Thursday, 12 January 2012
2011; End of Term Report.
Delving into the 'nitty gritty', this was the first full year of the Toffs Academy's rule and Edd and, err Edd's reign on the opposition benches. What a triumph it all was, with the competition for the middle ground of mediocrity almost reaching fever pitch. The cut and thrust was painful to watch, with minutiae of each of the party's doctrine being dissected and found to be - the same! The Headmaster shone through it all with aplomb, and that was just his face. But seriously, where is the difference, the defining policy, the moment of inertia that could lift us from this politically imposed state of misery in which we are living; I'm still waiting.
'Hacking' came to prominence, with News International holding up it's hands to the offence of listening to peoples voice mail messages. Well sorry, I simply cannot get worked up about a a bunch of idiots who are so stupid as to actually leave any significant personal information on a mobile phone voice mail system, which is designed to ensure that you know someone called when you were on the 'phone or off the air! Nor am I impressed by the state expending my money on an enquiry that is designed to 'up the ante' on the damages that will be paid to a bunch of self serving, publicity seeking third rate celebrities like Prezzer and 'Huge' Grant. If NI had actually listened in, to a 'phone conversation, that would be different, but they didn't. That privilege is reserved for the security services and the US Government. So get over it, go home and stop filling the media with your contrived and silly outrage; it's your own fault!
Meanwhile, back on Earth or the planet Zog, as it seems to me (or maybe 'Life on Mars' as Francis Wheen says) much more important things were happening.
The 'bandwagon' of Pharma continued, although in somewhat abated form now that the so called 'blockbuster' drugs have gone off patent, and some of the seedier advances elicited huge payouts for the harms they had caused ($3 billion from GSK for fraud and mis-selling), but that didn't stop Andrew Witty getting a knighthood. Who says crime doesn't pay! Cameron decided that they (Pharma) were so poverty stricken that we needed to give them some of our money and a lot of our patient information, to get them to cause some more carnage by helping them develop some new drugs. We need some more 'lifestyle' drugs like a hole in the head, and the hand full of very expensive drugs thus far developed to treat relatively rare conditions have only had modest or even no benefit to society, except of course to Pharma's coffers.
The NHS remains 'broken' and all the rhetoric about 'saving it' is counterproductive. More 'marketisation' will not make one iota of difference to current appalling status of the patient in all of this. 2011 saw the exposure of terrible standards of care that have prevailed, and been tolerated for years. Winterbourne View, failure to provide adequate nursing, dignity and nutrition to the elderly and those with mental health issues and learning problems. The 'Stafford Hospital' enquiry, the appalling problems in A&E at weekends and nights, and substandard care in Trauma and Surgery; the list is almost endless. A new paradigm needs forging to bring the NHS up to a standard that is in accord with the vast sums expended, most of which has been allocated to the payment of the management, consultants and temporary staff at exorbitant rates. And of course PFI, PPP and ISTC's. Despite the fact that the ConDems criticised the finance model, they have still seen fit to go ahead with the £450m Liverpool Hospital PFI contract with a consortia of Laing, Interserve and FCC. There is also some evidence that Trusts are retaining patients on wards, to enable payment of treatment tariffs simply to 'grab the cash', when many could be discharged to home (much safer than hospital) and treated by their GP's.
All of the privatisation and commercialisation models will do nothing to advance patient care. To proffer the view that excellence will be intrinsic to allowing further private companys' to undertake treatment at Primary or Secondary level is littered with pitfalls. Thus far it certainly has not been proven, in fact costs have escalated out of proportion to the outcome. Time and time again it has been demonstrated that the private sector is only interested in 'cherry picking' those areas of treatment that are simple and straightforward and with little to no need for the 'back up' of an emergency department, and when things have 'gone wrong', which they have, patients have been rapidly handed over to NHS Hospitals to try and salvage something from the situation.
Competition has long been viewed as being the spur to excellence within capitalism by successive governments since the Thatcher days, but the proof has been sadly lacking, with greed and mendacity demonstrated just as readily as in the public sector, in fact the paradigm has been so corrosive as to be valueless. Numerous companies have been earmarked by Government as 'preffered providers' in many sectors and proven to be incompetent, target driven, purveyors of substandard products and services. The simple model of capitalism is 'buy cheap and sell dear'. There are better ways of producing a better outcome for patients than that. We only have look to Winterbourne View and to the NHS IT programme to see the failings of the unbridled pursuit of money.
The organisations too, that oversee the NHS and Social Care also continue to give concern, with the CQC failing miserably in its raison detre to protect the vulnerable and curb dangerous practise because it spent too much time on the registration of the myriad components of Health care (which yields its funding) than on the protection of patients from harm. It does seem to have raised it's game a little now but like most things in Health care it's too little and too late.
And what of the Medicines and Health care products Regulatory Agency (MHRA)? Well, they seem to have gone to sleep on job, because they were warned back in 2006 about PIP's toxic breast implants after approving them without demur years previously. Could it be anything to do with alleged opinion of many that they are a bit 'cosy' with 'Pharma'. As is usual, I could not possibly comment on such a salacious view! Perhaps if anyone had checked the content the penny might have dropped because most comprised the sort of silicone used for sealing around baths and showers (Rhodorsil) or for oils seals and 'O' rings in automotive products (Silopren). As even the (fairly lax) FDA in the US banned this device in 2000, what happened to the continuous assessment process that should have been in place?
Too often the bodies we pay with our hard earned taxes to safeguard us from harm are found wanting. and the NHS which is now consuming approaching 10% of GDP is found to be toxic for patients. When will lessons be learned? Approximately when Doctors accept a 'duty of candour', or hell freezes over (not necessarily in that order).