Tuesday, 30 August 2016

GPs Oppose Closure of Horton Hospital, Banbury

GPs in and around Banbury have condemned the planned cuts to Horton Hospital in the strongest terms as unsafe, and protested against the prospect of closure which they say is not "inevitable". 

This is a copy of the letter the GPs have sent collectively to the Oxford University Hospital Trust. 
The issue should be getting far more coverage on local and national news.  It is disgraceful that our headline news is all about the deaths of actors or the problems of people on the other side of the world, Meanwhile in England, health care units and hospital after hospital are just being closed down.

This is an issue for all those who live in Oxfordshire and it is part of the systematic downgrading of NHS services all over England. England gets less money spent on its health care than other parts of the UK  - yet we pay the bulk of the tax.
Dame Fiona Caldicott
Oxfordshire University Hospitals Foundation Trust
24 August 2016
Dear Dame Fiona,
We write as local General Practitioners who oppose the OUH proposals to downgrade the Horton Hospital, including, but not limited to, consultant led obstetrics.
We are opposed to the proposals on the grounds of safety, sustainability and the reduction in access to basic health care and choice for our patients, which will affect especially the most vulnerable.
We maintain that a midwife led unit with a delivery rate of 450+ per annum, which is 25 miles away from the nearest obstetrician and paediatrician, is not safe. Through no fault of the midwives working in such a unit, GPs would have to consider the wisdom of
recommending mothers to this service. Numbers would drop further and the service soon become non-viable.
We believe that these proposals, and the tenor of discussions relating to them, pose a risk to the overall integrity and sustainability of The Horton as a general hospital. They
undermine the morale of its staff and impact adversely on recruitment and retention of high quality personnel. Far from creating excellence in health care in the north of the county
(where the population is increasing), they betray a lack of will, vision and imagination and consequently degrade it.
We feel the proposals
 will result in services which are unsafe and unsustainable into the future.
 are not in the best interest of our patients who will be faced with serious obstacles in both accessing services and visiting sick relatives. The most vulnerable will be hardest hit.
 will increase demands on the ambulance services and its crews and on already overstretched departments at the JRH.
 will have consequences both in medico-legal and human terms that are far reaching and expensive.
 adhere to an outmoded model of centralisation that ignores more modern trends to bring services closer to patients.
 ignore the clear recommendations of the Davidson Inquiry and the prerequisites of the agreement to merge into a single trust.
We, the GPs of North Oxfordshire, request that, with immediate effect, you use whatever power and influence you have to reverse these proposals to downgrade The Horton.
Dr Emma Haskew
For and on behalf
The GPs of
Bloxham Surgery and Hook Norton Surgery
Chipping Norton Surgery
Cropredy Surgery
Deddington Surgery
Fenny Compton & Shenington Surgery
Hightown Surgery
Horsefair Surgery and Middleton Cheney Surgery
Shipston Medical Centre
Sibford Surgery
West Bar Surgery
Windrush Surgery
Woodlands Surgery
Wychwood Surgery
The GPs' letter was sent to the following people:
Health Overview and Scrutiny Committee:
Councillor Yvonne Constance
Councillor Kevin Bulmer
Councillor Surinder Dhesi
Councillor Jane Doughty
Councillor Timothy Hallchurch
Councillor Laura Price
Councillor Alison Rooke
Councillor Les Sibley
Councillor Nigel Champken-Woods
Councillor Monica Lovatt
Councillor Susanna Pressel
Ms Moira Logie
Dr Keith Ruddle
Mrs Anne Wilkinson
Ms Julie Dean
Oxfordshire Clinical Commissioning Group:
Mr David Smith
Dr Joe McManners
Oxfordshire University Hospitals Foundation Trust:
Mr Andrew Stevens
Mr Brennan
Dr Bruno Holthoff
Mr Geoffrey Salt
Mr Alisdair Cameron
Professor Sir John Bell
Mrs Anne Tutt
Mr Peter Ward
Mr Christopher Goard
Professor David Mant
Dr Tony Berendt
Ms Maria Moore
Ms Catherine Stoddart
Mr Mark Power
Ms Eileen Walsh
Dame Fiona Caldicott
And the Keep the Horton General campaign

Sunday, 28 August 2016

More on the Campaign to Save Horton Hospital Banbury

The campaigners to save services at Horton Hospital in Banbury are asking everybody to write to senior members of the board of the Oxford University Hospital Trust. Please do this urgently as there is an important meeting coming up this Wednesday. 

