Posts Tagged ‘Planks’
Did you see the special PR launch staged by Messrs Cameron, Clegg and Lansley? It was a clear sign that the massive reaction against their plans to emasculate the NHS are beginning to register. Lnasley says that there have to be some tweaks to his plans, Clegg says there have to be huge changes, Cameron just goes on and on about how he had to rely on the excellent NHS when he most needed it. As we were seeing to the hens this morning, Albert commented that the prime minister (or PR minister as he insists on calling him) could sell snow to the Eskimos. I have to confess to being bewitched by the similarity to Tony Blair, they both tell a good tale.
But no sooner had we listened to the blather about it being wrong to “charge ahead” in response to yet more hostile reactions from the medical fraternity, than a leaked copy of a memo issued by the chief executive of the NHS, David Nicolson, blew the talk of consultation to kingdom- come. In it Mr Nicolson makes clear that there is little room for manoeuvre. It records that a “red line” exists beneath the fundamental planks of the Lansley plan and they “are not for changing”.
I imagine few are surprised to learn that the high-profile visit to Frimley Park hospital was little more than an exercise in spin, but most of us are surprised to learn that the intention is to change virtually nothing. There will be some ‘concessions’ with local Councillors given a place on the GP commissioning bodies, although how this will improve things is open to considerable debate. There is also mention of hospital doctors being included, and this makes sense for surgeons and consultants have a far more comprehensive insight into critical care than GPs.
But the central plank of the plan will survive. Lansley is hell-bent on introducing the private sector by allowing it to take over the simpler treatments. The result will be that NHS hospitals will be undermined and obliged to merge. The result of that will be fewer hospitals and greater travel distances for ambulances, patients and relatives alike.
The aspect that worries me above all others is the inevitable destruction of the cancer networks. I spend a lot of time helping the multi-discipline teams that have, in recent times, done so much to improve the quality of cancer care. Once GP consortiums (or the private companies to whom the task will be sub-contracted) take over, the service will be broken up and we will step back ten years in our levels of care. People will die and I for one will fight this to my last breath.
But all this hoo-hah is about something that the Conservatives wish to do and, to be fair, it does reflect their belief in privatisation. The likelihood is that chaos will develop for already many Primary Care Trusts have been wound up as the exodus of skilled staff accelerates. But before considering that as the protests gather momentum, we should be aware of what is happening right now.
Government claims to have maintained funding are nonsense. Efficiency-saving targets totalling £20 billion have been set. Since most large hospitals have already cut their administration to the core, that means reductions in medical staff and procedures. Many hospitals across the country have slashed the number of hip and knee operations and the waiting time has trebled. Suddenly a lot of the better-off patients are electing to ‘go private’ which, since the surgeons are the same ones, will lead to even longer NHS waits.
And other operations are no longer guaranteed. Surgeons have today published a letter warning that they are no longer able to guarantee emergency operations. The letter is signed by, amongst others, John Black, the president of the Royal College, and makes clear that emergencies are now “squeezed in at the end of the day”. There is now “relative neglect of the needs of those admitted as emergencies”.
I am not opposed to the concept of competition in many things. But what Lansley is trying to do in the health service will create a two-level service. We are told that it works well in America. It does for some, but in trying to change it Barack Obama was attempting to help those who cannot afford to pay.
I even wonder if Cameron really understands the implications. In fairness I suspect that he does not and sees his role as merely rescuing Lansley from total humiliation. But if he is able to smooth-talk the opposition away, millions will one day rue the destruction of what had become a good and comprehensive service. And it is of no use waiting for Miliband to save the NHS, by the time he is is any position to do anything it will be too late.
Next time you pass your local hospital look carefully at those open gates. Politicians on the make are already ordering the padlocks!
THOUGHTS FOR TODAY; MONEY : “I once gave a waiter a tip. I told him never to step off a moving bus”….Groucho Marx “Money makes money and the money money makes makes money”…..Benjamin Franklin “My problem is how to reconcile my net income with my gross habits”….Errol Flynn “Today you can go to a petrol station and find the cash register open and the toilets locked. They must think toilet paper is worth more than money”……Joey Bishop……..” Nothing dispels enthusiasm like a small admission charge”…..Kin Hubbard “Why is there so much month left at the end of the money?”…..John Barrymore “The difference between outlaws and in-laws is taht the outlaws never promise to pay it back”…..Kin Huddard “It doesn’t matter whether you are rich or poor so long as you have money”…….Max Miller
ANSWERS TO YESTERDAY’S QUIZ; 1. Liverpool 2. Madame Tussauds
TODAY’S QUESTIONS; 1. Which major engineering project was completed by Egypt in 1970? 2. Which ancient disease was worldwide in the early 70s, especially in Africa and India?
We awoke to blue skies this morning and when I reached the allotment shed the whole place was aglow with an all-is-well-with-the-world ambience. So powerful was the sun that its rays penetrated the shed windows, long a stranger to Windolene. In the corner Eric was already chiselling away at his latest creation. An accountant for all his working life, Eric is now a self-taught joiner of no mean ability and loves to tell all who will listen that he derives more pleasure from a completed chair than he gained from a hundred completed audits.
