The monsoons are back. We codgers are a generous bunch, and we would dearly love to export a zillion gallons of our accumulated rainwater to the south east where daily prayers for some of the wet stuff go unanswered and water rationing looms. Unto him that hath shall be given seems to be the edict up there, and we are sick of it!
But we weren’t always slaves to chickens, and we well travelled codgers sometimes find ourselves in the position of knowing more than the investigative journalists of which we hear so much these days. Many of this morning’s papers carry a story surrounding an unnamed senior cinician who has been summoned to appear at a disciplinary hearing to be conducted by his Primary Care Trust in Cumbria. His offence was to be one of 22 doctors who signed a letter to the media criticising Andrew Lansley’s health and social care bill.
We can confirm that the doctor in question is Professor John Ashton, the county medical officer for Cumbria. Some of us know him, all of us know of him. He is an excellent clinician with an impeccable record of dedicated service to the NHS which he has long served with distinction. He is known by everyone as a man of great integrity. I am sure the same is true of the other signatories. All they have done is to say what almost every other clinician in the land is saying.
Purely by chance I read the latest from the Leveson enquiry this morning. Trevor Kavanagh, the associate editor of the Sun, is reported as having said; “Freedom of speech is a hard-won, centuries-old legal principle which did not arrive in the last shower with the Human Rights Act. It is, by its nature, in the public interest”. And he is right, isn’t he? Yet right now the Department of Health is engaged in a sinister war of intimidation.
Yesterday the Guardian revealed evidence of the manipulation of waiting lists statistics, which threw immediate doubt on government claims that NHS waiting lists are not extending. The information sounded very convincing but was provided to Polly Toynbee by a ‘whistleblower’ who works in a hospital appointments office. In parliament the opposition predictably raised this and ministers ridiculed the idea of believing anonymous sources. I can tell you without fear of contradiction that lists are being fiddled on the instruction of the D of H, and whistleblowers are tracked down and fired.
It is of course less easy to do that to doctors, and the likelihood is that Professor Ashton will land merely a reprimand. There is a reasonable chance that he and his colleagues will refuse to accept even that. They certainly should do, for asked who they trust the vast majority of electors will put doctors at the top of the list at the foot of which rests Andrew Lansley.
Sinister may strike you as an over-the-top headline for all this. But it isn’t, for if politicians are to be allowed to take away freedom of speech from anyone opposed to their views it is a very sinister development indeed.
So what has brought about this sudden acceleration in gagging? The Prime Minister has decided to stake his reputation on NHS reform, and when that happens the NHS is forced into becoming more brutal and bullying and to bury bad news. Cameron is about to repeat Blair’s mistake and could well precipitate a full uprising by the only profession that still dares to speak the truth.
WHAT PEOPLE SAID ABOUT HUMANITY; “I used to be indecisive, but now I’m not so sure”…..Boscoe Pertwee “The most dangerous thing in the world is to leap a chasm in two jumps”…..David Lloyd George “No man in the world has more courage than the one who can stop after eating one peanut”…….Channing Pollock “You don’t have to swim faster than the shark, just faster than the guy next to you”……Peter Benchley “Ask him the time and he’ll tell you how the watch was made”……Jane Wyman “People in a temper often say a lot of silly things that they really mean”…..Penelope Gilliat “The meek shall inherit the earth. Serves them right”….Denis Leary