taking aspirin.

      Just one in eight of those patients with unstable angina were given an angioplasty, a treatment that helps to clear blocked arteries."

  • Hospital warns of 'Third World' NHS : Hospital managers in Northern Ireland warn that the NHS risks becoming a Third World healthcare system.

  • NHS equipment 'dangerously old' : More than a third of vital NHS machines are dangerously old and in need of replacement, says a former government scientist.

  • Madonna snubs 'Victorian' NHS : Pop star Madonna says she plans to give birth in the US because she does not trust the NHS, as she announces she is having a boy.

  • NHS trusts 'putting budgets first' : NHS trusts in Scotland are accused of using £160m earmarked for new equipment to reduce budget deficits.

  • Flu: An NHS nightmare : Winter can bring severe respiratory infections, and lead to patients flooding A&E departments. BBC News Online examines the potential for crisis.
    • At
    • "It is supposed to reduce demand on the NHS by encouraging patients to take care of themselves and by stopping people from going to their GP or local A&E department for treatment when they don't need it."
    • "However, the service has been widely criticised because calls can take as long as 15 minutes, advice varies and there is a suspicion that nurses are sending patients to GPs and A&E departments anyway. "

  • NHS helpline 'risking lives' : The NHS's telephone helpline may be placing patients in danger by giving sub-standard advice, say researchers.

  • Inquiry sought into NHS 'ageism' : Pressure mounts for an inquiry after an NHS study finds younger patients are more likely to get treatment than the elderly.

  • NHS to tackle 'causes of ill health' : Extra screening programmes and free fruit are part of plans to improve people's health.

  • Six months: A realistic wait? : The government wants to make sure no-one waits more than six months for hospital treatment - is this feasible?

  • Tackling smoking 'could save millions' : The NHS could save huge sums of money by persuading people to give up smoking, according to a report.

  • NHS managers 'to blame for problems' : Problems in the NHS are down to poor management and not a lack of funding, according to a major report.

  • Analysis of NHS performance : The BBC's health correspondent Daniel Sandford investigates huge variations in levels of care in different parts of England revealed in NHS Performance Indicators.

  • Helpline 'has not eased' NHS pressure : The introduction of NHS Direct - a medical advice phoneline - has not lessened the pressure on hospitals and GPs, say researchers.

  • NHS postcode lottery revealed : NHS performance figures show massive differences between England's best and worst health authorities, but critics say they are misleading.

  • 'Don't spin NHS reform' : The BMA tells ministers that its plan for reform of the NHS must put substance above spin.

  • Gibraltarians attack 'filthy' NHS hospital : A London hospital is accused of poor hygiene standards by Gibraltarians sent there for treatment.

  • Rise in NHS complaints : More people are complaining about GPs and hospitals, according to the Health Service Ombudsman.

  • NHS 'failing disabled patients' : NHS services helping patients who have suffered strokes or had limbs amputated are "inadequate", according to leading doctors.

  • Virgin to advise NHS : The government has asked Sir Richard Branson's Virgin Group to advise the National Health Service how to treat patients better.

  • Labour launches Tory website attack : Labour says its secret website recording of Tory comments on the NHS proves the party would privatise.

  • NHS 'failing' diabetics : Diabetes sufferers are at risk because of sub-standard care from the NHS, a watchdog warns.

  • Third World plan to save NHS : Flying patients abroad for cut-price operations could save the UK National Health Service "from collapse", an MP suggests.

  • Bosses face NHS 'hit squad' : The government uses new powers to investigate a health care trust after abuse of elderly patients was uncovered.

  • Thousands shun the NHS : The number of people opting to pay for private operations out of their own savings has jumped significantly.

  • NHS spending claims 'misleading' : Health minister Alan Milburn is accused of misleading the public over funding of the NHS.

  • Blair promises end to 'NHS lottery' : Prime Minister Tony Blair outlines a five-point plan to cut casualty waiting lists as part of an ongoing plans to reform the NHS.

  • Forgery inquiry into NHS death : Two hospital staff are suspended following the death of a patient.

  • NHS bugs 'kill 5,000 a year' : Up to 5,000 people die each year from infections picked up in hospitals in England, according to the national spending watchdog.

  • 'At least you don't work in the NHS' : The French Employment Minister tells striking doctors and nurses things are worse across the English Channel.

  • Winston back on NHS offensive : Lord Winston renews his attack on the National Health Service in a House of Lords debate.

  • Call for probe into NHS 'lab danger' : The Conservatives have called for a full investigation into allegations that NHS patients are being put at risk by a laboratory staffing crisis

  • Winston calls for NHS spending pledge : Lord Winston has stepped back into the fray over NHS funding - challenging Tony Blair to give a firm commitment on massive spending increases.

  • Staffing crisis exposed in NHS labs : A new report says the medical service in Britain which helps doctors make accurate diagnoses is being put at risk because of underfunding and understaffing.

  • Papers keep focus on NHS : There is no let-up in the barrage of criticism facing the government over the state of the NHS.

  • Father's death prompts GP's call for overhaul : Her father's death after a three-hour hospital transfer prompts a GP to call for a debate on the future of the NHS.

  • NHS faces £2.8bn negligence bill : Outstanding medical negligence claims against the NHS could cost the cash-strapped service up to £2.8bn, a Commons report warns.

  • Government accused of NHS complacency : The Conservatives have accused the government of leaving voters feeling angry, frightened and betrayed by their management of the NHS.

  • Why an NHS nurse is hard to find : Professional bodies have talked of a recruitment and retention crisis in NHS nurses for years, but what are the reasons behind it?

  • NHS remedies dominate papers: The government's discomfort over criticism of the state of the National Health Service remains the main topic in the UK's Sunday newspapers.

  • Test-tube Lord slates Blair's NHS : The British government has been strongly criticised over its record on the National Health Service -- this time from one of its own supporters, who is among the country's most prominent doctors.

  • Flu pushes NHS to breaking point : The death of a pensioner who waited five hours for a hospital bed highlights the crisis facing the NHS following a flu outbreak.

  • NHS euthanasia claims ludicrous' : A senior consultant's claim that elderly patients are being left to starve to death in NHS hospitals has been dismissed by Health Secretary Alan Miburn as "ludicrous".

  • Thousands of OAPs charged 'illegally' : Up to 42,500 elderly people could be being charged illegally for their nursing home costs, according to a report by the Royal College of Nurses.

  • Winter plea for NHS : The public is being asked by the Government not to put the NHS under unnecessary strain during the winter.

  • NHS quality reforms : Major reforms which came into force in April 1999 focus on quality and standards in the NHS.

  • NHS still losing nurses : The lack of family-friendly policies is forcing nurses to give up their jobs just as the government is spending millions to increase numbers, a survey suggests.

  • NHS complaints 'fail the elderly' : The NHS complaints system is too slow to help old people who are suffering neglect or poor treatment, says new research.

  • Family challenge NHS over artificial limbs : Limbless patients often have to go private to get the latest prosthetic arms and legs - but one family is challenging the system as they fight for the best for their nine year old daughter.

  • Hospital ships for sinking NHS : Two military hospital ships could be loaned to the NHS to cope with bed shortages.

  • 'Unsustainable NHS will trigger private boom' : Thousands will turn to the private healthcare system over the next decade as state systems such as the NHS break down, says a report.

  • 'Friday, 27 September, 2002, 09:20 GMT 10:20 UK NHS facing midwife crisis
    • At

    • A shortage of midwives in the NHS is reaching crisis point, according to the Royal College of Midwives. Its officials say the government has failed to meet a key target to recruit extra staff.

