Did The Russians Just Hack Our NHS?

NHS Cyber Attack Crisis - Russian Hacking Foreign Power Question

Our NHS is under attack – and not by the Evil Tories, for once!

Newspaper and television news networks are now reporting a major cyber attack targeting NHS England hospitals – apparently all systems are down and an emergency has been declared to initiate backup/recovery processes.

From the Guardian:

A number of hospitals have been hit by a large scale cyber attack, NHS England has confirmed.

Hospitals across the country appear to have been simultaneously hit by a bug in their IT systems, leading to many diverting emergency patients. NHS England said it was aware of the problem and would release more details soon.

Meanwhile doctors have been posting on Twitter about what has been happening to their systems.

A screen grab of a instant message conversation circulated by one doctor says: “So our hospital is down … We got a message saying your computers are now under their control and pay a certain amount of money. And now everything is gone.”

This is obviously potentially very serious, with possible impacts on patient care – apparently local NHS hospitals are reverting to pen and paper, while tweeting that patients should avoid going to A&E.

Was this a coordinated attack by a foreign power, or is it simply the case of a dozy NHS office admin clicking a dodgy link in an email and falling prey to a traditional money-grubbing scam?

(The answer is almost certainly the latter – this time. NHS Digital itself has confirmed that the generic ransomware attack was not specifically targeted at the health service, as a number of other organisations in multiple regions and sectors are affected; so the outraged NHS priests and priestesses on Twitter calling for the execution or maiming of these hackers can probably stand down now).

But since politicians and armchair pundits have been quick to blame Russia for everything else that hasn’t gone their way lately, I’m sure that Vladimir Putin’s name will be put forward as the man behind this craven attack on Our Blessed NHS.

But Putin should be careful – while Britain and the international community will apparently sit on our hands and dither while he invades Ukraine and drags his country ever further backward toward nationalist authoritarianism, provoking a fight with the NHS might be a step too far.

Even Jeremy Corbyn’s Labour Party election manifesto reserves the right to use nuclear weapons, with great cautionin extremis. Well, since the National Health Service is the closest thing we now have to a religion in secular Britain, attacking Our Blessed NHS may be the one hostile act by a foreign power that could still rouse half the country to press the red “launch” button and fire off some Trident missiles.

But when the dust settles, it may be worth considering that yet another drawback of having a monolithic national healthcare system serving all 65 million people in Britain is that it represents a singular target for mischief-makers and hostile foreign powers alike.

Presumably GCHQ and other agencies are constantly on the case protecting Britain’s national energy grid and other core infrastructure. But as a country have we been so busy singing endless hymns of praise to “Our NHS” that we neglected to realise that it has also potentially become our national security Achilles heel?

At this grave time, let us all repeat the Pledge of Allegiance to Aneurin Bevan’s glorious creation, our country’s pride and joy:

I pledge allegiance to the logo of Our #NHS
The envy of the world
One health system, indivisible
With increasingly poor healthcare outcomes for all

And when NHS England has fixed the problem and we have all made ourselves feel good by cheering on the saintly people who work in the world’s fifth largest bureaucracy, maybe we can have a sensible conversation about breaking up the NHS monopoly – for the good of all patients and, apparently, our national security too.


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A Song For The NHS

It’s time to sing a(nother) song for Our Blessed NHS

In 2014, we were all instructed to spend Christmas Day tweeting and sharing our fawning adulation of the National Health Service and NHS workers on social media, lest the sensitive government-owned healthcare provider feel unappreciated for even a single second.

Last year, a choir of workers from the Lewisham & Greenwich NHS Trust actually stormed the charts and took the coveted Christmas #1 spot with a very pedestrian and unremarkable Ode to the NHS, after the British public were guilted and emotionally blackmailed into virtue-signalling their support for Our Blessed NHS by purchasing the recording.

At that point, this blog started to sound the alarm bells, even more loudly than usual.

But still it was not enough. Still we are apparently failing to show sufficient love for the National Health Service. Still we wretched sinners fail to give due worship and honour to Britain’s secular, socialist religion.

Step forward NHS Million, an online campaign group which exists solely to spread fawning propaganda about the health service and encourage its worship, with a call for all of us to come up with our own individual hymns of praise to the NHS:

How long, one wonders, until a formal NHS anthem is commissioned, and sung every day in state-run hospitals up and down the land? How long until there is some kind of “NHS Loyalty Oath”, different from the Hippocratic Oath, in which NHS workers are forced to pledge to defend the principle of socialised healthcare over and above all else, rather than simply doing what is best for their patients?

