Friday, 31 May 2019

Britain, a country where old men in need of social care have an advocat in similarly old, New York-born, documentary film maker, Roger Graef

Roger, theatre director and filmmaker, who is 83 years old, was born in New York in 1936 and moved to Britain when he was 26 in 1962, where he began a career producing documentary films investigating previously closed institutions, including Government ministries and court buildings. A committed Anglophile, after 33 years in the country he took British citizenship in 1995.

His first film as a director for the 'Society of Thalidomide Children,' in 1965 and broadcast on the BBC, was 'One of Them is Brett' and was made to demonstrate to headteachers of primary schools that the physical handicaps of the children did not stop them from being active mentally. Roger commented in a BBC interview in 2014 that "nobody had ever seen them as people, they had only seen them as cases and it entered medical school curricula immediately because doctors had never seen them at home."

In his 54 years since his 'Thalidomide Children' Roger first and foremost as a criminologist, he made more than 30 films on police and criminal justice issues, including 'Police', 'Operation Carter' and 'In Search of Law and Order UK. ' In addition, he was a trustee and then a patron of the 'Koestler Trust for Art in Prisons', the 'Rehabilitation for Addicted Prisoners Trust', the 'Irene Taylor Trust for Music in Prisons' and the 'Voice of the Child in Care', the 'Who Cares? Trust' and 'Prisoners Abroad', a charity which supports Britons imprisoned abroad.

Now Roger has turned his attention and spotlight on the problems of old men and women facing a dearth of social care in Britain and has said : "As medical advances keep us alive, we must grasp that our care system is badly out of date. When you see a car about to crash, you hope somehow it can be avoided. When you see one in slow motion, the urge to intervene is even stronger. That’s my response each time as a film-maker when I find a situation spiralling out of control – kids in care, failed adoptions, police mistreatment of rape victims, young people sent to prison for lack of an alternative, and many more. Now it is adult social care. At 83, and still working, I have a personal interest."

"I was enlisted by Angie Mason, with whom I have made challenging films about neglectful care homes, classroom chaos and fraudulent claims for medicines, and sports products. Working with my longstanding collaborator James Rogan to make a two-part Panorama special on the care crisis in local authorities. Many are under huge financial pressure, some on the verge of going bust, largely because of the needs of a small percentage of their population at a time of austerity and cuts."

As a result Roger acted as Executive Producer of  'Care in Crisis. Part One, 'Who Cares' was broadcast on BBC 1 on 29 May with Part Two : 'Who Pays?' due to be aired on 5 June. Roger and Angie chose eight families to focus on and found their stories "heartbreaking, yet also inspiring. The patience, loyalty and courage of the carers and the acceptance of their situation by those they care for is a revelation. We saw vulnerable people forced to move as care homes closed, families desperately navigating the arcane funding system, and those with no families to fight for them going without care. Yet the social workers and managers are also exemplary, keeping on keeping on despite scarce resources."



"Most councils said "no." But Somerset County Council gave us extraordinary access to show staff trying to manage the needs of one of the largest number of people over 65 in the country, while cutting the budget. The numbers are astonishing : 500,000 council taxpayers in Somerset help fund the care needs of 6,500. Their support takes 42% of the council budget of £320m. Adding children’s services consumes a total of 60%. These are statutory obligations, so other services must be cut, such as libraries, Citizens Advice and road gritting. The care budget must also be cut. Its Conservative leader David Fothergill wanted the government to see the impact of its policies."

"For 10 months we followed the council and its intrepid Director of Adult Social Services, Stephen Chandler. It was a roller coaster. Eight dementia-care centres were shut, leaving some people struggling to care for their elderly relatives. In a huge county, rural travel payments to help low-paid care workers with the cost of the extra miles involved were withdrawn."

Of the eight families chosen by Angie, one centred on Michael Pike who has dementia and the aftermath of encephalitis and requires round-the-clock supervision. Council carers come in for 42 hours a week and the rest is provided by his devoted partner, Barbara. Her health, too, is now suffering and although she recently needed to be admitted to hospital, she wouldn’t leave him and there’s no money to help them.

Another focussed on Rachel Blackford’s mother who has severe dementia and the one place that could manage her for two days a week is closing, because there’s no money. By the end of the year, the council is having to find savings of £13m out of its already meagre budget of £140m.

Roger thinks that there is only one problem : Money. "As a result of the Government’s austerity programme, funding to Somerset Council has been cut by two-thirds since 2010. Anything cut by two-thirds is no longer fit for purpose : a meal, a roll of carpet, a film and, very much, a social-care budget. Compounding this already insurmountable problem is the Council’s decision to freeze council tax for six years, meaning that there is even less money."