      The college has also warned that plans to boost midwife numbers by 50% by 2009 will fail unless action is taken to make posts more attractive.

      Hundreds of midwives are leaving their jobs each year and vacancy rates are at record rates, according to the college.

      The shortages mean few women have the sole attention of a midwife if they give birth on the NHS.

      Midwives themselves warn that the shortages may be putting patients at risk.

      Recruitment targets

      The government has pledged to recruit 2,000 extra midwives by 2004 and a total of 10,000 over the next seven years.

      As part of that programme of expansion, ministers aimed to encourage 500 additional staff to take up posts in the NHS by September.

      However, figures obtained by the BBC show that it has failed - the overall number of midwives has actually fallen since the target was set.

      Vacancy rates have increased everywhere apart from London, where empty posts were already at critical levels.

      The royal college says the shortage is putting extra pressure on existing staff, many of whom are now also considering quitting.

      Jon Skewes, director of employment relations at the RCM, said: "The government was making progress towards the 500 figure but our latest information shows in the last six months they've been slipping back and there are now 45 fewer midwives.

      "It is clear from our own staffing survey that vacancy rates are increasing everywhere and not just in London and the south-east," he told BBC News Online.

      The college has called for extra money for midwives.

      "Midwives clearly have to be valued much better than they are. The most that quite qualified midwives can learn in the NHS is about £25,000," said Mr Skewes.

      "We want to see the government investing in a new pay system for the NHS which is more than three years in negotiation and it is about time it delivered for midwives."

  • Tuesday, 24 September, 2002, 10:51 GMT 11:51 UK - GP shortage 'critical'

  • MRSA Scandal - Each year, 100,000 people catch an infection in hospital. Of these, 5,000 die - more than are killed on the roads. It's one of the worst rates in the world. So is there a cure? By Jeremy Laurance and Colin Brown - 07 December 2004
    • At

    • Every year 5,000 patients in hospitals in Britain die from an infection acquired after they were admitted.

      Up to 100,000 more - almost one in 10 in-patients - endure extended illness, pain and suffering caused by bugs they contract in the place where they came for a cure.

      The number of deaths exceeds that from road accidents, and that from drugs and HIV/Aids combined. Our rate of infection is among the highest in the world, above that of Australia, Denmark, Norway, the Netherlands and Spain. It costs the NHS more than £1bn a year.

      Today, the Government will launch its latest crackdown on poor hygiene to cut the rate of hospital infections, of which the worst is MRSA (methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus). Lord Warner, a health minister, will launch a guide for hospitals, setting out how every part of the institutional environment should be cleaned. Hospitals are to be ranked in a league table on food standards and cleanliness.

      The Tories accused the Government last night of window-dressing and claimed this was the 22nd initiative on hospital infections announced to cut the death toll since the Government came to power. Michael Howard, the Conservative leader, has made action on MRSA one of the Tories' 10 priorities for the general election. In an article today in The Independent, he describes how his mother-in-law died of the disease.

      The Tory health spokesman, Andrew Lansley, said: "It is a national scandal. Over the last seven years, deaths from MRSA have doubled. It has been clear for years that the actions required included closing wards and giving patients the right to refuse hospitals or wards where there is infection. Nurses should have the power to stop admissions to wards."

      For people like Jacqui Munro, the measures are too late. Days after returning home from hospital in Lanarkshire with her first child, born by Caesarean on 21 June, she was rushed back after a black rash appeared around the wound. She spent 11 weeks battling against infection with MRSA and other bugs, but she died in September.

      The best way of saving people such as Mrs Munro is with hygiene - yet simple procedures are still not being practised. One in three people naturally has staphylococcus infections on their skin, which is not a problem in fit, healthy people. But since the early 1990s, there has been a sharp growth in staphylococcus infections resistant to methicillin and other antibiotics. Today, 40 per cent of Staphylococcus aureus bloodstream infections are caused by MRSA.

      When these organisms get into the blood of people who are sick or elderly through a wound or a needle inserted in a vein they become seriously ill because their immune system is already weakened. They are hard to treat because the organism is resistant to antibiotics. Yet the infections could be sharply reduced - this is the key point - by ordinary measures such as washing hands. To improve hospital hygiene the Government's chief medical officer ordered every NHS trust to appoint a director of infection control last year with responsibility for cutting deaths and illness caused by superbugs. Sir Liam Donaldson ordered the move after acknowledging that five years of advice and guidelines had failed to work.

      "The message is, there will be no more Mr Nice Guy in the fight against hospital-acquired infections," he said. "We are going to get much tougher and more aggressive."

      However, six months later in July this year an investigation by the National Audit Office found rates of infection were still rising. Official figures published by the Department of Health showed overall infections caused by MRSA increased from 7,384 in 2002-03 to 7,647 in 2003-04 - a rise of 3.6 per cent.

      The highest rates were seen in some of the country's most prestigious hospitals. Guy's and St Thomas' NHS Trust in London had the highest MRSA rate at 0.45 cases per 1,000 bed days, followed by Addenbrooke's in Cambridge, with a rate of 0.38.

      The NAO blamed chronic failures by the NHS to deal with the problem and said that, four years after its first report, many of its original recommendations had still not been implemented.

      "The war against hospital- acquired infection must be pursued on many different fronts, including a more robust approach to antibiotic prescribing and hospital hygiene, instituting a system of mandatory surveillance and persuading all NHS staff to take responsibility for effective infection control," said Sir John Bourn, comptroller and auditor general of the NAO.

      Many of the infections occurred because sick patients were more vulnerable to infection, the NAO said, but it estimated that 15 per cent of cases were preventable by better practices. That is equivalent to 750 deaths a year which could be prevented if more stringent regulations were in place.

      MRSA is caused by overuse of antibiotics, especially by the agriculture industry, where they are added routinely to animal feed as growth promoters. Bacteria resistant to the drugs grow and multiply, by a natural process of evolution, and the more widely the drugs are used the greater the opportunities for resistance to develop.

  • 'No one came in to clean it. Three weeks later the blood was still lying on the floor' - By Terri Judd - 07 December 2004
    • At

    • For any pensioner, the prospect of surgery in hospital is worrying, but for Bob McReight it is terrifying.

      The 75-year-old had to have a leg amputated after contracting MRSA at the old Royal Infirmary in Edinburgh. Four years later, his wife Margaret, now aged 68, was in the same hospital and she also caught the disease. She still has problems walking.

      Mr McReight now has problems with his elbows. He says the prospect of returning to hospital, albeit another one this time, is shattering for both him and his wife.

      "I am dead scared to go in. But I won't go if they won't let me come home. I am not staying in after the operation. If they are not going to do that, I am not going. I don't trust those people," said the retired lorry driver yesterday.

      Mr McReight went into the old infirmary, since closed, in 1998 to have an aneurysm treated. "It was pretty rough. My wife had to come and clean the sink it was so filthy," he said.

      On the day he returned home, he began to develop pains in his groin and immediately returned to hospital. "They discovered MRSA. They never really explained anything. They just put me on a load of drugs and drips. I lost a lot of weight - went from 11 stone to seven stone," he added.

      After weeks he was finally discharged again but the problem persisted and he went back to consult a surgeon on a painful toe. "He told me: 'I'm afraid that toe is going to kill you. Come in on Thursday and I will have the leg off Friday.' I was absolutely shocked," he said.

      Mr McReight learnt to walk again with a prosthetic leg and the couple were rebuilding their lives in 2002 when his wife fell in the garden and broke her leg in several places.