Do these people realise how they look and sound to anyone from outside Britain? Simple-minded adult babies singing childish simple songs for a government they take active pride in depending on 24/7. It would be hilarious if it were not quite so gut-wrenchingly pathetic.

I look forward to trying (again) to explain this national NHS mania to my in-laws and American side of the family when we travel to Texas for Christmas this year. I look forward to the looks of blank incomprehension on their faces when I patiently explain to them that no, it is quite normal for otherwise independent-minded, adult-looking British people to suddenly whip out the guitar and croon a sappy love song to a money-hungry government department. I cannot wait to hear what they say when I suggest that they should follow our lead and found a national movement encouraging American citizens to write songs in praise of the IRS or the US Postal Service.

Fortunately, the one thing for which British people can be relied on even more than reflexively loving the NHS is the way in which we tend to make fun of any effort to make us give due deference to authority. And I am pleased to report that NHS Million received far more snide comments in reply than genuine song contributions.

Here are some of the best:

This inspired person managed four suggestions in one tweet:

Then there were the earnest-but-dim contributions:

And the perennially confused:

While others were a year behind the times:

Fix you? Really? Been there, done that.

Oh, and my own contribution:

Unfortunately, some people did take the request seriously and actually produce a song:

“RIP Our NHS” is a punk/ska-sounding number, only the rebellious element has been lobotomised and everything one would expect from the genre – angry contempt for authority etc. – has been replaced by a petulant, foot-stamping tantrum for more government interference in our healthcare. 80s kids for less freedom and bigger government!

Nobody wants an acute healthcare crisis to unfold in Britain. But if that is what it will take for us to finally stop singing childish ditties to the fifth largest employer in the world, a vast bureaucratic organisation of immense power and with huge vested interests in the form of the NHS Industrial Complex, then what are we waiting for? Bring it on – let’s get the pain over and done with.

For what is the alternative? How many more Christmases must we otherwise spend holding hands and singing plaintive worship songs to Big Government while other nations, unencumbered by 1940s socialist dogma, continue to overtake us in the healthcare outcome league tables?

Enough is enough. NHS Million can take their NHS songs and stick them where the sun don’t shine. The service that they are performing, no matter how well intentioned, is worse than useless – papering over the cracks and encouraging people to unthinkingly support the status quo is actively harmful to the long-term health of the nation.

This is a time for serious people and bold new ideas to end the dark reign of the NHS Industrial Complex, the nostalgic socialist dreamers and the fawning, childish sycophants who unwittingly do their bidding.


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Love Our NHS? Prove It With Your Vote In The EU Referendum, Continued

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If you are deciding how to vote in the EU referendum based on what the rival campaigns are telling you is best for the NHS, you’re doing it wrong

The stupidity and incompetence of the Vote Leave  campaign reached such desperate lows today that at this point, I can no longer really blame anyone who has not been paying much attention to the EU debate thus far if they end up voting Remain. Heck, if I hadn’t been writing about politics every day and following the debate for years, I might well do the same.

After all, why put your trust in the Leave campaign, the people proposing a departure from the status quo, when the leaders of Vote Leave are conducting their campaign with all the political aptitude of the slow sibling from a well-connected family whose parents were grasping around trying to find something productive for them to do with their lives, and gave them the fate of our country to play with.

And so today we get this much-trumpeted open letter from “more than fifty” healthcare workers, telling us that only by voting Leave can we Save Our NHS.

The letter reads:

Dear Sir,

The NHS is a great British institution that families rely on in times of need. But as it slips into financial crisis the NHS itself needs some urgent attention.

The NHS is being asked to make huge cuts at a time of rising demand. Patients are having to wait longer for treatment, hospital deficits are increasing and doctors are on strike after being told they must take a pay cut. The Government must accept responsibility for this – they have starved the NHS of necessary funding for too long.

If we Vote Leave on 23 June we will be able to spend more on our priorities like the NHS. If we put the billions that currently go to EU bureaucrats into the NHS instead it would hugely improve patient care. For example, the £350 million a week we hand to Brussels is similar to the entire yearly Cancer Drugs Fund budget.

As healthcare professionals who have worked for the NHS for years we believe that the best choice in the EU referendum is to Vote Leave on June 23rd and save the NHS.

