Posts tagged with Privatisation

The Baby and the Bath Water

The night before last, the Section 75 Regulations slipped through The Lords like a U-boat, silent and deep. A limpet mine attached to the hull by one Lord Hunt failed to go off, and the boat got through unscathed. The crew even found time to loose off a few tin fish at 38 Degrees, but, on the whole, anyone watching the surface of events would have seen nothing remarkable. Certainly the BBC saw nothing remarkable, and reported nothing. The recent Reynolds analogy, that if the Health and Social Care Act was an aeroplane, then the regulations were the engines that would enable it to fly, failed to take off, leaving no scope for engines on fire, or jumbo-jets falling out of the sky. The health service revolution said to be so large it can be seen from space is all but invisible on earth. There has been no bang, not even a whimper, just the night time passage, silent and deep, of some regulations through the Lords. Nothing has changed - except that the U-boat is now on the inside, torpedoes armed and periscope at the ready. The lumbering ships of the health service convoy still steam across the healthcare seas, unaware of the peril that now lurks in the deeps.

Be Careful What You Vote For

Next time you meet a nurse, ask him or her what the NHS reforms are about. Almost certainly the answer will be ‘I’m not really sure…I don’t really understand them’.

Next time you see your doctor, ask him or her what the NHS reforms are about. A few might know, and give their version, seen through their political prism, but from the rest, the answer will be: ‘Waterworks OK?’ Sub-text: stop asking me stupid questions I don’t know the answers to.

Email your MP and ask them what is his or her position on the NHS reforms, and nine times out of ten you will get his or her party’s standard issue response. Probe further, and it will become clear that he or she hasn’t the foggiest.

Not Having Your Cake and Not Eating It

Maxamillion Pemberton, the sugar in the petrol of the Torygraph’s accelerated pro-NHS reform package, has written an excellent summary of why the NHS is a jewel in today’s British crown. Predictably, the Rancid Right have started to pour the oil of scorn on Maxamillion’s article. One of the more able early commenters – many others are more lurid than lucid – takes phrases from the article, and puts the record admirably straight:

“‘It might be that none of this concerns you…’ It doesn't. ‘…or you may be horrified…’ I'm not. ‘Whatever your political leanings…’ Free market capitalism. ‘or health status…’ Perfectly healthy, thank you. ‘or experiences of the NHS,’ My experience(s) with the NHS (sadly) lead me to believe it was a diabolical 3rd rate service I wouldn't wish on a dog. ‘it is YOUR health service…’ No it's not…” To which Dr No can only riposte: well – that is all right then, isn’t it.

The Healthcare Insurance Scam

One of the consequences, most probably intended by David ‘I want…the NHS to be a fantastic business for Britain’ Cameron, of the NHS reforms is a rise in the promotion of healthcare insurance. Against a background of a financially squeezed NHS, junk insurance mailshots have started rising like miasmic bubbles through the financial swamp, and now regularly surface in Dr No’s inbox and on his doormat, where they emit a foul and distasteful odour. The gist of the pitch is usually see a doctor of your choice today for only a few pence a day. Why indeed wait weeks to see one of those nasty mean health service docs when you can get an appointment right away with Dr Nice at Clinics-R-Us? Dr No’s answer is simple: he has already paid for his healthcare, through general taxation, so why on earth would he want to pay twice?

Lib Dems Must Wake Up and Smell the Cyanide

The Faustian nature of the coalition pact is now plain for all to see. In the run up to, and now at their Spring Conference, the Lib Dem grandees have been forced into an ignominious cul-de-sac of bombast. The crowing and gloating fools no one except those who crow and gloat. The empty rhetoric of influences exerted and battles won sounds ever more like a catastrophe of paperclips rearranged, files shuffled and deck-chairs shifted this way and that. Baroness Bloomers has emerged from the parliamentary salon sporting a new blue rinse, her blustering opposition seen to have all the substance of a wet paper bag. She may say that the amendments she has brought about are substantial and significant, but even a cursory examination shows them to be insubstantial and insignificant: the central thrusts of the bill remain unchanged. Professor Pollock, the thinking doctor’s crumpet, provides an excellent of just how little real change Baroness Bloomers - definitely not the thinking doctor’s crumpet - has achieved here.