      While she was being treated in the old infirmary she learnt she too had contracted methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus. "I was taking my wife out for a wee walk. One of the nurses stopped her and just told her there and then. It broke her heart," said Mr McReight.

      "She spent six weeks in hospital and two months at home on antibiotics. She will never walk properly again. Her legs are stiff."

      Mrs McReight added: "Two years down the line I'm still walking with a stick. I kept asking them when the pain would go and they just said it was a very bad fracture. They didn't say anything about MRSA."

      The former telephonist has a keen memory of the appalling conditions she endured. Three weeks into her treatment, her leg bled across the floor. "No one came into the ward to clean it. Three weeks later, when I was discharged, the blood was still lying on the floor by the side of my bed."

      Now they are contemplating the prospect of Mr McReight going into another hospital. Mrs McReight said: "I am very worried about him going back into hospital because I have witnessed both times what happens there."

      The couple say they have never received an apology. Instead, one ward sister accused them of bringing the disease into the hospital.

      Mr McReight said: "I felt like choking her.

  • Thursday, 19 September, 2002, 04:55 GMT 05:55 UK - Why NHS dentists are so hard to find
    • At

    • "And the Audit Commission warns the piecework system, under which dentists are paid per item of treatment provided, means there is a "perverse incentive" for unnecessary or cosmetic work.

      For example, scaling and polishing teeth is a common procedure which accounts for 11% of NHS family dentist spending. "

    • "The Audit Commission has said the check-up system, which requires people to come in every six months, also needs to be reformed.

      Experts say because dental health has improved, in most cases a check-up every two to three years for adults and one to two years for children, is enough to pick up dental health problems. "

  • Friday, 6 September, 2002, 10:05 GMT 11:05 UK - Trainee nurses snubbing NHS
    • At

    • "Thousands of nursing students decide every year against working as nurses as soon as they finish their training, a study reveals.

      Researchers at The King's Fund believe as many as one in three newly-qualified nurses fails to register to practise.

      They have also found that some of the biggest hospitals in the country are continuing to have major difficulties keeping nurses.

      The problem is particularly acute in London where some major hospitals lose more than one third of their nursing staff each year. "

    • GP 'used crystal pendant to treat sick child' - By Arifa Akbar - 14 January 2003
    • At

    • A GP interested in alternative medicine tried to treat a baby's gastroenteritis by swinging a crystal pendant over her stomach, the General Medical Council was told yesterday.

      Dr Michelle Langdon also told the mother of 11-month-old Kira Jinkinson her home was built on "geopathic stress lines", which could cause ME, cancer and cot death.

      Dr Langdon, 43, a partner at Brunswick Medical Centre, London, was appearing before a disciplinary hearing charged with serious professional misconduct by refusing to prescribe patients with orthodox drugs. She denies her treat-ment of three patients fell below the standard of care expected of a registered doctor.

      The hearing was told that while Dr Langdon practised conventional medicine, she was known to have an "evangelical zeal" for alternative and natural cures.

      Opening the case for the GMC, Jeremy Donne said: "This case is not about the merits or otherwise of complementary medicine but about the enthusiasm of Dr Langdon for it, which compromised the interests of her patients."

      Bethan Jinkinson, a BBC journalist, took Kira to the GP in October 2000 after the baby suffered severe vomiting. She was allegedly sent away without a diagnosis and returned when the condition worsened. Mr Donne said: "She [Dr Langdon] started to talk about the geopathic stress lines."

      The GP allegedly tried to arrange for a spiritual doctor to lay down copper pipes in the home to "disrupt the flow" and prevent deadly illnesses.

      Dr Langdon, who has practised for 24 years, used her dowsing chain to treat the toddler, who was later diagnosed with gastroenteritis at University College Hospital, London, the hearing was told.

      In June, the GP allegedly refused to prescribe antibiotics to a patient who was later diagnosed with a stomach infection. The hearing continues.

    • Kidney patients dying in dialysis care shortage - By Jeremy Laurance Health Editor - 14 January 2003
    • At

    • Britain is in the grip of an epidemic of kidney failure and people are dying because hospitals do not have enough dialysis machines to keep them alive.

      About 100,000 people have kidney disease but only 34,000 receive dialysis – regular treatment on a kidney machine – or have had a transplant, the National Kidney Research Fund (NKRF) says.

      When the kidneys fail, patients must receive dialysis or a transplant within three months or they will die.

      A survey of the 71 kidney units providing dialysis on the NHS in the UK found some were being forced to turn away patients because they could not cope with the demand.

      The NKRF survey found 12 units turned away patients in 2001. Seven said they turned away between two and 20 patients each during the year. Others reported having to take emergency measures to accommodate patients by setting up temporary dialysis stations or treating them overnight.

      The report says: "Some providers acknowledged that the final options for such patients are conservative management and/or death." John Bradley, director of the renal unit at Addenbrooke's Hospital, Cambridge, said: "There is concern that patients are dying because they can't get dialysis. If you talk to the units they say they don't know what happens to the patients they turn away."

      Kidney failure is a growing problem in Britain, fuelled by the rise in diabetes caused by increasing obesity. The total number of sufferers is projected to double over the next decade. It is four times more common in Asians and Afro-Caribbeans. Treatment involves being connected to a kidney machine, three times a week, for dialysis that cleanses the blood of impurities. Some patients survive for decades having dialysis but it costs £30,000 a year.

    • Dialysis shortage exposes failings of NHS - Hard-pressed kidney units admit turning away patients and offering inadequate treatment - By Jeremy Laurance Health Editor - 14 January 2003
    • At

    • Kidney disease claims the lives of 7,000 people in Britain every year, many of whom die prematurely because they cannot get the treatment available in the rest of Europe and the United States.

      Once the kidneys fail, a patient must start on a kidney machine within three months or they will die. The shortage of kidney machines exposes the failings of the health service with grim finality.

      A survey of the 71 renal units providing dialysis in the UK by the National Kidney Research Fund (NKRF) and Sheffield University revealed there were 19,307 adults receiving dialysis, a rate of 328 patients per million population.

      In the five European countries of Germany, France, Spain, Italy and the Netherlands the average dialysis rate is 537 per million population, 63 per cent higher than in Britain. In America, 267,327 adults were receiving dialysis in 2000, a rate of 1,000 per million, three times the British rate.

      The discrepancy means that patients with kidney failure in Britain are not being diagnosed or are unable to find a kidney unit to accept them.

      That has now been confirmed by the renal units, which have admitted turning away patients in the NKRF survey. If the doctors responsible for those patients cannot find a unit to take them, then the only option is for the doctors to keep them comfortable in hospital until they die.

      Callers to the helpline for patients and their families run by the National Federation of Kidney Patient Associations reveal a similar picture. In one case, staff spent eight days trying to secure a critically ill patient a space on a kidney machine in one renal unit and only succeeded after "a lot of hard work and harassment of clinical staff," according to an internal report.

      Tim Statham, chief executive of the federation, said: "Our helpline receives calls from people who say their relatives are not being offered kidney treatment. In addition, there are many thousands who do not know they have kidney problems. GPs don't even recognise it – they might see one or two cases in a lifetime."

      Most renal units try to accommodate extra patients by reducing dialysis sessions to two a week instead of the normal three, offering the treatment out of hours or using inpatient facilities to care for outpatients.

      At Addenbrooke's Hospital, Cambridge, where more than 300 patients are receiving dialysis, no patients are turned away. John Bradley, director of renal services, said: "We would tend to take everybody but we probably compromise their care because we have some on dialysis twice a week. The evidence suggests that if you don't provide adequate dialysis the patient has a higher risk of dying and their well-being is less good."

