The famous theory that there is a heaven and we are in it seemed even less plausible this morning when we began to dig out the old fish pond. We sank into the mud up to our knees and we were not wearing waders. Albert made an attempt at singing ‘mud, glorious mud’ but it did little to boost the morale of either us or the frogs who were leaping about in rage at the disruption. But we are only weeks from spawning time so it had to be done. One consolation was that this is not a complicated task which may be just as well because I have been trying in vain to understand what Andrew Lansley is talking about.
I had hoped that yesterday,s first session of parliamentary health questions would explain all about the massive – I think – reforms that the rather strange Mr Lansley is touting around. After all, I reasoned, MPs, being by nature simple creatures, are pretty good at asking simple questions. They did that but understanding the answers was another matter altogether. Most of the questions were about the distinct possibility of constituents dying as a result of the Lansley plan. They didn’t actually use those words but that was the gist of the often petulant enqiries. Sadly they were each given a dose of gobbledegook.
A typical example was the reply given to Mark Lancaster ( Milton Keynes). He wanted to be sure that doctors were going to receive sufficent funds with which to reconstruct a service that actually seems to be working well. Mr Lansley spoke at length about a ‘pathfinder consortium’. But, others wanted to know, doesn’t the word pathfinder infer a trial of a vague idea? It seems not, for there are apparently to be hundreds of pathfinders but the explanation as to how they will avoid producing hundreds of different schemes was so oblique that, despite having chaired two NHS Trust, I was totally bamboozled.
So confusing was the dialogue that Stephen Dorrell rushed to the aid of his mentor. He assured those MPs still awake that there would be ” improved core delivery of the efficiency challenge …reinforcing the interface”. So that’s all right then, these Lansleyites know what they are talking about. The problem is that no one else does and the stakes are very high!
Simon Hoggard of the Guardian ventures the view that the NHS reform plan was dreamed up by Andrew Lansley in his bedroom. He goes on to suggest that it is not so much a reform as a sellotape and string construction in the old British tradition of mad machines. Rowland Emett used to draw wonderful trains powered by kettles, weird collections of scrap which would make you a cup of tea, hit a golf ball or play dominoes. More recently Wallace and Gromit created devices to get you out of bed, pull your trousers up and make the toast. Or there is the Mousetrap game where the crank turns a lever, which hits a boot, which kicks a bucket, which makes a ball-bearing fall on to a seesaw. In the end the mouse is caught in a net. Or, more often, not.
Lansley’s reforms seem to be based on the same kid of connections and reactions. In theory they could just work but the worry is that quite a few people who should,know say that they won’t. Doctors, the British Medical Association, the independent Kings Fund and others see the plan as doomed, yesterday one gained the impression that most MPs on all sides feel the same. Of course they probably haven’t allowed for the ‘reinforcement of the interface’.
Certain it is that members were determined to be difficult. Some even went so far as to ask why none of this was in the manifesto or coalition statement of intent. Others wanted to know how GPs could find time to take on a zillion commissioning tasks whilst continuing to see their patients. Yet more were concernmed about postcode medicine. To all of them the answer was the same, reinforcing the interface would solve all problems.
As someone who regards the NHS as crucial for every family in the land I worry about all this. I realise that Lansley’s intention is to privatise the service but he doesn’t even seem to have a workable plan for that. In fact I came to a slightly worrying conclusion yesterday.
Perhaps the plan is as daft as everyone claims and suppose that Lansley, Dorrell and all are simply loopy. It would explain a lot but its implications are less than reassuring aren’t they?
IRAQ INQUIRY; THE PLOT THICKENS!
The Iraq inquiry rolls on and on and we all know the outcome anyway. But some of the revelations really are intriguing.
Yesterday it was the turn of former cabinet secretaries to give evidence. Predictably they claimed that Blair was economical with the truth only last week. Lord Turnbull said that no key papers were presented to the cabinet and Mr Blair was wrong to claim that ministers knew what was going on. When asked if there were proper cabinet decisions in the run-up to war, Lord Wilson answered ‘emphatically not’. In fact the cabinet was not asked to approve going to war until three days before the troops landed. Asked what the cabinet could have done Lord Turnbull replied that ‘they were pretty much imprisoned’. In fact the only option they had was to remove Blair. The final condemnation was reserved for the ministers who, with the exception of Gordon Brown and Robin Cook, didn’t seem to mind being left out’.
So we now know that there weren’t any discussions. Surprise, surprise! No surprise really but it becomes increasingly difficult to avoid the conclusion that Mr Blair should be tried for war crimes! Certain it is that Mr Cameron’s infatuation with him becomes stranger by the day!
THOUGHTS FOR TODAY;” They say movies should be more like life. I think life should be more like movies”…..Myrna Loy. “Shakespeare wrote ‘ kill all the lawyers’. That was before Agents!”….Robin Williams. “I never go to movies where the hero’s bust is bigger than the heroines”….Groucho Marx. ” Night watchmen have a life expectancy in horror movies of 12 seconds”….Sam Waas. “Table for Five would be an ideal movie to watch on a plane. At least they provide free sick-bags”…..Simon Rose. “Watching a musical is like doing your own root canal work”…..Don Black “Very few pwople go to the doctor when they have a cold, they go to the theatre”…James Agate ” Nudity on stage is disgusting. But if I were 21 with a great body it would be artistic, tasteful, patriotic and a progressive religious experience”…..Shelley Winters.
YESTERDAY’S QUIZ ANSWERS; 1. Jack Hawkins 2. Sally Bowles
TODAY’S QUESTIONS; 1. He directed ‘The Grapes of Wrath’ and ‘The Quiet Man’. he died in 1973. Who was he? 2. The musician Pablo Casals died in 1973. What was his instrument?