List of signatories

Well, I suppose it’s marginally better than the ludicrous suggestion that we use the money we supposedly save to whack up a brand new fully staffed hospital every week until there are ten mega hospitals in every town and ninety percent of us are employed by the NHS.

But still, what a bunch of utter nonsense this letter (and the decision to campaign off the back of it) is. Not only does this fail the “common sense” test, it fails the “does anyone at Vote Leave have any measurable brain activity at all” test.

The NHS is one of the largest organisations in the entire world, and the fifth largest employer with over 1.7 million people on the payroll. Rounding up fifty NHS workers to put their names to a letter supporting either Brexit or the Remain campaign means absolutely nothing – one could just as easily circulate a letter and get fifty signatures from NHS employees who believe they have been abducted by aliens, demanding a massive budget appropriation to build space lasers to keep us safe.

Furthermore, it would be utterly naive to base a geopolitical and constitutional decision like Brexit on the gut feeling of a bunch of people who not only work in an entirely unrelated field, but who toil for an organisation so large and all-powerful that it positively screams “vested interest” and “deeply ingrained bias in favour of the status quo”.

Besides, a bunch of predominantly conservative politicians and activists not known for their doe-eyed devotion to the NHS suddenly going prancing around the country acting like the health service’s greatest defenders is not going to fool anyone. By a huge majority, the most committed devotees of the NHS are the same people who will unthinkingly vote to stay “in Europe” come hell or high water. Worshipping at the altar of Nye Bevan doesn’t do great things for one’s critical reasoning skills, after all.

All of this time spent repeating the risible notion that only by voting Leave can we Save Our Blessed NHS is time that could be spent – oh, I don’t know, maybe promoting a comprehensive plan for a safe Brexit with the minimum of disruption. A plan which would instantly negate 90% of David Cameron’s fear-based Remain campaign and really bring this campaign to life.

But why do that, when Matthew Elliot and Dominic Cummings are more than happy presiding over their children’s finger-painting exercise of a campaign, preaching to the already converted and singularly failing to tackle any of the counterarguments quite rightly thrown in their faces by David Cameron and Britain Stronger in Europe?

Fortunately there is another shadow Leave campaign – an underground resistance, if you will – who are intent on fighting this referendum with facts, and who understand that the public rightly expect those who advocate for Brexit to have put some thought into what Brexit should look like.

I am never more excited and hopeful for the future of this country than I am when I read their work. Please follow The Leave Alliance, share their articles and (if you are able) donate to their all-important fundraising efforts. Every pound raised helps to spread the message further.

Semi-Partisan Politics will be diverting any kind contributions made to this site to The Leave Alliance from now until the conclusion of the campaign.


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Love Our NHS? Prove It With Your Vote In The EU Referendum

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The EU referendum meets our national religion

The major campaigns on both sides of the EU referendum are currently slugging it out in a tawdry contest for the affections of fearful, NHS-idolosing simpletons.

No British political campaign is complete without eye-rolling attempts by those without ideas or vision to trawl for votes by pretending that Our Blessed NHS (genuflect) is mere moments away from being abolished.

From Vote Leave’s latest mailshot, entitled “Save Our NHS”:

Lord Owen, the former Labour Foreign Secretary and Health Minister, today launches the Vote Leave ‘Save our NHS’ campaign with an important speech: ‘Protecting our NHS from the EU’.

He argues that the our National Health Service should not be under the control of the EU and cites serious flaws in The Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP), which is a major new deal being negotiated behind closed doors between the EU and the USA.  This he says, disregards the purpose of social health care and undermines the responsibility each member state has for its own healthcare policy.  This is highly detrimental to our NHS.

And from Britain Stronger in Europe, the charmingly personalised “Love the NHS Samuel? You need to read this”:

When it comes to the NHS, you can’t listen to the people campaigning to leave Europe.

They describe the NHS as a “60-year mistake” (Vote Leave’s Dan Hannan), say there’s “plenty of room for cuts” (Nigel Farage), and think people should have to pay for services so they “value them more” (Boris Johnson).

No – instead, we should listen to the doctors and NHS workers who make our health service so special.

This week, 200 medics wrote a letter stressing that “the NHS, medical innovation and UK public health” are stronger in Europe.

They warned “Brexit should carry a health warning” – because the economic damage caused by leaving Europe would “jeopardise an already cash-strapped NHS.”

Samuel, those who work in the NHS couldn’t be clearer – we need to stay in Europe to protect investment in our health service. Volunteer for our campaign today, and help secure the NHS for future generations:

Well, that’s that then. Your friendly local NHS urologist is clearly such an expert on statecraft, diplomacy and constitutional matters that they are ideally positioned to tell you how to vote on a matter of existential importance to Britain.