"Financial sweeteners are only gestures. Last winter, the Government gave Somerset an extra £10m for potholes, and only £2m for care. Ministers must reorder their priorities. The next Prime Minister can make history by revamping the care system : the grandest project of them all. We should all ensure friends, family, and especially MPs, see these films and do something. Watch out – the car about to crash is heading for you."

Sunday, 26 May 2019

Britain is no country for old model railway enthusiasts from Market Deeping Model Railway Club, but is a country with an old rock star enthusiast called Rod Stewart

Market Deeping Model Railway Club based in the market village of that name in Lincolnshire has held its annual model railway show at Stamford Welland Academy in Lincolnshire for the last twelve years and this year was to be no exception. After months of planning the old enthusiasts Peter Davies, Colin Brown, Bill Sowerby and Mick Quinn assembled their layouts in the school sports hall on Friday 17th May, ready for the show on Saturday, with between 500 and 600 model railway fans expected to travel from far and wide to enjoy to enjoy it.

Many exhibits featured dozens of tiny, hand-finished components and had taken hours of preparation and a layout called 'Helmthwaite and Chapel Lane', which had been constructed over a period of 25 years was to be the contribution of the St Neots Model Railway Club.


With the exhibits in place they all left the school looking forward to opening their show the next morning, but the school’s alarm was triggered at about 3.50am and when the police arrived shortly after they found and arrested three boys aged 15 and one aged 16. Apparently, they had broken into the hall after attending a vodka-fuelled pre-GCSE exam party and, after a football had been kicked, breaking one of the exhibits, they had launched a rampage on the rest, with model trains and equipment thrown through basketball hoops for good measure.



Peter Davies, the seventy year old chairman of the club, who has been building model trains for 60 years, said : "Imagine our horror and grief when we were greeted by this scene of absolute devastation on the morning of 18th May 2019. We are devastated and distraught. It’s heartbreaking. There were grown men there in tears because of what had been done and I admit I was one of them. Models that were made over years were trodden on and thrown around. It’s a total wanton destruction of the highest order. I’ve never experienced anything like it. A hurricane would have done less damage.”

"Can you imagine your life’s work wrecked ? One guy spent 25 years on his work and it’s wrecked, it’s just horrendous. They left it like a bomb site. We will never have the time to build the sort of layouts again, that’s where the anger comes from. Some of the models were irreplaceable."

Although, one locomotive alone was worth around £8,500, Peter said that money could not replace "precious time lost" and "some of us simply don't have that amount of time left in our lives. It takes years to put together the models. My own layouts, some I've been working on for 10 years. The owners of Helmthwaite are absolutely distraught by what's happened."

A crowd funding page was set up and in next to no time, their modest fundraising target of £500, merely to cover their losses from what was supposed to be a charity exhibition with Peter saying : "Some of the models on display are irreplaceable and whilst money cannot possibly replace the hours of painstaking effort that has been so wantonly destroyed, we would ask that you make a donation, no matter how small, to help us get back on our feet."

Donations poured in from as far afield as Australia and New Zealand and by lunchtime, lifelong model railway enthusiast and 74 year old rocker Rod Stewart had been in touch to say he was adding £10,000 to the kitty. The fund has now has now received almost £90, 000 in donations and Peter said the club had been overwhelmed with offers of support and he thanked wellwishers for their help.

Rod, who had built up his own 30.5m  long model railway at his U.S. home in Beverly Hills said : “I was absolutely devastated to hear that vandals had destroyed what was to be a lovely show by the Market Deeping Model Railway Club over the weekend. The collection was priceless and I am donating £10,000 to help compensate those affected and asking fellow enthusiasts Jools Holland, Roger Daltrey and others to do the same. It took me 23 years to build my model railway, so I feel their pain.”

Professional railway modeller Tony Wright, who is an honorary member of Market Deeping, said he had never come across such "mindless vandalism" and "railway modelling is an ageing hobby. It's a sort of a return to a passion of something you did as a child, when you're retired and the children have left home. Most members are in their 70s and it doesn't necessarily matter what the value of the model is, it's the time taken to make it that's impossible to replace."


