Posts Tagged ‘Andrew Lansley’
Heads were being scratched with some vigour on the allotments this morning. We are painfully aware of the vulnerability of our chicken empire to high winds and, having heard the forecast of an approaching hurricane, Bob had been in touch with the regional weathermen. They advised that we tie down anything likely to be likely to succumb to an 80mph wind. We can lock Albert in but what about the hens? Stand by for the first sighting in the UK of a flock of flying hens. At least they will not constitute a danger to aircraft heading in to Manchester since flights are to be suspended. Once we had settled in our cosy ‘shed’ for a brew we gave up worrying about it and reminded ourselves that it’s better to laugh than cry.
With this intention in mind we saw today’s news in a less depressing light. Not difficult since most of the morning papers are still banging on about the antics of the global surveillance network. Both the British and American governments have again reminded us that it is essential in defending our security. Clearly that explains why they have tapped the phone calls of Angela Merkel. She doesn’t look the type, but that’s always the way with radical Islamic Jihadists who’ve worked their way into being Chancellor of Germany so they can inflict holy war upon the infidels.
They’ve probably already decoded her messages about the strength of the Euro, and realised that it really means strap the explosive to your chest extra tight as that Velcro tends to come undone, and if those explosives spill all over the bus you’ll feel a right fool. But despite yesterday’s stout defence of the spies by our dear leader we cannot help wondering why they failed to tap Berlusconi. Those calls could have been put on sale, to be downloaded for a dollar each or put on an 0898 number to wipe out the US and UK national debts.
Even stranger is yesterday’s furore about high speed rail. David Cameron seized on a statement by Ed the Balls to the effect that Labour will not sign a blank cheque, hardly a surprising view given that the projected cost rises by the day. We have noted that the cost of ministerial advisers has risen by over a million pounds this year and can only assume that numeracy is not one of their strengths given constnt claims that one cannot estimate such things “to the nearest billion”. Given that the national debt is now at record levels it does seem to us that Brother Balls is for once exercising prudence, not, as suggested by Dave, an unparralled lack of patriotism.
Of course when compared with the horrendous mess that Messrs Lansley and Hunt have made of the NHS, HS2 is an example of perfect planning. The Lib Dems nodded through the destruction on the grounds that competition laws would prevent any serious attempt at privatisation. The reality has been the precise opposite. The regulator Monitor has just realised this, and yesterday said that it would be “mad” to enforce the Lansley competition rules leaving commissioners to “spend all their time running competitive processes because they’re terrified that they’re going to get into trouble if they don’t. Too late now.
So far 63% of all NHS contracts have been put out to tender by clinical commissioning groups (CCGs), now run by just a handful of GPs. The 211 CCGs are widely regarded as no match for the foreign-owned private sector in the art of writing complex contracts. Section 75 of the Health and Social Care Act forces them to put all but a few services out or risk any putative bidder challenging them in court. Bringing competition law into the NHS means no one can control these unleashed forces. Privatisation rushes on – £11 billion already – but private providers escape the NHS duty of openness or freedom for whistleblowers. Hospitals are losing their ‘profitable’ work, nurses are being sacked by the busload, ambulance and A&E times are growing, the social care crisis is blocking beds with winter approaching.
Even those brave souls who advocated privatisation expected there to be a cohesive plan. The reality is fragmentation and inevitable chaos as shared services, such as the cancer network, are scrapped given that they contravene competition laws. The case of the NHS is no longer an argument about conflicting ideologies, it is a monumental cock-up hatched up by Andrew Lansley who, even his friends acknowledge, is to planning what Eric Pickles is to dieting. Our dear leader did eventually sack him, but then appointed a charming chap whose experience of planning was confined to building battleships out of bog-rolls on Blue Peter.
Even our favourite Uncle, Vince Cable, has become a mirth-provider. It now transpires that one of the world’s largest investment banks advised him that they could sell Royal Mail for £10 billion, three times the value he decided to proceed with. JP Morgan last night declined to comment but well-placed sources revealed that several other leading valuers had pressed for a minimum of £8 billion. The result of the bargain price sale is that major German investors are offering big profits for quick sales of shares and the possibility of our Royal Mail being owned by the German government are growing by the day. Perhaps the Queen’s head will be replaced on our stamps by that of Angela Merkel, always assuming that our spies fail to prove her Jihadist credentials.
If we have so far failed to lighten your mood, may we recommend the latest thoughts from Prince Charles. He fears that being King will be much like being in prison. We knew from the Daily Mail that prisoners have a life of luxury, but hadn’t realised that this includes an army of flunkies, a wardrobe of many uniforms complete with medals galore, and everyone entering the cell being obliged to bow and use the term Royal Highness. But one learns something new very day.
It’s a funny old world if you decide to make it so!
THOUGHT FOR TODAY; ” To suppose, as we all suppose, that we could be rich and not behave as the rich behave, is like supposing that we could drink all day and keep absolutely sober!”…..Logan Pearsall Smith
If politics were conducted in the manner of Premiership football, we codgers would be urging the owners of Team UK, whoever they may be, to make a record bid for Angela Merkel. Here we have a leader whose acting skills would rule her out of one of those turgid B movies of old, who has no truck with spin-doctors and is a stranger to make-up in any interpretation of the term. She is just what she appears, honest and down to earth.
As we cleaned out the hens this morning we played the game of ‘what if”. What if Mutti was running Britain. We wouldn’t have to discount almost everything our leader said, we wouldn’t have to suffer endless reckless cock-ups, we wouldn’t have to endure endless revelations about highly questionable links with leading business and media tycoons.
But we are where we are, and that is not a place encased in an air of calming caution. For some time now we have banged on about the privatisation of the NHS and today brings the frst indication that the wheels are coming off the Lansley bandwagon.
Briton’s biggest private hospital group, BMI Healthcare, is one of the supposed saviours of the NHS. As a result of the so-called reforms one in three of its 276,000 patients, at its 64 hospitals, are paid for by the NHS which has been forced to outsource. Five years ago the group’s patients included only 3% from the health service, now the total stands at 33%. And the Competition Commission is extremely concerned at the Group’s dominance in the market, a monopolistic situation looms. Worse still the group is now under huge financial pressure as it stands accused of extracting excessive profits from insurance firms and patients.
Since the failure of nursing home group Southern Cross two years ago, regulators have become increasingly concerned about the impact on vital services of aggressively financed private providers loaded with unsustainable rent or debt commitments. BMI are likely to be obliged to reduce its market dominance by selling off some of its largest hospitals, but even this may not be enough. The financial liabilities now exceed £2 billion and ownership of most of the BMI hospital buildings will next month transfer to lenders, who will act as landlord to the rump operating company, which will continue to trade as BMI Healthcare.
