Should there be more non-acute hospital beds available?

As part of our series of blogs about the upcoming vote on WI resolutions (for more details, see our earlier blog post), we examine the NHS and its provision of non-acute hospital beds. We’re writing these posts to kick-start the debate about these issues in advance of our November meeting; they don’t reflect any particular view or an ‘official’ view of the Sotonettes Committee so please read them with that in mind.  We want to know what our members think so please let us know on Facebook or Twitter.

“This meeting urges every NHS Trust to maintain or increase the number of non-acute hospital beds.”

Our population has changed dramatically since the NHS was founded in 1948. People are living longer with those over the age of 60 making up a quarter of the population. This has had a direct impact on NHS hospitals: around 25% of hospital inpatients have dementia and almost two thirds of hospital admissions are people aged over 65. People over 85 years spend on average 8 days longer in hospital than those under the age of 65.

The number of hospital beds has decreased by a third in the last 25 years, yet admissions have increased. Despite the high cost of hospital care the NHS has few alternatives.

Although emergency departments and acute hospital wards are there to cater for people in time of crisis and need, they are not always the most appropriate places and there is often a lack of community services, e.g. for the elderly patient who may need extra support for day to day tasks due to dementia but is other wise ‘fit and well’.

This increases unnecessary admissions to hospitals and prolongs the length of stay for patients, increases waiting times and puts strain on what few beds there are in hospitals. Whilst in hospital, elderly patients are often moved up to four times from ward to ward and continuity of care suffers. Studies show that 40% of people who die in hospital do not have medical needs requiring them to be there at the time.

Much more can be done to prevent unnecessary hospital admission and readmission, shorten the length of stay and ensure the smooth and effective transfer of care for patients ready to leave hospital. Areas with integrated services for older people have lower rates of bed use; these hospitals also tend to have lower admission rates and deliver good patient experience.

It is clear that the NHS must review the way in which people are admitted, ensure that acute hospital beds are used appropriately and ensure that services are put into place to help facilitate smooth discharge and continuing care for the elderly in their own communities.

The BBC have recently reported on the issues surrounding patients being discharged from hospital – read the article.

How can we keep women out of jail?

As part of our series of blogs about the upcoming vote on WI resolutions (for more details, see our earlier blog post), we examine to the funding (or lack of) that is provided to help vulnerable women and keep them out of prison. We’re writing these posts to kick-start the debate about these issues in advance of our November meeting; they don’t reflect any particular view or an ‘official’ view of the Sotonettes Committee so please read them with that in mind.  We want to know what our members think so please let us know on Facebook or Twitter.

“The Justice Select Committee, which has undertaken an inquiry into women offenders, has criticised Ministry of Justice rehabilitation reforms for failing to respond to the specific needs of women offenders. The NFWI therefore urges HMG to provide proper funding for a women’s centre in every local authority area to cater for the needs of vulnerable women, including offenders and those at risk of offending.”

Across the UK, more than 13,500 women are imprisoned each year; between 1995 and 2010 the UK’s women’s prison population has more than doubled. Evidence consistently shows that the best way to reduce women’s offending rates lies far away from prison: effective treatment of addiction and other mental health issues, protecting women from domestic violence, giving women secure housing, debt management counselling, skills development, education and employment. Women who gain help outside of prison are able to gain the skills to take control of their lives, look after their children and address the reasons behind their offending. Prison is rarely necessary and is far more expensive in the long term but successive budget cuts have eaten away at these services, leaving them with an uncertain future.

Imprisonment, and the resulting loss of accommodation, employment, and often their positions are key factors in reoffending. In fact, more than half of all women are re-convicted within 12 months. Access to support for women outside of prison and non-custodial sentences give women the chance to break the cycle of offending and re-offending which leaves them ending up in and out of prison their entire lives.

This resolution lies at the heart of the WI’s commitment to campaign on issues affecting women and girls. Women are more likely to be imprisoned for non-violent offences, more likely to be imprisoned for a first offence and dramatically more likely to be imprisoned for less than a year. The WI already has a commitment to helping women who are imprisoned; Surrey Federation even operates a branch in HMP Bronzefield where prisoners and staff alike are members. Women’s centres and other community provision provide a route away from crime for vulnerable women and would help tackle the root causes of crime. The WI could help provide strategic leadership on this issue as specific work on ways to tackle women’s offending has rarely been felt. While there have been positive statements on this issue, it lacks momentum, and this is something which the WI could provide.

However, it could be that this issue is not one where the WI is really needed. Justice Committee reporting suggests it is already on the government agenda. Also, it could be replication of work that individual WIs are already doing. Many of them support shelters and other institutions in their local communities for vulnerable women. While these issues are ones the WI are interested in, this resolution may not be the best way to go about helping.

For more information, see the Justice Select Committee report.

Campaigning to stop FGM

As part of our series of blogs about the upcoming vote on WI resolutions (for more details, see our earlier blog post), we turn our attention to the practice of female genital multilation (FGM). We’re writing these posts to kick-start the debate about these issues in advance of our November meeting; they don’t reflect any particular view or an ‘official’ view of the Sotonettes Committee so please read them with that in mind.  We want to know what our members think so please let us know on Facebook or Twitter.

