It’s Salt Awareness Week this week. I put toooooooo much salt in and on my food. My blood pressure is borderline high (that’s my job I reckon). But blood pressure is a silent killer – and so I am off to my local hospital, The Whittington, to visit the cardiac department. They say about two thirds of us walk around not knowing that we have high blood pressure – and the ward I am visiting, the Montuschi ward, is where we will end up if we continue to take no notice of health warnings we are told.
The Whittington has kindly arranged for me to meet the whole team taking care of patients who suffer from heart failure, attack or other heart issues. Introducing me to everyone was Dr David Patterson, who is the consultant cardiologist. I met the Head of Catering, Cecil Douglas, who has virtually banished salt from hospital food – or at least got the daily intake for patients below the 6gm max figure. He has a job and a half: to get ill people to eat something and yet give them good nutritious food that won’t cause more health problems. And yes – there are a small number of remarks about blandness, but a hospital must be an example and they give you some education in nutrition whilst you are there. The problems really are when you go home and just cook with and/or and add salt for the rest of your life.
I learned something today in particular – that the Afro-Caribbean population is even more vulnerable to these diseases and that pickles and piccalilli carries huge doses of salt.
I also met one of my constituents who happened to be there and after talking to him what concerned me is that there is seemingly no real support package for when he returns home. He is elderly with a serious heart condition – can barely move his hands through arthritis – so how is he going to cook for himself, let alone worry about things like salt content?
Anyway – a very big congratulation to the Whittington with their Charter Mark for their cardiology department’s high levels of patient care and service provision. Very impressive!
Then I meet with David Sloman, the hospital’s Chief Executive, for my two monthly ‘chat’. I have been concerned over the Government’s outrageous cash grab in terms of top-slicing from budgets of health trusts etc – thus punishing those who have maintained their budgets properly. The promise is that after three years this ‘loan’ will be returned. Pigs might fly! But I have also been worried about the Government’s aversion to District General Hospitals – which the Whittington is. Of course we must provide the very best specialist hospitals giving the best care in the world for diseases – but that is not the staple diet of need. What the Government ignores is the fact that people want their services locally – including a general hospital that can deliver the medical treatments near their homes.
Straight onto surgery at Jacksons Lane – except I get a call from Ed (my head of office) to say that having arrived at Jacksons Lane they have discovered it is closed because of building works – and no one has told us. But quick thinking Ed gets Highgate Library to let me do surgery there. Thank you Highgate Library!