      He added: "It is estimated that one quarter of units in the UK do not provide optimum care to all patients because of the pressure on services."

      A kidney machine takes over the function of the kidneys, which are vital life-sustaining organs. Their main job is to cleanse the blood of toxins and transform the waste into urine. When a kidney is not working properly, harmful waste and salts build up in the body, causing high blood pressure and the symptoms of kidney failure, such as tiredness. The first sign of the disease is traces of blood or protein in the urine.

      The simplest way to protect the kidneys is to drink plenty of water and avoid becoming overweight. The National Kidney Research Fund recommends that people drink two litres (three and a half pints) of water a day.

      Although the kidneys can function on less than one litre a day this produces concentrated urine and leads to the build-up of harmful toxins. Together the kidneys filter about 200 litres of fluid every 24 hours.

      The NKRF survey says that although services have expanded in recent years, most units are already operating at maximum capacity and will be unable to cope with any increase in patients.

      "There is cause for considerable concern that the existing limited facilities will be insufficient to provide patients with optimal care in the future without some form of expansion of the service," it says.

      Long wait for treatment - 'drugs were cheaper'

      Doreen Allingham was a lively 60-year-old who ran a B&B from her home in Winchester, Hampshire, and doted on her five grandchildren. But in the past five years declining health forced her to give up the business and spend more time confined at home.

      She had high blood pressure but the drugs prescribed by her GP made her feel worse. "She always wanted to get on with life but she felt sick, she couldn't climb the stairs and she wasn't eating well," said her son, Roger Savill, 41. Mrs Allingham was referred to a kidney specialist who prescribed more drugs and plotted her progress on a computer, but her condition deteriorated further. "She was feeling so poorly but his attitude was either take the tablets or don't take them and die."

      Mr Savill asked the specialist if dialysis would improve his mother's condition. "I pressed him. I spent 55 minutes with my mother in his office and I said there must be something else that could be done. He said no – dialysis would make no difference."

      Last November, Mrs Allingham was admitted to hospital as an emergency after contracting a kidney infection and put on dialysis. The transformation in her condition was immediate.

      Mr Savill said: "She is much better. A whole cloud has lifted from her. Every day she is improving. What I want to know is, 'Why wasn't she given dialysis sooner? Was it because it was cheaper to treat her with drugs?'

      "I got the feeling they didn't want to put her on dialysis because that was the last resort. She didn't need dialysis, not yet. But I think it was because of financial concerns, not what was best for the patient. She feels better every day now. In six months I would say she is going to be fighting fit."

UK Suicide Rates and Resources

  • UK StatBase - UK National Statistics data and references
    • At

    • UK - "Death rates from suicide: by gender and age, 1974-2000: Social Trends 32 - ST32715
      "Trends in suicide rates by age group and gender have shown some marked differences in the last 25 years. For men aged 15 to 24, there were 16 suicides per 100,000 population in 2000,compared with a rate of 9 per 100,000 in 1974 and 10 per 100,000 a decade later (Chart 7.15).Suicide is now the cause of 22 per cent of deaths of men in this age group.The suicide rate for men aged 25 to 44 has increased considerably since the mid-1970s reaching a peak of almost 25.6 per 100,000 population in 1998;in 2000 the rate for that age group was 23.4 per 100,000. Conversely, the suicide rate for men aged 45 and over has fallen since the mid-1980s.Suicide rates among women are significantly lower than among men.The rate for 15 -24 year old women has remained relatively stable, at around 4 per 100,000 population since the mid-1970s, while the rates for older age groups have fallen. In the case of women aged 45 and over the rates have more than halved."

    • UK - "Death rates from suicide among men: by age: Social Focus on Men - SFM504
      One notable trend has been the rise in suicide rates among younger men. For men aged 15 to 24, there were 16 suicides per 100,000 population in 1999, compared with a rate of only seven per 100,000 in 1971. The suicide rate for men aged 25 to 44 almost doubled over the same period, to reach a peak of almost 26 per 100,000 population in 1998. In contrast, the suicide rate for males older than this peaked in the mid-1980s and has fallen since, although the suicide rate for men aged 65 and over rose again between 1998 and 1999.

      There are also very large differences in male suicide rates by marital status. In 1995 the suicide rate for widowed and divorced men aged 15 to 44 was 35 per 100,000 population, more than double the rate for married men. The rate for single men has risen markedly since 1983, from 15 per 100,000 population to 22 per 100,000 population in 1995.

    • Data for Chart 7.15                           
      Death rates from suicide1: by gender and age                           
      United Kingdom    - Rates per 100,000 population(2)   
                             Males                         Females            
                                      65 and                        65 and   
              15-24   25-44   45-64   over   15-24   25-44   45-64   over   
      1974    8.6     14.1    19.8    23.6    3.8    8.4    15.0    15.0    
      1975    10.1    14.3    19.7    22.0    4.4    8.3    14.7    14.9    
      1976    9.8     15.1    20.9    24.0    4.6    9.1    14.1    15.1    
      1977    9.5     16.5    20.0    24.1    5.5    8.6    14.9    15.1    
      1978    10.5    16.8    20.7    24.7    4.4    9.0    14.5    16.1    
      1979    10.3    18.0    20.5    24.8    4.0    8.5    17.1    15.1    
      1980    9.7     18.8    21.3    24.8    4.2    8.2    15.6    16.5    
      1981    10.8    19.6    23.0    24.1    3.4    7.9    14.9    15.7    
      1982    9.7     18.9    23.0    25.1    3.4    7.9    14.0    15.1    
      1983    9.7     19.2    22.6    24.4    3.1    7.3    13.0    14.5    
      1984    10.1    19.6    22.4    23.9    2.6    7.2    13.6    13.6    
      1985    11.6    20.8    23.2    24.6    3.0    6.8    14.0    15.3    
      1986    12.5    20.3    22.6    26.3    3.3    6.6    11.8    13.6    
      1987    13.7    20.1    21.3    23.8    3.8    6.7    10.7    11.2    
      1988    16.2    23.0    21.4    26.1    4.1    7.0    10.1    12.2    
      1989    14.7    21.1    19.9    21.2    3.8    6.2     9.3     9.4    
      1990    16.2    23.2    20.7    21.6    3.3    6.5     8.4     9.6    
      1991    15.4    24.3    20.4    18.6    3.9    5.9     8.3     8.5    
      1992    16.2    23.7    20.7    19.2    3.7    6.3     8.2     8.2    
      1993    17.0    22.8    20.0    17.7    3.6    6.5     7.3     8.1    
      1994    16.0    22.8    18.1    18.6    3.4    6.2     6.9     7.7    
      1995    15.4    24.2    18.6    16.7    3.6    6.3     6.9     6.9    
      1996    14.3    22.8    17.3    17.2    4.2    6.2     6.4     6.7    
      1997    16.3    21.7    17.5    15.4    4.0    6.3     6.9     6.3    
      1998    17.2    25.6    19.1    14.9    4.5    6.6     6.5     7.1    
      1999    15.7    24.6    19.2    17.0    3.7    6.4     6.1     6.7    
      2000    15.9    23.4    18.0    15.7    4.4    6.4     6.3     6.0  
      1  Figures are based on suicides registered in the year. Includes  
      deaths undetermined whether accidentally or purposely inflicted.  
      2 Directly age-standardised to the European standard population.  
      All data are based on ICD9 apart from the Scotland data for 2000,  
      which are based on ICD10. See Appendix, Part 7: International  
      Classification of Diseases.  
      Source: Office for National Statistics; General Register Office   
      for Scotland; Northern Ireland Statistics and Research Agency  


  • Australian Bureau of Statistics - Health - Special Article - Suicide (Year Book Australia, 2000)
    • At,suicide

    • The number of deaths in Australia attributed to suicide rose from 2,197 in 1988 to 2,723 in 1997, an increase of 24% over the 10 year period (table 9.3). In 1988, suicide accounted for about 12.8% of all deaths and ranked as the sixth leading cause of all deaths. In 1997, suicide ranked as the seventh leading cause of all deaths, but it ranked fourth in terms of the years of potential life lost before the age of 76 years.

