County Councillor Karen Constantine: From politics to paddling pools

Cllr Karen Constantine

Everything seems to be hotting up this week. Except for the Tory leadership candidate debate which has been cancelled due to the participants lack of interest – apparently.

Doesn’t bode well for the rest of us – does it?

The best advice I’ve received this week is to close the windows and draw the curtains to keep the heat out. That’s well worth a try! As is a dip in the sea to cool off. I certainly enjoyed a swim yesterday at Ramsgate’s Western Undercliff and not a dodgy Southern Water discharge in site. Long may it stay that way.

But the news that’s making me really hot under the collar, is again, the terrible state of our local NHS. This time, it’s pathetic pay awards and failing ambulance services that are concerning me most.

At a recent Kent HOSC – health overview and scrutiny – meeting, I raised NHS and Social Care pay, and the fierce competition that exists for staff in both the health and social care sectors.

Many valuable workers are leaving the NHS and Social Care, preferring instead to work for supermarkets chains and similar. Why is that? Primarily workers are motivated by wages, the current cost of living crisis, the worry about energy bills, and skyrocketing fuel costs meaning people are changing employment for modest increases. Every penny counts right?

Don’t forget many supermarkets offer other valuable perks – phone contract, food and household insurance discounts to name a few. These savings, and reduced pressures at work, or easier, less stressful jobs, see workers voting with their feet. Post Brexit we no longer have as many ‘overseas workers’. The Government could start to tackle this problem through a decent wage settlement. But that’s simply not going to happen. I hope I’m wrong and more that 5% is offered.

Ultimately lack of NHS and Social Care staff is leading to ambulance’s queuing to get people – patients – into hospitals, because managers and clinicians and anxious, ‘fit to discharge’ patients cannot be sent home safely – without care staff! There’s a nasty bottleneck. This workforce crisis has been steadily brewing over the last decade. But real problems are now becoming frighteningly apparent. Underfunding is plainly evident.

I asked at the HOSC exactly how many people waiting on the back of an ambulance are potentially suffering with a stroke? Because we all know how dangerous it is to have to wait for that vital scan to determine the appropriate treatment. Delay can be dangerous or deadly. Labour campaigned to stop the closure of the QEQM stroke unit and against the HASU – hyper acute stroke unit – being sited so far away in Ashford. The answer? They don’t know. Seriously that was the answer. (It’s all recorded.)

I’ve asked again for the statistics. We need to know precisely what is going on. I’ve also called for a fresh look at exactly where we put the HASUs in light of recent significant changes. Thanet, in common with other coastal areas, has experienced a significant population growth due to Covid. Whilst we are told that future population trends are routinely taken into account in NHS planning, this Covid bounce could not have been foreseen. I want to double check the numbers. But first of all I need the NHS to collect the data!

I believe that Thanet needs its own HASU, that Ashford is too far. I also believe whoever becomes our next Prime Minister needs to address the issue of NHS and Social Care workforce as an absolute priority. It’s time to pay our health and care givers properly. Give them what they are worth!

I note our local MP remains silent on this matter. I know it’s hot and that can account for drowsiness – maybe someone needs to give him a nudge. Wake up! It’s a crisis.


  1. It is very odd that the points raised in Karen’s article are sadly missing in the spot Craig got in the IOTN
    Now is it Craig doesn’t know about the problems with Ambulance waiting times, pressure on the NHS, and Southern Waters’s toxic discharges, however Craig being South Thanet MP you would have thought it should have been on his agenda

  2. N.H.S?
    Back during the 1960’s when I was a kid, there seemed to be far fewer G.P./G.P. surgeries, hospital beds, ambulances, etc. than there are now. Or have been for the past several decades. Waiting lists were shorter and, a G.P. would happily do home visits, at weekends if necessary. Lots of vocation and less working to contract. They were also more greatly respected as a consequence.
    I was working for the then Department of Health & Social Security when it’s two halves parted company. That’s when Social Care went down the pan. All the Local Authority care homes disappeared and entrepreneurs annually increased their fees disproportionately and bulked out their pension pots at public expense.
    In addition, N.H.S. user expectations have become increasingly unrealistic. The meaning of the word, “cure” has been corrupted beyond recognition. Erstwhile Public Servants have become semi-deified in the public perception. And thanks to the likes of the Honourable Mr. Tugenhadt, very significant numbers of the population have come to believe that a dose of real flu is something more than it really is (Labour Party members probably more so than Tories😂)!
    If the N.H.S. only did what it did in the 1960’svwith the budget it has today, there’d be enough money left to fund a National Social Care Service too.
    It just requires the population as a whole to grasp that some things are incurable and, for vast sums of money to not to be continuously thrown into a pit. Where greedy snake oil salesman from pharmaceutical companies gather to peddle their quack, “… not a cure, but you’ll live an extra three days…” remedies.

    • It wouldn’t do any harm for the nation to also be a bit more responsible in respect of its healthor accept that years of overindulgence ( food, alcohol, tobacco, drugs etc) will finaly take its toll and need lots of health service resources so we either have to pay for it or accept a poorer service

      • Unfortunately, the Intersectionalists so prevalent within the Labour Party consider it a mortal sin to call The Fat, “Fat!”
        Nobody is born fat. It IS a personal choice.

        • I beg to differ Harry, being overweight and obese is a self inflicted injury, costing the NHS £Billions each year! I am opposed to obese people having surgery to curb their addiction to food, deny them medical care until they show they have control of their bodies!

