Did The Russians Just Hack Our NHS?

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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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NHS Heresy, Part 4 – Junior Doctors Would Sell Out The NHS In A Heartbeat, If The Price Was Right

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Brave and principled defenders of Our NHS? The junior doctors would knife Aneurin Bevan’s vision in the back and happily serve an Evil Tory privatised healthcare system (how awful) if the price was right

Few people have been pronounced more saintly in 2016 than the holy NHS Junior Doctors, whose brave, principled and not-at-all-about-money industrial dispute with Jeremy Hunt and the Evil Tor-ee government has seen these humble, altruistic folks fight bravely and against the odds to safeguard the future of Our Blessed NHS.

Oh, wait. Nope. Turns out that most of those cherub-faced stethoscope swingers would throw the NHS under the bus and see the National Health Service privatised if it meant more money flowing into their pockets.

Kristian Niemietz of the IEA reports:

While I never believed for a second that the junior doctors’ strike was a People’s Struggle against the demonic forces of neoliberalism, I did believe that most junior doctors had convinced themselves of it. I was under the impression that they sincerely believed that that they were fighting The Just Cause on behalf of The People. Slogans like “Save our NHS” were everywhere, after all, and we always find it easy to convince ourselves that what is good for us also happens to be good for everybody, even if in roundabout ways.

And yet, in a recent survey of almost 10,000 junior doctors, 93% said they would accept “complete privatisation” of the NHS if it resulted in “substantially” increased salaries. Surely, some will dismiss these figures as a vicious smear, while others will accuse junior doctors of hypocrisy and opportunism. I think neither response is appropriate.

In practice, many doctors already act in accordance with the preferences expressed in this survey. Last year, about 8,600 UK-trained doctors went to work abroad, with Australia being a particularly popular destination. Australia has a universal public insurance system, in which the government commissions and pays for most healthcare, but in which the delivery is largely private and market-based. They are not doing anything immoral, because there is nothing immoral about private, market-based healthcare; in fact, the Australian system produces some of the best outcomes in the world. Come to think of it, even in the UK, most GPs are self-employed, not NHS employees. This means that technically, they are part of the dreaded – whisper it – private sector.

It would, however, suit junior doctors to quit the populist, anti-capitalist posturing. And the rest of us should try to keep our anti-capitalist knee-jerk responses in check. Even when it comes to healthcare.

My emphasis in bold. And you read that correctly – 93% of all those doctors who love to paint the NHS logo on their faces and protest Jeremy Hunt would happily live in an Evil Tory dystopia of privatised healthcare if it meant they were paid a market wage.

Niemietz is kinder and more understanding in his piece than I am inclined to be. Personally, I think that the junior doctors’ strike was just another example of the NHS Industrial Complex – that vast connected web of connected special interests who have a direct stake in the world’s fifth largest employer continuing to operate along broadly the same lines as it does at present – flexing its muscles and throwing the entire country under the bus for their own economic gain. But that’s just cynical old me.

There is no disputing, however, that nearly every tawdry public (and private) sector dispute in modern history has been justified by the protagonists on the supposed grounds of “public safety”, whether it is London Tube drivers suddenly becoming concerned about safety on the Underground in time to tack an extra day onto their Christmas holidays, Southern Rail train drivers convinced that taking over responsibility for opening and closing their train doors will lead to regular platform bloodbaths, or the sainted junior doctors.

We have known since May that pay was the only real red line for junior doctors, though surprisingly none of their placards made reference to the desire for more cash – they chose instead to go with their “Save Our NHS” angle instead, to elicit maximum public sympathy (by whipping up maximum public fear). We have also known, thanks to the steady stream of junior doctors moving abroad to work for other, better healthcare systems than our own anachronistic NHS, that their supposed high-minded commitment to socialised, government-provided healthcare is often outmatched by the desire for a bigger pay cheque and a larger slice of finite taxpayer funds.

But now we find out that not only would many junior doctors consider abandoning the NHS and selling their services to hospitals in other countries, but that they would actively support the tearing down of Our Blessed NHS and its replacement with a privatised system here in Britain. The commitment to socialised public healthcare is literally tissue paper thin with these people, even more flimsy than the home-made banners on which they proclaim themselves to be tireless warriors fighting to defend the Best Healthcare System in the World.

Will the revelation of this hypocrisy change anything? Probably not. The Guardian and other sycophantic leftist outlets will no doubt continue to gush over the various vested interests within the NHS Industrial Complex, as instructed by High Priests like Owen Jones:

Ask a striking junior doctor why they’re taking this action, and you won’t simply hear an eloquent spiel about their contracts. It’s the very future of the NHS – which they have committed their lives to – which they fear is at stake. There are the government’s policies of marketisation and fragmentation – yes, accelerating what previous administrations did – stripping the “national” from NHS.

“Committed their lives to”? Heavens, you would think that these people had pledged themselves as members of the Swiss Guard, the Night’s Watch or the Order of the Phoenix, the way that Owen Jones talks about them, rather than simply signing up as employees of the fifth largest bureaucracy on the face of the planet.