Our time on the allotment is spent on important work or, if you prefer the verdict of she-who-must-be-obeyed, messing about. Either way it has had a remarkable effect of considerable impact on a bunch of men most of whom spent their earning-days sitting behind a desk. Speaking for myself, I cannot claim to have discoverd skills to match those of Eric, but I remember vividly the first attempt I made to construct a gate for the chicken run. I visited B & Q, borrowed some tools and proceeded to make something that fitted and opened to the touch. I was amazed. Right up to that day such a task would have meant reaching for the yellow pages. Suddenly I felt fulfilled. Suddenly, at the age when I should be sitting on a banch watching equally ancient codgers playing bowls, I was embarking on a new life. It has proved to be one in which neighbours with a DIY probelm send for me. The effect on my self-esteem has been uplifting. Now I won’t die, just wear out amongst fellow craftsmen!
It was that eureka moment that had me looking for books on the subject of manual versus brain work. An early read was ‘The Case for Working with Your Hands’ by Matthew Crawford. ‘Real men’, he wrote, should stop being slaves to their screens and Wi-Fis. They should drive nails into planks and wield spades. Crawford had noticed that graduate entry into professions like his was plummeting, with those supposedly educated for them drifting into listless semi-employment, ” a state of uncommitted future potential”. But he also noticed something aboiut himself. He worked as an academic but worked on motor-bike restoration in his spare time. He noticed that he was always exhausted after a day at the former yet felt strangely exhilerated by the manual labour on the bike.
In his book ‘Craftsmanship’ sociologist Richard Sennett describes a similar reaction. He concludes that the handling of tools is far more than just a passing phase in human evolution. There are “skills in manual labour that link hand and brain and which are still not recognised” he argues. To Sennett it is downright cruel to “assume downward mobility in those who love working with their hands”. It is a natural human activity. Sennett even cites the satisfaction a parent gains from caring for a child. Childcare, he points out, is skilled manual labour that delivers more than just family bonding.
In a way the case for manual labour relates to what is happening to the economy. Ever since tha Thatcher era when technical colleges were replaced by academia there has been an increasing shortage in specialist skills such as plumbing. Apprenticeships have almost vanished except for those in Sugarland. And now graduates are pouring off the academic production lines with skills unsuited to the vacancies of tomorrow. We face a permanent reduction in professional, managerial and financial areas. Consumer spending will shift towards leisure, towards live activity. This covers ranges from hobbies, exploring, riding, festuvals, concerts, restaurants and tourism. Yes they will demand skills such as salesmanship, but most will provide jobs that are literally hands-on as in building, equipment maintenance, cooking etc.
In other words the jobs market of tomorrow will require craftsmanship that we as a society have almost lost. We will not be able to outsouce the mending of a broken pipe to India. If we cannot adjust back to the days when working meant using ones hands we will need to rely on migrants from places such as Germany and East Europe where the tradition of high-status technical education and apprenticeship has not been eroded by the ‘humanities’.
So, like it or not, the majority of careers of tomorrow will require the very manual skills which for generations we have downgraded. But if the experience of we old yet born-again allotment men means anything it is that therein lies self-esteem and job satisfaction long lost in our society. And the powerful message from people such as Crawford and Sennett is that the carpenter, engineer, plumber, needleworker or any other craftsman or woman is pursuing a route back to the inner self that may indeed be more direct than working solely with the head – or the screen.
As we young-old man of the allotment like to cry come back Bob the Builder, all is forgiven!
ANY QUESTIONS CAN BE A TURN-OFF!
Did you watch last night’s ‘Any Questions?’ on the Beeb? I did for a while before turning it off in sheer exasperation.
The first question concerned the proposed changes to child benefits and the audience was largely hostile. Each of the non-politicians gave an honest and sensible answer which is that, whatever ones beliefs on the welfare state, the mathematics used whereby one household will lose benefits whilst another, with no one higher taxpayer but a higher total income, will retain it is nonsense.
But the politicians waffled about the mess left by Labour, the dire straits of the country and anything else that came into their heads rather than contemplate that an error had been made. One of them was called, I think, Lady Warsi. She simply refused to stop babbling on and even David Dimbleby was hard put to get a word in edgeways. At one point when for the umpteenth time she said that the coalition had not realised that the country was in a mess, hence their not including benefits in the manifesto, Dimbleby exclaimed that the Conservatives had fought the election on the basis that it was in a mess. She babbled on.
The concept of the Thursday night show is good but it would be even better if the Beeb excluded political parrots whose self understanding is lower that that of my hens!
STRANGE DECISION BY ED MILIBAND!
I have just heard an unofficial story that Alan Johnson has been appointed Shadow Chancellor. If correct this is surely an odd decision by the new Labour leader.
Former postman Alan has distinguished himself in various offices and was an excellent Health Secretary. But is he a qualified accountant and has he the relevant experience at a time when finance looms large?
In terms of relevant ability we already have a poor Chancellor, having an equally inadequate shadow does not sound reassuring!
YESTERDAY’S QUIZ ANSWERS; 1. U Thant 2. Manchester United
TODAY’S QUESTIONS; 1. Which newspaper stopped its Saturday edition in 1974? 2. Which group sang ‘Seas of Rhye’?