Without boring the pants off every reader let us sum up in simplistic style, a touch iof the Merkels if you like. Companies now being given work previously carried out in NHS hospitals are seeking capital from backers whose motive is, understandably, to maximise their return. The result is that their own profits are severely curtailed and work undertaken must be confined to the easy, more profitable treatments. This in turn leaves NHS hospitals with only the more complex, and therefore least ‘profitable, clinical work. This in turn leads to demands from Jeremy Hunt and his motley crew to merge NHS hospitals, meaning that there is no capacity to take back services transferred to the private sector.
Once profit-making is introduced to healthcare there can only be one outcome – disaster for those who depend on the service, and that means all of us at one time or another. Already services such as the vital cancer network are being scrapped, many more will follow. Most people are less than surprised, this is what one had to expect from a Conservative party obsessed with the supposed power of market forces, what is really depressing is the reluctance of the opposition to take issue with it.
Since this is our Merkel day, it is perhaps also worth wondering if she would have allowed so much money to be committed to a project such as HS2 without proper cost analysis. And what about the result of ill-spent money on such services as libraries? Already 347 libraries have closed their doors snce the coalition took over. The 1964 Libraries Act rules that very authority must provide a “comprehensive and efficient’library service”, but cuts to local authority budgets have led to councils turning a blind eye to their responsibilities.
The children’s laureate, Malorie Blackman, has rightly pointed out that the result of the library massacre will be that literacy will become “the province of a lucky few”. We hear much of discrimination in its various forms, we should add to the list the loss of an equaliser that allows every child, regardless of family circumstances, access to books, storytelling sessions, homework clubs and warm and safe environments within which to discover and explore the world of literature.
It is not in our nature to envy things German, but today as we observe the pointless posing at the various party conferences it is impossible to avoid doing so. It is said that those whom the gods wish to destroy they first make mad. In our case the strategy of the Gods is clearly to land us with leaders whose only experience is more appropriate to the stage!
Perhaps we could borrow ‘Angie’ on a job swap with Eric Pickles?
THOUGHT FOR TODAY; “I’ve decided to take up a life of crime, but I can’t decide which political party to join!”…..Roy Chubby Brown
Another weekend has come and gone. For hen-keepers such as us, Saturday and Sunday are much the same as any other day, chickens require the same attention irrespective of the day. Of course the same is true for farmers and for anyone whose work involves animals. But in regard to human activity weekends are different, occasions to relax and reduce service levels. Offices close down completely, many shops have traditionally closed their doors on Sundays at least, public transport has reduced the frequency of services, the great British public has caught up on its sleep or headed for diversions.
It has to a considerable degree always been thus. Apart from the tireless super-humans of our age, such as Eric Pickles, everyone needs a break and it makes sense to take it collectively. But the time has surely come to recognise that like animals, emergencies require immediate attention whenever they occur and, inconvenient though it may be for some, the ludicrous arrangement whereby the NHS regards itself as an office that shuts down from Friday to Monday must end. For half a century politicians have regarded the health service as a useful medium for points scoring, but even they should surely find a consensus on the idea that people facing a life-threatening emergency at weekends are equally entitled to the best possible care.
People get ill at any time of the day or night, people are born or die at the weekend as well as on weekdays. Yet if you are admitted to hospital at the weekend, you are more likely to die. It is as simple as that. Mortality rates are 11% higher for patients admitted on Saturdays and 16% higher for patients admitted on Sundays than for those admitted during the week. Why? We all know the answer to that. Like most other people, medical consultants work a five-day week. But only a tiny number remain on call at weekends. In line with that, MRI scans are not usually available, pharmacies are closed, physiotherapists nowhere to be seen.
A friend told me that her daughter’s life-threatening ovarian cyst was not diagnosed for five days, simply because she went into hospital ahead of a long bank-holiday weekend, when the MRI scans were not available and only junior doctors were to be found on the wards.
We codgers have resolutely opposed the ludicrous reforms imposed by Andrew Lansley. They have cost billions, achieved nothing and created a good deal of confusion. But the most ridiculous feature of all is the omission of 24/7 working. There is no other way, and it should be the top priority in the reform stakes.
There will of course be fierce opposition. Consultants will reasonably argue that they are already overstretched, and such as radiographers will talk of unsocial hours. Clearly the existing establishment will not cope with seven day working and politicians of all colours will have to accept that an increase in numbers will be necessary, as will the reversal of training budgets. Equally doctors and medical staff will have to accept that whilst they cannot be expected to work for more than five days in seven, they cannot dictate which days they are.
Somewhere down the line there must also be consideration of the concept of centres of excellence. There is clear evidence that centralisation of this kind can improve the standard of expertise and care. But that refinement, given its inevitable political implications, can wait a while. One step at a time.
And ending decades of weekday hospitals would be a giant step. Lest you regard this as an academic argument picture yourself arriving in an ambulance with someone close to you, imagine the sense of helplessness and the need to believe that everything humanly possible will be done to save that figure on the stretcher. Imagine your feeling on discovering that the people and facilities necessary are ‘off’ until Monday.
This should be an issue on which Hunt and Burnham can agree. Just for once they should stop the pretence that the NHS funding is ‘ring-fenced’. Just for once they should unite in standing up to the treasury and doctors representatives alike.
Of course much of this argument applies also to GP surgeries which, in many areas, literally close down completely at weekends. Once hospitals operate a round-the-clock service they too must change.
Where are the politics in all this? Does anyone seriously disagree? Are any of us satisfied with a lottery that currently kills thousands every year just because they become ill at weekends?
THOUGHT FOR TODAY; “Never trust a doctor whose office plants have died!” ..Erma Bombeck
On days such as this the allotments are heaven on earth. The vegetable plots feature rows of beans, potatoes and peas standing in guardsman-like rows, whilst neighbouring areas are ablaze with colour as long-dormant bulbs strut their stuff. Around the perimeter the hedges are a mass of green, and concealed within are over a dozen nests visited constantly by parent birds. The ponds too have come to life, and from time to time fish dart from the cover of lily leaves to snatch at the food scatterd on the surface by the codgers whose mood has risen with the sun. We all like to think that we are helping to preserve endangered wildlife, this is one piece of land that Pickles and his pals wll not be allowed to ravage.
In fact such is the low esteem in which our politicians are held these days that we tend to the view that, in all things, opposing what they propose is the only hope. Nowhere is this more evident than in the case of out-of-hours medical emergency services. In the pre-Lansley days every family could retire for the night secure in the knowledge that should an emergency occur help was readily available. In our patch local GPs operated a co-operative which guaranteed an immediate response.
