Thursday, 30 August 2007

Political analysis for beginners

Two Cows!!

SOCIALISM: You have 2 cows; you give one to your neighbour.

COMMUNISM: You have 2 cows. The State takes both and gives you some milk.

FASCISM: You have 2 cows. The State takes both and sells you some milk.

NAZISM: You have 2 cows. The State takes both and shoots you.

BUREAUCRACY: You have 2 cows. The State takes both, shoots one, milks the other, and then throws the milk away...

SURREALISM: You have two giraffes. The government requires you to take harmonica lessons

TRADITIONAL CAPITALISM: You have two cows. You sell one and buy a bull. Your herd multiplies, and the economy grows. You sell them and retire on the income.

AN AMERICAN CORPORATION: You have two cows. You sell one, and force the other to produce the milk of four cows. Later, you hire a consultant to analyse why the cow has dropped dead.

A FRENCH CORPORATION: You have two cows. You go on strike, organise a riot, and block the roads, because you want three cows.

A JAPANESE CORPORATION: You have two cows. You redesign them so they are one-tenth the size of an ordinary cow and produce twenty times the milk. You then create a clever cow cartoon image called 'cowkimon' and market it worldwide.

A GERMAN CORPORATION: You have two cows. You re-engineer them so they live
for 100 years, eat once a month, and milk themselves.

AN ITALIAN CORPORATION: You have two cows, but you don't know where they are. You decide to have lunch.

A RUSSIAN CORPORATION: You have two cows. You count them and learn you have five cows. You count them again and learn you have 42 cows. You count them again and learn you have 2 cows. You stop counting cows and open another bottle of vodka.

A SWISS CORPORATION: You have 5000 cows. None of them belong to you. You charge the owners for storing them.

CHINESE CORPORATION: You have two cows. You have 300 people milking them. You claim that you have full employment, and high bovine productivity, and execute the newsman who reported the real situation.

AN INDIAN CORPORATION: You have two cows. You worship them.

IRAQI CORPORATION: Everyone thinks you have lots of cows. You tell them that you have one. No-one believes you, so they bomb you and invade your country. You still have no cows, but at least now you are part of a Democracy....

WELSH CORPORATION: You have two cows. The one on the left looks very attractive.

AUSTRALIAN CORPORATION: You have two cows. Business seems pretty good. You close the office and go for a few beers to celebrate

A BRITISH CORPORATION: You have two cows. The Government says you have to buy a licence to milk them, but first you have to do a risk assessment, which only the government Quango is allowed to carry out. They charge you 5 times the cost of doing it. They find that the three legged stool is a risk under health and safety. You have to buy the EC approved 5 legged stool that is designed to support a milk maid of up to 250 kilos. It is too heavy to carry. The stool exceeds EC weight lifting limits for workers by 4 kilos, which just happens to be the weight of the fifth leg. To shift the stool from one cow to the other you therefore need a special (EC approved) trolley. The new stool and trolley are so expensive that you have to mortgage one of the cows to pay for them and pay for the mandatory training course you must take to get your licence to milk the cows. You sell your milk to the supermarket chain that pays you next to nothing for it, and then they sell it to their customers for four times what they paid you. Then they release a press statement about how wonderful they are to support British Cows. The rest of the world thinks your cows are mad but you and your cows know that it is not true and Anyway the rest of the world, have no intention of identifying and counting their mad cows so people in other countries don't know their cows are really, really barmy do they. You sell your cows to a Polish Migrant worker and your farm to a Russian 'investment bank' and then you leave to buy a villa by the sea in a country where it is sunny and the cost of milk is a tenth the cost of milk at home. They don't have a National Health Service.......but you are so happy and relaxed your health improves and you live to be a hundred.

Wednesday, 29 August 2007

No comment

Boy's head cut out of toilet seat

A three-year-old boy who got his head stuck in a toilet training seat had to be rescued by firefighters.

The fire crew used a hacksaw to cut the plastic seat from the youngster's head after being called to a house in Laindon, Essex.

"We're always glad to be of service," said an Essex Fire and Rescue Service spokesman. "Youngsters do this sort of thing from time to time."

