How the NHS failed me and mine.
What it did, to the most important person
in my life and how it could happen to you unless
we do something about it!

Thursday, 8 September 2011

The Point of Departure.

As the Leviathan that is the Health and Social Care Bill, lumbers inexorably to a vote, shrugging off the attacks on its content, like a Tank does small arms fire, I have pondered as to what I would like to see the NHS become. Certainly not that which it is now, so I do not want to 'save it'. And 'curing it' does not appear in any agenda for Health that I can conceive of, because the cancer within has all but consumed the host. Spectacles of a rosy hue, seem to have been donned by the 'liberals', now that their precious NHS is under threat. All the transgressions of the past seem to have been forgotten and it is now to seen  as a beneficent, almost angelic body that we should strive to save from the evil machinations of the Tory's. In reality, nothing could be further from the truth.

At it's inception, the NHS was a construct based upon universal health care for all. Sadly that did not compute with Doctors of the day, so it was 'hijacked' by the Consultants and whilst the 'proles' got their boils lanced and their teeth pulled for free (well almost), there still existed a 'cabal', a 'mafia' of senior Doctors and Surgeons who dispensed their largess very much on a part-time basis, but nonetheless held sway at the BMA and called most of the shots. Several incarnations later (there were many), once a few of the miners son's had made it to Medical School and infiltrated into Hospitals it became it little less elitist, but the 'firms' still held sway, with the 'rugger playing' registrar being more the norm than a lad from the terraces of an Allan Sillitoe novel, even more unlikely a girl! So we move forward through time and seventeen major reports and reorganisations later we arrive to today, or rather the white paper of the Coalition of July 2010 Liberating the NHS (didn't realise it had been imprisoned) from which sprang the Health and Social Care Bill. But, long before then the NHS had lost it's way.

The Thatcher years saw the invention of 'fundholding' and of course the bureaucracy attached to that hugely expensive and pointless accounting system that it was, causing mountains of paper invoices to be generated and mailed to each component of the system. The invention too of the Hospital Trusts, and of course the 'internal market', providing an entry for Private Health care to the NHS, and a proliferation of 'for profit' organisations and Hospitals. Tony Blair, not wishing to be seen in any way as 'socialist' perpetuated and embellished many of these policies including privatising the 'out of hours' provision of Primary Care, Foundation Trusts, incentivisation of GP's and of course the spectacularly useless and costly IT projects, together with the expansion of the Private Finance Initiative. In fact the only good thing he did was to eliminate the internal market, only sadly to decide to reinvent it just before he left office.

In all of this we have seen the 'legacy' of the Thatcher years become the Neo-Thatcherite agenda of today which sprang from the Neo-Liberals of yesterday, all completely oblivious to the vast sums of money they were spending, to achieve little other than the enrichment of an 'elite' cartel of Accountants, Facilities Management Companies, and Consultants, not forgetting 'Big Pharma' of course and to the detriment of the 'end user', the patient, who had no input to all of this, except of course to become a 'victim'. I say victim without any hesitation, because the joint efforts of the politicians, GP's, Consultants, and all the retinue of Nurses, Bureaucrats and hangers on have done virtually nothing to improve the lot of the patient but simply improved their own. I have no desire to save anything for any of them, they are completely undeserving even of the the little patience that I have left.  The GP's are more concerned about their pensions than patients, the Hospitals more interested in the preservation of their empires, even if it's at the expense of patient safety, than adopting better and less invasive protocols, or the concentration of specialist services in regional centres and thus improving mortality (childrens heart surgery?). The health care charities have been 'hi-jacked' by Pharma as patient advocates, to peddle drugs like Avastin which may prolong very slightly, the lives of terminal cancer patients, at enormous expense (and their profit) and with a whole host of side effects that can be terminal in their own right. All in the NHS and those outside it who will be 'willing providers', have an agenda that has nothing to do with patient care and everything to do with profit, with preserving power, extending control and personal gain.

Why for instance do we continue with Angeograms when we can utilise Electron Beam Computerised Tomography which is non-invasive, less dangerous and considerably less unpleasant. Because it's cheap and a lot of people will lose their jobs, power and influence if we 'can' it. Why do we continue with the 'sham' treatment of healthy people for heart disease they haven't actually got, because they have fulfilled some test criteria for a 'surrogate marker' evidenced by one of (several) computer 'risk scores' that are frankly useless and have been proven so. We also 'treat' perfectly healthy pregnant women, simply because 'we can', to ultra-sound scans, hospital births, inductions and other invasive procedures that for most are not needed, when we should be saving them for those that are 'at risk'. Why do we allow 'Pharma' to 'bribe' physicians and Surgeons with nice little 'jamborees' in exotic locations, 'free lunches', financial support for 'pet' projects and studies, all in the interest of promoting their dubious and often dangerous drugs and devices. Of course no Doctor would be influenced by such largess (and Genghis Khan was a really nice guy).

That is where I depart from the 'curers' and the 'savers'. I have seen my best friend die from stupidity and misdiagnosis. My father from neglect of his chronic illness. Almost lost my sight in one eye and watched the woman I love treated with appalling callousness, have her life endangered and her future blighted forever, for the want of diligence in simple protocols that are the foundation of medicine. Many of my friends have lost everything in their lives at the hands of those who swear to 'do no harm' and I have seen them rage at the impotence they have felt in their pursuit of justice and candour.

Denial of their incompetence seems to be the only thing at which Doctors are actually any good. So I want not to save the NHS, I wish it to be demolished like a fire gutted, dangerous building. Let the ConDems do their worst and destroy what is left whilst the Labour dissemblers snipe at the minutiae of the Bill, sure in the knowledge that they would have done little differently. Perhaps then, when we see yet again the differences and inequalities that will have been forged in England's NHS and we look North to Salmond's fiefdom where a new social democratic model is being invented, we can rebuild it as it should have been. I truly hope so, before I'm saddled with the DNAR.

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