For the time being that is still the case, but local commissioners are now being obliged to seek competitive tenders. Heaven help us if a company such as Harmoni takes over. A report from the Quality Care Commission published last month was highly critical of Harmoni – North Central London for failing to employ enough GPs to ensure patient safety. “Overall, there were not enough qualified, skilled and experienced staff to meet people’s needs”, it concluded. As in many other areas where the out-of-hours service has been privatised patients have had no alternative than to rush to the nearest A & E department, and we all know of the effect this is having.
Jeremy Hunt, and Lansley before him, have continued to insist that the new commissioners will not be under any obligation to privatise emergency services. Indeed Hunt has made great play of the fact that the breakdown of emergency services is the result of GP’s opting out of responsibility for 24/7 services. At the very least he is being ingenuous.
In Hackney dissatisfaction with Harmoni has led local GPs to develop a GP-led business plan involving over 80 per cent of the area’s family doctors. Known as the Hackney Urgent Healthcare Social Enterprise a bid was made to the local commissioners to retake control of all out-of-hours services. On 30 January 2013 the commissioning board voted to refuse the GPs’ request, insisting that the contract must again go out to tender. Documents seen by the Guardian show that it was fear of disruption stemming from litigation that led to this extraordinary decision.
The decision flies in the face of public statements by such as Nick Clegg that the “so-called section 75 regulations ( of Lansley’s bill) make it quite clear that clinical commissioning groups are not forced to open services to competition unless they think it is clinically justified in the interests of patients to do so”. In fact right now the vast majority of services still provided by family doctors are being put out to tender since failure to do so will lead to legal action via the dreaded European courts.
It has become clear that throughout the passage of the Health and Social Care Act ministers lied to ward off allegations of privatisation. Now those lies are coming home to roost, yet incredibly Jeremy Hunt continues to trot out the failure of GPs to provide a service as the reason for the mess that NHS services have become. And by so doing he is endangering every family that suddenly requires emergency help.
A few days ago an experienced local GP told me that of the 14 patients he had visited during the previous night’s shift, he only admitted one to hospital. He told me that a neighbouring private provider was admitting all patients calling for help in the absence of skilled clinicians. “They are”, he explained, “too expensive for a profit-based company”.
Deborah Colvin, the Hackney GP spearheading the GP bid there, is incensed that, having been encouraged to bid, two years work has been in vain. “These are people who are supposed to be making decisions that are about patients’lives and safety, and they’re not, they’re making decisions based on legal advice about the procurement process”, she says. “If Lansley and Hunt are not lying, they need to demonstrate this on the ground”.
I fear the doctor will have a long wait!
THOUGHT FOR TODAY; ” Were we to award the contract to you the legal advice is that this would very likely result in legal challenge which could potentially cause service disruption and lead to problems for the future commissioners of the service”…Heather Mullin, commissioning director to local GP Paul Julian.
On sunlit days such as this you can bet your last Lady Gaga record on the BBC van arriving at the allotments. Not the Beeb but Bert’s Big Cones, an ice cream van owned by Bert Street - an endearing character if ever there was one. Bert has much in common with our dear leader, both men are inclined to make hasty judgements, to rant, and to ignore the old maxim about stopping the digging when you find yourself in a hole. Of course the implications in the case of David Cameron are rather more important.
Today we learn that he has jerked into life over the latest lobbying scandal, but appears to have failed to tell his Lib Dem pals of his cunning plan. He has also dragged the question of trades unions into the proposed solution, thus destroying the chance of achieving cross-party consensus. He has also reaped the ‘reward’ from allowing the loopy Andrew Lansley to reform the NHS. Headlines scream of A & E waiting times being the longest for ten years, with the situation rapidly going out of control. No fewer than 40% of hospitals report that the effect of Lansley’s £20 billion ‘efficiency savings’ is a sharp reduction in doctors and nurses. In Bert’s case he has run out of cones on the hottest day of the year, in Cameron’s he has run out of clinical staff. In both cases the blame, it seems, lies elsewhere. In Bert’s case it is down to his wife, in Cameron’s Grumpy Gordon is revealed as the culprit.
But in fairness to both of these endearing idiots, it has to be said that compared to Network Rail (NR) they are relatively competent. NR is heavily subsidised by the taxpayer and has a, er, dismal track record. It has recently received warnings from the Office of Rail Regulation about its trains-on-time performance, with long-distance train punctuality being particularly singled out. It also failed last year to meet its financial efficiency and asset stewardship targets. In fact the only target that it met was the one relating to passenger satisfaction, and no one seems clear as to who they asked, certainly not the commuters who each day take part in a version of the sardine-maker’s outing.
But it seems that, like Bert and our dear leader, the modern equivalent of the Fat Controller knows a thing or two about looking after number one. The chief executive of NR, Sir David Higgins, has trousered a bonus of £100,000 to go along with his £577,000 salary. His five top directors have landed an average of £60,000 each.
Asked to explain such generosity with taxpayer’s money ministers said that had NR met its targets the bonus would have been far higher. So that’s all right then.
We know that it is politically incorrect to talk of lunatics having taken over the asylum, but we can think of no phrase more appropriate for Britain 2013!
THOUGHT FOR TODAY; “None of what they have announced has been agreed. We will not be part of any sort of grubby political deal to attack the unions. This has not been agreed with Nick Clegg!”.. Lib Dem spokesman on learning of yesterday’s Downing Street briefing on anti-sleaze.
Having ccompleted my ‘shift’ on the allotments I am shortly heading off to have lunch with two old friends from my NHS days. I have little doubt that the fate of our health service will be on the agenda. In common with the vast majority of those who dedicate themselves to the cause it is highly likely that my friends share my feeling of absolute horror at what is happening.
This morning we learned that Sir David Nicholson has at last decided to step down from his key position as NHS chief executive. The great mystery is why he has taken so long to find his sword, and why he will hang around until March of next year. I always feel sympathy for anyone who loses their job, but in this case my tears will be few since Sir David will have the consolation of a pension pot worth almost £1.9m. There is also the inescapable truth that he has failed utterly.
Many of those who have campaigned for a new NHS head have focussed on Nicholson’s role in regard to the Stafford Hospital scandal. But to me that is the least of his failings. It was he that introduced the destructive idea of a £20bn efficiency saving, a ridiculous concept that allowed politicians to claim that NHS funding has been ‘ring-fenced’. The reality is that Trusts have been driven to cut staff numbers and already almost 10,000 nurses have been shown the door. One doesn’t have to be Einstein to work out that services inevitably suffer.
