NHS: The Jimmy Savile of state institutions?
If, as it seems, MidStaffs is not atypical but the tip of an horrendous iceberg, it could be the beginning of the end of the NHS in its current form
Is the NHS the Jimmy Savile of statist institutions? A supposed 'national treasure' that time reveals to be a venal, self-serving, perverted ogre. But rather than hiding in plain sight, in this case hiding behind a pall of leftist dogma.
Following David Francis QC's damning, yet otherwise spineless, report on MidStaffs we now know what getting away with murder looks like. 1200 people died and not one individual is accountable.
David Cameron, who seems intent on destroying his own party this week, had the gall to suggest that no blame should be placed on individuals, that Mid Staffs was not typical, and seemed happy not to call 13 years of Labour NHS stewardship to account. One can only hope some sort of political detente is going on here to smooth the way for the depoliticisation of the NHS.
Rather like the Savile affair, the publicity given to Francis preceded torrents of anecdotal evidence which shows just how craven Cameron's statement really was.
Indeed, just after The PM had sat down, I got a call from an old friend who, although he hadn't been following the day's events, revealed that in 2010 his mother was suffering from terminal lung cancer and endured neglect, urine-soaked bedding, denial of medication, patients managing reception and even being given aspirin to deal with a broken arm. This was in Croydon Hospital. He removed her and put her into a private hospital where eventually she died with dignity. He then successfully sued Croydon NHS.
I have my own tale. In early 2009, my ex-wife, the mother of my daughter, suffered a double stroke and has been a severe brain injury patient in five hospitals since then, before being discharged last year. Over the past three years, through her, I have experienced every aspect of the NHS, from the moment she admitted herself into A&E, through to discharge last year and local authority neuro-rehabiliation.
I can safely say it failed at every level to do what it is supposed to. She was even declared effectively dead and we were told to make plans for organ donation. Happily she had other ideas. When she was finally discharged last July it was with another patient's meds. Her notes went missing for three months. No referral to the NHS community care team was made. I could go on…
I've got into numerous debates with those on the left about the NHS, and anecdotal evidence just bounces off them as they dismiss it as irrelevant. Not anymore. Everyone has a story. So not that atypical it would seem.
Reading the numerous accounts of MidStaffs from nursing staff, doctors and managers, the Francis report reveals a culture of managers looking up, while never looking down. They paint a picture of a politically-motivated, target-driven culture, where neglect and bad habits are actually encouraged. Meanwhile, management of budgets and news-flow kept political masters ignorant, in power, and able to boast of progressive, attainable reform.
The NHS as a self-serving, bloated, unsustainable political football is now, at last, clear for all to see. Ultimately Labour's persistent accusation that the Tories are 'bent on destroying the NHS,' may well become an effective election slogan.
Those ridiculous 'Save Our NHS' campaigns can now be seen as what they are – political constructs given unquestioning support by idiot celebrities like twitter bore Grahame Linehan and his socialist media chums. Danny Boyle's laughable Olympic NHS tribute sought to obscure the putrescence of a behemoth used to trumpet the left's very own sensitivity and all round goodness.
All the while heavily-unionised professionals suck at its teet for all they're worth, while thwarting, bullying and suppressing any effort at change that might benefit patient care over their own interests. Ditto the BMA.
At every stage the NHS lurks the spectre of socialism – from former Communist Sir David Nicholson proudly presiding over seemingly industrialised levels of death, through to the likes of Lancet editor Richard Horton. The NHS is a blood and urine-soaked monument to a dehumanising ideology that is the core belief of such individuals. It is time for decent men and women to speak up.
"Time for a bottom-up revolution rather than more top-down pressure," demands Dr. Phillip Hammond, in The Times. It was he who broke the Bristol Heart Scandal 21 years ago and based on the failure of lessons to be learnt from that affair, he is not hopeful that Francis, with his aversion to accountability, will achieve the sort of cultural reform needed to place patients at the centre of the NHS rather than at the bottom of it.
Indeed the NHS was introduced when top-downism was at its height. Post WW2 it was sanctioned by Stalin at the peak of his influence over the European left, not to mention the British. At its creation, French communists compared the NHS favourably to the de-centralised, insurance and contribution system introduced in France.
How ironic, as calls for French, German, Austrian, Belgian and Dutch systems grow in volume, for systems where patients get universally provided insurance and, heaven forbid, there is no NHS, but more GPs per capita, cleaner hospitals, convenient appointments, better diagnostics, even better food. Something, er, to be envious of.
If, as it seems, MidStaffs is not atypical but the tip of an horrendous iceberg, it could be the beginning of the end of the NHS in its current form, and in its hour of need, the silence of the left is deafening.
It’s as if it seems to know what's coming.
How's about that then?
Jonathan Bracey-Gibbon is a freelance journalist who over the past 15 years has written for The Times, the Financial Times, The Sunday Times and Sunday Express
Read more on: David Francis QC, mid staffs nhs report, Danny Boyle NHS, Should we have an NHS?, NHS targets, is the NHS failing us?, privatise the NHS, the NHS, and Jonathan Bracey-Gibbon
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