Fast forward to 2014 and we have a rather unfortunate change. Wheras the then editor Dennis Signy answered to the papers readers and could take whatever editorial line he liked, now the paper is delivered to your home for free and it is the advertisers who are in charge.
If you click this link and forward to pages 34 & 35 you will see that Barnet Council take huge adverts every week - http://edition.pagesuite-professional.co.uk/Launch.aspx?referral=other&refresh=G0e24cD1wE08&PBID=77E23626-E666-4444-A056-8A0B5982DC80&skip= - now the good thing about this is that the Council is actually doing something useful keeping the paper afloat. The bad thing is that it means that, should the council wish, they can ring up the editor and threaten him with withdrawal of advertising revenues, if the paper carries stories they don't like. Does this ever happen? Well sadly, if it hadn't this blog would not exist. You see I used to write a blog on the Hendon Times. That was stopped because I wrote a blog exposing how Barnet Council had placed a Youtube video with a Nazi supporter making anti semetic comments on their website. Members of the ruling administration took issue with the paper for allowing me to criticise the council and I was sacked as a Times community blogger.
For those unfamiliar with the story, this is the blog which caused the council to get me sacked
A certain notorious member of the Barnet Council Cabinet even boasted that he'd ended my blogging career (1.2 million hits later, I can safely say predictions of my demise as a blogger were slightly premature). Now for all I know, my little stint as a blogger at the Times was the only time that politicians in Barnet Council used threats to change the editorial policy. I have no idea whether Martin Buhagiar, the current editor ever gets calls. He tells me that the local Tories were rather cross when he printed a piece about some misfunctioning sprinklers in a council building. What I do know for a fact is that we have a constant stream of "good news" stories concerning local Conservative policies and politicians. Today we have two
There's this one about local Hendon MP Matthew Offord visiting a charity kitchen in India. Mr Buhagiar must love this story, because out of all of the stories in Barnet today, he's made it the "Editors Choice".
The other story promoting local Conservatives is the one about Councillor Robert Rams spending a day in an "ambulance" promoting a grant of £28,000 from the "Big Society fund" to the London Ambulance Responder Service.
I find this story truly disgusting. You see the NHS is in crisis in Barnet. Recently we've had reports of Barnet General A&E being locked down as there were no beds available. One report stated that there were 19 ambulances unable to drop off their patients.
To be fair to the Times, they did print one story about misdiagnosis and poor treatment in Barnet.
This was the story of how a much loved family dog died after misdiagnosis. If you believed the Times this week, that is the state of the NHS in Barnet, grants to volunteer ambulence men and the biggest health story being a dead dog. Now don't get me wrong, I love dogs and I am most upset that such a tragedy should befall a family pet, but there is a CRISIS IN THE NHS IN BARNET !!!!!
Fortunately the Barnet Press seem to take the matter more seriously. Their top story is that of Edgware resident John Sullivan aged 71.
Mr Sullivan was misdiagnosed as having irritable bowel syndrome for five years, whilst a carcinoid tumour went undetected. When Mr Sullivan was finally diagnosed and the surgeon became aware of the agony Mr Sullivan was suffering, he was admitted to the Royal Free as an emergency. That was the Wednesday before last. Mr Sullivan was given drugs for 24 hours to prepare him for major surgery. He was scheduled to have surgery at 11am on the Thursday. At 6pm, having waited all day on an IV drip, he was told to go home on the tube, as no intensive care beds were available. The tumour causes Mr Sullivans bowel to go into violent spasm, resulting in him spending hours in agony writhing around on the floor screaming. Mr Sullivan is the carer for his daughter Susan, aged 50, who suffers from Downs Syndrome. In short, the whole family is being ripped apart. One of the reasons for the lack of IC beds at the Royal Free was because the hospital takes overspill patients when Barnet General is overloaded. When people need an IC bed, ambulances are diverted to the nearest available hospital. As a result, the closure of Chase FArm not only affects Barnet General, but every hospital in the locality.
There are many aspects of Mr Sullivans case that would warrent a story. There is the fact that Doctors misdiagnosed Cancer as IBS for five years. Apparently this is not uncommon for this tumour. Wouldn't you want your local paper to inform you of this. There is the fact that not only Barnet General is unable to take emergency patients since the closure of Chase Farm. Then there is the biggest story of all. The fact that the Coalition government is underfunding the NHS to such an extent that an elderly man cannot be given an emergency operation on quiet Thursday in a warm February. Think about it. In the Borough we have 2 branches of the Northern Line, 2 major high speed rail lines, the M1 and a stack of other massive roads. If there were no IC beds in Barnet for Mr Sullivan, there would be none had any of those major transport hubs had an accident a sudden influx of emergency patients needed treatment. Look at it another way, if you had a heart attack two Thursdays ago, there would be no bed for you. You would be on an ambulance trolley, screaming in pain, as they drove around looking for a bed.
Now I am sure that the Barnet Times didn't maliciously ignore the story of John Sullivan. I am sure that when the editor picked his selection of dead dogs and dopey politicians, he was acting with the highest motives. It must be a hard job running a paper in such a busy metropolis as the London Borough of Barnet. I am sure that it can be difficult prioritising sick pensioners over dead dogs, but hey get real. Which is more likely to change you life, being stuck in an ambulance, desperately trying to find a bed, while the driver scours London for a bed, or your pooch being misdiagnosed?
I don't seek any favours from the local press. I simply ask that they do their job and tell us the local stories that REALLY MATTER. There are some vital questions that Mr Sullivans treatment has highlighted
1. If there are not a enough beds on a quiet Thursday afternoon in February, then surely there are not enough beds full stop.
2. LBB has two major railways, the M1, the A406/A1/A41 etc, what would happen if there was a major accident on any of these?
3. With Brent Cross redevelopment, Mill Hill East, Colindale, West Hendon and a net rise of 105,000 residents by the councils own research, if we can't cope now, we certainly won't cope going forward.
4. What would happen if there was a major flu pandemic?
5. In 1996, we had three major IC units available for Barnet Residents, at Edgware, Chase Farm and Barnet General, now we only have one, yet we have a third more people coming into the Borough. Where is the evidence that there is any planning for provision?
6. How often are patients turned away due to lack of IC beds?
7. How much money is wasted paying consultants, nurses and on medicines, due to operations being cancelled?
8. Where any private patients being treated in IC beds during these emergencies.
Cuts to the health service do not discriminate. We are all at risk. the cuts have gone too far and we need a proper review to ensure that all Barnet residents, their children and their elderly parents are not left on trolleys outside A&E or turned away from life saving operations.
I ask the Times Group of newspapers to back my call for a public enquiry into the NHS in Barnet. This is not a party political matter, heart attacks do not discriminate against Tory or Labour supporters. Any one of us could need the NHS at any time. What is the point in the "Big Society fund" funding paramedics if there is no bed for the patients when they get to hospital. It is all very well our local MP going on holiday to India and visiting a soup kitchen. Surely he should be visiting the A&E wards every day and making sure that his constituents get the best possible treatment.
So I grovellingly ask Mr Bugharia to think again and give Mr Sullivans story and the issues it raises the dignity and prominence it deserves. If we can stop the NHS being destroyed by ill tought out cuts, it will benefit us all. Who knows who amongst us will need an IC bed tonight. It could be you, me, Mr Bugharia, my daughter, your mum or Mrs Beans down the road. Whoever it is, I for one, will not rest until they can be assurred the level of care they deserve. As far as I am concerned, it is the job of our newspapers to join the crusade for a decent NHS in Barnet. If they don't they should spell out why. If they say nothing, sadly we will have to draw our own conclusions.