Exclusive: How Marks and Spencer banned this 85 year old Covid shielding woman from shopping with them for life

Patricia Stewart

This is Patricia Stewart an 85 year old woman. She spent the first five months of the lockdown shielding from Covid 19 as she is a vulnerable person. Last autumn during the period when the first lockdown was lifted she ventured out to shop for the first time. As a M&S customer for over 60 years she went to her favourite branch in Bexleyheath shopping mall. What happened next is hardly believable but raises a lot of civil liberties issues.

Patricia Stewart was nervous about going round a public store for the first time. She went to the customer services desk and exchanged a babywear item for a bra. She then went round the food hall but being worried about Covid starting putting packaged food items into plastic bags. This attracted the attention of a security guard who told her not to do this.

According to details released by M&S following a subject access request by her relatives he ” deemed it as shoplifting “. She was then followed by a male manager and female colleagues. Now feeling thoroughly uncomfortable she approached the till four times and then changed her mind and decided to leave the trolley full of shopping and go out of the store.

M&S Brazilian knickers- a smoking gun?

She was followed into the shopping mall by the manager and a female colleague and while she was sitting on a bench waiting for a taxi they challenged her in public and demanded her name and address She refused to give it to them so they proceeded to search her shopping bag. They found none of the food shopping but did discover a pair of M&S Brazilian knickers without a receipt. They claimed they had been watching her on CCTV and saw her change a label adding that a customer had also complained about her.

Marks and Spencer store in Bexleyheath. Pic credit: M&S Facebook page

They then proceeded to serve her with a ” trespass order” – a device used by many stores to keep out suspect shoplifters without going to court – not only from the Bexleyheath store but from any store in the country and on purchasing anything from M&S on line for the rest of their life.

The ban has been challenged by her two daughters who asked to see the CCTV and for evidence of the other customer’s complaint. When challenged M&S couldn’t provide the CCTV to prove their allegation because according to them ” it wasn’t recording properly”. Nor could they produce the customer who complained.

But M&S stuck to their story and have now ended any correspondence with them -pointing out they are not regulated by anybody and therefore nothing else can be done.

Steve Rowe, chief executive, Marks and Spencer

I decided to investigate this and approached M&S Corporate Press for comment. Six weeks after failing to reply to me I escalated my inquiry to Steve Rowe, chief executive of M&S, who has ignored my email. Therefore I can’t put their response.

There are two issues here which are connected. First of all the particular case and the use of trespass orders and secondly how they can be enforced. The retailer is allowed to use them because their store is private property. A search on the internet reveals they could be quite common – for example someone complained in Bristol about being banned by M&S. And nobody knows how they can be enforced – one theory which sounds too fanciful to me – is that M&S are secretly using facial recognition cameras in their stores. The other is that the M&S Sparks card – both offers you treats but is used as a surveillance card to monitor customers. Since M&S would not respond to my questions all this is speculation.

The Sparks card was used by M&S in this case as proof of her not purchasing the knickers – they revealed in an email that they have records of many of her purchases going back two years but insisted they had no personal file on her. But according to her the knickers were purchased by a friend as a gift – so they wouldn’t be on her purchase list.

Failing to get a reply from M&S the relatives and I decided that we could test out the ban. First she decided to order a bra on line without using a Sparks card – and guess what she received a cheery note from the company telling them it was on its way and it was delivered last month. (see above)

She has since then shopped in three other M&S stores without any problem but has not returned to Bexleyheath.

This raises the question whether these ” trespass orders” can really be enforced or just used to intimidate people believing they can be banned. I would certainly have thought they would have to have an elaborate system to enforce them nationwide – that might be challenged by GDPR.

The other matter is a civil liberties issue – from what I have got from the subject access request – M&S would have had a flimsy case if they went to court. So why should they be judge and jury in deciding people’s individual liberties?

Tufail Ahmed, general manager of the Bexleyheath store. The store is the South East London Academy store, leading business initiatives and educating store teams across the region

According to their memos M&S believe their staff behaved with ” integrity” in banning her. Tufail Ahmed, the manager of the Bexleyheath store, who must be locally responsible for this, has a Linked In page in which he says:

 “M&S Manager of the Year 2018/2019. With nearly 20 years of retail experience working for leading retailers in various roles, I know that change is a very normal place in retail. I am now part of the change at M&S, leading and inspiring people to be the very best.