Monday, 20 May 2019

Brexit-obsessed Britain is set to remain no country for neglected old men in England living in Care Home Deserts


Of the four nations which constitute Britain, it is in England that 1.3 million elderly men and women over the age of 65 live in areas in where there are no care home beds. A study commissioned by 'Age UK', conducted by 'Incisive Health', an independent health consultancy firm set out to explore key characteristics and outcomes of the social care systems operating in Italy, Spain, France, Germany and Japan alongside England. It bore in mind the fact that creating a sustainable social care system fit for a rapidly ageing population is a challenge in every one of these countries, which none has completely overcome.

Having said that, it found that the other countries featured in the report have grasped the nettle and implemented significant reforms during the last 25 years. For example, Germany began to modify its system in 1995 and Japan in 2000. Over the same period, despite :

* two Government consultations
* two official Commissions
* five Green or White Papers 
* one Act of Parliament

England’s system of means tested care funding is broadly unchanged.

It is notable that old men and women in England have to face a stricter means test than the other countries which dictates that, if they have :

* savings or assets above £23,250, they have to pay all the costs of their long-term care.

* savings and assets between £23,250 and £14,250 they get tapered means tested support.

* savings and assets below the £14,250 threshold, they will still be expected to pay a contribution towards the costs of their care through a deduction from their State Pension.

Other countries have less harsh and more progressive systems :

In Germany : a non-means tested basic level of support.
In Japan : capping the level of co-payment for all at 10%.
In France : a more generous and gradual means test.

Furthermore, in recent years and before Brexit reared its ugly head, England’s harsh means test has become increasingly less generous because capital thresholds at £14,250 to £23,250 have not changed in nearly a decade. This means that if the value of the means test had merely risen in line with inflation the upper level would be £25,559 today which is effectively a 9% stealth cut over the last ten years.

Caroline Abrahams, Charity Director at 'Age UK' said : “Sadly, this new report shows that England has been left behind in the race to update the funding of care for older people, compared to some other similar nations. The reality is that an entire generation of older people in England has lost out, given that Germany embarked on care funding reforms in 1995 and Japan in 2000. Here, we have had to make do with a succession of consultations gathering dust. It is crucial that the forthcoming Social Care Green Paper isn’t yet another failed exercise." 

The Report also highlighted the fact that :

* more than one in four postcode areas in England, that is 2,200 out of around 7,500, had no residential care provision. 

*two-thirds, that is 5,300, had no nursing homes, for people with more acute problems, in other words, those who lived in these areas risked being unable to get the support they needed.

* a big driver of the problem was a lack of staff with vacancy rates for nurses in social care haven risen by 12.3% in 2017/18.

* staffing was a particular problem in those areas of South-East England which high numbers of EU staff in the sector, many of whom have left or are planning to leave, as a result of Brexit.



Caroline said the research showed how “chaotic and broken” the market for care had become after years of underfunding : “If the awful situation set out in this report does not persuade our government to finally get a grip and take action, I don’t know what will.” 

Sadly, the fact is that a Brexit-obsessed Government is most unlikely to get a grip and old people in need of care in England will remain a low priority.

Friday, 17 May 2019

Britain, mired in Brexit, is still a country for and is grateful to the valour of an old D-Day veteran called Harry Read

Harry Read is 94 years old, but on D-Day on June 6th 1944 he was a fresh-faced 20 year old who was a wireless operator and, as part of the invasion of German-occupied France, was parachuted into Normandy. Serving as a signalman with the 6th Airborne Division attached to the 3rd Parachute Brigade, he has vivid recall of that fateful day and remembers one of his final briefings :

 “One of the briefing officers, whether it was deliberately or an onrush of untoward honesty, I don’t know, but he said : "We ought to tell you, we are expecting 50% casualties on landing." It was very sombre. Being young, we thought we were immortal. It’s going to happen, but not to me. But at over 50%, the odds are slightly against you."

“I remember, it was a bright sunny day. And I went to a quiet place in the camp. I sat down and thought very deeply about what I was going to do. I came to the conclusion I would do everything I could to live up to being a para in enemy country. I wouldn’t surrender. I would be ready for any opportunity when it came. I settled it within my heart and within my mind”.

Now, after 75 years, as part of the D-day commemorations, Harry has prepared to parachute into Normandy on June 5, with practice skydiving back in September last year. This time he will be no cumbersome battery strapped to his right leg, which on D-day failed to release on time and so pulled him sharply down into a bog, an area deliberately flooded by the Germans which would claim the lives of almost 200 of his comrades before they could fire a single bullet.