In my view Nicholson’s other major failure was his bland acceptance of the so-called reforms of Andrew Lansley. These have caused chaos and even our dear leader was eventually obliged to move Lansley on. Any leader worth his salt would have stood up to be counted rather than comply with plans that he must have realised were a recipe for disaster. And until the NHS is led by someone prepared to fight his or her corner the service will continue to be used as a football by politicians on the make.
This was very apparent on Newsnight last night when Jeremy Paxman chaired a discussion on the collapse of A & E services. The doctors argued that the situation is now unsafe, with a reduced number of clinicians being swamped with increasing patient numbers. The politician said that we have to find a way of joining up the various services. What on earth does this mean? The situation is easily analysed, we now have too few A & E doctors and nurses facing increasing patient volumes due, in part at least, to the inefficient privatisation of GP out-of-hours services.
The answer is equally obvious. GP out-of-hours services must be located alongside A & E units giving everyone needing help a well known location where they can be seen by the appropriate people. Where this is in place the result is a vast improvement in waiting times and the end to the new era of ‘who do we contact’ which is now perplexing patients and is leading to dangerus situations.
It will take a braver man than Nicholson to bring this about since privatised profit-making companies will be unable to accept the concept of diagnosis and treatment taking precedence over costs.
Meantime Jeremy Hunt is too busy playing politics to actually do anything. He is pointing a finger at the ‘new’ GP contract introduced by the Blair government. It was ill-advised but are we really going to solve the crisis by constantly arguing about something that happened ten years ago? Clearly the Daily Mail intends to, for this morning it runs a story about GP’s “Refusal to do their jobs”. Have the writers seen at first hand the pressure that GPs are now working under, a situation made much worse by the decision to impose on them the task of commissioning?
To add to the general feeling of unreality now being experienced by many in the NHS we now have Mike Farrar, who is merely the chief officer of the NHS Confederation – a sort of unadmired Union acting for NHS Trusts – being given headlines for his loopy idea of patients being obliged to email their symptoms to their doctors. The majority of patients are inevitably elderly and would find this impossible. It is also highly dangerous, diagnosis by remote control is not to be trusted.
One can bang on for ever but I won’t. Suffice to say that Nicholson’s exit is a moment of opportunity. We are in the last-chance saloon for a service that is critical for every family and we need an experienced clinician in charge, someone prepared to dismiss crazy ideas from politicians.
We also need a halt right now on so-called efficiency cuts and an end to privatisation. Ministers would be better, and more safely, employed tackling tax-avoidance! Upset Amazon or let patients die?
THOUGHT FOR TODAY; ” Hospitals are at breaking point. The A & E care now being provided is frequently unsafe as a result of toxic overcrowding”…Letter to government of yesterday from senior doctors at 20 major A & E unit.
We codgers have followed with great interest the story of Pope Benedict XVI, and it had been my intention to focus on that this morning. But it will have to wait for something of immediate urgency has come to our notice. It triggered angry words as we cleaned out the hens, in fact so preoccupied were some of us that the normally cautious Tom forgot to duck when entering his hen-run. Blood everywhere. Jack was once a football ‘physio’ and Tom went home bearing enough Vaseline to grease an axle.
On many occasions we have banged on about the potential affect of the Lansley reforms on the NHS. When the national protests reached their peak, our dear leader ordered a pause in the preparation of the bill. Expecting fierce opposition from the Lib Dems, he was reportedly surprised they accepted relatively minor amendments. What swung them, and many of the protest groups, were public assurances from ministers that seemed convincingly cast-iron. When the Tory health minister Earl Howe steered the bill through a rebellious Lords, he promised : “Clinicians will be free to commission services in the way they consider best…they will be under no legal obligation to create new markets…this will be made absolutely clear through secondary legislation”. Now the legislation is open to public scrutiny and we know that the government lied!
It is only when you read the document that the dangerous truth emerges. Commercialisation and competition is written into its key section 75. It opens up virtually all of the NHS to public tender in a market supervised by Monitor. The new bill will be embraced by EU law and the new clinical commissioning groups (CCGs) will be obliged to advertise every service to any bidder. When Andrew Lansley told (in writing) every CCG that they would not be obliged to fragment services by putting them out to tender he was lying, gambling on no one reading the small print until it was too late.
And a second lie has emerged as the result of a reaction from the Royal College of GPs. From the outset we have been told that the reforms were aimed at “putting GPs in the driving seat”. Given that they already seemed up to their ears in work it sounded unlikely, but the government regularly produced one family doctor on TV to reinforce its claim. It was at it again this week, announcing more commissioning groups approved: “All 8000 GP practices in England will be members of a CCG, putting the NHS budget in the control of frontline clinicians for the first time”.
Dr Clare Gerada, head of the Royal College, immediately denounced this as “disingenuous” since all GPs are legally forced to join. Only a small minority of the CCGs are led by GPs, most are “not involved or in favour”. And, like us, Dr Gerada is shocked by the section 75 requirement for every service to be tendered out. She was even more shocked to learn that the role of Monitor, described by Lansley as “to promote competition” was quietly amended, after the Bill’s passage, to read “to prevent anti-competitive behaviour”.
In effect we now have the NHS budget in the hands of local bodies which include virtually no actively involved clinicians. They in turn are legally obliged to put every NHS service out to tender. There can be only one outcome; widespread privatisation and postcode medicine. Throw in the one thing we already knew – that the Bill releases the government from any legal obligation to provide medical care – and you have disaster writ large.
We are all guilty of saying little against this death-sentence for the NHS. It will soon dawn on Lib Dem MPs that they have been duped. They may pay a political price but that will be no consolation when, to quote one local GP, everyone wakes up to find that private companies are closing and centralising services to regional centres unaccessible to many.
We know from examples such as Mid Staffs that the NHS needs tighter controls. What we didn’t know was that abolition based on lies was on the way!
THOUGHT FOR TODAY; “When you say you agree to a thing in principle, you mean that you have not the slightest intention of carrying it out in practice!” ….Otto von Bismarck
Help! We codgers are sinking fast. Mud, mud, glorious mud, goes the song but our version has less printable words. The monsoon continues ,as do our trips to the hen-runs with buckets of dry earth excavated from the large greenhouse. For good measure we threw in six sacks of gravel and – here comes the ultimate irony – a lorry-load of duck-boards. For all of an hour the chickens were not paddling, and then the wet stuff increased in intensity. I have to admit that there was little Christmas cheer in evidence when we eventually steamed in front of the shed fire this morning.