      Suicides, for statistical purposes, are defined as those deaths classified to 'suicide and self-inflicted injuries' by the Supplementary Classification of the Ninth Revision of the International Classification of Diseases. The actual number of suicides is thought to be higher than the number of registered suicides, because the true intention of some deaths is difficult to determine. When there is a doubt about the intention of death, suicides could be misclassified to other causes of death categories (i.e. natural cause, accident or undetermined whether accidentally or intentionally inflicted). The coroners may be reluctant to give a verdict of suicide because of the social stigma attached to suicides and the socioeconomic and emotional implications it could have on families of the victims. The extent of under-reporting of suicide is, however, difficult to assess accurately.

      The age-standardised death rate for suicide rose from 13.4 deaths per 100,000 population in 1988 to 14.6 per 100,000 population in 1997, a 9% increase over the 10-year period. Between 1988 and 1996 the overall suicide death rate was relatively stable at 12 to 13 deaths per 100,000 population, but it then increased by 12% to 14.6 in 1997.

      The trend in the overall death rate from suicide reflects the underlying trend in male suicide deaths, which generally account for over three-quarters of the total number of suicides each year.

    • --------------------------------------------------------------------------------
      Australian Suicides   Age-standardised death rate per 100,000 population(a)
            Males Females Total  Males   Females Persons   Sex ratio
                                                           (male death rate/ female death rate) 
      Year   no.    no.     no.    rate    rate   rate     ratio 
      1988  1,730    467   2,197   21.5    5.6    13.4     3.8 
      1989  1,658    438   2,096   20.1    5.2    12.5     3.6 
      1990  1,735    426   2,161   20.7    4.9    12.7     4.0 
      1991  1,847    513   2,360   21.7    5.9    13.7     4.4 
      1992  1,820    474   2,294   21.1    5.3    13.1     3.6 
      1993  1,687    394   2,081   19.3    4.3    11.7     3.6 
      1994  1,830    428   2,258   20.7    4.7    12.6     4.8 
      1995  1,873    495   2,368   20.9    5.4    13.0     4.4 
      1996  1,931    462   2,393   21.3    4.9    13.0     3.9 
      1997  2,146    577   2,723   23.4    6.1    14.6     3.8 
      9.4 AGE-SPECIFIC Australian SUICIDE RATES PER 100,000 POPULATION(a), By Sex - 1988-97
       Age group (years)
      Australian MALES
           15-24  25-34 35-44 45-54 55-64 65+   All ages(b) 
           rate   rate  rate  rate  rate  rate  rate 
      1988  27.9  28.3  26.0  24.4  23.8  31.9  21.0 
      1989  23.9  30.0  22.4  23.9  22.8  29.5  19.8 
      1990  27.0  29.1  25.4  21.4  24.8  28.2  20.4 
      1991  26.7  29.9  30.3  26.1  21.3  28.1  21.4 
      1992  27.0  30.4  24.9  25.8  23.1  28.4  20.9 
      1993  24.7  28.7  21.4  23.5  22.9  25.8  19.2 
      1994  27.0  29.2  26.1  24.7  23.1  26.6  20.6 
      1995  25.4  33.4  27.8  23.9  23.3  22.9  20.8 
      1996  25.7  32.5  29.4  22.7  23.4  25.9  21.2 
      1997  30.6  37.5  30.2  24.4  22.6  28.3  23.3 

Borough of Kensington and Chelsea, London

Information Gathering and correspondance with London based Agents in the Field

Example of sending Feelers out to Agents in (and out) of the field)

(Note: FF means Fully furnished)

Hi Q (not real name),

You were in this scene a while back of looking for accommodation.
Would you be able to expend advice here?
(am using the University of London database)

For example, does the following sound decent - decent part of
London, etc.  (what would be the pitfalls, nasty landlord things to
be wary of?)  Basically, I am not looking for anything flash - just
a place I can crash, sleep, get a shower (not a bedsit if I can avoid



Single person flat (I believe)

Camden Town

GBP 110 PW Deposit: 1/12 Min Let: 1 year 
Notes: No smoking. Own phone not included in the rent.
Mature Postgrad pref.

S, own kit, sitt, bath, wc

CH, G & E  inc

From: Deep Cover Agent Q (not real name)
To: Lachlan Cranswick []
Subject: Re: Need your advice!
Date: Mon, 14 May 2001 21:52:35 +0100

Hi Lachlan,

Right then, Camden, a really nice part of london, does have some dodgy
parts. Very trendy place to live, good markets close. large supermarket
(safeway) nearby about 30 min walk into Birbeck or northern line tube
station nearby.

For the #110pw price, which is a bargain for a flat to have the gas and elec
included is great the 1 month rent as deposit is pretty standard.

Before you take it get someone to have a look for you if you cannot make it
over yourself.

As for landlords the things to look out for....

be susspicious if they ask/demant rent payment in cash

Check the contract for several things...
        Amount of notice you are given before being kicked out
        Amount of notice you have to give
        Conditions for the return of your deposit
        if you give a holding deposit make sure you get a reciept

        Get a reciept for everything basically
        check the contract so you are not getting fleeced!!

That about coveres it i think
looks prety good to me though!!

oh I have attached an ariel photo for you.
to get a street map go to
put in street name and it will point it out for you!!

Hope this helps

Date: Mon, 14 May 2001 22:06:45 GMT
From: Double Agent Yellow
Subject: Re: Re-reading that map!

  Have taken a look at the map - it is difficult to make judgement without
knowing the area or seeing it. I know that Camden High STreet is popular
on Sundays for its markets and that the tube from Camden to Goodge Street
could be useful when you don't feel like walking. Most rentals are for
6 months in the first instance, given the current laws on renting property
out - so that landlords can get rid of bad tenants after a reasonable period
should things not work out (and vice versa - tenants can dump bad landlords!)

I am not sure what most of the jargon means to be honest - I find the 
english ads confusing - in Grenoble it was very simple since everyone used
the same abbreviations (I tried different ones once, and the newspaper
promptly redid the text for my ad to make it conform:-)

  I guess someone younger who has moved around a lot may be better on this
one - [Agent Motif] has had a fair number of flats, though none from U.L.
as far as I know (though he had college accommodations years ago as an 

Date: Mon, 14 May 2001 22:32:27 +0100
To: Lachlan Cranswick []
From: TBD
Subject: tomorrow


I am being thrown out for this evening. I will do this in the morning.

Sorry, but you know what these facist security guys are like, 
you just uuuurgh........

From: The one that dare not speak its name
Date: Tue, 15 May 2001 05:02:01 EDT
Subject: Re: Not sure if this is too early to query on
To: []

Hi Lachlan,

> Does Camden town sound decent?

Well, as you know, I don't know London that well.
The vibe around the office is that it is OK with
an excellent market (but watch out for dodgy folk
in the market).