This time "when I board the Dakota, I will go and sit in seat 12. Because that was where I sat on that day. It is a stupid thing to do at my age. Elderly men don’t do parachute jumps. There is a delight in jumping. But I resonate more with the sacrifice than I do with the celebration. The sacrifice enabled the celebration to take place, of course. And I will think of my mates who died."

He recalls he boarded his aircraft “pretty well full of adrenaline”. As they approached the coastline of Normandy “we could see this magnificent fireworks display ahead of us, except it wasn’t fireworks. We flew into this dreadful situation. We could hardly keep our seats. We were bouncing here, there and everywhere from the shockwaves from shells. We could see the tracer bullets.” His Dakota took a sudden great turn upward to the right and he realises now, it had been caught by a shell.

As he jumped into the darkness, at 00.50 on D-day, he could see ahead of them one Allied aircraft going down in flames. On landing, he found himself alone. The pathfinders, whose job was to set up markers, had earlier been dropped in the wrong DZ, he said, and he had no idea where he was, or where he should head to.

“I had fallen into one of these deep trenches. I was immediately submerged. But fortunately my knees helped me. And the strong grasses enabled me to pull on them to get myself out.” He pulled himself slowly from flooded trench to the next, discarding his accumulator battery “because it was jolly heavy.” After an hour, he met another paratrooper, Paddy from Galway and exchanged passwords :  “ham and jam”. For the next 16 hours the two slowly crawled through the swamp and eventually came across a farmhouse.

Harry and Paddy kept it under observation for several hours, in case it had been occupied by the Germans and then ventured to knock. Inside was a welcoming farmer, and a group of other bedraggled paras taking shelter. Together, they would push forward to their appointed HQ at Le Mesnil. He "was quite surprised at the very small number of men that we had there. The size of the casualties on landing was very obvious.”

Harry went on to see action as a wireless operator throughout the Battle of Normandy, from 6 June when he landed, until 7 September when he left France and said, with perfect understatement : “I was very fortunate to survive the whole thing,”

Harry said : “Parachute jumps are dependent upon reasonable weather but all being well I will be jumping again on 5 June – almost to the hour since my jump into Normandy 75 years ago.” 
Awarded France’s highest honour, the Legion d’Honneur, in 2016, he said he was looking forward to the challenge next month :
            “Yesterday is not our best, our best is tomorrow.” 

An interview with Harry together with some of his poetry : http://www.pegasusarchive.org/normandy/harry_read.htm

Monday, 13 May 2019

Britain is a country where old men bid "Farewell" to Doris Day who beguiled them with her voice and presence on the cinema screen when they were boys

What you possibly didn't know about American actor and singer Doris, who has died at the age of 97, that she :

* was born Doris Kappelhoff in 1922, in the Cincinnati, where her father was a music teacher and choir master and her grandparents German immigrants.

* had a car accident in 1937, which damaged her legs and curtailed her prospects as a professional dancer and while recovering, took singing lessons and at 17, began performing locally.

* had her first hit recording, 'Sentimental Journey', in 1945, which soon became popular with demobbed soldiers from The Second World War.


* in 1953, appeared as 'Calamity Jane', which I saw at the Gaumont Cinema in Lewisham, London with Mum and Dad when I was 6 years old.

* won the Academy Award for 'Best Original Song' for 'Secret Love'.

* also sang : 'The Deadwood Stage' and 'The Black Hills of Dakota'


* starred in Alfred Hitchcock's 'The Man Who Knew Too Much' in 1956 and sang "Que Sera, Sera (Whatever Will Be, Will Be)" which won an Academy Award for 'Best Original Song' and became her signature song.

* caught up with the sexual revolution with had her last major hit in "Move Over, Darling" from the film in which starred with James Garner, which I saw at the Gaumont Cinema in Lewisham with my girlfriend when I was 17 years old.
Britain in 1964 with

* also sang "I'm beginning to see the light."

* over the course of her career, appeared in 39 films, was ranked the' biggest box office' star for four years in the 1960's and in 2012 was ranked sixth among the top 10 box office performers, male and female, of all time and released 29 albums.

* recorded her last album in 1967, 'The Love Album', which was not released until 1995.


* was an outspoken animal rights activist after her retirement from show business.

"Move Over Darling"

Our lips shouldn’t touch.
Move over darling.
I like it too much.
Move over darling.
That gleam in your eyes is no big surprise anymore,
Cos you fooled me before.

I’m all in a spin.
Move over darling.
I’ve got to give in.
Move over darling.
And though it’s not right, I’m too weak to fight it somehow,
Cos I want you right now.