” My long term aim is to be an influential member of a business’ senior leadership team, that is what I am currently working towards.”

I suspect relatives of Patricia Stewart might beg to disagree.

As for Steve Rowe, who has built his entire career with M&S, his silence on the matter is deafening. He looks about the age to have elderly relatives, I wonder if he would like them to be treated like Patricia Stewart.

Revealed: The poor health in old age scandal

Professor Chris Whitty, chief medical officer, gave evidence on the damning statistics effecting the healthy living prospects for the elderly Pic credit: gov.uk

Today the House of Lords published an extremely worrying report into the prospect for millions of elderly people being able to enjoy a healthy old age.

I had not realised that Theresa May’s government had committed in 2017 to the Ageing Society Grand Challenge – a promise by 2035 that everybody in the country should be able to enjoy an extra five years good health in retirement. I have a feeling like the notice of the first raising of the pension age it has had little publicity.

Readers of my blog who have followed the BackTo60 campaign to get 3.8 million women born in the 1950s full restitution for their lost pensions will greet this aim with a hollow laugh – given there is growing anecdotal evidence that many women in their early 60s are already falling ill while working before they can even claim their pension. I wrote a blog about the figures in 2018 – see here.

But what this report confirms is not only that life expectancy has flatlined since 2011 but prospects for a healthy retirement has got worse particularly for the poor. The report reveals that the chances for a man to get an extra five years healthy retirement will take not 14 years as promised by the challenge but an incredible 75 years. They will be long dead by 2096.

For a woman it is actually worse – chances of having an extra five years healthy retirement is receding and getting worse by the day.

Figures in the report confirm what the Office for National Statistics has disclosed that Britain is slipping down the league table of advanced countries for those living longer – with men, who on average die earlier than women, have a higher increase in longevity than women. See my blog on this here.

Growing equality gap between rich and poor areas

But what is deeply disturbing is the huge gap between those in wealthy and deprived areas.

The report says: “In England in the period 2016–18, the difference in life expectancy between the most and least deprived areas was 9.5 years for males and 7.5 years for females. The differences in healthy life expectancy are 18.9 years for males and 19.4 years for females.”

The report notes: “the health situation is somewhat similar to other countries that have experienced
political, social and economic disruption and widening social and economic inequalities.” The report also noted that “in some of the key social determinants, inequalities are widening in England”.

The largest killer of men is heart disease and for women it is Alzheimer’s Disease and dementia. Heart disease deaths are falling while dementia is on the rise which explains the changes in longevity.

In a 2016 analysis of 20 countries, females in the UK had the lowest rate of improvement in life expectancy, followed by those in the USA. For males, the UK had the second-lowest rate of improvement,
after the USA.

The report concludes:” Inequalities in healthy life expectancy are stark, with people in the least deprived groups living more than 18 years longer in good health than those in the most deprived groups.”

This also hit ethnic minorities very badly as evidence given by Professor Chris Whitty , the chief medical officer to peers. He told them: “People from ethnic minorities are more likely to live in poverty in older age; 29% of Asian or Asian British people and 33% of Black or Black British people over the age of 65 live in poverty, compared with 14% of White people.”

Will it get better or worse?

So what is to be done and will it get worse ? For a start it will get worse because of Covid19 as the report was mainly written before the pandemic took hold and it is known that Covid killed disproportionately larger numbers of the elderly saving the DWP over £600m a year in pension payouts. In a postscript to the report the peers from science and technology committee say both short term and long term effects are an unknown.

On the positive side new technologies and robotics and new drug trials to treat diseases promise to make life better for the elderly provided they can access them.

Peers warn that unless growing inequality is tackled by the government – these benefits could widen the gap between rich and poor as wealthier pensioners would be able to benefit while the poor would be left behind.

The report also exposes the lack of a government strategy at the top to tackle this.

Peers say: “The Government is not on track to achieve the Ageing Society Grand Challenge mission to ensure five years of extra healthy life by 2035 while reducing inequalities, and does not appear to be monitoring progress towards the mission. It is hard to see how the target could be met without significant changes to the way it is managed.”

