Why we shouldn’t penalise people for being ill

The case of four year-old Corey Leahy caught my eye in the London Evening Standard, whilst wending my way back from ANOTHER meeting in London.

He’s not been invited to his school’s end of term party, because he has had time off school to attend the dentist, and therefore has not got a 100% attendance record.

This has happened to my family – my five year-old daughter has been left upset when their necessary (two hour) attendance at the hospital counted against her come the end of term – although in fairness, when her Mum raised it, the school agreed with us, and she did go to the ball.

While I understand that central government dictates how schools record absences, I would hope that locally we take a more sympathetic approach when deciding who can and cannot attend a party.

If you ask the hospital and your GP to have all of your child’s medical needs met before 8.30am, after 4pm, or during the school holidays, you’ll be met with a very odd look indeed – it simply isn’t practical.

In a similar vein, one way in which councils are being encouraged to save money is by considering changing the terms and conditions of staff, so they don’t get paid for the first three days of sickness.

I declined to even discuss the matter, frankly.  Our staff have made huge sacrifices over recent years – taking unpaid leave, agreeing not to get their annual increments, paying to park at work, on top of getting no annual pay award – all of which adds up to a significant real terms pay cut – and we are having to ask them for another two years of such measures, as we fight to keep as many staff, delivering as many services as possible to the residents of Blackpool.

Rewarding people for good attendance is laudable but publically penalising people for being ill (whether you happen to be 4 or 44) seems a strange way to do business, and a strange way of motivating people.

Maybe we shouldn’t do it anymore?

Twenty-one days smoke-free as part of my Stoptober challenge

We are half way through Stoptober and I won’t pretend quitting smoking is easy.

Having said that I have managed not to strangle anyone, although a few people have come closer than they realise.

In recent weeks my partner, Emma and I have welcomed a new addition to the family – a eight week old Labrador puppy called Bentley. While Bentley is proving to be a great distraction there is nothing like the challenge of puppy training and sleepless nights to make you crave a stress relieving cigarette

The good new is I have now been smoke free for 21 days now.

The cold turkey method I espoused in my first blog went out of the window a while ago and I am now using a mouth spray to replace the lost nicotine.

The Stop Smoking Service has been a big help – the level of support they offer is phenomenal and they have been indispensable in helping me through these first couple of weeks.  Doreen (my Stoptober advisor at the NHS Blackpool Stop Smoking Service), has been fantastic, really motivational and very understanding when I forget appointments, or ring up at the last minute for a prescription.

I visit once a week and she prescribes me the sprays which have been a help – not least financially – these sprays cost £18 each – but on prescription I only have to pay the NHS fee (£7.85) and of course anyone who qualifies for free prescriptions doesn’t even have to part with that.  I do notice that nicotine replacement products are not a readily available as they ought to be.  Surely they should sell these sprays, patches and inhalers everywhere that cigarettes are sold?

People show their nice side when you are having a tough time or when they can see that you are trying. Since my blog was published I am regularly asked how I am doing which is extremely kind – I was asked three times in church alone this Sunday – and people seem genuinely pleased and proud when I tell them I’m still “clean” so to speak

It would be a lie to say I do not miss smoking but all I have to do is think of the damage I’m doing to myself, think of Blackpool’s health problems that exist as a result of smoking, think of my children and that all helps bring me back in line.

I can already feel a difference in terms of my lungs, but the sense of taste and smell doesn’t seem to be returning as was promised (I’m wondering if 25 years of 20 a day, and 20 years of neat whiskey as my tipple of choice has permanently damaged my senses!)

According to the public health team my body is recovering from being dulled by the hundreds of toxic chemicals found in cigarettes – and my carbon monoxide levels are demonstrably falling, as is my lung “age”.

It is facts like this that remind me why I am taking part in Stoptober and make me so passionate that others try it too.  Without wanting to engage in the sort of background nagging that I have myself been subjected to for the last 25 years (from my Mum, my partner, my ex, my kids and many, many others)….

If you are a smoker and have seen the adverts on TV, heard them on the radio and read about Stoptober in the press – the idea of quitting is surely on your mind, and now really is the time to do it.

And even if it isn’t, give it a go. You can start the 28-day stop smoking challenge anytime throughout October and the same support and guidance will be available. Do not use that as an excuse.

Give the Blackpool Stop Smoking Service a call on 01253 651570 or email them at  to see how they can help you kick the habit for good.

Good luck and keep going!

To find out more about Stoptober, and to access the support available, visit: https://stoptober.smokefree.nhs.uk/