Anita Higham, chair of the governors :-   polygonhouse@waitrose.com 

Dame Fiona Caldicott, Principal of Somerville:- Fiona.Caldicott@ouh.nhs.uk;
regius@medsci.ox.ac.uk  for PA of John Bell

We are also urged to write to our MPs and to the Prime Minister. 

It has just been revealed that the Trauma ward is threatened with closure, along with the Accident and Emergency unit, maternity and gynaecology units, the children's ward and the intensive care facilities. The entire hospital could close by the end of this year.
 The campaign leaders assert , among other things, that there has been little attempt to recruit new staff as the underlying motive is to sell off the site for housing and a quick profit.  When two junior trauma doctors left earlier this year, their jobs were not advertised.


Horton could ‘close’ by year end - medics 

Horton sources say unacceptable tactics are being used to end trauma surgery in Banbury Roseanne Edwards roseanne.edwards@banburyguardian.co.uk 

15:1814:12Sunday 28 August 2016 
 Senior Horton sources revealed this weekend that Oxford bosses are removing trauma in the same way they are taking maternity from Banbury claiming there are ‘no doctors’

Two junior trauma doctors left two months ago, giving their notice two months before but managers have still not advertised for replacements leaving the unit two short. The scenario is a carbon copy of the excuse made for removal of maternity, they say. The medics, speaking exclusively to the Banbury Guardian, said the panel at Thursday’s public meeting at St Mary’s Church was untruthful about wanting to return maternity or save Horton services. 
“The trust are not listening . They’re lying, they know they’re lying and they know we know they are lying - but they don’t care.” On the day of the meeting the Horton A&E waiting time was 11 hours because the Banbury hospital was dealing with patients who could not be seen at the JR – at the quietest time of the year. And five gynaecology cases were in trauma beds – as managers prepare to close 28 Horton beds in F- and Oak wards.
 “They have a vitriolic hatred for the Horton which they have wanted closed since the Arthur Davidson Inquiry* and have adopted a policy of slowly destroying each department, bit by bit,” the sources agreed. “Emergency general surgery has been devastated and now it’s maternity. Everything else comes next. The dominoes will fall. Once maternity goes there will be no on call anaesthetist. Trauma will be crippled and ended. Paediatrics is under pressure.”
 The sources said Oxford managers have refused Horton surgeons’ offers to take huge pressure off the John Radcliffe, Oxford at Banbury’s high performing trauma unit. The JR is way below government targets because of patient numbers. “We could run the JR list more cheaply and more efficiently with our low bed occupancy. We estimate we would save the trust £750,000 - £1m a year but they refuse.” “National targets call for surgery for hip fractures to be operated on within 36 hours. We are fourth best in the country, achieving this in the high 90s per cent - with most fractures done within 24 hours and many in less than 10 hours. 
“The JR misses the targets consistently on more than half. In July the JR met this target only 19 per cent of cases. The cost to the Horton of not being ‘in tariff’ was £30,000 in 2015 while the JR lost more than £330,000.” The Horton regularly takes on cases for Oxford, such as broken wrists, hips and knees. “We were promised we would go to eight trauma surgeons in Banbury and then they reneged. There are five now. Weekend physiotherapy has been withdrawn,” the sources said. “We could do an extra 500 trauma cases a year in Banbury saving the OUH up to £1m a year. They know it makes economic sense but they will not listen. It’s not about money, it’s about destroying the site.” 
It is understood the lead trauma surgeon in Oxford is in favour of the plan to share workload but OUH clinical directors are ‘not interested’. “The problem is the true catchment population Oxford is barely bigger than Banbury’s. It is too small – smaller than comparable teaching hospitals – smaller than Northampton or Reading,” said the source. “Without the university it would be nothing. With its university it is a world class teaching hospital. 
“There is not a shred of evidence for the need for a children’s hospital in Oxford. Oxford’s was simply too small a paediatric unit to need so much infrastructure. So it needed Banbury’s patients to make Oxford viable. It needs to destroy Banbury to get the Horton’s patients. “If Oxford had merged with Stoke Mandeville instead of the Horton (it is only a mile further away) they’d have done the same there. They’ve got their eyes on their spinal injury rehabilitation unit and want to move that to Oxford. They don’t care how overloaded the JR is.
 “If they moved 20 per cent of patients at Oxford to Banbury making 60 per cent in Oxford and 40 per cent in Banbury, both sites would be better. But they want 100 per cent - they want to keep the big departments,” said the sources. “If the trust copied the model trauma service across the two sites it would be perfectly feasible to run an acute surgical service and the maternity in Banbury. “The less complicated trauma work and routine Caesareans could be done in Banbury and the complex work in Oxford.” Fracture clinics in the Horton regularly see over 20-30+ new referrals every day. The source said the JR ‘can’t possibly cope’ with these extra numbers but wish to downgrade the Horton service anyway.