> GBP 110 PW Deposit: 1/12 Min Let: 1 year 
> Notes: No smoking. Own phone not included in the rent.
> Mature Postgrad pref.
> S, own kit, sitt, bath, wc
> CH, G & E  inc
> (does bath mean - bath with shower?)  Is there access
> to washing machine?

I'd say that it almost certainly did not have a shower.
I ran into this problem when I was looking for a
place in Edinburgh. I mistakenly assumed that nearly
everywhere would have a shower but I turned out that
if a shower wasn't mentioned in the description then
the flat didn't have one. I wasted time looking at 
three flats before I worked that one out.

As for washing machine, you don't really know what
you're going to get until you have a look around. I'd
say don't assume anything unless it's mentioned in
the description. 

The rent seems good but that might be due to lack of
facilities. I'd try calling up and asking about the
washine machine and shower. You'll need all the
assurances you can get since I'm assuming you won't be
able to look around the flat before you come to this

My advice is don't take anything for granted; call up
and do a telephone interview in lieu of being able to
do a viewing.

Date: Tue, 15 May 2001 10:59:30 +0100
To: Lachlan Cranswick []
From: TBD
Subject: out of the frying pan


I used to live on St Augustines Road, which runs parallel to
Murray road in Camden. The area is good - not much happening.
Near there and possibly on Murray Road is an Irish Club
whcih may prove noisy/have sone inebriated 5th generation
Irish gents hanging about on occasion, I dont know. The area was
quiet, almost boring. It is 10 minutes walk from camden itself
and the ambience / atmosphere of Camden Lock and the Market.
It is famous for people 'trying to find themselves' perhaps
they have not found everyone else yet?

We had no hassle from the train line, but there again, we were a 
bit further from it. I dont think it will be a problem, but you
never really know until you have been there.

My flat mate at the time worked at Birkbeck and walked in each day.
The same walk is much much much more risky at midnight/2 in the 
morning, but the number 29 bus runs very frequently and all through 
the night. While risky, it will generally be OK I think, just do
not walk around with lap top computers and pockets full of change

Caledonian Rd park was full of ageing hippies living in caravans on 
Market Rd, (I used to walk along there to the tube station). You
are in easy walking distance to Regents Park and Primrose Hill
and 2 miles from Hampstead Heath and Parliament Hill.

You would be advised to limit your daresbury-esque late night 
walking about habits, but then you probably are aware of this.

110 quid per week is quite expensive. On top of this will probably be
council tax at 600 per year. It is walking distance to work though.
The whole area is expensive, so it is probably on the cheaper side
for this area. Gas and Electricity are included it did say.

When you start? You sorted your offices out yet?

Campion Bond did that quote I sent you.

Date: Tue, 15 May 2001 11:57:12 +0100
To: Lachlan Cranswick []
From: Agent Swallow
Subject: Re: Yo 


Can't help with the accommodation I'm afraid. All I know in my half-arsed
way is that Kings Cross/St Pancras area to the South used to be horrid. On
the other hand Camden Lock just to the west was a bohemian/anarchist St
Kilda-type area 25 years ago (in my day) but then became gentrified. Camden
Lock still has a famous street market.

Nearest underground - Campden Town? See

Incidentally, the train line you mentioned looks like it goes UNDER the
road rather than over (phew).

Bath means bath here in the UK, as {Agent Swallow's better half} and I 
have already discovered to our cost!

Accommodation in London incredibly difficult to get, so you need to factor
that in to your decision. Pity you can't see the place.

Looking  forward to a few lattes in "The great Wen".

From: Double Agent Yellow
Subject: Re: ULAO Password till 21 May 01

Hi Lachlan,

  Have just been talking to [Agent Burrow] who I now find out also has experience
of the University of London accommodation system. Apparently the web stuff
is updated daily (unlike the printed version) - it should have details
somewhere explaining the notation. FF might mean furnished flat, but he
wasn't sure. S means single bed, D means double. X C means couples of any
sex, (C+ means plus kids), etc.

  He says that property goes quickly, but that lots should become available
soon since it is the middle of the examination system.


Date: Tue, 15 May 2001 21:00:56 +0100
To: Lachlan Cranswick []
From: TBD
Subject: Did Campion Bond meet Mr Holmes?



this  is the newspaper that comes out everyday with
accommodations in. If you can find a place to crash
for a week, or if you can come over for a few days 
prior to your start then you can just pick up the 
paper and trawl through. It can be very frustrating 
as there are many lying bastard money grabing blood 
sucking leach like agents out there, still......
You'd be welcome to crash at my place but I will probably 
(not certain) have someone staying over at about that time.

150 quid should get you a damn fine place. try thinking of
Maida Vale and Kilburn. It is a half hour walk maybe across 
North London through Regents park and down towards birbeck.
nice ish area (Irish again) by the canal (aka little venice)
and I remember it being quite cheap. maybe it is more
than half an hour walk? Dunno. There is Bayswater which is
North of hyde park which is fairly cheap but maybe stretching 
the walk in to work and the convenience factor.

[Dinah burger machine subplot]

We should make a shrine for Dinah. I alone have seen 2 miracles 
there. And with no Henry VIII or Cromwell to destroy it, the
shrine to St Dinah, Busty Temptress, would last beyond Daresbury.

An Observation sent to [Agent Steel]

Date: Wed, 27 Jun 2001 13:24:03 GMT
To: [Agent Steel]
Subject: Black swallow-wort (Cynanchum nigrum; Cynanchum rossicum)

>>PS:  Still interested in how much did your friend pay for a pad?
>I think it was 100 a month. It was a strange set up with the landlord
>as the flat was effectively just an annex of their home and all 
>tax dodging.

Misread this the first time - 100 a month - or 100 a week?  25 pound a week?

Did you confirm who is on the blue plaque of shame - or will I have to see
it myself?


(How much would it be to have a decent Studio flat in
Earl's Court? - just tried Loot on the web - whatever area you search
for - Camden, Earl's Court - there is a 1 bed flat going for 120 pounds a week -
but you have to buy the paper! - Me smells a rip off - which is why I
would prefer to go via the University system where the ULAO can 
encourage minimum standards - one hopes - at least starting out)  West 
Hampstead seems to have good transport into Birkbeck as far as I can tell - 
Jubilee line(?).


Also, Major success recently:

Black swallow-wort (Cynanchum nigrum; Cynanchum rossicum)

After 6 to 8 weeks of heart felt stress,
I have finally identified a previously unidentified wildflower of
the Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory of Columbia University - that 
being Black swallow-wort (Cynanchum nigrum; Cynanchum rossicum).
Thanks to the 6 to 10 books borrowed from the local Palisades library.

(one of the Top 20 Invasive Plants of New York State:   )

Let your joy be unrestrained.



Date: Wed, 27 Jun 2001 13:24:03 GMT
From: The Big Fromage
Subject: Accommodation Visit

Hi Lachlan,

  Now back from sunny West Hampstead - it is a very expensive area, and even
the flats I looked at were in Kilburn afterall! I saw three: two at 165 and
one at 145 pw. They were tiny, miniscule, minute, and highly priced IMHO.
In fact not much better than a single room in a Victorian house, which is
what they all were in fact. The way to make money in London is to buy
a large Victorian house (4-8 bedrooms) and convert it into a block of
highly priced flats... They were all in a very clean new state, but I wouldn't
rent one personally - but that's me. Have been talking to [Agent Y] who says
that one needs to make a lot of visits to get a good place.

Date: Wed, 27 
From: The Big Fromage
Subject: Re: haggling on price?  Re:  Accomodation Visit

>I saw [Agent Z] after visiting the places and he says that he wasn't surprised
>since it is much more upmarket than Camden Town where I went before, and
>both he and Fabio think that one was a lucky hit too.