          • We don’t “differ”.
            Reread the post. It’s precisely the point I was making.
            Fat isn’t a feminist issue. Or a mental health issue. Or a glandular issue. It’s self inflicted.

    • What “real flu” would that be, Harry Webb? No, don’t bother telling me- it’s coronavirus isn’t it? All an invention of the Chinese Government, our secret lords and masters.

      • Covid is a farce, i know of an octogenarian who after a 6bweek stay in hospital for serious heart problems , asked to be tested before discharge, ( hospital didn’t want to as it’d be a hospital aquired infection) rested positive, toldto isolate for 5 days, impossible as they need help from family for a couple of weeks, but you’d never know they have anything at all. This for someone who was classed as especially vulnerable and had to shield endlessly in lockdown. Of course maybe the vaccinations are especially effective.

          • No , being fat and lazy left lots of people vulnerable to a nasty variant of the common cold. The farce was the over reaction and crashing of the world economy to counter it.

  3. Ambulance waiting. I recently fell off my bike and broke my hip. People helped me to the path and dialled 999. I waited 2 hours for the Ambulance. When I got to QEQM there was queue of waiting ambulances. They were waiting for their stretchers to get unloaded and paperwork handed over. Nothing to do with a lack of ambulances just a lack of managing the resources that we have. Luckily it was a warm afternoon otherwise I don’t know what condition I would have been in. At 80, probably hypothermia and pneumonia Typical Public Sector management incompetence.

    • Your spleen should be vented at the government which has imposed layers of bureaucracy on the NHS, whilst at the same time cutting funding.

  4. Some people never learn Harry.
    What in god’s name is an intersectionalist?
    You were around in 1947,what was on offer in terms of the NHS then? Yes, Harry nothing! Stop moaning and thank your lucky stars there is an NHS,faulty though it maybe.
    I have just listened to a red hot MacKinlay blathering on about green Levy’s.
    He was so desperate that he quoted a period of climate change in 1930’s USA,when parts of the Midwest suffered drought and dustbowls,mainly due to poor agricultural practices.
    Well Craig and Harry, it was bloody hot during the Permian geological period but that was due to high carbon levels in the atmosphere caused by volcanoes etc but now our heatwave is caused by our own folly.
    Look if we solar power and windmills everywhere and add in tidal and wave power,we will have cheaper energy,create jobs and be kind to the environment, what is your problem?

  5. Dear Harry Webb, I am not sure what an intersectionalist is , but I do agree with your points of view, insomuch as in most cases being fat or grossly overweight is down to poor diet and eating far to much than is healthy. A sensible diet, exercise, and avoiding lots of dairy foods and booze will result in a healthy slim person.

  6. George Nokes if Harry Webb wants to complain about an over bloated back room NHS with so called managers and top heavy with senior so called operational directors etc.he is entitled to. Your comments sum you up anyone steps out of line from your view of things ridicule them like some pompous teacher. By the way look up intersectionality, you have a dictionary don’t you?

  7. The problem in this country is that we want Scandinavian quality public services paid for by a low tax economy.

    The NHS system introduced after WW2 was for a different time. It no longer fits with an increasing and aging population. Throw in a national obesity crisis and I’m not surprised it’s on its knees.

    We need a mature conversation about how the NHS will be funded in the future as the current approach is simply not workable.

  8. We do not live in a low tax economy though, we are taxed on everything, the issue is that our tax is given away to corporations and funnelled offshore at an alarming rate as opposed to funding public services.

  9. My neighbour, sadly now departed. Told me never to bathe in the western undercliff in the morning.

    Something to do with getting an orange colour tan in the winter, maybe the boffins can explain why the orange tan happens.

    Rip to my neighbour, a once Olympic and channel swimmer.

  10. Intersectionality:the interconnected nature of social categorizations such as race, class, and gender as they apply to a given individual or group, regarded as creating overlapping and interdependent systems of discrimination or disadvantage.
    “through an awareness of intersectionality, we can better acknowledge and ground the differences among us”
    It means try to be objective instead of nasty.No one says you cannot say someone is overweight(not even in the labour party), but to judge someone on the basis of their body size,colour, sex,religion, class,hair colour,speech or accent,disability,country of origin, or any number of a myriad of discriminations, is not only wrong, it is illogical.
    The number of times I have seen the self righteous on the HYS jump and down, because someone is not like them, is more than the grains of sand on Margate’s beach.
    Banning all fat people from treatment won’t stop queues in A+E, or improve services, so why suggest that it will.
    If the NHS is not up to snuff, we need to blame someone, and we should be blaming ourselves for believing in the delusion, that you can have public services on the cheap and that they will be of good quality.
    I agree entirely that our diet and policy on food quality, has allowed high fat foods and high sugar drinks and foodstuffs to predominate.
    Somehow we need to create high quality fast food, that is not high in sugar or fat content.We need to raise the amount of vegetables and fruit eaten.We need to reduce meat eating (reduce , not eliminate), and we need to deliver high quality work, that does away with the need for food banks and charity to sustain a substantial part of UK population.
    Poor housing, poor quality jobs and poverty are the harbingers of poor health, and it is about time the self righteous accepted that as a fact(s), just as we accept climate change as not being a figment of our imagination.

    • Not so long ago, when I had very little money, I’d choose to buy oranges and bananas over biscuits and crisps, as well as walk/cycle rather than get a bus. It’s not that difficult really, though I guess it’s far,far easier to eat what one likes and do minimal exercise whilst blaming others.

    • George Nokes. Glad you found your dictionary. Yay! Thank you for your explanation of Intersectionality most illuminating!

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