Turmoil hits hospitals, dockyards, courts as energy prices soar

Felixstowe freight port

People sit in a cafe overlooking Felixstowe freight port, on August 22, 2022.

Photo credit: Ben Stansall | AFP

It would be nice, just once, to lead this column with news of progress, recovery and success, but a glance at the newspaper headlines would swiftly expose such information as a lie.

For this is what the front pages are saying: “Port strike will cause huge disruption,” “Inflation projected to top 18%,” “Minister’s fury over barristers’ strike,” and “Snowflakes blocking A&E.”

“Snowflakes,” by the way, are people who turn up at over-stretched hospitals demanding treatment for trivial complaints – in one case, the minor scalp condition, dandruff.

In the aftermath of the pandemic, staff shortages have caused waiting times to lengthen, with periods of four to 12 hours in Accident and Emergency departments not uncommon.

Adding to hospital problems -- and probably connected to the long waits – has been an increase in violence and aggression against medical staff. A spokesperson at one hospital said, “We now have security 24 hours a day in A&E.”

Clinical leaders

He added, “We are also looking into providing body-worn video cameras for our clinical leaders.”

In the world beyond hospitals, a strike at Britain’s biggest container port, Felixstowe, is expected to cause huge disruption in dependent supply chains.

Dock workers are taking part in an eight-day walkout, the first since 1989, in support of a claim for a pay rise matching the official rate of inflation, 12.3 per cent.

One of the more unusual sights in London this week was of barristers, in gowns and wigs, holding up placards saying, “Support the Bar,” and “All out to save UK justice.”

They are members of the Criminal Bar Association, lawyers prosecuting or defending in criminal cases, who announced an indefinite strike from September 5.

The barristers say the government pays them barely enough to live on and that their income since 2006 has dropped by 28 per cent.

The barristers are due to get a 15 per cent pay increase from the end of next month, worth £7,000 a year, but they are angry it will only apply in new cases.

Meanwhile, Liz Truss and Rishi Sunak continue their seemingly endless contest to be our next prime minister in succession to Boris Johnson. That particular battle ends on September 5 after the ruling Conservative party has voted.

Whoever wins – and most polls give victory to Ms. Truss – will face a mountain of problems, with soaring energy costs for ordinary people at the top of the list. Typical bills of around £6,000 a year are expected next April, with inflation predicted to hit 18 per cent in January

Some energy bosses say the situation is so critical, the leadership contest should be terminated now and the new PM put to work immediately.

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Just in case you are wondering if everybody in Britain has turned into a violent, selfish ogre, here is the other side of the coin.

When a heatwave struck this country last month and temperatures reached an unprecedented 40C, the entire stock of chocolate in Linda Ellis’s corner shop, worth £1,000, melted into goo.

Linda and her husband, Stephen, had run the shop, Ellis Stores, in Scunthorpe, for more than 24 years, but business was getting tougher as the economy slumped.

Due to the rise in insurance premiums, it was not worth making a claim for the lost chocolate.

Said daughter Claire, “By now, my mum was ready to pack it in, shut the door and just leave it all.”

But Claire had different ideas. She organised an online GoFundMe appeal and the community came to the rescue. A total of £630 was swiftly pledged, with full compensation in sight.

Said Claire, “My parents are so, so grateful. My mum has just cried and cried.”

* * *

Samantha Felstead believes her cat, Billy, saved her life by waking her up when she was having a heart attack.

When the cat jumped on her and started miaowing, Samantha realised she could not move on her right side. Her mother helped rush her into hospital.

“The doctors said it was a good job I got to hospital in time,” said Samantha, who lives in Stapleford , Nottinghamshire.

Two cat behaviour experts told the BBC that Billy could have been reacting to changes in Ms. Felstead’s behaviour or physiology.

* * *

Reflections on married bliss:

If a man opens the car door for his wife, you can be sure of one thing – either the car or the wife are new.

If at first you don’t succeed, try doing it the way your wife told you.

Child: Mummy, what does the stork do after bringing the baby? Mother: He lies on the couch, drinks beer, watches TV, makes rude noises and falls asleep.

Judge: Why did you throw the chair at your husband? Wife: The table was too heavy.

I just read that 4,153,237 people got married last year. I’m not an expert, but shouldn’t that be an even number?