However, the adventures of our dear leader usually raise a smile. Today we read that friends of Andrew Mitchell are hopping mad at the revelation that the prime minister knew from the outset that the police allegations of foul-mouthed abuse by the Chief Whip were false, yet he decided to say nothing for fear of offending his bodyguards. According to today’s press Mr Mitchell has suffered both depression and panic attacks induced by the sheer frustration of having to resign for something that he didn’t do. One does increasingly get the feeling that being led in battle by our dear leader would not be a calming experience!
But our morning dollop of wrath was aimed at another target. We are all pleased at the rise in the popularity of the Royal family who, we believe, do a good ambassadorial job. But we are inceasingly frustrated by the tendency of the Prince of Wales to speak out before checking the relevant facts.
Today he has made headlines at the expense of NHS nurses. The “age-old qualities of human kindness” are “palpably lacking in our hospitals and clinics”, he writes. Clearly he has been influenced by headlines in the Daily Mail as he is served breakfast by his retinue of servants. And it has to be admitted that there are examples of totally unacceptable behaviour. But to tar NHS nurses generally in this way is both disgraceful and hurtful to vast numbers of dedicated professionals for whom their role is a vocation.
The first thing one should do is to seperate nurses from ‘healthcare assistants’. One of the more ludicrous ideas of the last government was the replacement of trainee nurses by unqualified staff, many of whom have no intention of training. Working on the wards for them is simply a job and whilst some are excellent, some are not. In theory they are under the supervision of nursing sisters, in practice the enormous cuts in nursing numbers make that impossible.
It is several years since I chaired a Foundation Trust but even then there was great pressure from faceless people in London to ‘improve’ nurse/patient ratios. Their idea of improvement was more patients per nurse. They also introduced charts showing number of patients seen per hour by doctors and, amazingly, argued that the doctor seeing the most was the best one!
Since then the Lansley fiasco has made the situation much worse and it is often the case that one nurse is struggling to cope with a whole ward, assisted only by unqualified staff. One such tells me that she feels like the legendary cat of comic strips, continually skidding here and there and rebounding off the walls as another bell goes. Slowly but surely nursing standards are being eroded and it is only the sheer endurance of committed, but often tearful, nurses that is preventing total collapse.
I am sure that the Prince means well, and he is certainly right in believing in an holistic approach to medicine for the mind can be a powerful ally to recovery. But in sounding off as he has he has done he has achieved two things. He has offended and disheartened a lot of dedicated stalwarts in the NHS, and he has delighted Andrew Lansley and his successor Jeremy Hunt who continue to preach the gosple of privatisation. As we have already seen, all that leads to is a profit-first ethos, one in which every nurse is simply a costly overhead.
I have been present at various Royal visits to our hospitals. A select band of senior staff are lined up giving all the appearance of total calm. Perhaps Charles imagines that he has seen reality, he has not.
Without realising it the Prince has once again become embroiled in politics. He should tread with care for whilst the Royals are popular, the NHS is equally so!
Ever the fantasist, Harry disturbed our concentration on the chickens this morning when he outlined his cunning plan. At present Waitrose supply Columbian Black Tail eggs to government departments. He suggests we put in a bid to take over the service. Government advisers would then fail to check the numbers and award the contract to Scruffy Codgers Ltd. Waitrose would threaten court action, the advisers would realise they had cocked-up big time and we would receive bounteous compensation for costs we didn’t incur in the first place. Harry was subsequently calmed down by a well-aimed bucket of water.
Joking apart, it has to be said that when it comes to incompetence this government woiuld take some beating. The Transport Secretary, Patrick McLoughlin, appeared on Newsnight yesterday and explained that, once the department learned of the impending judicial review it had to check its numbers carefully. It occured to us plebs that maybe they should have done that earlier. As it is there is likely to be a bill of around £100,000 by way of compensation, not to mention the effects on passenger services of a long period of uncertainty.
Attacks on governments usually centre on ideology. With this one the rows are focussed on implementation. The train franchise fiasco is but the latest in a succession of them. Today we learn that the next act is about to hit the stage. Lansley’s reforms have pulverised the health service and the hapless Jeremy Hunt, fresh from his less than glorious handling of the Murdoch affair, is racing around cancelling bits of the plan not considered to be vote-winners. But it is too late for him to cry halt on the biggest act of privatisation in NHS history.
This week 398 contracts are to be signed. Some 37 private healthcare companies are bidding for a wide range of services including musculoskelal, hearing and physchology. In many cases those bidding have already failed to deliver the standard required after earlier successful trial bids. A perfect example was provided in Cornwall where Serco was awarded the out-of-hours service. It has been shown to have falsified data to cover inadequate night-time cover.
The biggest worry of all is the fact that one national service could be provided by a large number of different companies, each focussed solely on their patch. Postcode medicine is not to be yearned for. And how have the costings been arrived at given that cross-boundary cooperation will be essential. And how can bids be compared given that different suppliers have based their numbers on differing levels of clinical expertise?
In the hospitals themselves the NHS Foundation Trusts are being pressed to increase the number of ‘private’ beds up to 50%. How has this been costed, how will it effect those who cannot afford private insurance?
Dr Clare Gerada, chair of the council of the Royal College of GPs, said yesterday that as a result of all this the NHS is “in distress – and so are we”. This, she added, is “the mother of all top-down reorganisations”.
The Labour Party is in no position to criticise. Under Blair it made numerous attempts to outsource outpatient services, and when the outcry became overwhelming, paid out millions to companies such as Netcare to cover the costs of bidding and, in some instances, of actually acquiring buildings.
But someone needs to blow a whistle. In the north-west the bus company Arriva is taking over ambulance services, and Parkwood Healthcare is taking over patient advocacy groups. In each and every case there is need for detailed cost studies, the effect on the NHS should be carefully calculated.
Many believe that profit targets and patient interests will prove a deadly combination. But the coalition is hell-bent on privatisation, and the enabling act is now law thanks to the Lib Dems. But huge unanswered questions remain about the supposed financial benefits. Costing specialities such as surgery is a notoriously difficult task. How can it be that the private sector, which will employ surgeons at NHS pay levels and has to make profit for its shareholders, is claiming to be able to undercut NHS costs?
Based on the government’s record the probability is that our whole health service is being put in jeopardy for the sake of savings proposed by private companies using logic and numbers which have not been carefully scrutinised.
The government insists that every bid has been checked out to the umpteenth degree. That is exactly what Justine Greening and Patrick McLoughlin said when Richard Branson launched his attack!
