Posts tagged with Privatisation


How To Compete on Price Without Competing on Price

Twenty five or so years ago, in the Hacksaw years, there was a move afoot (there had also been a Michael Foot, but that is another story) to relax the then decidedly restrictive and yet unworkable Sunday Trading Laws. Hacksaw and her buddies attempted to introduce a Shops Bill in 1986 to relax the rules, but the move was seen off by an unlikely coalition between the God Squad, acting in best Ian Paisley style, and by the Unions, marking the only time – a precedent we might want to note - that a Hacksaw Bill was ever defeated. Thus the restrictions, including the quaint absurdity of allowing the sale of a pornographic magazine but not a Bible or a birthday card on a Sunday, continued for another eight years, until the liberalising 1994 Sunday Trading Act came into force.

The early Hacksaw years were nonetheless a time of unbridled market adoration – yuppies had just been born, and the Stock Exchange Big Bang was around the corner – and so the spivs and suits, who had no intention of letting tiresome laws fetter their marketing zeal, set about devising ways of getting round the restrictions. Dr No’s favourite, for its audacity, was the carrot wheeze: carrots, but not beds, could be sold, so the spivs sold carrots, at a hundred quid a pop, and threw in a bed for free.

The Impotence of Baffled Malice

One of the baffling aspects of the Tories’ plan to privatise the NHS is the persistent, mis-representation of facts that has been such a feature of their campaign. The opening case for the reforms – that UK health outcomes are amongst the poorest in Europe – rested on a bed of bent numbers, promptly shown to be misleading. More recently, we have had Mr Cameron saying the ‘the whole health profession’ - the whole health profession? - last time Dr No checked there were several - ‘is on board’, despite clear evidence that the professions, whole or otherwise, had jumped ship some time ago. In April, an overwhelming 99% of RCN Congress nurses voted no confidence in Lansley’s management of the reforms. In March, a special BMA meeting noted widespread concern about the reforms, and called for the Bill to be withdrawn. More recently, an RCGP survey of 500 GPs conducted after the ‘listening exercise’ found only a maverick 4% strongly backed the reforms. Only last week, the BMA wrote to all MPs, warning that the Government’s health reforms presented an ‘unacceptably high risk to the NHS, threatening its ability to operate effectively and equitably, now and in the future’.

BBC: Balanced, Biased or Just Plain Conkers?

“Is there any other point to which you would wish to draw my attention?”

“To the curious incident of the dog in the night-time.”

“The dog did nothing in the night-time.”

“That was the curious incident,” remarked Sherlock Holmes.

–Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, Silver Blaze, 1892

Like Dr Watson, Dr No is in awe of Sherlock Holmes, and forever baffled by his cryptic utterings. Unlike Dr Watson, who had the delight and privilege of watching Holmes in action at first hand, the rest of us must enjoy Holmes at our leisure, and many will already know that the reason the dog did not bark was because the visitor was someone whom the dog knew well. Dr No finds himself wondering whether a similar reason might explain the BBC’s ongoing curious incidents on the Health and Social Care Bill. The BBC should be barking like a Baskerville about it, but instead much of the time it remains silent. When it does make a noise, it is more whimper than bark. Could it be that the BBC knows who its master is?

How to Tank the Bill

Not so long ago, Meccano Flanders got herself into mild hot water for allegedly tanking the English language, by using the verb ‘to tank’, as in ‘If the Bank of England were really serious about helping the economy, it would be trying to tank the housing market’. Putting aside the correct but perhaps vaguely anachronistic use of the conditional subjunctive, the use of ‘tank’ as in ‘tank the housing market’ seems admirable to Dr No: a short crump of a word that perfectly conveys meaning. And so it is that Dr No too is also quite happy to talk of tanking, and so of how to tank the Bill, as in the Health and Social Care Bill; by which he means how to bring about its downfall1.

The general consensus these days seems to be that it is up to the Lords to tank the Bill. A variety of schemes and stratagems have been devised to assist the Lords in their Noble Cause, ranging from ‘Adopt a Lord’ programmes, apparently modelled on commendable animal welfare lines, to the submission of Stiffly Worded Letters, most recently from a group of four hundred senior doctors.

