Nigel Farage says that nurses working for the NHS should be able to speak English. I agree. What a pity that this is about the most daringly controversial criticism of the NHS we’re likely to hear from almost any politician, of whatever political hue, in the run up to the General Election.
That’s because, though the Conservatives, Labour, UKIP, the Greens and the Lib Dems hold widely divergent views on many of the key issues – from taxation to welfare to defence to education – there is one topic on which they are all in full agreement: the NHS, gawd bless it, is the envy of the world and must be preserved at all costs. Why, as Danny Boyle reminded us at the London Olympics opening ceremony, it’s an achievement far greater than the Industrial Revolution.
And as David Cameron keeps telling us, it’s Our NHS – like a beloved old family pet only much more useful because your cat can’t cure you of cancer or treat you to heart triple by-pass surgery or a gastric band operation if you’re morbidly obese, nor does your dog wait patiently behind a desk in the doctor’s surgery to explain, no actually, it’s no good prescribing you antibiotics for that nasty cold you’ve got because a cold is a viral infection not an bacterial one, but no worries, I’m not charging you for this asinine waste of my time and taxpayers’ money because that’s what we’re here for, we’re this endless source of bounteous freeness…
It’s a brave person indeed who would dispute this rose-tinted assessment of our cherished National Treasure. And for a politician to say so – even one as outspoken as Nigel Farage – it would more or less amount to career suicide.
Don’t you think this state of affairs is rather sinister? I do. It reminds me of that awful period after the death of Princess Diana when, for weeks, you weren’t allowed to say that the national outpouring of untrammelled mawkishness was possibly a bit un-British and overdone. Or, worse, of those standing ovations that you had to give Stalin which went on for hours because the first one to stop clapping feared being taken away and shot.
And there’s one more thing it reminds me of – something I’ve been writing about for quite some time now, so I know whereof I speak. This sacrosanct status the NHS has acquired, where you can’t venture any kind of criticism, no matter how reasonable, for fear – at best – of being told what an awful person you are, and – at worst – of having your reputation publicly trashed and your career destroyed. It’s so painfully redolent of the Establishment omerta about another of the great religions of our time. The Global Warming religion.
My fellow Evil Climate Change Denier (TM) Andrew Montford has noticed the similarities too, in this post at his Bishop Hill site. It’s titled Why Do Good Intentions In The Public Sector Lead To Evil? – which is a question I could have answered by referring him to an aphorism of Christopher Booker’s.
“Evil men don’t get up in the morning saying ‘I’m going to do evil!’. They say: “I’m going to make the world a better place.”
This, of course, is why those working within the NHS have apparently so little compunction about destroying those within their ranks, however eminent and decent, who are not “with the programme.”
For chapter and verse on what happened to one senior NHS practitioner – cancer surgeon Joseph Meirion Thomas – who spoke out, I do recommend you read this excellent article in The Spectator by Freddy Gray.
Meirion Thomas was not afraid to point out numerous problems with the NHS in sundry articles, among them: that the NHS’s overstretched budget is being eroded by “health tourists” from abroad claiming services to which they are not entitled and for which they do not pay; that the politically correct obsession with gender equality is promoting too many female doctors who aren’t pulling their weight; that GPs are an anachronism.
As a result Meirion Thomas was bullied by his colleagues, forced to sign a gagging order, threatened with loss of work, denied his professor’s title. Other senior doctors who have blown the whistle on the NHS have experienced similar humiliation.
Just ask Shiban Ahmed, a paediatric surgeon who attempted to blow the whistle on the ‘barbaric and amateurish’ circumcisions of boys aged six to ten at the hands of poorly trained GPs. He flagged the issue to the patient safety regulator, and ended up facing disciplinary action. Or there’s Peter O’Keefe, a heart surgeon who was suspended (on ‘bullying’ charges) after he raised concerns about the treatment of a patient who had serious brain damage. Or Dr Raj Mattu, a cardiologist who lost his job at a Coventry hospital after warning on national radio that patients were dying because a cardiac unit was overcrowded.
This, as those familiar with the Climategate and Climategate 2 emails will recall, is very similar to what has happened to those climate scientists and journal editors who have failed to conform with the “global warming” orthodoxy: their reputations were blackened, their careers ruined pour encourager les autres.
We’ve seen the damage this regime of fear has wrought in the field of climate science. Britain’s healthcare system is in similarly deep trouble. And the big, the terrifying problem in both cases is that even after all this time and all the shocking revelations the number of people brave enough to speak out are still in a very tiny minority and still face professional ruin for doing so.
I said at the beginning that no politician dares criticise the NHS. But this isn’t quite true. There is at least one, notable exception. Perhaps surprisingly he’s not UKIPer or a Conservative, but a Labour party man, Frank Field.
Recently, he wrote:
Without radical treatment, the prospects for the NHS are not just bleak, they are catastrophic. If nothing is done, within a few short years, the health service as we know it will have ceased to exist.
A&E departments will not just be overstretched, they will be unrecognisable. Instead of queues reaching to the waiting room doors, they will be stretching into the streets. Waiting lists will grow like Topsy and slashing the number of operations will be standard.
GP services will have to be drastically reduced as their budgets are slashed. A growing number of hospitals will go bankrupt and staff, dedicated and highly trained, laid off.
In other hospitals, regimes reminiscent of the disgraceful events in Mid Staffordshire will be in place, with patients left un-nursed and unfed for long periods of time.
Such a scenario, one would have thought, would now be igniting the most intense debate between the Tory and Labour parties on how this catastrophe can be averted.
But that thought would be wrong. Both major parties hope to get past May 7 without any serious debate with you, the electorate, on the existential crisis facing our NHS. If they are planning to avert this national calamity, it is being kept well under wraps.
I’m not sure that the remedies he goes on to prescribe later in the article are right. But at least he acknowledges the scale of the problem which is more than most of us are prepared to do, even those of us who aren’t politicians.
For the majority of us, I fear, questioning the magnificence of the NHS has become the equivalent of not believing in fairies – and consequently causing Tinkerbell to die. It’s the same with global warming. Lots of those who choose to believe in it, I think, do so not so much on any kind of informed or rational basis but because they just imagine it’s the right thing to do – that it will mean somehow that they are better, more caring people.
Well I’m sorry, Tinkerbell but I do want you to die. You’re costing us far too much money; you’re bloody annoying; and anyway, you don’t actually exist.