Saturday 26 December 2015

How health services are organised in Bedfordshire and Hertfordshire

This post will be of interest to very few people, as it is purely factual. I just wanted to get my head around how NHS services and parliamentary constituencies are organised in the county in which I live (Herts) and the county immediately north of us (Beds) and to post it for future reference. So if the subject doesn't interest you then feel free to invest your time elsewhere. If it does then it may be worth a scan. I'll add more links later.

The combined population of Beds and Herts (Bedfordshire and Hertfordshire) is 1,671,000 - 617,000 in Beds and 1,154,000 in Herts. Seven NHS Trusts and four CCGs (Clinical Commissioning Groups) serve this population.

Beds has two NHS Trusts – Bedford and Luton & Dunstable – and two CCGs - Bedfordshire and Luton.

Herts has four NHS Trusts – East and North Herts, West Herts, Herts Community and Herts Partnership – and two CCGs – East and North Herts and Herts valley.

One trust – The East of England Ambulance service – covers both counties.

The area also includes 17 parliamentary constituencies – 11 in Herts and 6 in Beds. Of these 15 MPs are Conservative and two are Labour, those in North and South Luton.

More detail is given below.


Hertfordshire (Herts) is a county in southern England, bordered by Bedfordshire to the north, Cambridgeshire to the north-east, Essex to the east, Buckinghamshire to the west and Greater London to the south.

Four towns have between 50,000 and 100,000 residents: Hemel Hempstead, Stevenage, Watford and St Albans. 

Ten railway lines and three motorways pass through or reach into the county. In 2014, the county had a population of 1,154,000 living in an area of 634 square miles (1,640 km2). 

Health facilities (4 trusts, 2 CCGs)

The Trust manages four hospitals: Hertford County (Hertford), the Lister (Stevenage), Mount Vernon Cancer Centre (Northwood) and the QEII (Welwyn Garden City).

The Trust manages three hospitals: Watford, Hemel Hempstead and St Albans. It provides general healthcare and some specialist services and has close links with specialist hospitals such as Harefield.

The Trust is one of a new generation of community health service Trusts in the NHS. It is responsible for delivering a wide range of community health services across Hertfordshire and serves the communities of Broxbourne, Dacorum, West Herts, Hertsmere, North Herts, St Albans, Stevenage, Three Rivers and Welywn/Hatfield. It also provides children's specialist community services in West Essex.

Hertfordshire Partnership University NHS Foundation Trust (HPFT) provides mental health and social care services for adults of working age, older adults, children and adolescents and specialist learning disabilities services. It also provides specialist learning disability services in Norfolk and North Essex.

Covers both Hertfordshire and Bedfordshire

Hertfordshire Parliamentary constituencies (11)

1. Broxbourne – Charles Walker (Conservative)
2. Hemel Hempstead – Mike Penning (Conservative)
3. Hertford and Stortford – Mark Prisk (Conservative)
4. Hertsmere – Oliver Dowden (Conservative)
5. Hitchin and Harpenden – Peter Lilley (Conservative)
6. Hertfordshire North East – Oliver Heald (Conservative)
7. Hertfordshire South West – David Gauke (Conservative)
8. St Albans – Anne Main (Conservative)
9. Stevenage - Stephen McPartland (Conservative)
10.Watford – Richard Harrington (Conservative)
11.Welwyn Hatfield – Grant Shapps (Conservative)


Bedfordshire (Beds) is a county in the East of England. It is a ceremonial county and a historic county, but not an administrative county, as it is divided into three unitary authorities: Bedford, Central Bedfordshire, and Luton.

Bedfordshire is bordered by Cambridgeshire to the northeast, Northamptonshire to the north, Buckinghamshire to the west and Hertfordshire to the southeast; it is sometimes described as being in the South Midlands.

Over half the population of the county lives in the two largest built-up areas: Luton (236,000) and the county town, Bedford (102,000). In 2014, the county had a population of 617,000 living in an area of 477 square miles (1,235 km2).