 “Patients here have a shorter stay than the JR and get operated on more quickly. But they are moving trauma to Oak Ward with only 18 of our 28 beds. Instead of praising us for our excellent service and sending us more patients, they are taking away our beds.” The sources described the situation as ‘managerial incompetence’ and said the management plan would ‘fail an MBA’. 
“The Horton is on the verge of closure and we will be lucky to be open at the end of the year.”
 “Refusing to look at a plan that would save money and improve services on both sites indicates this is not to do with money it is entirely to do with crippling services. They want to flog the Horton site,” said one if the sources. They said 2,000 children are being operated on a year in Oxford while 10,000 paediatric and 100,000 adult outpatients have to travel there. “They just don’t care. People will die. People have already died. Overloading Oxford does not help anyone. Perhaps Oxford patients will eventually see this is harming them as much as it is harming Banbury.”  *(Arthur Davidson Inquiry, 1996 which recommended a merger between the Horton and JR, on condition acute services remained in Banbury) 
*The downgrading ambitions for the Horton are part of the government’s Sustainability and Transformation Plan – a giant NHS reorganisation which is resulting in many district general hospitals all over England fighting to keep services local in the face of plans to centralist core specialist services to giant regional hospitals, introducing top up payments and encouraging medical insurance. Critics say the ‘no doctors’ tactic is being used in numerous threatened hospitals. 

Read more at: http://www.banburyguardian.co.uk/news/local-news/horton-could-close-by-year-end-medics-1-7548067

Saturday, 27 August 2016

Save Horton Hospital - petition

Horton Hospital near Banbury is threatened with extensive cuts in the near future, leading to the closure of its Accident and Emergency unit, the specialist Maternity Unit, the Special Care Baby Unit, its Children's Ward and its Intensive Care facilities. For all of these needs, residents of Banbury would have to drive 40 minutes to the John Radcliffe Hospital in Oxford. That is just not good enough.
The hospital board and Head of Service claim that they have had difficulty recruiting enough staff to run the Maternity and other units. However, this claim is disputed by those campaigning to stop the closures. They say there has been a deliberate running-down of the staffing with vacancies not being re-advertised and this is all a pretext for ultimately closing the hospital. 

All over the country A and E units are being shut and this is a situation of grave danger.

The link to the petition is here:- https://petition.parliament.uk/petitions/163411
Save Banbury Horton General Hospital From Extensive and Dangerous Cuts
Oxford University Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust (OUHFT) is consulting on the way services are provided at the Horton General Hospital in Banbury 
Their plans could take away A&E, consultant-led maternity, Special Care Baby Unit (SCBU), 24 hour / 7 day a week children's ward and intensive care.

protests at parliament and People's Park

Welcome to Keep the Horton General

aka SAVE OUR HORTON - campaigning against threats at Banbury’s Horton General Hospital


Consultant-led Maternity, SCBU, 24/7 Children's Ward, A&E, orthopaedics and Critical Care Unit under threat

See below for the latest news, or follow these links to find out what's going on and what you can do to help.
Why not join the Save Our Horton facebook group and get the latest news and discussion straight away?