One thing [Agent Steel] has suggested - and wondering if checking with
[Agent Z] and [Agent Y] for quality control - do they accept lower offers and 
haggling?  (using good references, non-smoking, as a reason for 
cutting the price, etc)

Is this place in Kilburn worth 120 per week? (it being clean and a new
setup sounds attractive) - or it looks like looking
around might be worth while?

It does sound strange that this person does not have a queue of
people lining up for these joints - implying they are over priced
and they know it - and are waiting for suckers - or people to 


Date: Thu, 28 Jun 2001 11:39:08 GMT
From: The Big Fromage
Subject: Re: haggling on price?  Re:  Accomodation Visit

Hi Lachlan,

  London is not Instanbul I'm afraid - Haggling may be possible under
rare circumstance - I think most people pay these prices until they
find somewhere more reasonable! [Agent Z] says he wouldn't pay 100 quid given
the location since Manstone Road is not really West Hampstead and is
a significant distance for walking to the tube. (The tube journey is fine,
though is does involve a non-walking change since the Metropolitan line
trains don't stop at all stations.) I suspect many people take these
propeties in desperation - probably the first one they take after taking
on a well-paid job as a newly employed post-grad after their first degree.


Date: Fri, 29 Jun 2001 20:50:16 +0100
To: Lachlan Cranswick []
From: [Agent Steel]
Subject: Re: Accomodation Visit by The Big Fromage


thanks for the American Footballing JC. Good to see that he is
not playing for the team in red. It sits proudly on my desk, no
doubt burning everything in site a la 'Raiders of the Lost Arc'

Now Visible Blue Plaque of Shame

Professor Slobodan Jovanovitch
Serbian Historian
Literary Critic
legal Scholar
Prime Minister of Yugoslavia 
Lived here 1945-1958

(mysteriously the year the war ended).

Also, thanks to you, the French Embassy of shame hotel is
be revamped as well as the embassy itself.

Being hassled by security, so must dash. Whats happening over there?
When is the return? You going holidaying? You at least going to
see some futile yankee sports?

>>Hi Lachlan,
>>  Now back from sunny West Hampstead - it is a very expensive area, and even
>>the flats I looked at were in Kilburn afterall! I saw three: two at 165 and
>>one at 145 pw. They were tiny, miniscule, minute, and highly priced IMHO.
>>In fact not much better than a single room in a Victorian house, which is
>>what they all were in fact. The way to make money in London is to buy
>>a large Victorian house (4-8 bedrooms) and convert it into a block of
>>highly priced flats... They were all in a very clean new state, but I
>>rent one personally - but that's me. Have been talking to [Agent Z] who says
>>that one needs to make a lot of visits to get a good place.

Indeed us frequent flat hunters know all this. Hampstead and parts of 
Kilburn are very nice, and you pay for this. You need to know what you
want, and have some visual experience of what is on offer for how
much cash. The turnover is incredible. It took [Agent M] (who paid 500 pcm
I think) a couple of weeks solid looking. What do you want? A room to 
survive? A flat to set up your virtual world? A flat to impress the
girls? or even a place to impress the Aussie girls - just a field or
a barn I guess? Each of these are different.

Hampstead is nice though, lots of parks to get lost in. I think anywhere
you get is going to cost a minimum of 125 per week.

Any news on DND?

Later dude.  


What are reasonable rental prices for London July/August 2001 - studio - 1 room flats

From: [Agent G]
To: "Lachlan Cranswick" []
Subject: No Official Subject
Date: Mon, 9 Jul 2001 05:57:32 +0100

Hi Lachlan,

That place on XXXYYYZZ road looks pretty good. Its in a nice area ( south
kensington) right next to Hyde park and the NHM/V&A so plenty of green,
usually large Georgan/Victorian Houses so large rooms tall ceilings etc easy
tube access of about 45min to 1hr walk to Birbeck. For the area 150 pw is
pretty good and the washing machine is a nice bonus! To have a look at
location go to,154

>What should I be thinking is a reasonable price for Zone
>2 studio flat - or one bed flat - walking distance to a tube?

As for reasonable prices in zone two it really depends on the area but for a
nice area about 150 pw is about right! mabe a bit higher although can go as
low as 100, not so great though!

hope that helps

[Agent G]

[Agent Steel] Queries the Query

Date: Sat, 30 Jun 2001 16:06:05 +0200
To: Lachlan Cranswick []
From: [Agent Steel]
Subject: Re: Your quick opinion on this?

>Do you have a quick opinion on the following before I pass
>it on to [Agent X] for scouting?
>GBP 150 PW
>Deposit: 1/12 Min Let: 6/12 
>Notes: Guarantor required. TV and washing machine. 
>200 metres from tube. own kit, sitt, bath CH & E exc NOW 

It will probably be noisy. Possibly tube trains and XXXYYYZZ Rd is a
reasonably busy road. 150 is 640 per month. It sounds good, but is clearly
much more than a studio flat. 

Why are you looking in these areas and not north london, north of Regents
Park, Tufnell Park, Camden, Chalk Farm etc?

It is a reasonable price for what you are getting (apparently) and the area
you are in.

>What should I be thinking is a reasonable price for Zone
>2 studio flat - or one bed flat - walking distance to a tube?
>I am confused (as usual) and disoriented (as usual).
>SE has been getting some good reviews on the University of London
>site.  Cheap and near London Bridge.

what is SE? you mean south east? Its cheap, rough, multiracial, fairly
poor, and a total pain in the arse to get to.  Depending of course on where
you mean. If someone is prepared to live in a poor area, then it would be
very good. People are generally nice, speak to each other, even help each
other, the kids will no doubt be kids and thus a total pain in the arse etc
etc etc

but where do you mean? There is Greenwich and there is bexely heath. There
is Butlers Wharf and there is the Old Kent Road.

Date: Fri, 13 Jul 2001 22:52:12 GMT
From: The Big Fromage
Subject: Re: Any news on XXXYYYZZ Road?

Hi Lachlan,
 Try URL:

 If you have questions, I'll try to answer them.

         The Big Fromage.

P.S. Excuse quality of HTML, etc. - slow via modem:-)

TV's - hate em - and don't want to pay TV licence - The Big Fromage answers

Date: Sat, 14 Jul 2001 00:03:47 GMT
From: The Big Fromage
Subject: Re: I'LL TAKE IT!! Re: Any news on XXXYYYZZ Road?

Hi Lachlan,

  I see you are like us when it comes to TV. Ours is new in its box!

You have to "de-install" TVs whatever that is supposed to mean
if you want to avoid TV license. I would turn it round and take the
plug off. You have to pay electricity (key card system) - I didn't ask
about water - no phone connected at present, though one there. Previous
tenants used mobile (yuk!). I will inquire about council tax too (would
be better to be included if it can be wangled that way!).

The Big Fromage

Finding how one might "spurn" an unwatched TV - Re: UK TV Licences

Date: Sat, 14 Jul 2001 
Subject: Request information on de-install existing TV in a rented apartment?


I will be taking up a temporary position at a London University
and it looks like the apartment they are arranging for me may 
include a TV by default (which is the property of the flat).

I detest watching TV - and instead prefer to read while at 
home and/or listen to music.

Thus to avoid having to pay a licence for an un-used TV (and/or
save the Landlord from licencing an un-used TV), 
how do I de-install the TV so that it would satisfy an
inspector that it was not being used while I was a tenant.