But it is sneaky what Owen Jones does here, suggesting that people become doctors out of a desire to work in a large government bureaucracy rather than feeling the call of a vocation to heal. Other countries seem to manage to recruit and train doctors without danging the carrot of getting to work for a massive state-owned bureaucracy in front of them, but Jones would have us believe that we only have doctors and nurses because people are so dreadfully inspired by Aneurin Bevan’s rusting 1948 vision. Nonsense, of course, but very effective propaganda from the NHS Industrial Complex.

The NHS Industrial Complex is made up of many different actors, all with their own motivations. One has the ideological leftists like Owen Jones, whose entire worldview relies on supporting a monolithic state healthcare provider churning out a precisely equally dismal service to every postcode in the UK. Then one has the worker bees within the organisation itself, whose medical or bureaucratic expertise rarely qualifies them to pass judgment on the optimal healthcare system for a country of 65 million people. And then one has the vast supply chain serving the beast, which is motivated primarily by a desire to preserve and expand existing revenue streams and avoiding risky disruption.

How fortunate that this cast of villains and useful idiots is able to hide behind the junior doctors – most of whom are eminently decent people supporting a superficially worthy cause – as they press for the preservation of the status quo, the scuttling of reform and a wider pipeline direct from the bank account of every UK taxpayer direct to the fifth largest organisation in the world.

But perhaps now that we know that the NHS Industrial Complex’s most photogenic spokespeople are actually more than happy to upend the whole system, spit on Britain’s national religion and see the NHS fully privatised so long as the pay rise outweighs the public vilification, the junior doctors’ collective halo might tarnish a bit.

Still, there are always the nurses. Everyone trusts a good nurse.

 

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Save Our NHS

Top Image: University of Liverpool Faculty of Health & Life Sciences / Wikimedia Commons

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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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The Seven Deadly Sins Of Momentum – NHS Edition

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Catastrophisation, Identity Politics, NIMBYism, Militant Trade Unionism, the NHS Industrial Complex, Ideological Echo Chambers and Socialist Fundamentalism – the Seven Deadly Sins of Britain’s NHS-worshipping Taliban

This charming missive from the Camden Momentum NHS Working Group pinged its way into my mailbox this afternoon, and in an idle moment I thought I would point out all of the things that are wrong with it, and which actively undermine the vital cause of healthcare reform and thwart necessary moves to improve healthcare outcomes for ordinary Britons, all for the sake of rigid adherence to failed socialist dogma.

The email reads in part:

Our NHS is in crisis and under attack, we must stand up and fight for it!

Please come to our Reclaiming the NHS public meeting:
– 30th November 7-9pm
– Council Chambers, Camden Town Hall Judd Street, London WC1H 9JE.

The junior doctors strike has alerted us all that our NHS is being stolen from us. It can only be saved by a massive public campaign. Since Jeremy Corbyn was elected leader of the Labour Party by a landslide, we have parliamentary backing to stop and reverse privatisation. Come and hear about:

  • 80% of NHS staff are women. Over 30% are immigrant. Hear what they have to say on the impact privatisation has already had on the NHS and emergency services.
  • Find out which local services are threatened by cuts and privatisation (Sustainability & Transformation Plans – STPs).
  • Plan together what we can do to stop this.

The Seven Deadly Sins of Momentum and assorted other NHS-worshippers that I have identified are as follows:

1. Catastrophisation. Perpetually suggesting that the NHS is on the brink of destruction. Leftists have been making these breathless allegations during Tory administrations going back to the 1950s, including some long spells of Conservative rule, and yet miraculously the NHS survives – and with it, our unthinking devotion to government-provided healthcare. The hysterical alarmism card is really starting to get quite tiresome at this point. The NHS is far more likely to bury all of us (after quite possibly hastening us toward an early demise) than we are to bury the NHS.

2. Identity Politics. There is always time for identity politics now. If NHS acolytes can find an ethnic, gender or sexuality angle to support their argument they will inevitably do so, because they know just how fatal an allegation of institutional racism or sexism can be.

3. NIMBYism. A monolithic, socialised government healthcare delivery organisation must ration and allocate resources across the country in the most efficient way possible if it is to stand a chance of functioning correctly. Yet at every opportunity, NHS worshippers protest reorganisations that would close small and failing departments in favour of building regional centres of excellence because despite living in the age of the car and the air ambulance, these people come out in hives if they are not within five minute’s walk an NHS building at all times.

4. Militant Trade Unionism. Leaked emails revealed months ago that the junior doctors’ strike was nothing more than a tawdry, grubby pay dispute, with BMA chiefs and key junior doctor agitators deliberately hoodwinking the public by pretending that it was a high-minded dispute about public safety or indeed the very future of the NHS. Of course, every grubby public sector strike in history has been defended on the grounds that participants are engaged in a selfless stand for public safety, and in 2016 we really should be capable of seeing through these left-wing political antics.