At a packed St Mary's Church last night (25 August), Banbury told Oxford University Hospital Trust bosses loud and clear that they will not tolerate the downgrading of maternity services at the Horton General Hospital.
After two last minute changes in format, Keep the Horton General campaigners were given a prominent position on stage and right of reply to the trust's answers. The audience cheered as KTHG chair Keith Strangwood interrupted Dr Bruno Holthof's opening speech to present him with a copy of nearly 15,000 petition signatures, collected over the last few weeks in protest at the imminent removal of consultant-led maternity, and the potential downgrading of many other departments at the Horton General Hospital.
After the opening speeches by the trust, independent chair Rev. Philip Cochrane asked many questions on behalf of people who had emailed himself and Victoria Prentis MP prior to the meeting. Members of KTHG, midwives and people from Banbury, including many parents and expectant mothers, also took to the microphone to ask questions and challenge the answers.
Trust managers, including the chief executive Dr Bruno Holthof, looked flustered and irritated as the audience erupted over their disputed claims regarding their efforts to recruit, the time taken to get to the JR, the availability of ambulances and their downplaying of risk to delivering mothers and babies. At one point, Dr Holthof embarrassed himself by not knowing the name of Catherine Greenwood, a clinician who was sharing the stage with him, and with whom he was supposedly working to resolve the problems at the Horton.
Incredulous at the trust's claims that the cuts are all about patient safety, supporters held up signs reading "Dead in an Ambulance" and "The JR is TOO FAR" whenever any of the Oxford University Hospitals Trust panel made this claim. The placards referred to the inevitable consequences for some women and babies if obstetric support is taken away, accessible only by a blue light ambulance journey of at least 45 minutes.
Rev. Philip Cochrane did an admirable job maintaining control in difficult circumstances as the audience grew increasingly angry with the trust's inadequate, evasive and misleading answers.
The trust's claims that "premium offers" had been made and turned down were challenged with evidence that salaries of just £38k and one-year contracts had been offered to prospective obstetricians. The trust was also challenged over their continuing failure, over several weeks, to interview up to 17 doctors with UK maternity experience, who are known to be waiting "with their bags packed" to come to work at the Horton General Hospital. Andrew McHugh, retired Horsefair GP Surgery Practice Manager, walked off stage and left the meeting in protest at the trust's insistence that sufficient efforts had been made to recruit the specialist doctors needed to keep the maternity unit fully open. He received a standing ovation as he stormed out of the building.
The Q&A event ended with the loudest applause of the evening when a brave Horton General Hosptial midwife took to the stage to read out a statement on behalf of her fellow midwives.
"I am currently a midwife at the unit and we all would like to thank KTHG for affording us these few moments to speak," she said. "Until now our presence and our voices have remained quiet... but tonight I now call upon my sisters here in this hall to stand up with me. Stand tall, stand proud, and stand united in our one voice, our one message.
"We are all at our very core only focused on one thing.... the safe provision of quality care to the women and families in our charge. We plead now personally to you, Dr Bruno Holthof, to reject your Trust's Contingency Plans, to insist your Obstetric Consultants across both hospitals pull together temporarily with agency doctors until the proposed Ugandan Doctors are in post.
We demand we are no longer silenced, that our contribution and place within OUHFT is acknowledged and respected and that despite the lack of trust in your Trust, Dr Holthof, you prove to us, your staff, that you are patient focused, women centred and recognise fully the important crucial role the whole of the Horton General Hospital plays in this growing community."
The midwives received a standing ovation from the audience, politicians and campaigners, with only the trust managers remaining seated.
Later, supporters took to social media to express their disgust at the trust's answers and their fears that, despite the trust's assurances that a decision has not yet been made, it is a "done deal". Videos, photos and public comments are available on our Save Our Horton facebook page.
Our thanks to Robert Shepley of Banburytown.com for allowing us to use his article as a starting point for this report.

Sunday, 21 August 2016

Clean Up Saudi Arabia Campaign Gets Underway with Man Arrested for Sex with Vacuum Cleaner

A man in Saudi Arabia has been sentenced to flogging, after his wife accused him of committing adultery with a vacuum cleaner, This is a shocking case of double standard, as the vacuum cleaner will not face any penalty, although it was equally guilty.
Clerics are scrutinizing the holy texts for guidance on appropriate retribution for the crime. Clearly they must send the message that it will not be tolerated, otherwise no domestic appliance will be safe. A wave of depravity might follow with food processors, flymos and garage door remote controls.
An American diplomat refused to comment, saying "I am not Edgar Hoover."