The way you sigh, has me waving my conscience bye-bye.
You can call me a fickle thing,
But I’m practically yours forever, because

I yearn to be kissed.
Move over darling.
How can I resist.
Move over darling.
You captured my heart, and now that I’m no longer free,
Make love to me.

The way you sigh,
Has me waving my conscience good-bye.
You can call me a fickle thing,
But I’m practically yours forever, because

I yearn to be kissed.
Move over darling.
How can I resist.
Move over darling
Please give me your love, I’m longing for you.
I need all your love, honest I do.
You captured my heart and now that I’m no longer free

Make love to me.
Move over darling....

Sunday, 12 May 2019

Britain is no longer a country for and says "Farewell" to an old and great TV broadcaster and erstwhile Labour politician called Brian Walden

What you possibly didn't know about Brian, who has died at the age of  86 years and will be remembered by his forensic TV interviews of politicians in the 1980s Is that he :

* was born in West Bromwich, Staffordshire, where his father was a glass-worker and while at West Bromwich Grammar School won an open scholarship to study history at Queen's College, Oxford University, then completed a postgraduate degree at Nuffield College before becoming a university lecturer.

* started his political career at the age of 32 in 1964 when he became a Labour Member of Parliament for Birmingham All Saints in an election where race dominated the Birmingham campaign and to which he referred in his maiden speech :
 "One of the very best ways of making sure that we do not get tension between the races is to have the best possible liaison between them. Where we have trained social workers undertaking this kind of work, we get some excellent results from their work, but there is nothing like enough of them. I see that my right hon. Friend the Minister of Aviation is in the House. I am sure that he agrees that although good work has been done in Birmingham by social workers responsible for liaison, we desperately need many more of them."

*  was re-elected in the subsequent General Elections of  1966, 1970 and 1974 was a campaigner for the liberalisation of the cannabis and gambling laws and was named by some as 'the bookies' MP' ,when he was revealed to be receiving more from the National Association of Bookmakers than from his parliamentary salary.

* was described in 'The Spectator' as : 'one of the best parliamentary speakers– possibly even the best – of the entire post-war period. Certainly he would be placed in the same class as Churchill, Bevan, Macleod, Powell and Foot.'


* resigned as an M.P, in 1977 at the age of 45 to become a journalist and tv broadcaster for London Weekend Television and fronted 'Weekend World' in the 1980s and was considered one of the finest political interviewers in British broadcasting, tenacious and ruthless and well known for his one to one interviews of major politicians.

* was said to be Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher's 'favourite interviewer', although he gave her a tough ride and in 1989, when her own Party was turning against her : "You come over as being someone who one of your backbenchers said is slightly off her trolley, authoritarian, domineering, refusing to listen to anybody else – why? Why cannot you publicly project what you have just told me is your private character?" To which she replied :  "Brian, if anyone’s coming over as domineering in this interview, it’s you."

* gave a spoof interview of Rik Mayall playing Alan B'Stard in 'The New Statesman' in 1994 :
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SDa505kpXO0

* delivered his analysis of Winston Churchill as a war leader in 1998 :
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KpJcQDxISL0 and brought a rain of criticism down on his head by describing Nelson Mandela as "feckless, arrogant and autocratic" in a the final part of his series 'Walden on Heroes' saying : "Mandela, perhaps the most generally admired figure of our age, falls short of the giants of the past. He is unable to inspire the spur to action and doing things right." While paying tribute to his humane presidency of a deeply divided country to which Ann Clwyd, MP said : "Brian Walden has lost his marbles."

* in 2005, began presenting a ten minute programme on BBC Radio 4, 'A Point of View', in a spot formerly occupied by Alistair Cooke's  'Letter From America.'

* in 2010, was said by Conservative MP Rob Wilson, to have persuaded David Cameron and George Osborne to go for a Coalition Government, rather than tough it out with a minority government.

In retirement, Brian lived on the island of Guernsey and, as a footnote, idiosyncratic to the end, was firmly against the ban on fox-hunting.

Thursday, 9 May 2019

Brexit Britain, though convulsed in political crisis, is still a country where old men of Merit can have a peaceful luncheon with their Sovereign at Windsor Castle


These old men and women were gathered together this week to sit down to luncheon with the Queen and the Duke of Edinburgh at Windsor Castle. Apart from the fact that they are all white, they have something else in common : they are all recipients of the Order of Merit. The decoration, has been awarded to them in the past by the Queen as citizens who have provided service of 'exceptional distinction' to their country in the Arts, Learning, Sciences and other areas, such as Public Service. The Order is restricted to a maximum of 24 living recipients from the Commonwealth realms and a limited number of honorary members.