For those who criticise the House of Lords as an irrelevant institution – this report shows the House working at its best – it is a very thorough, well researched report – drawing attention to an overlooked issue and warning the government that it needs urgently to act to take this seriously. Whether it will, given the complacency of some ministers, is another matter.

The full report can be accessed here.

How the NHS wasted £16m of your money on a botched privatisation that collapsed within months

portrait-meghillier

Meg Hillier MP:,chair of the Commons Public Accounts Committee, condemned the failings in the scheme

CROSS POSTED ON BYLINE.COM

New ways of  helping the elderly and mentally ill survive in the community and not continually end up in hospital is a cornerstone of government policy.

So when a limited liability partnership offered a cash strapped  NHS commissioning group an initiative which promised better services for these people and could save them £178m over five years it sounded too good to be true.

The trouble is it was. As a devastating report from the National Audit Office reveals today the £800m scheme  ran into trouble just four weeks after it was launched and collapsed seven months later. You can read the full story on the Exaro website.

The scandal of the £800m scheme run by UnitingCare Partnership for Cambridgeshire and Peterborough clinical commissioning group may not be an isolated instance.That is why sources at the National Audit Office have highlighted it in their report – because it exposes an alarming lack of financial expertise inside the NHS and a flawed system to monitor whether projects like this are financially feasible  andcan  be properly checked.

The promised aim of the project was to establish  tapering payments to the partnership – with £152m up front and less money later, ¬ so that the financially challenged commissioning group could put money to better use.

But within four weeks of starting the contract the partnership was asking for an extra £34m, blaming a delay by the commissioning authority in starting the work. When the money was not forthcoming the scheme collapsed after eight months and the NHS was forced to provide services directly.

The NAO report reveals that despite employing reputable financial companies and lawyers, basic errors were made – including a failure to realise that sub-contractors could not recover the VAT from the partnership – a cost that had not been factored into the contract.

Auditors also report that nobody had overall oversight of the contract.

No wonder both Amyas Morse, the head of the NAO, and Meg Hillier, the Labour chair of the Commons Public Accounts Committee have been withering in their criticism.

Amyas Morse said: “This contract was innovative and ambitious but ultimately an unsuccessful venture, which failed for financial reasons which could, and should, have been foreseen.”

Meg Hillier said: “The result is damning: a contract terminated before the ink had even dried out, at an unnecessary cost of £16m.”

What is disturbing is that the NAO point out that Monitor, the body which checks health bodies, had no locus to check whether the scheme was viable and NHS England were too remote to act.”

The report says: ““No organisation was responsible for taking a holistic view of the risks and benefits of this approach, or considering whether the anticipated longer‐term benefits were sufficient to justify additional short‐term support.“

What is really disturbing  is that £16m was wasted -plus £8.9m  on setting up a complex tendering operation and start up costs.

Far better to have spent this extra money on patient and community care – instead of throwing our money down the drain on a scheme that anyone would have thought to be too good to be true.

 

NHS: Investigation into historic unexpected deaths of elderly patients at Gosport War Memorial Hospital

Entrance to Gosport  War Memorial Hospital Picture credit:BBC

Entrance to Gosport War Memorial Hospital Picture credit:BBC

Today I have been appointed to serve on an independent panel to review all the documentary evidence into historic unexpected deaths of elderly patients at Gosport War Memorial Hospital in Hampshire.

The panel will be chaired by Bishop James Jones, the former Bishop of Liverpool,  who chaired the Hillsborough Inquiry into the deaths of  Liverpool football fans.

The inquiry will try to obtain all the facts behind the deaths of patients at this hospital stretching back for a large number of years.

The aim is to address the concerns of families who lost loved ones and are very unhappy about the way they were treated by the authorities.

While the investigation is under way for the next three years I have been asked to keep a vow of silence about its findings until they are made public.

This is because my prime duty is to the families who believe they have been seriously let down and I intend to devote my energies as an investigative journalist to get as near to the truth as possible.

So you will find nothing on this blog about the investigation. Any journalist hoping for leaks on information this inquiry is uncovering is also going to be very disappointed. There will be an official website outlining the scope and nature of the investigation and who sits on the panel. The link is    gosportpanel.independent.gov.uk

But the only people who should know the findings in advance will be the families themselves.