The obvious, simple-minded manipulation being attempted by both campaigns would be offensive were it not so amateurish. And to think that political consultants and strategists are actually being paid money to come up with this stuff.

Vote Leave and you’ll get cancer, because Brexit is so dreadfully scary that it should come with a health warning!

Vote Leave and we’ll save so much money that we can build a brand new hospital every week. Just think of it! That’s fifty two massive new hospitals every year. In a decade, we’ll have 520 new hospitals! By the year 2036 we could have 1040 new hospitals! Enormous ones! Your descendants could live in a Britain with a humongous, fully staffed new hospital for every single person living on this island! Oh, what a paradise it will be.

What pathetic, manipulative nonsense.

Whether we vote to leave the European Union or remain in the burning building, the NHS will continue to exist. We can’t seem to shake it. And it will continue to churn out moderately priced but increasingly substandard levels of care while nearly the entire population gathers round to uncritically praise the holy creation of St. Aneurin Bevan of Tredegar from dawn to dusk. Nothing, absolutely nothing, will change.

Do you really believe Britain Stronger in Europe when they suggest that “medical innovation” will cease or be harmed if Britain leaves the political construct known as the European Union? Exactly what is it about forsaking a foreign flag, anthem and parliament which will slow down the cure for Alzheimer’s?

Or do you seriously buy this idea that Brexit means that we can throw up a brand new hospital in every major British city within a year, and keep on doing that until the NHS is not only our largest employer but our only employer?

Don’t be taken in by this execrable, manipulative, transparently idiotic nonsense from the major Leave and Remain campaigns, all of which seem to be managed by B-student politicos and all of which are operating on the hopeful assumption that you are a frightened, credulous simpleton.

Recognise that this referendum is about sovereignty, sovereignty and sovereignty. Do your own research, and then make the right decision. And whatever you decide, don’t waste your vote virtue-signalling your love for Our Blessed NHS.


Save Our NHS

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Imagine Britain Without The NHS

NHS Worship - London Olympic Games 1

Imagine a Britain without the NHS.

A Britain where the state did not directly employ or contract nearly every doctor and nurse in the entire country.

A Britain where the government did not decide which cutting edge treatments would be offered to the public, and which ones were simply too expensive.

A Britain where citizens were not reliant on the state for the physical delivery of nearly all their healthcare needs.

A Britain where healthcare was unconstrained by politically influenced national targets.

A Britain where angry, jealous talk of “postcode lotteries” did not act as a brake on excellence and a requirement for dull, uniform mediocrity.

A Britain where every hospital superbug or missed A&E waiting target did not automatically become the prime minister’s overriding personal concern, freeing them up to actually be a world leader.

A Britain where we are able to have a rational, level-headed discussion about healthcare, and what kind of system would achieve the best outcomes for the most people at an acceptable cost.

A Britain where we understood that healthcare need not be a choice between the NHS and the infamous US system.

A Britain where we were able to take inspiration from the best aspects of different healthcare systems around the world in reforming our own.

A Britain where criticism of the NHS was not treated like blasphemy, with the offenders shamed on social media and their political careers curtailed.

A Britain where we gave nearly as much respect, honour and resources to our armed forces and veterans as we do to the NHS.

A Britain where we did not reflexively worship a giant, mid-century bureaucracy as our secular national religion.

A Britain which thought enough of itself to realise that there is far more that marks us out as a powerful, great and indispensable nation than our anachronistic 1940s healthcare system.

A Britain where lean, efficient public services existed to serve the people, rather than we the people existing only to serve our insatiable, rapacious public services.

A Britain where saying “the NHS served us ably for many decades after the war, but now it is time to look again at how we provide healthcare to our fellow citizens” was not a shocking, unacceptable statement.

Imagine a Britain where the link between politics and healthcare was broken and the NHS monopoly split up, meaning that things like the coming national strike of junior doctors could never happen.

Just imagine what could happen – all that we could accomplish – if only we were able to have a calm, rational conversation about healthcare in modern Britain.

National Health Service - NHS Leaflet - 1948

Further reading:

Our deadly obsession with the NHS

A Haidtian take on ‘NHS worship’

Worshipping the NHS costs lives

Britain’s cult-like worshop of the NHS must end

To save the NHS, let’s stop worshipping it like a god

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