The day on the allotments started badly, and I am not referring to the ever-weeping sky. Albert somehow managed to upturn a barrow loaded with corn and layer-pellets. More haste less speed comes to mind although my old pal has been known to be overtaken by the pet tortoise. Whatever the reason he has cost us and, in so doing, has created a tempting stopover for every mouse in the region. He is as popular as a rattlesnake in a lucky dip. Rather like Michael Gove.
Yesterday he announced the end of the all-ability GCSEs. In their place we are to have an English baccalaureate which will be made up of individual EBacc exams initially in English, maths, and the option of three seperate sciences, from September 2015 for examination two years later. Gove wants EBacc courses to be taught from 2016 in history, geography and languages, for examination in 2018.
Most people will welcome one part of the new grand design, the rationalisation of exam boards which, in their search for contracts, have played a major part in what Gove describes as the “dumbing down” of GCSEs. But this could have been achieved without the revolution now proposed. In effect this is a nostalgic lurch back to a world where a single three-hour paper is the be-all and end-all, and it risks jettisoning the real advances that have been made. These included assessment of effort throughout a school year, a measure equally important to would-be empoyers or universities. As with job interviews, some people can seize on to key facts learned parrot-fashion and present a seemingly impressive front. The result tells one nothing about attitude, workrate or commitment. It is entirely possible for a candidate who has worked hard throughout the year to screw up due to feeling unwell or overly nervous. There really is more to life than knocking out little essays!
Experts will chew the fat over this for many a month to come but one thing is clear. The proposed EBacc has absolutely nothing to do with evidence, successful reform or standards. The regulator Ofqual has produced no evidence that the GCSE is beyond repair. Neither has it produced any evidence of difficulties with the concepts of modularity and controlled assessment.
But right now there is a major concern for a generation of children and their parents. No thought seems to have been given to the potentially lost cohort of young people who will continue to take the existing GCSE until 2017. The exam has been so traduced by Gove that employers and universities will have difficulty in taking its results seriously. Terrible news for a vast number of children!
There seems to be no plan for subjects not named by Gove, there seems to have been no consultation with the teaching profession, parents or academics. In no other profession would such a significant reform be imposed in this way. Yes, there is now to be a period of “consultation” but the bombastic Gove has laid down the verdict in advance of the jury being called.
But for us codgers the greatest mystery is the insistence on imposing arbitrary quotas of high grades. Yes, the exams must be penetrating but what sense does it make to limit the number declared to be excellent. Imagine the outcry if the same principle was applied to, say, driving tests. We seem to have the only government in the developed world determined to drive down the percentage of high-achievers. Young Tommy may perform brilliantly but he may do so in a year when a whole raft of brilliant pupils emerge. Should that make him a failure?
This has all the hallmarks of Lansley’s disastrous NHS reforms. Some changes were needed but he consulted no one and produced a dog’s breakfast. It is hard to avoid the conclusion that Michael Gove is the same sort of man, an arrogant know-all.
The next generation deserves better!
Drizzly weather equals grizzly chicken-keepers. So it proved this morning as we cleaned out and fed hundreds of equally grizzly hens. We were glad to escape to the cheerful warmth of our ‘hut’, there to do the two things at which we are well practised. We regularly put the world to rights, we regularly bemoan the fate of what we have come to call the National Health Shortage service.
It was inevitable that when Andrew Lansley became head of our health services the well-structured edifice would come crashing down. His bizaare views about the need for competition from the private sector were well known, but even his worst enemies didn’t envisage the extraordinary lengths he would go to. As at today no one is clear as to who the commissioners are and the system previously driven by Strategic Health Authorities and Primary Care Trusts is grinding to a shuddering halt.
Hospitals are the main victims. Lifeline services are being rationed, the number of beds almost halved and life-saving drugs and operations along with specialist nursing care are being cut back or scrapped altogether. This week a report from the Royal College of Physicians warned that care in hospitals is “on the brink of collapse”. Peter Carter, the general secretary of the Royal College of Nursing, says; “With winter around the corner and pressure on the NHS set to soar we really do fear the worst if these reckless cuts to jobs, wards, beds and services continue”.
He is referring here to the biggest threat of all, the so-called efficiency savings amounting to £20 billion. So many services are disappearing that it is hard to select examples but the decision in many areas to restrict cataract operations for the elderly is a good one. As are the axeing of breast nursing services at Imperial NHS Trust leading to long delays, and the cutting of child mental health services at Liverpool’s Alder Hey Hospital. And thousands of disabled people report the loss of physio and occupational therapy services, whilst services for new mothers are being cut and the campaign promoting breast-feeding abolished.
Sorting the organisational mess created by the sacked Lansley will take time and the most pressing crisis is the huge cut in funding. If you are sufficiently well-heeled and use private healthcare, or if you are in perfect health, you may well believe that times are hard and health must take its share of the new austerity. If you are reliant on the NHS, and are worried about your health, your view will be different as you wait and wait for an appointment. Either way you may well feel that the coalition has its priorities wrong!
I say this having learned yesterday that Britain has increased its foreign aid budget by more than £3 billion per year, and is handing a good deal of this to American “consultants” who supposedly promote the availability and provision of aid on our behalf. One such company alone received more than £37 million to help guide the “reform of governance in Third World Countries”. Another US group has received £3.6 million to support the “electoral system in Sierra Leone”. Yet another distributes generous amounts to India, which insists that it does not require the aid.
Behind all this largesse lies an even more amazing story. At a time when many have seen their pay cut, the salaries of the leading officials of the Department for International Development, which oversees the American consultants, have increased by 25%. A number of them are now paid more than £1 million per year.
It is very sad to see our health services crumbling. It is infuriating to learn than any savings resulting are being blown on extravagence and the provision of aid that seldom reaches its intended destination.
Perhaps Jeremy Hunt will sort this out before it is too late. Then again pigs may fly!
A sunny morning usually lifts spirits on the allotments, but not today. Our group of chicken-keepers includes several former NHS employees, a retired GP and yours truly, a former chairman of a Foundation Trust. Even the brilliant performance by David Weir in the Paralympics could not lift our spirits for the news that Jeremy Hunt, of all people, has taken over the role of Health Minister has appalled us.
The removal of Andrew Lansley was inevitable. His so-called reforms have created chaos and the imposition of £20 billion of cuts – efficiency savings in Lansley-talk - at a time when demand is rocketing have combined to send the service into crisis. In pursuit of the introduction of the private sector, Lansley came up with the wheeze of transferring commissioning to GPs. Before waiting to establish whether they would, or could, take on the burden he closed down the existing commissioners, the Primary Care Trusts, and handed out many a £100,000 in redundancy payments.