Riyadh | Saudi police officers in the district of Al-Mansuriyya in the branch municipality of Al-Shifa have arrested a man accused of having sex with his vacuum cleaner, reports the Riyadh Daily.
The man was caught in full action by his wife of 17 years before she reported her husband to authorities.
“After 17 years of loyalty, this is how this miscreant treats me,” she told local reporters. “I feel used, I feel dirty,” she added.
saudi2The suspect has denied any wrong doing and blames his wife for inventing the whole affair of which he could face 2 years in jail and 1,000 lashes for adultery
Capital punishment
As adultery is a crime punishable by death in Islamic law, usually performed by stoning the person to death, experts believe the man’s condemnation is a light one.
“Due to the peculiar nature of this case of adultery, in which the accused performed sex with a home appliance and not with an animal or a human being, the judge has decided to give him a lighter sentence than usual for this crime” admits legal expert and Middle East specialist, Hakim Ben Ali. “Two years in prison and 1,000 lashes is more than acceptable for the region,” he acknowledges.
Pleading his innocence
The man accused of adultery strongly maintained his innocence before the court.
“We were unable to identify if the suspect performed any sexual act with his vacuum cleaner,” Saeed Saleh Trad, the spokesperson for Al-Shafi police, said. “He was arrested and is held in custody pending further investigations,” he told reporters.
The case could be a first one for Saudi law as nothing in Islamic law is stated about sexual acts performed onto home appliances but the accusation still applies as an act of adultery, believe experts.


Wednesday, 17 August 2016

P45 for our useless MEPs Bearder and Taylor (not forgetting Bashir)

Despite the Brexit vote, our new government has as yet taken only very hesitant steps to leave the EU and until we are actually out, we still have a lot of useless, overpaid, windbags like Catherine Bearder and Keith Taylor as MEPs, drawing generous salaries for footling around and doing less real work than a cat in a coma. 

This is Catherine Beader, LibDem MEP for South East England whose website says quite wrongly that she is "Your voice in Europe". Is there a touch of arrogance there? I think I can detect one. 
Instead of respecting the outcome of the Referendum, Bearder is carrying on campaigning to remain in the EU and insisting that the 48% who voted In must take priority over the 52% who voted OUT.

WATCH: Catherine Bearder MEP on Brexit: The 48% must not be forgotten

Liberal Democrat MEP Catherine Bearder gives a speech on Brexit at the European Parliament, 5th July 2016. The 48% must not be forgotten, the Liberal Democrats will keep fighting for Britain's place in the EU. Read more

This loud-mouthed self-important woman has never had the least respect for democracy and you would be unwise to believe her statements on any subject.  When she says the EU has created jobs and prosperity, this is certainly true in her own case.  If you add up the salary, the expenses they are entitled to claim and then the extra daily allowance MEPs get just for turning up in the Parliament and putting their bum on a seat, a ten-year stint as MEP reaches a £ million. That's without counting the generous pension scheme and any "incidental" profits or oblique benefits that may come their way while rubbing shoulders with the rich and powerful. 

Bearder hearing the news of the Leave victory.

Mandelson got yacht trips with billionaires and was probably entitled to claim payment for them by listing them as a business meeting.
Ms Bearder's website absurdly claims that the EU is fighting human trafficking, ignoring the plain fact that EU open borders have greatly facilitated the human trafficking trade all over the continent and allowed it to thrive. The EU creates the perfect conditions for human trafficking and for the sort of international terrorist attacks that were planned in Brussels and carried out in Paris on a vast scale only a few months ago.  Yet Bearder keeps jabbering on in denial of the facts, denial of the deaths.
As for Keith Taylor, the useless fat slob who calls himself a Green MEP, he has written a full length article denying the significance of the Brexit vote. Like Bearder, he is absolutely deaf to all criticisms of the EU, its extravagance, its mania for legislation and regulation, its culture of endemic corruption, its secrecy  - negotiating TTIP for example behind our backs  - and its centralised bureaucratic tyranny. He brushes all this aside, and ignores the whole issue of sovereignty. Instead, he writes patronisingly that those who voted Leave did so because of "Austerity" and their real problems are with the Westminster government. This is sheer arrogance. He is treating voters as stupid and unable to distinguish one problem from another.

Did Arron Banks and Sir James Dyson only support Leave because they are poor, ignorant or stupid? According to Keith Taylor, yes. Along with Boris Johnson, Gisela Stuart, most of our top defence staff and a long list of economists and business tycoons.

Instead of listening to what the voters said, he crudely refers to the Leave campaign as "Project Hate" and writes "I remain convinced that Britain's future would be fairer, safer, and greener inside the EU." Safer with people  like him sitting on committees about Alzheimer's Disease when he has got absolutely no qualifications in medicine or, as far as I can find out, in anything else either?  I will decide for myself what is safe without idiots such as this telling me.