“This AGM directs the NFWI to call on the government to give widespread disclosure and publicity to the practice of female genital mutilation as affecting British citizens in the country and abroad and supports the education campaign.” 

Female genital mutilation (FGM) is the name given to a set of practices which involve the partial or total removal of external female genitalia or injury to the female genital organs for non-medical reasons. It’s recognised internationally as a violation of the human rights of women and girls, it was unanimously banned by the UN General Assembly and it’s illegal in the UK, carrying the penalty of up to 14 years in prison. It’s easy to wonder why this is something the WI needs to speak out about, as surely this is something that doesn’t affect the lives of British women. In fact, there are around 66,000 women in the UK living with the severe pain and ongoing health issues which are caused by FGM, and there are an estimated 23,000 girls under the age of 15 at risk of undergoing FGM. Despite these shockingly high numbers nobody in the UK has been prosecuted under the existing law.

Three million girls worldwide are thought to undergo FGM every year, and while internationally the UK campaigns against it, the lack of action on the issue at home is putting British women at risk and undermining our ability to campaign on the issue abroad. Data from London hospitals published by the Evening Standard this year shows that upwards of 2000 London women have sought treatment for the results of FGM in the last three years alone. This is likely to be the tip of the iceberg with many more girls and women prevented from seeking medical care from what is effectively unnecessary major surgery conducted by untrained individuals outside of a hospital environment.

This resolution would draw attention to the issue, which many people don’t realise is faced by women in the UK. It would particularly highlight the shameful lack of enforcement of the existing laws. The WI has a history of campaigning on issues faced by women and girls and has a commitment to campaigning on issues promoting human rights for all women.

However, there are arguments against making this the 2014 WI Resolution. It’s already something which organisations including London WIs are campaigning on. The lack of enforcement of the existing law is something which has been noted at the highest level, with the DPP already working with the Police and Social Services on a policy review. It is also debatable whether prosecutions would be the best way to eradicate FGM, with many groups instead advocating education within communities where FGM is practiced.

While it’s undoubtably an issue that must be stamped out in Britain and worldwide, the question remains as to whether this resolution would really be helpful.

For more information see:
Daughters of Eve
Orchid Project

Organ donation – what are your thoughts?

As part of our series of blogs about the upcoming vote on WI resolutions (for more details, see our earlier blog post), we turn our attention to the often discussed topic of organ donation.  We’re writing these posts to kick-start the debate about these issues in advance of our November meeting; they don’t reflect any particular view or an ‘official’ view of the Sotonettes Committee so please read them with that in mind.  We want to know what our members think so please let us know on Facebook or Twitter.

“The NFWI notes that three people die every day whilst waiting for an organ transplant. We call on every member of the WI to make their wishes regarding organ donation known, and to encourage their families and friends, and members of their local communities to do likewise.”

Did you know you are more likely to need a transplant than become a donor?

Organ donation saves lives; over 3000 people had their lives transformed because of organ donation in 2012. Currently there are over 7000 people waiting for transplants, but only 1% of deaths in the UK result in suitable organ donors. 15% of people on the waiting list are likely to die before receiving a transplant. We can start to change that.

The proposed resolution asks that we encourage our family, friends and local communities to make their wishes on organ donation known. This will help to increase the number of people registered on the Organ Donor Register, but that is only half the story…

Your family can still say no.

Last year, 40% of families refused to let a relative’s organs be donated, regardless of the individual’s wishes. In Croatia, family refusal has reduced to less than 20% through campaigns to improve public awareness and talking about organ donation. (Croatia is one of the world-leading countries according to the deceased donation and transplantation rate).

NHS Blood and Transplant (NHSBT) is calling for a “revolution in consent”. It is not only about registering to be an organ donor but also about discussing your views with your family. The rate of families saying ‘yes’ to consenting a relative’s organ donation is twice as high when they know their loved one had agreed to donate. The barrier is that it doesn’t feel right discussing this with our loved ones. We need to promote this dialogue.

The WI has a strong record in this area. A previous resolution led to the creation of the Organ Donor Register. This time the WI can support a revolution in consent.

For further information, see

More voting at the next meeting – this time, resolutions!

Last month (October) we had our voting hats on to decide a new committee member; this month we’ll have more voting to do as we make our opinions heard on the resolutions for 2014.  

For anyone who doesn’t know much about WI resolutions and campaigning (I didn’t until I joined the committee), here’s a brief rundown…

The topics we, as WI members, choose to campaign on are decided at the AGM.  Initially, any member can put forward issues which they would like the National Federation of Women’s Institutes (NFWI) to consider campaigning on – these are known as resolutions.

Once all the resolutions have been collected, a process of debating and consulting begins.  A shortlist of resolutions is debated in Federations and individual WIs; after this period, a final selection of resolutions are taken forward to discuss at the summer AGM.

If a resolution is passed at the AGM, it then becomes a mandate and forms the basis of campaigning and awareness activities carried out throughout the WI membership in the years ahead.