The GPs subsequently made clear that they could not undertake what would have been not only been a system guaranteed to create postcode medicine, but also one to open up conflicts of interest. The result is national adverts for expert commissioners at salaries of, er, £100,000. Those applying are those made redundant just months ago. Right now chaos reigns, different areas are cutting different services, cancer networks are being scrapped, key services are being obliged to employ senior clinicians on an on-call basis. And the private sector is setting about its ambition to cherry-pick.
So a change was desperately needed. The situation is crying out for an honest, experienced leader capable of restoring relationships with the medical profession and, with it, establishing the real short-term priorities. Restoration of waiting time targets would be a good start, recognition that using profit as a key criteria in medicine is dangerous a close second. But instead the service that means so much to so many gets Jeremy Hunt!
Regular readers will need no reminder of the part that Hunt played in the Murdoch affair. His department provided a constant stream of inside information to News Corp during their bid for BSkyB. Hunt sacked his adviser, Adam Smith, and claimed to have no knowlege of the clear impropriety. He was subsequently found to have held secret meetings with members of the Murdoch clan. Only the phone-hacking scandal prevented eventual emasculation of the BBC.
As Lord Leveson may well confirm honesty does not come easily to Jeremy Hunt. But what of his commitment to the NHS? Some years ago he was a co-author in a book calling for the privatisation of the NHS. More recently he attempted to exclude scenes celebrating the work of NHS nurses from Danny Boyle’s much-praised Olympic opening ceremony. He does not support the service’s core values and disliked the implication of approval.
Above all Hunt believes in competition based on bottom line profit. Even he was forced to concede that his G4S fiasco had given him “food for thought”. No such doubts about the NHS, he genuinely believes that setting NHS and private health providers at each other’s throats will improve patient care. It may do for those able to buy private health insurance, for the rest of us it will spell disaster.
Like mad Boris we believe that the cabinet reshuffle is driven by political expediency. In the case of Jeremy Hunt it is a case of send for the millionaire spin-doctor. Because we regard the NHS as vital we wish him well. But we suspect that our dear leader has just made his greatest mistake.
If by the time of the next election people are waiting months for treatment, and the ever reducing number of nurses are cleaning the toilets, it will take more than the unswerving support of Nick Clegg to save him!
If you care about the NHS do go to the 38 DEGREES website to sign the warning to Jeremy Hunt! Total already approaching 100,000 and full-page press ads planned.
Some of this morning’s columnists seem surprised by the inept performance of Nick Buckles, head of G4S, when he appeared before a select committee yesterday. He came across as someone who couldn’t organise a pig-out in a pie shop, like Manuel knew nothing, and babbled about the need to protect his comapny’s reputation. But we codgers were not remotely surprised. What did they expect – someone like the head of Tesco? Mr Buckles pockets the best part of million each year and made clear that he intends to hang on to the £57 million management fee for ‘running’ the Olympics security. So hostile was the reception to Mr Buckles, and his false tan and silly mullet hairdo, that one almost felt sorry or him were it not for the fact that he became a multimillionaire by paying peanuts to people who can’t get any other kind of work. Yet he is not the real villain of this shambolic affair.
That dubious honour belongs to politicians. Both the Blair administration and this one have become obsessed with the need to “learn from the private sector”. Had they been talking about retail giants such as Tesco it would have made sense. Yes, they too are driven by profit but they have to win it in the face of fierce competition. But giving monopolistic contracts to fly-by-night profiteers is another matter altogether.
Yesterday former Thatcher minister William Waldegrave warned Conservatives in The Times “never to make the mistake of falling in love with free enterprise”, adding that “people who believe private companies are always more efficient than the public service have never worked in real private enterprise”. How right he is. Any concern facing no competition and the chance to make a fortune will always opt for low-paid staff and maximum prices.
The amount awarded to G4S for this latest fiasco would have paid for 1500 police officers for two years. The decision to take the responsibility away from the police was crass. And there have been plenty of warning signals. The company is already under investigation after a prisoner was found collapsed in a police custody suite it was managing. A crucial record had been falsified, claiming the vulerable prisoner had been visited every 30 mintes as ordered by a police doctor. A CCTV recording has shown that no visits were made.
The incident happened at Swansea and police there have referred to “failings by G4S detention officers”. Officers? Untrained people grateful for a minimum wage rarely merit such a title. How can it possibly make sense for routines in police stations to be contracted out to companies such as this?
Companies such as G4S have made fortunes by wooing gullible ministers. Even better they have recruited them. The New Labour Home Secretary, now Lord Reid, walked out of government to become a G4S director. Doubtless he proved a good buy, given his contacts. G4S have already taken over prisons and key police control rooms. And G4S are not alone. Other similar money-making racketeers are landing contracts to run NHS services, part of the loopy Lansley’s privatisation agenda.
There are many examples of the damage this is doing to patient care. One such is the awarding of the GP out-of-hours service for Cornwall to Serco. An investigation by the Care Quality Commission, which was alerted by whistleblowers, has condemned the company for not providing enough staff, lack of proper training, falsifying records, lack of monitoring and few doctors. And Lansley has ruled that every NHS commissioner must identify at least three NHS services to be put out for tender!
In both Germany and France there has been a major reversal of the policy of contracting out essential public services, even water is back in public ownership. Now some of our politicians are beginning to sense that we are on the wrong track. MPs such as Maria Eagle and Jon Trickett have started to float the case for even rail services to be returned to public ownership. That may be a bridge too far, but many fervent privatisers are starting to question how running such services as security and health on a basis of profit first-and-last can possibly be right.
During the recent drought in southern England one leading politican actually cottoned on to the fact that the privatised water company had sold off 25 reservoirs while rewarding shareholders with £5 billion in dividends. They were just doing their job which is primarily to make profit. Water provision? No competition, no worries!
I never thought I would live to say this, but every member of the present governmnet would be well advise to listen to William Waldegrave!
QUOTE OF THE DAY: ” Blair is a pariah for a good reason. He colluded in an act of abundant wickedness, and untold hundreds of thousands died and millions more suffered. In lionising the fallen leader and in their wide-eyed admiration for his admitted genius for tactical manoeuvring David Cameron and George Osborne show that power to them is fundamentally a game..one of multi-dimensional chess perhaps, but just a game for all that”…..Matthew Norman (Independent)
I will resist the temptation to tell you about our weather, I imagine that yours is just as awful. This morning we threw straw on to the muddiest parts of the hen-runs but that worked only until the next gust came. A neighbour’s roof now looks quite quaint. The main topic of conversation was Bill’s hernia, just the subject for a dark, wet day. Seriously though, our pal is in a lot of pain and is depressed having just been told that it will be 48 weeks before he can expect to have the necessary operation.
