The Snarling, Vengeful Cult Of The NHS

Mid Staffs Hospital Scandal 2

Anger the priests and priestesses of our modern day NHS cult at your peril…

It takes some degree of courage to publicly speak out against the National Health Service, the unceasing praise and glorification of which has become the closest thing secular Britain has to a national religion.

In fact, one of the only things capable of jogging people out of their NHS-worshipping trance is bitter personal experience. And few experiences can be more bitter and heart-wrenching than that experienced by Martin Bailey, a fellow contributor to Conservatives for Liberty.

Martin Bailey’s grandmother died an awful and unnecessary death in November 2007, one of the victims of the death house that was Mid Staffs Hospital. His mother, moved to action by what happened, became a vocal and active campaigner for patient safety and NHS transparency, eventually being awarded a CBE for her efforts.

Sadly, drawing attention to the flaws and shortcomings of the NHS exacts fearsome retribution. But unlike whistleblowers drawing attention to failings in other industries or sectors, the retribution meted out to NHS critics comes not only from the formal hierarchy within the NHS, but also from medical professionals and members of the public who have been hypnotised into a state of blind devotion to our nationalised health service.

Bailey writes:

From the very beginning she has faced denial, disbelief and open hostility – such is the lot of anyone who dares to question the eternal virtue of ‘Mother NHS’. She has been hounded in the street, trolled viciously and incessantly online by both the general public and medical professionals, suffered hundreds of nuisance callers and been spat at in the supermarket. This November it will be nine years since my Nan’s death and my mother still has to clean faeces and graffiti off her gravestone.

Such is the level of devotion to the NHS, such is the illogical loyalty that both staff and public feel towards it that any criticism is brutally suppressed. This defence mechanism is ingrained into its very nature. Every story in the press that is anything but a paean of praise is immediately written off as right wing propaganda, part of the mainstream media conspiracy rather than the general public’s right to a transparent and reflective service.

When the Healthcare Commission published its initial report into Mid Staffs the trust’s first response was not to rectify the problems but to spend £1,000,000 commissioning Birmingham University to compile a rebuttal.

One million pounds! One million pounds that could have been spent on doctors and nurses, crutches and casts, Scalpels and forceps. Even a new coffee machine in the canteen would have been a better deal for the public than a study that refuted the claims of another Taxpayer-funded body, in turn making it even more difficult to highlight poor care through the haze of institutional ambivalence.

This is what some of the kind, virtuous people who Love Our NHS do – they “protect” the institution they love by defacing the grave of an innocent woman with graffiti and faeces. Many more will just happily imply that you are a heartless monster lacking in compassion, simply for daring to criticise one particular (and unreplicated anywhere else in the world) healthcare delivery model.

We should not be surprised. The British public is fed a constant diet of pro-NHS propaganda, from politicians, campaign groups and the health service itself. Like any large organisation – and the NHS is the fifth largest employer on the planet – the NHS has an independent life of its own, and moves to protect and defend what it considers to be its own interests (which are not always one and the same with the interests of patients). And it very much suits the purposes of the NHS to have millions of people childishly painting its logo on their faces, wearing it on t-shirts, proclaiming its glory on social media, buying schmaltzy NHS-themed Christmas songs and otherwise providing the kind of public lobbying which would cost any other organisation millions of pounds.

Martin Bailey picks up on this point about how we place the NHS, rather than then needs of the patient, at the centre of our healthcare debate:

Healthcare should be about the patient… and nothing more. While we have a venerated NHS this is impossible. The institution always comes first. It is too monolithic, too omnipotent for its identity ever to be subordinated to the needs of those it serves. In its current guise there will always be fanatics who will never admit to shortcomings no matter what evidence is put in front of them, ‘NHS Daesh’ who will never allow the truth to censure their ideology. In this culture true patient-centred care might as well be a pot of gold at the end of the rainbow.

Countries with systems based on universal health insurance do not experience the same problems. In France, Germany, The Netherlands, Belgium, Australia and Japan healthcare is not politicised and treatment is widely regarded as superior. An insurance based system healthcare costs as much as it needs to and is not constrained by the political tennis match that sees budgets ebb and flow, forcing the NHS into a permanent state of inadequacy, struggling to deliver 21st century services through a process of rationing that has changed little since the 1950s.