Mr Taylor classes himself as a "Progressive" and still claims that the EU is the source of all protection for employment rights, human rights etc etc What utter nonsense! "These are dark days" according to him.  In my view the dark days will be over when we no longer have incumbent MEPs such as Mr Amjad Bashir, who cynically defected from UKIP to the Conservatives in 2015, just when the party was having him investigated for expenses fraud and employing illegal immigrants. If rumour is to be believed, he paid £60,000 to be on the list of Conservative candidates, and is a long-term chum of known terrorist Majeed Bhutto.

Ukip MEP Amjad Bashir delivers his speech on communities during the Ukip annual party conference at Doncaster Race Course in Yorkshire. Picture date: Friday September 26, 2014.

What does MEP stand for  -  Mendacious Egregious Parasite? I have got a suggestion to make to all these impudent, greedy, pompous wastrels. If you really want to do something for Europe, resign today, and pay back the money you have obtained through a system that the people of the UK never voted for. The UK only voted to enter a "common market" and that was when we were told huge lies by the Heath government.  Pay it all back, every penny.
Take your P45, and go and do something useful such as picking up all the heaps of litter from the streets of Naples. Go around collecting the piles of rubbish instead of talking rubbish. Clear away trash instead of blabbering it. It is disgraceful that a historic European city should be so filthy and garbage-strewn. Take a scrubbing brush and some paint-spray cans and eradicate all the hideous graffiti from the walls and doorways, ugly scribblings that deface an entire city. Then go and knock on the door of some of those appalling slums that shame Europe. Offer to do one useful errand for the people who live there, one useful thing however humble.
It may be the most useful thing you have ever done in your pretentious, parasitical lives.

keithpress@greenmeps.org.uk www.keithtaylor.org.uk"



President Obama Has Endangered Christians

Last January I was hugely relieved to hear that Pastor Saeed Abedini had been released from prison in Iran where he had been held for several years and sentenced to death for being a Christian and a missionary. He was one of five American citizens released from Iran and permitted to return to the USA as part of a diplomatic deal.

Now evidence has emerged that the diplomatic deal seems also to have included the transference of large sums of money from the USA to Iran. Iran TV showed a video of large amounts of cash  - allegedly $400 million  - being delivered as part of the deal. 
President Obama has said that the agreement included the restoration to Iran of assets that had been frozen several decades ago, but insisted that this did not amount to any form of payment, bribe or ransom.
   To observers, his denial is not convincing. If the money was handed over at the very same time, it looks as if it was one of the conditions for the release of the prisoners. A condition for release is a ransom, isn't it? By agreeing to such terms, the USA has encouraged the taking of more prisoners, hostages and kidnap victims all over the world. It has put its own citizens, particularly Christians, in danger. How weak and grovelling John Kerry and President Obama look in comparison with previous US leaders. I cannot imagine Madeleine Albright giving in to such demands, nor Condaleeza Rice. This is something that lowers America in the eyes of the world.  At a time when there is undoubtedly a War on Christians -  where priests like Father Hamel are murdered in their own churches during Mass and only last month several people were executed in North Korea merely for possessing  a bible  - it is giving all the wrong messages.

Washington (CNN)A video emerged Friday that purportedly shows a US payment of $400 million worth of cash delivered to Iran on the day Tehran released several American prisoners in January.
CNN cannot authenticate the newly surfaced video, which was part of an Iranian documentary that first aired in January and shows the money on pallets in a warehouse. But the latest wrinkle is bound to fuel critics of the administration who have accused Obama of providing ransom to the Iranian government in exchange for the release of four US prisoners. A fifth American was released separately.
    The Obama administration has vehemently denied any connection between the cash delivery and the release of the American prisoners.
    "We announced these payments in January. Many months ago. They were not a secret," Obama told reporters at the Pentagon Thursday.
    "It was not a nefarious deal," Obama said, adding, "We do not pay ransom for hostages."
    However, US officials, while denying a connection, have publicly admitted that the timing of the two transactions -- US prisoners leaving Iran as hundreds of millions of dollars arrived -- involved problematic optics.
    Others have raised questions as to whether the release of the Americans was conditional upon the payment of the money and whether it encourages more questionable arrests by Iran of Americans living there.
    A US official told CNN that is was "unknowable" whether Iran would have freed the prisoners without the settlement payment.
    And an Obama administration official insisted Saturday that the release of Iranian nationals from US prisons as part of the swap for the incarcerated US citizens was "not conditional on any payment. Their release was conditional on the series of commutations and pardons (the Department of Justice) spoke to at the time."