If you want to read a little more about campaigns and the WI, have a look at our Campaigns page which includes a link to the WI website.

The shortlist has been prepared and it it now our time to vote.  Here’s the latest mailing from the WI:

“There were a good selection of resolutions this year, 51 of them. This was such an improvement on last year when there were only 22, many of them rather poor. Discussing each one in detail, as we do at the Selection meeting to choose the shortlist, took a long, very intense day. Some very good resolutions unfortunately fell by the wayside, including two from Hampshire, but the short list consists of some campaigns which we will really be able to get our teeth into. They are:

  • Campaign against female genital mutilation. This is in keeping with WI campaigns on violence against women and girls and promoting female rights. The DPP is working on it, but we can certainly add our voice.
  • Provision of non-acute hospital beds. This is a campaign we could do locally to ensure that there are places made available for people who are able to go home but can’t because there is no-one to look after them; it would also apply to dementia patients who occupy nearly a quarter of hospital beds. An NHS hostel bed would be cheaper than one in a hospital.
  • Funds for womens’ centres to cater for the specific needs of vulnerable women at risk of offending. This is another campaign which sits well with our promotion of female rights. Keeping women out of jail helps on so many levels, particularly concerning their families.
  • Increasing organ donation. We are not alone in campaigning for this, but even if we only encouraged more of our members organ donations could be increased.”

WI Life (sent out to members) will have more information on the issues but between now and our meeting at the end of November, the committee will be writing a few blog posts with our thoughts (personal to each writer, not the opinion of the whole committee) about the issues suggested – we hope this will help you all with some background information about each topic but each will still be discussed at the meeting on the 26th of November.

Do you feel strongly about any of the issues suggested above?  If so, would you be willing to write a blog post about it?  We’re hoping to get the discussions started before the meeting so any input from Sotonettes members would be greatly appreciated.  Find out how to contact us here.

Update (17th Nov) – the shortlist has now been reduced to 4 after legal advice – post amended.

What the Sotonettes thought of Rebecca…

The Sotonettes’ Book Club read Rebecca for October’s meeting – below is a rundown of what everyone thought.  If this makes you want to take part in our book club, the next meeting is on Tuesday 19th November at 7.30pm in Cafe Creme (the book up for discussion is Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein).  More info on our Book Club page.

And now for a little bit about Rebecca… warning… !SPOILER ALERT!

Atmospheric and a real page turner, Rebecca by Daphne du Maurier is a real classic of gothic literature. The story follows a young woman who is plucked from her life as a companion to an older gossipy and wealthy American woman by the enigmatic and much older Maxim de Winter to his beautiful home at Manderley.

Narrated by the young woman, we follow her experiences as she contends with the overwhelming, and ever present memory of Maxim’s late first wife, Rebecca, the first Mrs de Winter and the increasingly obsessive and disturbing house keeper Mrs Danvers.

We talked nonstop for almost two hours, so here is a little flavour (without giving too much away!):

  • Manderley: a fabulous setting for the story, hugely atmospheric and almost a character in itself.
  • Daphne du Maurier never gives the second Mrs de Winter a name of her own in sharp contrast to the power of Rebecca’s name. We felt this was integral to the story, names and identify defined each character, and this set the two women as polar opposites right from the start.
  • Relationships between men and women at the time (duties and expectations): Rebecca was published in 1938 and we felt some of the behaviours of the characters in the book reflected the time. Rebecca was, on the surface, considered to be the ‘perfect wife’; sociable, organised, beautiful. The second Mrs de Winter was expected to fit in and pick everything up. Maxim seemed oblivious and/or insensitive to the difficulties between Mrs de Winter and the house staff.
  • We felt that if all the characters simply sat down and talked to each other much of the confusion and distress could have been avoided! A classic example of keeping up appearances until breaking point! The second Mrs de Winter has both low self-esteem and is self absorbed. We often saw her over thinking things, going off on tangents but taking no action. We found this frustrating to read – we found our inner feminists really kicking in! Was this due to her age, or perhaps to the isolation of Manderley?
  • How would Rebecca’s behaviours be viewed today? Rebecca’s actions in the novel are said to be ‘evil’. Rebecca’s ‘wild’ behaviour and infidelities would perhaps not be viewed to such an extreme today.
  • Does this pass the Bechdel test? We don’t think it does, and in addition, at the very least, the female characters are defined by their relationship with Maxim de Winter (Beatrice as Maxim’s sister, Rebecca as the first Mrs de Winter and the female lead as the second Mrs de Winter etc…).
  • Comparisons with other literature: Jane Eyre and Twilight – gothic novels and similar themes.
  • Who won? Did Rebecca ultimately win (through the power of her name and memory?), or Mrs de Winter now she finds herself in control? Or Mrs Danvers through the fire? For each we felt it was a hollow victory.
  • What happened to Mrs Danvers?! This prompted a lot of discussion and different theories!

On the whole, we felt this was more of a jealousy story than a love story. After all the twists and turns of the plot we were not sure where our sympathies lay- and this sparked plenty of discussion! All in all, a brilliant read!