Health facilities (3 Trusts, 2 CCGs)

The Trust manages two hospitals: – Luton and Dunstable Hospital and Harpenden Memorial Hospital

Covers both Hertfordshire and Bedfordshire

Bedfordshire Parliamentary constituencies (6)

1. Bedford - Richard Fuller (Conservative)
2. Luton North – Kelvin Hopkins (Labour)
3. Luton South – Gavin Shuker (Labour)
4. Mid Bedfordshire -  Nadine Dorries (Conservative)
5. North East Bedfordshire – Alistair Burt  (Conservative)
6. South West Bedfordshire – Andrew Selous  (Conservative)

Now what am I going to do with all this information? I'm not quite sure yet but I'm sure it will come in handy. I'll keep you posted,

Thursday 24 December 2015

The Cameron and Corbyn Christmas messages – full text and some brief reflections

Both Prime Minister David Cameron and Opposition Leader Jeremy Corbyn have issued Christmas messages today, although Corbyn is promising a fuller one for New Year.

You can read them in full in the Daily Mirror (here and here) and I have pasted them below for easy reference.

I was particularly interested in what they said about Jesus Christ and I’ve highlighted this in bold in the text of their messages below.

Each of them uses the refugee crisis and those struggling at home as major themes but in different ways.

David Cameron emphasises the importance of care and security asking us to ‘give thanks to those who are helping the vulnerable at home and protecting our freedoms abroad’.

He specifically praises health professionals for their care for the vulnerable and our armed forces for making sacrifices to protect us.

He hails Jesus Christ as ‘God’s only Son – The Prince of Peace’, says that his birth means ‘peace, mercy, good will and above all hope’ and refers to Britain as ‘a Christian country’.

He asks us to ‘reflect on the fact that it is because of these important religious roots and Christian values that Britain has been such a successful home to people of all faiths and none’.

Jeremy Corbyn praises those who will ‘not be getting a break’ over Christmas – hospital staff, firefighters, the police and the armed forces.

He then talks about refugees, the homeless and those on low wages, emphasising that the Nativity story is about ‘offering shelter to a family in need and to those who find themselves ­refugees - fleeing evil’.

He proceeds to quote two of Jesus’ most well-known teachings: ‘Do to others what you would have them do to you’ (Matthew 7:12) – which he says is ‘the essence of (his) socialism’ and ‘It is more blessed to give than to receive’ (Acts 20:35)

Corbyn closes by saying that ‘it is a similar maxim that inspired our party: “From each according to their means, to each according to their needs.”’

‘From each according to his ability, to each according to his needs’ is a slogan said to be first used by Louis Blanc in 1851 and popularised by Karl Marx in his 1875 Critique of the Gotha Program.

Ironically it describes an ideal which communism was never able to deliver – Communism, by contrast, has always meant inequality, oppression and the strong dominating the weak.

In fact the saying actually goes back far beyond the nineteenth century to the first and finds its origin – like Corbyn’s two quotes from Jesus above -  in the pages of the New Testament.

‘Each according to his ability’ comes from Acts 11;29: ‘So the disciples, each according to his ability, decided to send relief to the brothers living in Judea.’ (ESV)

It describes how Christians in Antioch (in modern day Syria) helped their brothers and sisters in Jerusalem (Israel) during a famine.

‘To each according to his need’ comes from Acts 4:34,35: ‘There was not a needy person among them, for as many as were owners of lands or houses sold them and brought the proceeds of what was sold and laid it at the apostles' feet, and it was distributed to each as any had need.’ (ESV)

It describes how the early Christian believers in Jerusalem provided for each other’s material needs.

Care for the vulnerable and making sacrifices for the weak are at the heart of the Christian ethic – and have their origin in Jesus Christ himself.

