Old codgers like me often take delight in slamming the modern age of instant communication, but I have to confess that without the Internet I would have felt pretty isolated over the past week or so. This morning I even had an email from a close friend in Spain who has been following my progress as recorded on this site. She tells me that great interest is building there in the deeds of the England team. As it is here. For many of us the spirit of the England camp is truly amazing given our track record. Could it just be that having a manager born in Croydon, and who speaks English, has something to do with it?
Meantime my alarm at what is being done to the NHS grows by the day. In my time as a Foundation Trust chairman I had regular contact with the chief executive of the Regional Health Authority, Mike Farrar. He is not someone given to exaggeration or hyperbole. He is now in charge of the NHS Confederation and had this to say: “Without action now the NHS looks like a super-tanker heading for an iceberg”. He added that whilst the NHS needed redesigning politicians had “consistently failed to put the long-term interests of their population’s health above their own short-term political interests”.
Mr Farrar was speaking in the wake of an NHS Conferation survey of more than 200 chief executives and chairs. It showed that NHS finances are in the “worst situation ever experienced”. It also showed that patient care is deteriorating rapidly in the face of cuts totalling £20 billion coupled with the sheer chaos resulting from the so-called Lansley Reforms. The people that should know say waiting times are rocketing, and many treatments are being curtailed.
Yesterday another influential voice was added to the chorus of doom. John Appleby, the chief economist of the King’s Fund, warned that the NHS is “setting itself up for failure” by stretching an already “barely achievable” productivity challenge for another four years. What the service is being told to do by Lansley is, he said, ”frankly undoable”.
Yesterday also saw two new announcements from government. Social Care Minister Paul Burstow said that the indicative budget for England’s 28 cancer networks is being cut from £18.5 million to £10 million. Treasury sources indicated that the present cuts of £20 billion will be increased to £50 billion over the next six years.
Nowhere is all this mayhem more evident than in cancer services. The networks introduced by the previous government have made a big difference. Almost halving the funding will be disastrous. Disastrous for most but not all, the private sector is now advertisng instant and personalised treatment for those “wise enough” to take out private insurance cover”. Lansley will be delighted by that, the rest of us can only look on in despair.
Last week brought all this home in a big and painful way. One friend who has cancer attended his usual clinic. Nurse numbers had been cut and, together with 20 others, he had to wait for almost three hours before learning that those not seen would have to return the following day. As if that was not enough his chemotherapy treatment was postponed. He tells me that a harrassed nurse was in tears as she said that “Lansley should come here to witnesss the effects of what he has done”.
Another friend was on a hospital ward suffering from cancer of the spine. His relatives had been told that he had little more than a week to live. Suddenly they were told that, due to staff cuts, he had to be moved out and, despite their protestations, he was taken by ambulance to a nursing home. A member of the family travelled with him and said that it as an appalling ordeal. He died two days later.
Tomorrow many GPs will be on strike so far as routine treatment is concerned. Lansley is making much of this. The truth is that this is not primarily about pensions, it is an indication of just how far morale has fallen. GPs are supposedly being given the responsibility for commissioning. They have neither the time nor appropraite skills to undertake it and, right now, the Primary Care executives so recently made redundant are being recruited back to take on the role. Sheer and utter madness. Reforms were needed but these are the wrong ones!
More than anything else I would like to see a group of people forced to sit on a cancer outpatient clinic and to witness what is happening. That group would include Lansley, whose madness led to this, Clegg who condoned it, and such as Jimmy Carr who seem to believe that not paying tax is justified.
Many years ago Aneurin Bevan called such people vermin and has been villified for it ever since. But he was right. How else can you describe those who care so little for others?
QUOTES TO PONDER ON; “There’s a fine line between fishing and just standing on the shore looking like an idiot”….Steve Wright “Being powerful is like being a lady. If you have to tell people you are, you aren’t”……Margaret Thatcher “The thing most women really like in bed is breakfast”……Robin Williams “I tell kids they should throw away the cereal and eat the box. At least they’d get some fibre”….Dr Richard Holstein