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Archive for September, 2008

PRimage on Tory Conference

Tuesday, September 30th, 2008

As a former Conservative District Councillor and School Governor, PRimage MD, Judy Viitanen, is looking foward to learning more on several policy announcements at Conference today: Shadow children’s secretary, the excellent Michael Gove, will set out plans for building up to 3,000 new schools in the state sector, to be run by parents, charities and private firms. We will also be interested to see what Local government minister John Healey has to say, when he delivers a keynote address to a conference looking at financing the future of local government.  PRimage certainly welcomed yesterday’s announcement from shadow chancellor George Osborne, that a Conservative government would bring in a two-year council tax freeze.

Watch this space …..

Blood on the floor in the money markets! PRimage comment

Tuesday, September 30th, 2008

Like many people around the world, Judy Viitanen is alarmed at today’s market carnage after ‘Paulsen’s Plan’ – the $700 billion bail-out to save the global financial system from potential collapse – was rejected by US politicians. The rescue plan – the result of tense negotiations between the US government and lawmakers – was voted down by 228 votes to 205 votes Leaders in the U.S. House of Representatives say they will reconvene on Thursday instead of adjourning for the year as planned. PRimage view is that it’s going to be an interesting week on both Wall Street and Pennsylvania Avenue!

The immediate repercussions have been seen on the stock markets. The Dow Jones index fell 777 points, a fall of 7 per cent and the biggest drop in a day ever recorded, and the the Nasdaq index fell 9.1%, while markets in Asia and Europe have also seen heavy losses. There were also large falls in the price of oil and the value of the dollar – all of which is likely to cause an expensive headache for some investors! As we have commented before, this whole financial fiasco and debacle has come about mainly because of the social engineering policies which decreed that banks had to lend to people who could not afford home loans!

A key problem is that all this havoc will mean that it will be harder for individuals, small businesses and large firms to get the loans they need – and more costly if they do manage to get access to finance.

PRimage was pleased to see that the Conservative leader David Cameron has acknowledged that the economic crisis is overshadowing his party’s conference in Birmingham – and that both Cameron and shadow chancellor George Osborne are expected to make an unscheduled conference appearance to discuss the crisis. On Breakfast TV this morning he said: “What is happening in the global economy, what is happening with financial institutions and financial markets, and also what is happening in people’s family budgets, that is more important than anyone’s conference and I think that is important to recognise.” We agree!

What’s your view on the current crisis of confidence within the global financial system?

PRimage applauds Brown’s pledge on free prescriptions

Wednesday, September 24th, 2008

As a specialist healthcare lobbying and PR consultancy, with indepth knowledge on the issues surrounding the system of prescription charges, PRimage has long maintained that the current system is inequable and needs reviewing; so we were delighted at the PM’s announcement yesterday that patients with long-term conditions will get free prescriptions in England. To much applause at the Labour Conference, Brown promised that cancer patients will not have to pay any prescription charges from next year, with exceptions for other long-term conditions to follow afterwards. Judy Viitanen and the PRimage team totally support and warmly welcome the move, which immediately takes around 250,000 people out of NHS prescription charges, rising to five million in the longer term.

We understand that the Government will consult with clinicians, stakeholders and patient groups to work out which conditions will be covered. At present, long-term conditions are those that cannot be cured but can be controlled through medication and other therapies and which have an impact on a person’s quality of life. We also understand that the cost of these plans is expected to be paid for by making savings in the overall drugs budget, by more bulk-buying of drugs and increased use of cheaper generic versions rather than branded ones. The change is estimated to cost £20 million over the next year, rising to £300 million a year over the long-term as more conditions are covered, and is expected to save many patients £100-a-year or more.

Mr Brown’s comment that he and health secretary, Alan Johnson, understood that they needed to do more to relieve the financial worry that so often goes alongside the heartache for cancer patients and their families was spot-on. Having nursed her husband with terminal cancer, Judy Viitanen has first hand experience of this – and she is relieved that people will no longer face this added financial burden when they are fighting cancer.

Prescription charges have already been scrapped in Wales and Scotland – but at the moment the situation in England is that each prescription item costs £7.10 – although patients needing regular courses can pay a flat rate of £102.50 for a year’s supply. Charges raise over £400m for the NHS, but a range of exemptions are already in place meaning just 12% of prescriptions are currently paid for. These exemptions already cover a few medical conditions such as epilepsy and some forms of diabetes as well as children, pensioners and those on low incomes.

