COVID and stuff

I don’t really get the apparent push that COVID is alright now and we just need to go back to normal and it’ll be fine. My boss’s dad died of COVID this week. It’s strange to see the contrast between people saying that it’s harmless and someone one degree removed from me dying from it. It looks like the push to open up again is coming from Boris Johnson trying to placate backbenchers to distract away from the ongoing disaster that is himself.

And on the topic of Boris, then there’s the National Insurance increase. I’m kind of annoyed about this if I’m honest. I don’t feel that the quality of services we get in the UK for our level of tax burden is a good deal. The NHS in particular worries me a lot since COVID. When I last needed a GP appointment, I had to wait about 30-45 minutes on the phone to speak to a receptionist and then the best they could give me was a telephone appointment a month later. It’s not so much a big thing for me personally, but my parents are getting older and it worries me that they will be deterred from seeking medical services should they need it. But overall it’s just a horrible policy that takes money from people who don’t vote Conservative (i.e. working aged people) while shielding those who do (i.e. pensioners).

Anyway… It prompted me to do some sums. I pay into a personal pension and a workplace pension. The workplace pension is salary sacrifice, but the personal pension is a better fund with lower fees. Obviously I get income tax relief on both, but the workplace pension is salary sacrifice so I also pay less NI as my taxable income is lower. It turns out that if I took all the money I put each month into my personal pension and instead paid it through my workplace pension, I would pay quite a bit less NI after the increase than I do now. And I can transfer it every so often into the private pension where the fees are lower. I hadn’t ever thought about doing this before. So… thanks, Boris?

In other news, it’s been a strange few weeks as Monty hasn’t been very well. Not last week but the week before, he woke up from his nap Tuesday morning and threw up. He looked unwell for a couple of hours and then perked up and seemed fine, until Thursday evening when he started vomiting again and had diarrhoea. I always knew that having a dog would involve it sometimes, but ideally you want this kind of thing in the morning so you don’t end up wandering around the garden multiple times during the night while your dog empties himself at both ends. We took him to the vet Friday morning but by the afternoon he seemed quite happy again… until Monday evening when we pretty much had a repeat of Thursday night. But he’s been OK since then and seems back to his lively self, so hopefully he’s got rid of it! According to my mum there was a post on the local Facebook group about such a bug going around and a few people noted the on and off nature of it, so I think he just picked something up. He’s only six months old so I guess you have to expect this kind of thing until his immune system is a bit more experienced. Plus, this is a dog who enjoys splashing in his water bowl with his muddy paws before deciding he’s thirsty and starts to drink the now brown water. He’s not really big on hygiene.

Hopefully we’ll be OK from now on… I have been quite worried about him at times. We’ve only had him four months but it seems like an eternity now. It feels like you very quickly develop an unconditional love for him. Maybe it helps that he’s so cute 🤫

Vaccinated

I had my first dose of the Pfizer vaccine on Wednesday morning. I didn’t really know what to expect from it, because my mum (who had AstraZenica) spent about 3-4 days feeling like she had flu, whereas my dad had absolutely no reaction whatsoever. I had a bit of a headache and an achy arm in the afternoon but nothing much. I went for a run on Thursday morning and found I didn’t have any energy and ended up cutting it short, then Thursday afternoon and evening my left leg was aching a lot all over, like I’d really overdone the running (I hadn’t). I ran again this morning and it was much better. And my leg doesn’t ache.

I was worried a bit that I’d react to it like my mum did. I had an upset stomach last week and I really wasn’t looking forward to another few days of feeling horrible.

Also, on the medical theme, the NHS is going to start sharing medical records with commercial third parties starting in July. If you haven’t heard anything about this, it’s probably because they’ve kept it very quiet. The data is ‘pseudonymous’ rather than anonymous, meaning that while it won’t have your name in it, it certainly can be used to identify people. Personally I think as a whole, this is appalling. This is an NHS Digital initiative, but hasn’t been adequately publicised by NHS Digital, who are acting as if it’s the individual GPs responsibility to inform patients even though it’s a national issue. The fact it’s happening as an opt-out system under a short timescale without any effort to inform patients is bad, and the opt-out is complicated and confusing (as there are two different opt-outs) and inconvenient as you need to locate, print, and submit a paper form to your GP specifying your preference. Making the opt-out paper based is a little ironic given that we’re talking about massive digital data collection.

It’s hard to look at this and assume good faith.

There are some details on how to opt-out here. The overall story is covered by the Financial Times.