As the Apostle Paul tells us Jesus ‘did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped’ but ‘emptied himself’, ‘taking the form of a servant’ and ‘being born in the likeness of men’ (Philippians 2). While we were weak, ‘Christ died for the ungodly’ (Romans 5).

Christmas is when we remember, in Paul’s words to Titus, ‘our great God and Saviour Jesus Christ, who gave himself for us to redeem us from all lawlessness and to purify for himself a people for his own possession who are zealous for good works.’ (Titus 2:13-15)

Let’s live lives and speak words, by his strength, that point to and give glory to Jesus Christ this Christmas and this coming year.

David Cameron's Christmas message

If there is one thing people want at Christmas, it’s the security of having their family around them and a home that is safe.

But not everyone has that. Millions of families are spending this winter in refugee camps or makeshift shelters across Syria and the Middle East, driven from their homes by Daesh and Assad.

Christians from Africa to Asia will go to church on Christmas morning full of joy, but many in fear of persecution. Throughout the United Kingdom, some will spend the festive period ill, homeless or alone.

We must pay tribute to the thousands of doctors, nurses, carers and volunteers who give up their Christmas to help the vulnerable – and to those who are spending this season even further from home.

Right now, our brave armed forces are doing their duty, around the world: in the skies of Iraq and Syria, targeting the terrorists that threaten those countries and our security at home; on the seas of the Mediterranean, saving those who attempt the perilous crossing to Europe; and on the ground, helping to bring stability to countries from Afghanistan to South Sudan.

It is because they face danger that we have peace. And that is what we mark today as we celebrate the birth of God’s only son, Jesus Christ – the Prince of Peace.

As a Christian country, we must remember what his birth represents: peace, mercy, goodwill and, above all, hope.

I believe that we should also reflect on the fact that it is because of these important religious roots and Christian values that Britain has been such a successful home to people of all faiths and none.

So, as we come together with our loved ones, in safety and security, let’s think of those who cannot do the same.

Let’s give thanks to those who are helping the vulnerable at home and protecting our freedoms abroad.

And let me wish everyone in Britain and around the world a very happy and peaceful Christmas.

Jeremy Corbyn’s Christmas Message

For many people Christmas is a time for relaxation, for catching up with friends and family. But many won’t be getting a break.

Hospital staff for whom Christmas is as busy as any time of the year. The firefighters on call, including those who recently helped save people and homes in communities like ­Cockermouth and Carlisle.

The police and our armed forces too. And the many workers in low-paid industries who simply cannot afford to take leave over Christmas.

Christmas is also a time for reflection, and it is worth considering the ­poignancy of the Nativity story. It is about offering shelter to a family in need and to those who find themselves ­refugees fleeing evil.

Homelessness in Britain is rising, more children are in poverty and tens of thousands will spend this Christmas in temporary accommodation – a home that is not their own.

Globally there are more refugees today fleeing horror than at any time since the Second World War.
These are lives that are being held back, young people who are not getting the opportunities they should.

We should always be asking ourselves – all of us, not just politicians – whether we could do more for others.

In this way, the Christmas story holds up a mirror to us all. “Do unto others as you would have done to you” – that is the essence of my socialism, summed up in the word ­“solidarity”.

The concept of solidarity is about our unity – we succeed or fail together. Yet too often there are attempts to divide us, to scapegoat, rather than help, those in need.

Jesus said: “It is more blessed to give than to receive”.

It is a similar maxim that inspired our party: “From each according to their means, to each according to their needs.”

May you enjoy a merry Christmas as we all reflect on how we create a better world in 2016.

Saturday 19 December 2015

When you feel it’s all too much – remember these things and don't give up

Do you ever feel like it’s all too much? That the Christian life is too hard? That the obstacles are too overwhelming?

The devil knows that as Christians we are secure in Christ; that nothing can separate us from his love (Romans 8:38-39), that he will never leave us nor forsake us (Hebrews 13:5) and that nothing can snatch us out of his hand (John 10:28).