Hanging On by a Cable

A short measure of public esteem for the Liberal Democrats is the length attached in the media to the Rt. Hon. Vincent Cable MP’s name, and the longer, the better. When fully expanded in all its parts, the LDs are in full sail, before a soldier’s wind. Vincent says they are still making good way, but Vince tells of head winds, and when crimped to Vic, stormy seas are close ahead. The day it’s V signals nothing’s left, and that’ll be the day for those who value survival to abandon ship.

Dr No mentions this barometer of public esteem since it seems to him that, while Michael Foot may have written the longest suicide note in political history, the LDs are now engaged in the longest suicide act in political history.

All May Have Won, but None Shall Have Prizes

Amazingly, roboNick this morning wiped the Vaseline from his glasses, and saw the light. The BBC’s Innuendo-in-Chief, master of the C word, E word and R word, realised it was all about the D word.

‘Duty, that is, Huw. The duty [lugubrious sideways glance] of the Secretary of State, that is, to provide [meaningless pause] a comprehensive health service.’

‘Thanks Nick. That was Nick, ending his report for us from, err, Downing Street.’ That’s the nice thing about Huw: he always takes the trouble to make sure you know who’s who, what’s what, and where’s where, even when, err, he’s not quite sure himself.

La La Land

Question Time last night on BBC1 assembled a panel sure to cause fireworks, and fireworks there were, on a military scale. Lansley spent much of the programme looking like a barrage balloon about to explode, Sarah Sands explained to anyone willing to listen why she should be the next editor of the Daily Mail, and Mark Littlewood previewed the bilateral cauliflower ears that all Lib-Dems will sport, once the electorate give them the boxing about the ears that they so sorely deserve at the next election. But the best and most striking bit was the visceral anger of the audience. At one point, they almost rose up as one, as if to tear Lansley limb from limb. Dr No, pacifist that he is, almost wished they had. At least we would have been spared further sight of that blasted barrage balloon.

Apples and Oranges

Following some excellent posts by the medical blogosphere’s resident Pest Control Officer, Dr No has been learning two new words. Both get flagged as misspelt by his spelling checker, and only one has so far made it into the OED. The one that has made it into the OED is ‘commodification’, and the dictionary defines it thus:

“The action of turning something into, or treating something as, a (mere) commodity; commercialization of an activity, etc., that is not by nature commercial [emphasis added].”

At a stroke, Dr No has stumbled on the word that perfectly describes the core malevolence at the heart of Tory’s proposed healthcare reforms. And on this they have form.

A Good Day to Bury a Bad Bill

Conveniently, the Health and Social Care Bill completed its final parliamentary stage on the eve of the budget, ensuring it was in hours knocked off the top of the news pile by Porgie’s Biddy Tax. But, mean as the Biddy Tax is, it is not the erosion and loss of the Pensioner’s Allowance that will hit Granny hard in the years to come, it is the erosion and loss of the NHS brought about by the Tories’ now soon to be unleashed health service reforms that will hit Granny – and indeed the rest of us when we need healthcare - hard. So the question arises: what are we going to do about it?

For You, The Democracy is Over

Yesterday, Dr No was putting together a post on Mary’s Bottom Line, a Channel 4 documentary in which the Retail Raptor revealed not only her smalls, but her softer side. It seems to Dr No there are parallels between what markets did to Britain’s clothing industry, and what markets will do to the NHS when the HSCB becomes law. He wondered if in a decade’s time we might not come across another Channel 4 documentary, Mary’s Life Line, in which a clutch of long-term unemployed doctors and nurses reoccupy derelict NHS premises and start a renaissance of NHS practice.

As he wrote the post, he became aware via twitter of a drop-the-bill rally in central London being met with not just a solid police presence, but armed riot police, kettling, and all the paraphernalia of police state control. By twitter accounts, the rally was peaceful, and the police response outrageous, but then twitter is not Reuters, so Dr No turned to the established media for confirmation. And what did Dr No find in the established media? Nothing.