Is just turning the TV around 180 degrees facing the wall and 
having it unplugged suitable enough?  Do you have a webpage on

I have checked your website but cannot see anything on this - it
does mention the landlord / tenant situation - but not if a person
does not want to use an existing TV (e.g., to spurn the TV  - "as
one might spurn a rabid dog").

Thanks in advance on this,



London Utilities - how to interact with them

Date: Sat, 14 Jul 2001 
Subject: Yo and technical renting queries


Few queries if you have the time for going into a new flat.


  Who would I contact to get the water sorted out and me registered to send
   the bills to.

  Same with electricity (have been told something - (key card system)?)

  Same with gas.

Also, for a London washing machine - what are the three powders required
to handle London nuclear power plant quality heavy water.

  Washing powder, softener, anti-caking agent????  Any brands to recommend?



From: [Agent Purple]
To: "Lachlan Cranswick" []
Subject: Re: Yo and technical renting queries
Date: Mon, 16 Jul 2001 02:18:48 +0100

Hi Lachlan,

For the water you would contact thames water and register with them for
the water bill, you would have to contact the elecric board about the
card also I think, not sure about that, there are usually electric board
shops on the high street, you could just pop into them. The electric card is
easy, you just charge them up (usually at a cash point outside an electric
shop or sometimes at the post office) and put it in the meter and it deletes
money off as you go, they usually carry a UKP 5 reserve in case you run out so
you can still have power etc. British Gas again phone them to register etc.
Just to make things more interesting I think you can now buy all your
utilities from one supplier, ie gas and electric from British Gas, its
sometimes cheaper that way!

The london water isn't as bad as it used to be, so most washing powders will
work, depends if you want biological or non-bio, Persil, Fairy, Surf, Ariel
are all pretty good! Personally I use Fairy or Persil as they don't bleach
your clothes and they smell nice.

[Agent Purple]

From: [Agent Purple]
To: "Lachlan Cranswick" []
Subject: Re: One more Silly question: Re: Yo and technical renting queries
Date: Mon, 16 Jul 2001 08:59:52 +0100

Hi Lachlan,

You can contact the relevant companies before hand to arrange when you want
everything switched on etc. So that shouldn't be a problem. Hmm not sure
what to do about the elecric now, they will be able to help when you call

Good luck with the Utilities,

[Agent Purple]

Date: Mon, 16 Jul 2001 13:12:51 +0200
To: Lachlan Cranswick 
From: Captain Bold
Subject: Re: Second Opinion: Re: Yo and technical renting queries

>  Who would I contact to get the water sorted out and me registered to send
>   the bills to.

Thames Water

>  Same with electricity (have been told something - (key card system)?)

London Electricity (but you can have one of a myriad of suppliers)

>  Same with gas.

British Gas (but you can have one of a myriad of suppliers)

>Also, for a London washing machine - what are the three powders required
>to handle London nuclear power plant quality heavy water.

I suggest you buy some new clothes

>  Washing powder, softener, anti-caking agent????  Any brands to recommend?

Again, I suggest you buy some new clothes, but are you intending to move 
towards being environmentally consious?

Date: Mon, 16 Jul 2001 
To: Captain Bold
From: Lachlan Cranswick []
Subject: Re: Second Opinion: Re: Yo and technical renting queries

>>  Washing powder, softener, anti-caking agent????  Any brands to recommend?
>Again, I suggest you buy some new clothes, but are you intending to move 
>towards being environmentally consious?

What about all the chemicals I have seen you put in your London based 
washing machine using London based mains water?

Also, via [The Big Fromage], it looks like I may have got the following flat:

  http://The Big Fromage's_secret_flat_information_webserver/

It's (by my wages) expensive, small, lacks sunlight, tumble down and
parts of it are rotting - it's England in microcosm! -  the real England!

It's just what I was after.  <sniff of emotion>


If you are not using an existing TV in England / UK

Subject: Enquiry TVL Reference No : XXXXX
From: "" []
Date: Mon, 16 Jul 2001 11:34:10 +0100
To: "" []

If you wish to reply to this e-Mail please reply with a subject: XXXXX.

BS98 1TL

Tel  :	(08705) 337722
Fax :	(08705) 219 041

Dear Lachlan

Thank you for your enquiry.

You do not need a television licence is you are not using a television 
to receive or record television programme services.  Removing the aerial 
would be sufficient.

I must inform you that an Enquiry Officer will visit your property in 
due course to confirm the situation.  We also send enquiry letters at 
regular intervals to addresses where we do not have a record of a 
current licence, and you may be contacted in this way in future.

I hope this clarifies the situation for you.


[Agent Friendly and Helpful]

Customer Services

Date: Mon, 16 Jul 2001 19:55:07 GMT
From: The Big Fromage
Subject: Re: A technical query: Re: I'LL TAKE IT!! Re: Any news on  XXXYYYZZ Road?

Hi Lachlan,

  There was power switched on. One charges the "key" up at the local
newsagents and then keys it into the meter as far as I could make out.
I was also not familiar with this system, but could see that it saved
emptying out meters full of coins. They key is provided so it simply
requires a visit to the newsagents to put more money onto the card (or
should I say key?).

  Cheers, The Big Fromage

Date: Mon, 16 Jul 2001 
To:  [The Big Fromage]
From: Lachlan Cranswick []
Subject: I possibly understand: Re: A technical query: Re: I'LL TAKE IT!!

Hold it - I think I am slowly understanding.  These cards are
just a hi tech replacement for the old coin operated systems


At 07:55 PM 7/16/01 GMT, you wrote:
>Hi Lachlan,
>  There was power switched on. One charges the "key" up at the local
>newsagents and then keys it into the meter as far as I could make out.
>I was also not familiar with this system, but could see that it saved
>emptying out meters full of coins. They key is provided so it simply
>requires a visit to the newsagents to put more money onto the card (or
>should I say key?).
>  Cheers,  [The Big Fromage]

Date: Mon, 16 Jul 2001 20:14:51 GMT
From: [The Big Fromage]
Subject: Re: I possibly understand: Re: A technical query: Re: I'LL TAKE  IT!! Re: Any news on  XXXYYYZZ Road?

Yes, they are like the cards tested out in Swindon that you charge up at
the bank and then spend in the shops, i.e. electronic coinage. [I am
not sure how well the experiment worked in Swindon btw!] So ownership
is only important between leaving the charge up point (newsagent) and
spend point (i.e. meter).

  At least that is how I understood it.
           [The Big Fromage].

Hence no bills for electricity and no meter readings.

Querying how to transfer NHS registration from up North to London

Date: Wed, 18 Jul 2001 11:10:59 GMT
From: [The One Who May Not Be Named]
Subject: Re: NHS? Re: I'LL TAKE IT!! Re: Any news on XXXYYYZZ Road?

Hi Lachlan,

  I probably know less about the awful NHS system than you! I have still
never seen my official doctor in 10 years. Transfer is very easy. I presume
you have a paper NHS card. You simply go to the new doctor with the old
card and doctor's name on it, and reception completes the new details
and posts it off to Timbuktoo (may be to Newcastle?). A new card then
comes back to your current address. (I have only used the NHS system
twice, and on one of those occasions is was only to get referred to
a private consultant so that I followed the private health insurance
rules, and the 2nd it was for some eye-drops that needed a prescription.)
I have to say that compared to France (which beats the USA when it comes
to health care), the UK is distinctly third world at times - some of the
hospitals here hardly differ from those I have seen in rural China!

  Will keep you informed as to progress,

            Cheers,  [The One Who May Not Be Named]

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