Religion and healthcare: why the NHS provokes holy arguments

The Hospice Comtesse, just north of the historic centre of Lille, opened in 1245, more than seven centuries before the formation of the NHS. It treated the sick for free, using income from its estates and donors, until 1796 when post-revolution reforms turned it into a hospice, a role it performed until 1939. As a tour of the buildings, now a museum, makes obvious, it was an explicitly Christian institution, with a chapel adjoining its huge dormitory ward and its healthcare provided by nuns. Continue reading “Religion and healthcare: why the NHS provokes holy arguments”

Blackpool vs Scheveningen: which is the better fun, if slightly faded, seaside resort?

Both Britain’s Blackpool and the Netherlands’ Scheveningen are seaside resorts that, though they may have seen better days, are lots of fun. And they have a lot in common: trams, piers, cheap tat… but which is better?

Beaches: Blackpool has a great sandy beach, but it’s a bit hidden behind a big concrete sea wall (for understandable reasons involving winter storms and flooding). Scheveningen’s equally sandy beach is easily accessible, features posts with novelty logos and its beach cafes are really quite cool, even if high winds can end up dumping quite a lot of that beach in your drink.
Schev 1-0 BPL Continue reading “Blackpool vs Scheveningen: which is the better fun, if slightly faded, seaside resort?”

Smart move: use of health smartcards in EU countries

First published in Health Service Journal, 8 September 2005

Across continental Europe, patients visiting a doctor take a plastic card to prove their entitlement to healthcare. Increasingly, these cards hold a microchip allowing payments for treatment to be processed and if necessary refunded more quickly than in the past.

But smartcards can also be used as electronic keys to patient records, boosting security and demonstrating consent.
Continue reading “Smart move: use of health smartcards in EU countries”

Full tilt: Virgin’s 140mph Pendolino trains

First published in T3, March 2002

‘Fast’ and ‘trains’: two words that tend to be strangers in Britain at the moment, what with strikes, complaints about service levels and fare-rises and the demise of Railtrack, the company meant to look after the tracks. Despite all that, 2002 will see Britain’s biggest rail operator begin replacing its entire fleet of vehicles – with ones that go faster.

Virgin Trains operates two of the four long-distance UK networks. West Coast runs from London Euston to Birmingham, then on to the north-west, north Wales and Scotland. CrossCountry runs the long-distance trains that go everywhere from Penzance to Aberdeen, through a hub at Birmingham New Street. The company is probably the least popular rail operator at the moment, with a poor record for punctuality and reliability. Continue reading “Full tilt: Virgin’s 140mph Pendolino trains”