PRimage have consistently lobbied and supported the well-argued case for a total abolition of prescription charges: it is an important issue that has growing public support: a BBC poll of 1,000 people earlier this year found three quarters wanted prescriptions charges to end. Prescription charges were scrapped in Wales in 2007 and will be phased out in Scotland by 2011. Northern Ireland has frozen its charges while it considers whether to abolish prescription charges following a recent review.

We believe that if one accepts the concept of the NHS being free at the point of delivery, then there is a strong and valid arguement for the total abolition of script charges across the UK – not just in Wales and Scotland. Our view is that this would significantly reduce patient inequity. In July this year Bob Spink MP tabled an Early Day Motion (EDM) on Prescription Charges in England. Health Ministers are planning to launch a consultation in the near future, but this will only be looking at “cost-neutral” ways of tweaking the system. PRimage urges everyone to lobby their local MP to support this EDM – and put pressure on the Government to implement the review as soon as possible!

PRimage comment on Brown’s ‘Big Speech’ to Labour

Tuesday, September 23rd, 2008

Always keen to keep up to date with political news, Judy Viitanen took time out from a busy working day to listen to the PM’s keynote leader’s speech in Manchester this afternoon.

What we had was a robust defence on his style of leadership and a sustained defence of Labour’s record. It was a fighting speech – and a reply and confrontation to his critics … with clear signals that he wouldn’t stand aside. PRimage wonder if his comment that ‘this is not the time for a novice’ was a sly dig at Cameron or Miliband – - or even to both! We’re pondering if Brown’s done enough now in this ‘big speech’ to put an end to the party’s recent revolts and rebellions.  PRimage believe that the key question is: ‘has he convinced – and silenced – the rebels, and has he bought himself a second chance with his party and the electorate?’  Time will tell….

For a man who rarely comes across in public as ‘warm’, and is normally awkward and missing Blair’s televisual communication skills, we found his style and delivery frank and candid – his tone and message was also about reminding delegates, voters and the media who he is and what he believes; a defence of his personality and his values…

We felt it was right that he addressed the problems of the economy and current credit crunch crisis in the detail that they deserved, and that he acknowledged that he’d been wrong on the disastrous 10p tax increase.

He did a lot of talking up of what he called ‘Labour’s NHS’ – Judy and the PRimage are especially pleased at the welcome announcements on free prescriptions for cancer patients and free health check-ups for the over-40′s.

PRimage overall verdict: a good speech; but not a great speech! We’d love to hear how it went down with the grassroots Labour activists in the hall …. wonder what they were really thinking? Bottom line, a fighting speech is fine to stonewall the critics in the party — but actions speak louder than words – so we will wait to see if our PM will actually deliver on these fine words and promises! …. Watch this space

PM ‘accepts responsibility’ for the removal of 10% tax band! – PRimage view

Sunday, September 21st, 2008

This morning, in an interview with BBC One’s Andrew Marr Show, the PM finally accepted ‘responsibility’ for the removal of the 10% tax band.

PRimage suggest that it would perhaps now be appropriate for anyone whose taxes have increased because of this acknowledged admission by Brown, to submit his/her tax return to the PM personally and ask him to pay the difference accruing from the change in the tax rate!

Would not the PM’s admission that the removal of the 10% tax band is HIS responsibilty also make him personally accountable for making good the losses to low-income taxpayers?

What’s your view? Do you agree? If so, do what we suggest!

At the very least, this would give something worthwhile for the small claims courts to handle!

PRimage applaud launch of Scottish walk-in pharmacy services

Tuesday, September 16th, 2008

As a specialist healthcare communications agency, with clients in the pharmacy arena, Judy Viitanen and the PRimage team are interested to learn that eight Scottish pharmacies are piloting walk-in services such as immunisation, health checks, nurse-led minor injury clinics, sexual healthcare and smoking cessation. The pharmacies will stay open until midnight six days a week during the pilot, which is due to run until March 2010. With pharmacy poised to play an increasing important role in improving patient health, PRimage believe this is a very timely pilot project – and we wish the pharmacies every success!

Meltdown Monday: PRimage on Wall Street’s Woes

Tuesday, September 16th, 2008

The repurcussions of the demise of the 158-year-old Lehmans US bank continue to be felt across the world: gobal stock markets have tumbled after ‘meltdown Monday’ and thousands have lost jobs. Judy Viitanen has read that Lehmans had 35 times debt to equity! … unbelievable! The ‘lethal loans’ of the sub-prime market scenario in the States has led to this biggest shake-up on Wall Street in decades and it is frightening to see investment banks like Lehmans going down like nine pins and plunging markets into turmoil. And now it seems that the future of American International Group (AIG), once the world’s largest insurer, is in doubt. Their shares have plunged 54.6% as fears grow over its financial future. AIG is under pressure to raise capital after posting three quarterly losses in a row totalling $18.5bn (£10.3bn).