Stuff the poor to help the elderly:Hunt moves to adopt Lansley’s bad plan for the NHS

Andrew Lansley: let’s kill off the poor to help the elderly

Update: The new NHS Commissioning Board announced this week it was proceeding with scrapping the existing formula from next April – by adopting a flat rate increase  for funding this year. It also announced it will ” conduct an urgent fundamental review of the approach to allocations, drawing on the expert advice of ACRA and involving all partners whose functions impact on outcomes and inequalities.” This will come into force in 2014-15.

In fact this will mean a redistribution to areas with large numbers of elderly people at the expense of poorer areas like the North East of England, Central Manchester  and Salford and the London borough of Tower Hamlets. All this will be in place for the run up to the next general election.

Fresh from creating chaos as part of his so-called NHS ” reforms” Andrew Lansley has let slip another dastardly plan to cope with the genuine burgeoning costs of a growing elderly population.

Basically it’s very simple: Take away  the NHS cash from the poorest parts of England and give to the relatively affluent seaside resorts and the suburbs.

I am indebted to hawk-eyed reporter David Williamson at the Health Services Journal ( behind a pay wall at http://bit.ly/K7dceG ) for spotting a virtually unreported speech in London during the Parliamentary recess to new commissioning bodies who will  be spending the NHS cash from next year.

He told them they “should be looking at what is in… population data that is likely to give rise to a demand for NHS services”.

“What is likely to make the biggest difference, therefore? Actually it’s elderly population, who were not in substantial deprivation”.

He added :“Some of the lowest spending on stroke and cancer services were in areas with high elderly populations such as Fylde and Eastbourne, places where there were quite a lot of older people who weren’t poor”.

What Lansley is proposing – and the Department of Health is helpfully not making his speech available on its website is seismic in NHS terms. Ever since Clement Attlee set up the NHS, its main aim has been to improve the life chances of the poor most of them die long  before affluent and middle classes.

The Royal College of Nursing in the North East and Newcastle MP former Labour minister, Nick Brown, have spotted exactly what it means.

As Glen Turp, regional director of the RCN put it: “It is well-known that in areas of social disadvantage, local populations experience higher incidents of heart disease, cancer, emphysema, diabetes, as well as a range of other diseases caused in part by our industrial history and the work that our communities undertook. Health outcomes are directly linked to poverty and inequality, and to use age as the measure rather than inequality is simply the wrong thing to do. ”

To ram home his point: “The shocking truth is that if you live in Chelsea and Westminster in London, a man can expect to live to 86 years of age. However, in Hendon, in Sunderland, male life expectancy is only 69. That’s a 17 year difference. It’s nothing short of obscene, and frankly that is what the NHS funding formula should be all about.”

For those interested in more details Tom Gorman has tweeted me a map – showing some of the changes – the link is http://goo.gl/dyuGe .

Lansley plans to be even nastier in the way he plans to implement it. He intends to deny the government is doing it by tipping the wink to a quango  – the Advisory Committee on Resource Allocation which recommends how NHS budgets should be split up.

At the Conference, Lansley gave the game away: “The advisory committee will do this, I won’t— the number crunching should get progressively to a greater focus on what the actual determinants of health need” and that “Age is the principal determinant of health need”.

But there is also a cynical political side to this. By withdrawing money from poor areas, he can halt  the trend of living longer among mainly Labour voters, save the pension bill by ensuring that if they die off at 69 or even younger, they will in future not even need to receive a state pension.

But in the sunlight uplands of mainly Tory areas, the cuts that will inevitably come will be blunted or services improved in time for the 2015 election. And it won’t cost him an extra penny, all the money will be taken from Labour areas.

The formula is almost a Tory right winger’s wet dream.  Ed Miliband’s supporters dying off as they wait for operations in Labour seats, and the prospect of Tory and Liberal Democrat voters living longer and longer in Chelsea, Bournemouth, Eastbourne and Torquay.

Perhaps Mr Lansley should be told what we think of this. His emails are: lansleya@parliament.uk  and andrew.lansley@doh.gov.uk. If that fails perhaps the faceless people who sit on this quango, the Advisory Committee on Resource Allocation, should be contacted. Interestingly, the Department of Health, has not updated their membership since 2008 and archived the list. Perhaps Mr Lansley doesn’t want us to know.

After all , should Mr Lansley be allowed to get away with literally killing off the opposition.