5. Supporting the NHS Industrial Complex. The UK’s National Health Service is the fifth biggest employer on the face of the Earth, employing nearly as many people as global fast food giant McDonald’s and many more than the Indian railways, all to service a country of just 65 million people. When nearly the entirety of Britain’s healthcare sector is nationalised, there is inevitably a vast ecosystem of suppliers, support businesses, lobbyists and vested interests with every incentive to maintain the status quo so that they can continue milking the system. But such is the reflexive, unquestioning love that many have for the NHS that we never really stop to consider whether it is run for our benefit, or for the benefit of those vested interests. Just as the military-industrial complex has been a very real phenomenon in the United States of America following World War 2, so the NHS-industrial complex is a real phenomenon in modern Britain. We should be less credulous and recognise this fact.

6. Ideological echo chamber. As the UK general election, Brexit and the election of Donald Trump as US president have shown, by living in an hermetically sealed ideological bubble in which people talk only to others of the same political viewpoint, consume only news sources which validate their existing biases and mistake social media “clicktivism” with real activism and change, leftists end up talking to themselves while ignoring the wider country. The NHS cultists can continue to share social media memes and infographics all they like, but they are only preserving the failing status quo and making it impossible for reformers to be heard.

7. Socialist fundamentalism. Nothing reveals the NHS cultists’ devotion to socialist ideology over and above actual healthcare outcomes more than their blind, hysterical insistence that all privatisation must be eliminated and every NHS service brought back in-house as a matter of ideological purity rather than clinical value. These people will only be happy when the government (through our tax pounds) funds and delivers every single aspect of healthcare, from support functions like laundry, catering, cleaning, construction, marketing, staffing and management through to the front-line clinical work. Never mind the fact that no other advanced country in the world successfully operates a healthcare system as completely nationalised as the one which they favour. Forget learning from best practice around the world, or (heaven forbid) trying something new and bold. No, NHS cultists insist that Britain is to be a socialist beacon to the world, and if you or I have to die because of substandard care in order to glorify their vision of socialised healthcare then so be it.

What do you think? Would you change any of these Seven Deadly Sins, or add any others?

Please share your thoughts in the comments.

 

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NHS Heresy, Part 3

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The latest depressing news about Britain’s slide down the healthcare outcome rankings will only lead to more uncritical NHS-worship instead of the frank, rational and dispassionate conversation we need to have about end-of-life care for the ageing, failing National Health Service

The Times’ Tim Shipman reports some awkward facts in Sunday’s “Red Box” briefing:

As many as 46,000 people die each year because NHS treatments for a range of conditions, including cancer, trail behind the best in the world, a new report has found.

The UK ranks near the bottom of a list of developed nations in terms of survival rates for common cancers such as breast, lung, prostate and bowel cancers.

More than 9,000 people who die each year in the UK from lung cancer would survive if they lived in Japan, which has the best survival rate for the disease among the 32 countries studied. The UK ranks 30th.

BUT THE NHS IS THE ENVY OF THE WORLD!

The NHS was perfect until the Evil Tor-ees got their grubby hands on it six years ago!

We just need a new NHS Tax to fund our beloved healthcare system – I for one would be happy to pay five pence more on the pound to show my support for Our NHS!

Cue a million and one leftist responses to these awkward, sobering facts and statistics. Everything other than a measure of introspection, or questioning whether a centralised, statist bureaucracy designed in 1948 – and which perversely ranks as the fifth largest employer on the face of the Earth, bigger than the Indian railways and only just smaller than McDonald’s – is really the best way to deliver healthcare to Britons in 2016.

That healthcare stat about lung cancer survival rates in Japan looks rather good, doesn’t it? And how exactly is it achieved? Well:

The health care [system] in Japan provides healthcare services, including screening examinations, prenatal care and infectious disease control, with the patient accepting responsibility for 30% of these costs while the government pays the remaining 70%. Payment for personal medical services is offered by a universal health care insurance system that provides relative equality of access, with fees set by a government committee.

All residents of Japan are required by the law to have health insurance coverage. People without insurance from employers can participate in a national health insurance programme, administered by local governments. Patients are free to select physicians or facilities of their choice and cannot be denied coverage. Hospitals, by law, must be run as non-profit and be managed by physicians. For-profit corporations are not allowed to own or operate hospitals. Clinics must be owned and operated by physicians.

So in Japan there is some sense that healthcare is an individual’s responsibility – the requirement to cover 30% of costs ensures that this is the case, acting as an incentive to live healthier lifestyles and take personal responsibility for decisions. But universally mandated insurance and a decree that patients cannot be denied coverage ensures that nobody slips through the net.

In other words, this is hardly a libertarian dystopia. Prices are capped by a government committee, while state law dictates that individuals purchase insurance. Hospitals are non-profit, meaning the big, “evil” American corporations don’t get a look-in.

And yet even to suggest that the UK looks to Japan for inspiration in reforming healthcare would be to mark oneself out as a heretic, as a blasphemer against St. Aneurin Bevan of Tredegar and the Perfect System he bequeathed to us. Ordinary citizens would be shunned by their friends while any politician would quickly find themselves labelled an “extremist” and excommunicated from public life.

How much further down the international rankings must we slip before Britain’s army of NHS worshippers (and the NHS Industrial Complex, whose bidding they unwittingly do) finally stop singing hymns of praise to a failing government bureaucracy and demand that we finally do something bold, something different?

On second thoughts, don’t answer that question.

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