And makes this call to conservatives:

Conservatives have traditionally been coy on the topic for fear of reprisals at the ballot box, only daring to mention the dreaded ‘P’ word amongst close friends behind firmly closed doors.  But our reticence plays into Labour’s hands, easily construed as a hidden agenda. The left has owned the narrative on healthcare for far too long and it is time we had the courage of our convictions to speak freely and openly about the benefits of privatised healthcare.

So the next time a colleague starts talking about how wonderful the NHS is, don’t stare at your shoes, mumble and change the subject. Speak up, speak out and fly the flag proudly for the death of the NHS.

A noble aspiration, but for as long as the Conservative Party is in the hands of David Cameron and George Osborne, nothing much will change. Both men are carbon copies of Tony Blair, only with blue ties rather than red, and so the mealy-mouthed praise of the NHS will continue – not that this will stop Labour from screaming hysterically about the dismantling of Our NHS.

But Bailey is absolutely right – anybody who cares about the future of healthcare in Britain must immediately disenthral themselves from the Cult of the NHS and encourage others to do the same. This has nothing to do with being a hardcore libertarian or hating doctors and nurses. This is about applying the same unsentimental standards of objectivity to our analysis of healthcare as we do to any other industry or government service. It is about having the humility to learn from others, the courage to confront mistakes and the clarity of mind to focus at all times on the patient rather than the organisation.

In other words, it is not going to happen for at least another generation. And how many more Mid Staffs type scandals will have occurred by the time necessity finally forces us to confront reality and act?

 

NHS Logo - Cross - National Religion - Worship - Idolatry

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Keep It Classy, Fox News

Here we go again.

Slate.com, in their critical role monitoring Fox News 24/7 so that the rest of us don’t have to, picked up on the fact that everyone’s favourite Fair & Balanced (TM) news network decided to mock recently-convicted whistleblower Chelsea (née Bradley) Manning’s decision to live the rest of her life as a woman, via the surreptitious medium of their “let’s go to commercial” music.

 

They report:

Fox News wasted little time weighing in on the Great Chelsea Manning Pronoun Debate. “I don’t do what Bradley Manning wants me to do,” America’s Newsroom host Gregg Jarrett declared last week, explaining why he had just repeatedly used masculine pronouns to describe Manning. But as you can see in the clip above, Jarrett’s friends at Fox & Friends took that stance to the extreme this morning by mocking the Army private by playing Aerosmith’s “Dude (Looks Like a Lady).”

It should come as no surprise to readers that the incident took place on that most highbrow and intellectual segment of the FNC’s lineup, Fox  & Friends. But the slowness of the mainstream media in responding appropriately to Manning’s decision is not limited to Fox. As Slate points out:

Setting aside the absurdity of that clip for a second, it should be noted that Fox News isn’t the only major cable network to decide that it won’t respect Manning’s wish to live out the remainder of her life as a woman. CNN says that it won’t make the pronoun switch because Manning has “not yet taken any steps toward gender transition through surgery or hormone replacement therapy.” (It’s unclear why announcing her wish to “begin hormone therapy as soon as possible” doesn’t count as such a step.)

But who can expect anything more from a so-called news network (CNN) that considers the twerking abilities of Miley Cyrus more newsworthy than the unfolding crisis in Syria?

Sadly, this is not the first time that this blog has felt compelled to cover the inexplicable need for US news channels to make their broadcasts more palatable to a dumbed-down audience by injecting them with lively, and (almost always) inappropriate musical excerpts. As I wrote last time:

Since CNN has probably already haemmoraged most of it’s wavering audience to Fox or MSNBC, why not quit catering to that tiny remaining sliver of their viewers who need their news to be lubricated with frequent doses of perky music, and just…y’know…report the news?

The world doesn’t need another Fox & Friends.

So no real progress, then.

Law? What Law?

I have so much to say about the shocking NSA unconstitutional spying scandal blown wide  open by whistleblower Edward Snowden and journalist Glenn Greenwald that I barely know where to begin.

So I shall begin with a tangent – the repercussions of the case over in Britain, where scandal has erupted because it turns out that Britain’s intelligence-gathering departments have had access to the US PRISM system for a number of years, and have made use of it on occasions to eavesdrop on the conversations of British citizens.

This should be causing people to light flaming torches and take to the streets, but as it stands today in docile modern day Britain, Prime Minister David Cameron is just being made to squirm a bit. The Huffington Post reports:

The foreign secretary, who is due to make a statement on the allegations in the Commons later, has said the law-abiding British public had “nothing to fear” from the work of GCHQ.