In the assembly, seated from left to right are :
Grand Old Man of Natural history Television Broadcasting : David Attenborough (93)
Investment banker and Philanthropist of the Arts : Jacob Rothschild (83)
Distinguished Mathematical Physicist : Professor Roger Penrose (87)
The Duke of Edinburgh (97)
Queen Elizabeth (93)
Celebrated Architect : Norman Foster (83)
August playwright : Tom Stoppard (81)
Ex- and, to date only, female Speaker of the House of Commons : Betty Boothroyd (89)
Ex-Anglican, Archbishop of Armagh : Robin Eames (83)

Standing in the back row :
Ex- Head of the Department of Engineering Cambridge : Prof Ann Dowling (66)
Prince of Painters : David Hockney (81)
Ex-Director of the British Museum : Neil MacGregor (72)
Inventor of the World Wide Web : Tim Berniers (63)
The Astronomer Royal : Martin Rees (76)
Ex-Prime Minister of Canada : Jean Chr├ętien (85);
Ex-Prime Minister of Australia : John Howard (79)
Professor of Heart Surgery at Imperial College London : Professor Magdi Yacoub (83)
Ex-Private Secretary to the Queen : Robin Fellowes (77)

If the Duke of Edinburgh and the Queen and the Prime Ministers of Canada and Australia are subtracted, the remaining 14 old Brits have a collective age of 1117 years.

One of the most memorable events of the meeting was when the royal couple were photographed speaking with their guests and the Queen commented on the recent arrival of her great-grandchild, Archie. "Life is good for Your Majesty?" asked Jean Chr├ętien. "Yes, thank you," she replied. "Another great grandchild" he continued. "How many of them have you got now?"
"Eight", she said.

Brexit Britain, a country where, within the ranks of the Establishment all is well and as it should be, as indeed it was a century ago when King George V and Queen Mary were on the throne in 1919.

Monday, 6 May 2019

Britain is a country with a nation called Wales, where old men of a certain age are deemed not worth screening for bowel cancer

More than 2,200 people are diagnosed with bowel cancer each year in Wales and more than 900 people die from the disease. It’s the second biggest cancer killer in the nation and currently, men and women aged between 60 to 74, like those in the rest of Britain, are invited to be screened every two years for the disease, which involves the use of a free home-testing kit the results of which which are sent off for analysis.


Old men and women over the age of 74 in Wales are not invited to be screened. 

Michael Smith, who is 76 and his 77 year old wife, Myra, who live in Marford, near Wrexham in Wales, used to receive the tests, but are now no longer eligible because of their age. Myra contacted Public Health Wales's 'Bowel Screening Wales' programme to ask if she could pay for a test for herself and Michael, but was told "categorically no". She also tried her GP surgery and a chemist without success.

"It's just sad that whoever decides this thinks that you are too old after 74 for any sort of medical tests. I think if we could just get them, it eases our minds." 

Lowri Griffiths, Head of 'Bowel Cancer UK' in Wales, said : "We are pleased that the Welsh Government has recently committed to lower the screening age to 50, as this will no doubt help to diagnose more cancers in this younger age group. We are mindful, however, that those aged 75 and over here in Wales are not allowed to opt back into the screening programme, unlike people living in England and Scotland. The risk of bowel cancer increases with age and, therefore, we at Bowel Cancer UK strongly believe that there should be parity across all four nations of the UK to ensure everyone has the same opportunity to have bowel cancer either prevented or detected early. We would therefore ask the Welsh Government to review their position and to take action to address this inequality of access."

A Welsh Government spokesman stated, with a masterpiece of obfuscation : "Wales, like the rest of the UK, follows the expert advice of the UK National Screening Committee which advises that bowel screening should be provided up to the age of 74. Population screening is not without risks so there needs to be a balance between the benefits and harms of the screening test being offered. Screening in older age groups which don't have symptoms can mean the additional risks from false positive results and any follow-up invasive investigations can outweigh the potential benefits."

Myra said : "I was quite surprised that there was a cut-off point because you feel that at mid-70s is a dangerous age for when these things can crop up. It seems crazy that there should be a cut-off point in this day and age, as young as 74. If the age of dying was 75 you could argue it's not important, but people are living to 85, 95 - my poor old mum's just gone at 97. Now, I know they won't extend it to that sort of age but I would've thought adding the age by five years would've been worthwhile."