But he can render us ineffective through immobilising and discouraging us; by tempting us to throw in the towel and to give up.

The battle is primarily in our minds. It starts with the thoughts we accept and believe. Once we get seduced by a self-destructive and immobilising thought the trajectory is all downhill.

Nehemiah was a man who did not allow himself to be disempowered by unhelpful thoughts – even if there was more than an element of truth in them.

He was the key figure, along with Ezra, who was used by God in the fifth century BC to help bring about one of the most profound revivals in biblical history. 

Nehemiah was a skilful politician, a clever strategist, a brilliant manager, a social reformer who championed the rights of the poor and an intransigent visionary who never gave up despite threats and opposition from those in high places.

His achievements were monumental. He re-established full employment in a climate of economic recession. He reconstructed an effective social welfare system for the marginalised and reintroduced Bible exposition resulting in nationwide repentance and revival. He reinstated public worship and rooted out heresy and idolatry.

He was used by God to put a whole nation back on its feet. 

But a key part of Nehemiah’s armoury was the ability to recognise and deal effectively with disempowering thoughts and accusations.

One of his major opponents – his bĂȘte noire as it were – was a local administrator called Sanballat who sought to distract him from his task of rebuilding the wall of Jerusalem.

Sanballat threw five immobilising thoughts at Nehemiah; the very same thoughts that the evil one uses with every Christian in order to dissuade him or her from pressing on with the task in hand. We read about his methods in Nehemiah 4.

First, he pointed out the weakness of Nehemiah and his Jewish brothers, ‘What are these feeble Jews doing?’ (Nehemiah 4:2). Of course the reality is that there was more than an element of truth in this. The Jews were weak and had few resources. But Sanballat had forgotten that God’s strength is made perfect in weakness (2 Corinthians 12:9) Nehemiah remembered and asked God to ‘Strengthen my hands’ (6:9).

Second Sanballat reminded Nehemiah of the immensity of the task, ‘Will they finish it in a day?’ The task of rebuilding the wall of Jerusalem was indeed immense, way beyond a day’s work. But this did not mean it was unachievable. Plenty of hands, good organisation and steady progress meant that a wall that had laid in ruins for 150 years was rebuilt in 52 days. It just required time and effort.

Sanballat’s third tactic was to point out the Jews’ record of past failures, ‘Will they revive the stones out of the heaps of rubbish, and burned ones at that?’ Again, it was true that they had failed God in the past. In fact, this was precisely why the wall lay in ruins now. But God is the one who promises to give us back the years that the locust has eaten (Joel 2:25), who gives us beauty for ashes (Isaiah 61:3), who specialises in building something great on the foundations of past failures.

Fourth, Sanballat mocked Nehemiah’s small amount of progress thus far, ‘if a fox goes up on it he will break down their stone wall’ (4:3). It was true that the beginnings of the project were unimpressive. But God is the champion in constructing great things from small beginnings; mighty oaks from tiny acorns; the leaven in the parable which spreads through the whole loaf.

Finally there was the strength of the opposition, ‘they all plotted together to come and fight against Jerusalem and to cause confusion in it’ (4:8). But Nehemiah ‘prayed to our God and set a guard as a protection against them day and night’ (4:9). And through it all the Jews just kept on building, with a sword in one hand and a trowel in the other; brick by brick, stone by stone until the job was finished.

I don’t know what particular project – large or small – that you are currently attempting for God and how discouraged you feel.

But let me remind you of this. However weak you are, however immense the task, however little you have achieved so far, whatever your record of past failure or the strength of the opposition you face, you can rejoice that you serve a God who uses weak people to do mighty things.

Put on his armour (Ephesians 6:10-20). Take the shield of faith to protect yourself from the enemy’s accusations and threats. Take the sword of the sprit - his word, the Bible - with its wonderful promises - and keep on building stone by stone, brick by brick. And never ever give up. For he who has called us is faithful and he will do it (1 Thessalonians 5:24).