In the UK the Stock Market slumped by 200 points yesterday; and HBOS shares have been battered, with questions about their practices of shortselling. There are rumours that Barclays is in talks with Lehman Brothers to buy its core U.S. broker-dealer businesses, including equity, fixed income, M&A advisory and other parts.

In our view, big lenders should stop believing that they can be bailed out! PRimage is relieved to hear that Chancellor Alistair Darling says action is being taking to tighten up the UK’s financial system to prevent further bank crises. Let’s hope that the circle is squared on this! Watch this space …..

PRimage ask: ‘Is Brown living on borrowed time?’

Monday, September 15th, 2008

Judy Viitanen and PRimage are interested to observe that after a summer of intense but covert plotting, factions of the Labour Party have broken cover and, in a highly orchestrated assault, demanded that their leader face a re-election contest this autumn. Former minister Fiona Mactaggart has become the latest Labour MP to openly call for a leadership contest. These persistent and pernicious machinations prompts us to ponder just how long Brown can withstand, or ignore these vociferous calls for a leadership contest. In our opinion, these negative and consistent comments on his leadership and performance are proving extremely damaging. What’s your view?

From what we understand, the Prime Minister has been put on warning by senior Labour figures that he has only a matter of weeks to save his troubled premiership or face a leadership challenge. Although it appears that some of Brown’s senior colleagues say privately they are holding their tongues for now, having agreed that the prime minister should be given time to show he can lead Labour out of its malaise at next week’s party conference in Manchester.

We are somewhat cynical of the recent press reports suggesting that members of the cabinet have categorically refused to join calls from the backbenches for a Labour party leadership contest to challenge the PM; we are cynical too that the Foreign Secretary David Miliband – tipped as a future Labour leader – has rejected calls for Gordon Brown to face a party leadership contest ….. our comment is ‘well, he would say that wouldn’t he!’. The view of Judy Viitanen and the PRimage team is that Gordon Brown will find it difficult to stonewall the growing mutiny in Labour ranks — and that the PM is living on ‘borrowed time!’ …… Watch this space!

PRimage reflect on turmoil in the financial markets and warnings on UK recession …

Monday, September 15th, 2008

We’re living through turbulent times at the moment: with Wall Steet in shock as Lehman Brothers announces bankruptcy, and the Fed and major global banks are in moves to shore up the global markets shaken by the housing and mortgage crisis. There’s also news this morning that the Bank of America is in advanced talks to acquire Merrill Lynch for up to $38 billion (£21.2 billion) after walking away from talks over a rescue of Lehman Brothers.

Judy Viitanen has read a new warning this morning of the looming UK recession – with the CBI saying the economy is set to shrink over the next six months. The business lobby group predicts the economy will contract by 0.2% between July and September. That will be followed by a further 0.1% decline in the fourth quarter. The organisation also slashed next year’s UK growth forecast by 1%. It said the economy would grow by a “feeble” 0.3% during the whole of 2009. That is the lowest rate since 1992. The CBI also warned that unemployment  would top the two million mark next year, up from 1.67 million out of work between April and June.

To compound this extreme instability in the global financial markets, there’s evidence that all these recession forecasts and fears are battering business confidence. The latest Lloyds TSB Business Barometer shows that business confidence in the future of the economy is willowing towards an all-time low. It appears that 53 per cent of firms are pessimistic about the future of the economy, while 20 per cent are optimistic. Across the sectors, distribution firms report the weakest confidence levels, while firms in the service sector have slightly better hopes.

Credit crunch cuts deeper – PRimage comment

Thursday, September 11th, 2008

PRimage is concerned to see that the impact of the credit crunch and looming recession is taking its toll: according to new stats from the European Commission, the UK economy will shrink in the second half of this year, pushing our country into recession for first time since early 1990s. Judy Viitanen has seen further evidence today of how retailers are suffering in this current tough consumer environment: Argos and Homebase report that the credit crunch has knocked their sales. And department stores and supermarkets group John Lewis show a 27 percent drop in first-half profit – and are cautious about the outlook for the rest of this year and 2009. Watch this space for more reports on the impact that the UK and global crunch is having on business and consumers….