However MPs are likely to press Hague on whether the intelligence service has always abided by the legal framework.

Sir Malcolm Rifkind, the chairman of the ISC, told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme that GCHQ would have needed to ask ministers before requesting information on British citizens’ internet activity from the United States.

How comforting. But worst of all were the comments from David Cameron himself, who thought that these flimsy, meaningless words would serve somehow to placate us:

David Cameron has said British intelligence agencies operate “within a legal framework”, as MPs prepare to grill William Hague on GCHQ’s involvement with the American Prism internet surveillance system.

“I think it is right that we have well-organised, well-funded intelligence services to help keep us safe,” the prime minister said on Monday morning.

“But let me be absolutely clear. They are intelligence services that operate within the law, within a law that we have laid down, and they are also subject to proper scrutiny by the intelligence and security committee (ISC) in the House of Commons.”

What the hell does this garbage even mean?

British intelligence agencies are operating within a legal framework. Okay, what legal framework?

He thinks that it’s right to have an intelligence service? Who on earth was saying that it wasn’t?

But the final line is the worst, where he says that the intelligence services are operating within “a law that we have laid down”. Oh, well that’s fine then, let’s all go home.

Does David Cameron at any point mention the particular law under which the intelligence services are operating? Or when this law that “we” laid down was written, voted on and approved? Of course he doesn’t! And I, for one, would rather like to know.

Do you see the difference between having a written constitution and not having one? Do you?

Even if (as in the United States), the President and his administration choose to brazenly flout it, the written constitution at least gives a frame of reference when it comes to determining whether an action is acceptable or unacceptable. Contrast this with Britain, where the most basic laws of the land can (and often are) changed on a whim by the elected dictatorship of a majority government. In Britain, if we are told that a government action that we disagree with is “lawful”, there is no end of Acts and Amendments and revisions and EU law and whatever else to sort through in order to work out whether or not it is so.

The result, of course, is that the British don’t even try. We might kick up a bit of a fuss if someone catches David Cameron devouring live puppies in the alley behind Downing Street one warm summer night, but once his spokesman assures us that he was acting “within the law, within a law that we have laid down”, we would all meekly nod, and let him get back to his puppy-butchering.

This is unacceptable. William Hague and David Cameron need to make crystal clear not only the laws currently on the statute books which allow for spying on the communications of a British citizen (with or without a warrant), but also the specific criteria that the intelligence services use, or at least the threshold of evidence that must be met, when selecting an individual for such a breach of their privacy.

Not that it much matters. David Cameron has lost my vote today.

Terrorism Supporter Peter King Is Right

Peter King IRA

 

Even enthusiastic terrorism supporter Congressman Peter King (R-NY) thinks that the Obama administration is leaking sensitive classified information for political gain.

Peter King is, of course, a bitter partisan, but for once this terrorism-supporting hack is right, calling out President Obama for allowing news to leak that his administration is providing non-direct military support to the Syrian rebels.

Politico reports:

Reports surfaced Thursday that Obama had authorized nonlethal aid, such as communications equipment, to the Syrian rebels. In response, King sent a letter to FBI Director Robert Mueller, asking that the agency add these reports to an investigation he had requested into national security leaks.

“These reported disclosures represent additional disturbing and irresponsible leaks of potentially classified information from this Administration,” he wrote [pdf]. “Obviously, the ongoing investigations have failed to deter further leaks.

The Obama administration needs to stop with the the targetted leakings of information designed to make President Obama look good, while coming down like a ton of bricks on whistleblowers who leak information that makes him look weak. Particularly if he really does want to shed his image as a grudge-holding Chicago machine politician.

Much as I disagree with Peter King about many things, and hold him in total contempt for his previous support for the IRA yet now worrying about radical Islamist terrorism in America, he is right to say:

“The only thing I can think of this is an attempt to rehabilitate the president going into an election year to show that he’s a tough guy,” he said on Fox. “The president deserves credit for killing Osama bin Laden, but at that time they went beyond anything that had to be disclosed. I think it’s to enhance his reputation and it’s done in an irresponsible way.”

Obama needs to stop this nonsense. Now.

Stop circumventing the constitution by involving the US in foreign conflicts without getting the expressed permission of Congress first. And stop selectively leaking classified information when it suits his purposes, yet clamming up and withholding it when it does not.

This is not hope and change.