And Bill is no exception. Right across the country waiting times are extending and, in many instances, treatment is being refused in the case of non life-threatening conditions. Check with the Patients Association and you will learn that waiting times for seven kinds of elective surgery including hip and knee replacements, cataract removals and hernia repairs have increased sharply over the 2010 figures. And 93 of the 170 main hospital trusts have reported that the number of operations being undertaken has fallen.
We are now seeing the inevitable result of the NHS being obliged to make £20 billion of ‘efficiency savings’. That euphemism can be dismissed for the lie that it is, these are massive cuts in funding. Fewer nurses, junior doctors and ancillary staff mean reductions in service in terms of quantity and, if you have been on a ward recently, you will know that it also means reduction in the quality of care.
But all that is of course just a part of the so-called Lansley Reforms. The not-so-hidden agenda is to introduce the private sector into every aspect of healthcare and, almost unnoticed, this is underway. When the Daily Telegraph cries foul on the subject of the NHS, the Conservatives know they are in trouble, and the pseudonymous Telegraph doctor Max Pemberton has this to say; “Richard Branson’s compnay becomes one of the first of many vultures to start plucking over the rich, tender flesh of the NHS now that it has been splayed open by the health bill”.
He is referring to the news that Virgin Care has won a £500 million contract to provide c.ommunity services across Surrey. Virgin began to takeover from April 1st. In Gloucestershire a patient, Michael Lloyd , challenged the transfer of services there without consultation. His challenge went all the way to judicial review where the Primary Care Trust caved in and promised to advertise the opportunity, thus giving the NHS a chance to compete. Unfortunately this means that healthcare providers in other EU countries must also be allowed to tender and the shrinking NHS has neither the staff nor the will to spend months on a drawn-out process.
In Kent, hackles are rising after a private hospital claimed that it will offer NHS and private patients “the only cardiothoracic and neurosurgery tertiary care beds in the county”. This claim has substance for last week The Clydesdale Bank agreed a £34 million deal to help build and run the ‘Kent Institute of Medicine and Surgery’, which is due to open in the second quarter of 2014. A further £80million will be provided by corporate and private investors, including about 100 clinicians. Private provision in healthcare thrives when the NHS gives up trying, and with so many hospitals and PCTs now in huge debt and facing equally huge cuts, that is exactly what is beginning to happen. Hospitals are being encouraged by Lansley to take in private patients up to a ceiling of 49 per cent of their beds, and if they are going to survive at all that is exactly what many are proposing to do.
During the process of his bill Lansley cleverly proceeded with the changes anyway, and was then able to argue that it was too late to change course. So it will be with the introduction of the private sector.
Yesterday I noticed amongst my e-mails one from ‘Kerrie at Insured Ltd’. It was headed ‘Concerned re cancer? Skip the NHS waiting lists by signing up now with Private Medical Insurance’. Over the past week I have receieved six similar missives. I imagine we are meant to believe that Lansley knows nothing of such approaches.
Someone at our local hospital said to me this week that by the time his grandchildren are his age they will find unbelievable the story of a free-at-the-point-of-delivery service available to everyone irrespective of their financial status. Sadly, I believe that he is right.
Slowly but surely we are sitting back whilst an incompetent ideologist dismantles the NHS. To be fair we knew that, given the chance, he would do this. Nick Clegg and his gang have provided the chance!
THE BEEB IS NOT AS ACCURATE AS YOU IMAGINE!
Like me you may have always imagined that something said by the BBC is something accurate. If so then reflect on this snippet chosen at random. It comes from the BBC website where viewers were offered an insight into the life of ’60 Minutes’ host Mike Wallace, who has died.
“Wallace was one of the original hosts of ’60 Minutes’ when it began in 1968. He went on to interview the likes of Martin Luther King, John F Kennedy and Malcolm X”.
That was quite an achievement since all three men died long before the ’60 Minutes’ debut!
Dear Mr Lansley
We are sure that you receive lots of letters, many of them from rather more important pedigree than a bunch of retired codgers who spend their time on hen-rearing, allotment work and voluntary roles. Our only justification for taking up our keyboards on behalf of the NHS is that we have a long record of using it, and several of us once held executive posts.
We have been critical of your reforms bill, but in that we seem to be on common ground with virtually every profession employed in our national healthcare. We have watched many of your interviews on television, and read copious press reports, but we have yet to hear the subject of privatisation so much as mentioned. Today two of the most eminent academics in the land have spoken out on just that point.
Allyson Pollock is professor of health policy at London University, and she has stated quite clearly that the Bill will “destroy the NHS”. This is, she says, a “terrifying, Big Bang moment for we are moving to a mixed-financing system similar to the one in the United States”.
Colin Lees will also be known to you. He is emeritus professor of political science at Goldsmith’s College and has stated in no uncertain terms that your reform proposals “will be the end of free care for all”. The future, he says, will be one in which “care will contract and decline, everyone who can afford to will go private and all we’ll be left with is a much reduced service for the poor”.
Prof Lees goes on to remind us that thses draconian reforms were not so much as mentioned before the election, and he adds to our alarm by claiming that the policy table at the Department of Health will be increasingly filled by “people witha private-sector agenda”.
We are already experiencing a sharp decline in service in our region. Important clinics are suffering from nurse reductions resulting from the cuts you have imposed, and the chaos of changes made to regional structures in advance of parliamentary approval. Already those who can afford health insurance are responding to the massive advertising campaign being conducted by insurers such as Bupa and Axa. We have yet to hear of a single local GP who believes other than that services are collapsing.
Our regional hospitals are now considering the new option of allocating 49% of their resources to private patients. Frankly, given the unrealistic financial targets facing them they have little choice. Your response that governing bodies must approve this is risable. Several of our group are governors, already disillusioned at the ebbing away of their early authority.
We hold no single political belief, indeed we recognise that the previous government was toying with the same ideas. At the last moment it saw the enormous danger and desisted. We pray that you will do the same.
We are sure that you are a good and honest politician. But on this we believe that you are totally wrong. If you proceed your name will be forever associated with the destruction of the NHS, a latter day equivalent to Dr Beeching. But in your case the victims will be people.
Are the two professors of today’s headlines really capable of reaching a totally wrong conclusion? Clearly not. Right now many millions of NHS patients are desperately worried. If you destroy the NHS they will undoubtedly destroy you at the ballot box, but that is no consolation for anyone who lacks the capital to insure his or her family.
Our average age is 80. It follows that, unless we are incredibly fortunate, we have no more than a decade left of our journey. We feel distraught at the possibility that whem problems occur our ability to get medical help will depend on the size of our wallets.
The less than magnificent seven codgers.