I want to tell you a story. My friend Harry, a pensioner of modest means, developed a malignant growth in one of his eyes. To cut a long story short, after many months of radiotherapy the growth had been reduced in size. The time had come to eliminate the source of the problem, in a place dangerously close to the optic nerve, by a non-invasive operative technique. It took up a large part of the time of a specialist doctor, a radiotherapist, two nurses and a team of technicians , for a day. The operation saved Harry’s sight. At a rough reckoning the capital equipment used in Harry’s treatment cost over £250 million and the unit cost of his treatment, including pre-operative and post-operative care, must have run into a six figures. Harry was a life-long Tory voter. He did not thank me when I advanced the thought that if he had had his way, a prolonged period of Tory administration from the end of the war to the present day, the event he had so graphically described to me, would NEVER have taken place. For the Tory mantra throughout the period was that although the idea of a NHS was a nice one, it could NOT BE AFFORDED. Does that phrase ring any bells with you?
Now you are an agency worker earning £7 an hour. You have just been told that your production target has been increased from 18 to 28 cases a day and those who did not reach the target would be sacked at the end of the week. You settle down to do your best and after four hours of looking at the screen you pause to take a breath, nip ouside for a ciggy, that sort of thing. Did you know that in these four hours the NHS had spent £50 million pounds of your money. God almighty, you might think, unplug those machines! Hold on a moment. Just think. Harry today, you tomorrow?
I can hear those Coalition Goverment supporters among my readers, say to themselves, there he goes again. The Coalition agreemenr is to lay-off the NHS and cut every other public service. So it does. But are you telling me that the strongly held Tory instinct to dismantle the NHS has suddenly disappeared. Was the change necessary to ‘win’ a General Election or is it genuine?
This is what you do my friends to unplug the NHS. You reorganise it cutting out centrally controlled costs, you shift some costs to the private sector, you distribute costs to local councils, charitable organisations and doctors bank accounts, you cut staff and freeze their wages, you abandon targets and increase waiting times and lists (but not in every geographic area), you talk a lot, obfuscate and throw scorn on think-tanks that suggest worsening standards and post-code lottery. You say,well naturally there is some disturbance because we are changing things for the better. Just you wait until our modernisation works its way through. What we are doing is eliminating waste. Does that ring any bells? Sorry Harry, we can fit you in towards the end of 2011. Keep your fingers crossed.
Now you there, in the courtyard stubbing out your cig. What do you think? Are going to bother to vote next May? No, perhaps not! My advice to you is to try and stay healthy. Should you be smoking at all? You bring these things upon yourself you know. In the Big Society we accept responsibility for ourselves. And, no hard feelings? Good luck, to you. We are all in this together.