The Secret Nail in the NHS Coffin

Sometimes a picture is worth a thousand words, and the photograph on the left – taken covertly last weekend at a top secret boot camp for Tory operatives soon to be charged with ‘fixing’ the NHS – tells us only too clearly what the Tories have in mind for our health service. But illuminating as such images are, to gain a fuller picture we have also to look at the legal framework on which such proposed activities hang, and the legal framework on which the National Health Service hangs is the National Health Service Act 1946, and its derivatives, temporal and spiritual, including the National Health Service Acts 1977 and 2006, and most recently the proposed Health and Social Care Bill, currently at committee stage before Parliament.

The first notable change is the name: gone are the references to ‘National’ and ‘Service’; instead we now have ‘Health’, conveniently bundled with that great Tory fiscal irritation, ‘Social Care’. At a stroke, the National Health Service has lost its special status, and been teamed up with just another drain on the public purse.

Snucking Up to Uncle Sam

While Dr No has been away frying other fish, it seems the Tories have been sneaking a few of their own right old brown trouts through the S bends and P traps of US/EU trade negotiations. Like those in the wild, these fish are well camouflaged. Against a backdrop of general do-goodery - free trade, liberalisation of markets, and boosting of GDPs – there is some serious mumbo-jumbo about the steps needed to break down barriers to trade not just in goods, but services. The scope is grand: all sectors are covered unless specifically excluded. No longer will Detroit be able to give das auto da boot; nor will M. ’Ollandaise be able to stop Hollywood setting up Frollywood on the French Riviera - unless exclusions are granted. But here’s the thing: while other governments are geeing up to protect their important sectors, our Tory led government is eerily silent on excluding what is arguably today our biggest and most defining sector: the NHS.

Branson Pickle

Word is in the air that The Beard is out to spike Max Pemberton. The redoubtable and excellent Max, whose weekly column in the Telegraph has repeatedly shone penetrating light on the sinister implications of the Tory NHS reforms – and here it is good to praise the Telegraph for printing copy critical of Tory policy – has, by way of his latest column, lit a burner under The Beard, and the balloon has gone up. Word further has it that the balloon is to be navigated to a position directly over Pembers, from which position it will descend hard on him, like a ton of bricks, or more precisely, £90,000 or more of legal costs. The threat follows an earlier failed attempt to drop a injunction banning publication on the Telegraph. You can – for now at least – read the article that provoked such corporate ire here, and judge for yourself who is speaking the truth, and who is full of hot air.

A Tale of Two Thickies

Of all the reasons to end a long and bitter industrial dispute, imposing an unwelcome contract on a demoralised workforce to "end the uncertainty" has to be the most bizarre, given the inevitable outcome of the imposition will be not less, but more uncertainty. The demoralised workforce, our junior doctors, are already in bad shape, overstretched and in poor morale. Record numbers are considering – though we don’t yet know how many will pull the ejector seat lever – working abroad. Late last year we learnt that almost half of juniors completing their foundation training chose not to proceed directly with their training – a sure sign of ambivalence about the direction of their chosen career. Hospitals face unprecedented recruitment problems, winter pressures are now being mirrored by summer pressures, with the imminent prospect of all year round pressures. The health service is in a critical way, at risk of implosion. So what does the Health Secretary do when he doesn’t get his own way with the juniors? He hits them on the head. Hard.

Patient Abuse - A Bad Case of Management Blowback?

Is there more patient abuse in the NHS today than there was, say, thirty years ago, or are we just better at exposing it? Dr No does not know for certain. He chose a thirty year comparator because it was about that time ago that he was a medical student, and then a junior doctor, and so frequently exposed to different wards and hospitals. His recollections from that time are more of starched white sheets, and of course the starched but very beguiling nurses who smoothed them out, than of beds doubling up as commodes. He does recall once seeing a cockroach on the polished wooden floor of a ward, but it was a one-off sighting of a very lonely cockroach. Today, it seems, the cockroaches have grown in both size and number, many now standing on two legs as they mishandle and maltreat the patients on their ward. Has it come to pass that the once occasional failing has now become normal practice?

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