The boy's mother was very worried but he was unhurt by his ordeal, he added

A friend in need...

So much for our much vaunted "special relationship" with the United States government:

The US will continue to refuse requests for its personnel to appear at inquests into the "friendly fire" deaths of British troops, a report says.
The MoD has sent written guidance to coroners across England and Wales over the holding of military inquests.
According to the Times, its letter says the US "confirms categorically" it will not provide witnesses for inquests.
It comes six days after three British soldiers were killed by US "friendly fire" in southern Afghanistan.
The Times reports that the letter to coroners states: "The US have confirmed categorically that they will not provide witnesses to attend UK inquests.
"While coroners may continue to ask for US witnesses to attend... they should be aware that there will in all cases be a refusal."

Monday, 27 August 2007

Another unpleasant truth

I try, on this web site, not to stray too far from health issues; health is what I know about.

But heroin has a massive impact on health, and crime, and social cohesion in Britain, and most of the heroin on our streets comes from Afghanistan. Afghanistan is, of course, where substantial numbers of British troops are now deployed, performing their duties with bravery and professionalism: yet now the BBC publishes this on its web site:

The United Nations says opium production in Afghanistan has "soared to frightening record levels" with an increase on last year of more than a third.

The UN Office on Drugs and Crime report says the amount of opium produced has doubled in the last two years, and that Helmand province is now the biggest single drug producing area in the world - surpassing whole countries.

Despite billions of dollars of aid and tens of thousands of international troops, the 193,000 hectares of opium poppies grown in Afghanistan this year are now responsible for almost all the world's opiates, according to the UN report.

So, what, we may ask, is British policy in Afghanistan achieving?

Thursday, 23 August 2007

Where's the money?

Healthcare is expensive. So to have a good health service, you need a robust economy. This chart is not entirely encouraging: it is a graph of the bankruptcy rate, year by year in the United kingdom

Something for nothing

Would you like a Save Bedford Hospital campaign badge?

All you have to do is e-mail me at with your name and address, and I will post one to you.

A view from the North

This piece was written by Dr Clive Peedell, a cancer specialist in the North of England:

In terms of the reforming the NHS, the medical profession is as a big problem for politicians because the public trusts doctors.
Doctors are on top of the Mori Veracity index ( Politicians score the lowest along with journalists. It follows that if groups of doctors speak out against the government and its policies, the government are likely on end up on the back foot. For this reason, the government have used the following tactics to reduce the voice of doctors:

1. Empowerment of a few powerful yes men and women from within the profession. This actually takes advantage of the Veracity index. Government Csars such as Professor Sir George Alberti (former PRCP) have been rolled out to promote Reconfiguration of DGHs. Lord Darzi is another prime example. Knighthoods and Peerages increase the
2. Doctor Bashing. This attempts to reduce the veracity rating and public trust in doctors. There is a very clear agenda to focus on doctor’s pay at present. Remarkably, the DH also managed to blame Doctors pay for the NHS overspend.
3. Disempowerment and deprofessionalisation of the medical profession. Whilst a few medical apparatchiks are empowered, the rest of the profession is being disempowered. Loss of professionalism will be very harmful to our credibility and how the public see us. It is likely that the role of the doctor will be merged in with other health care professions. A flooded medical Labour market will reduce the influence of the BMA because they will lose negotiating power. This is what MMC is all about.
4. Media manipulation. This takes many forms. Highlighting medical scandals and high pay are obvious targets to get column inches. Journalists themselves are also manipulated by the DH press officers (spin doctors). Those who spin stories in a positive light will get better access to senior MPs and will be first in the queue for breaking news and leaked stories. This is obviously very important for the career prospects of journalists. Those who attempt to expose the truth will be shunned – career suicide. Another technique is to manipulate the press releases of senior medics such as the Csars. The best recent example involved the Heart Disease National Director (Csar), Professor Roger Boyle. He published a document called “Mending Hearts and Brains” which essentially called for more specialist services for acute MIs and strokes. This was very sensible, but a DH press release statement accompanied the document (on page2) that explained that the document was about “reconfiguring” of services. This press statement has since been removed, but other evidence is still available on the DH website (see point7):
“Roger Boyle, National Director for Heart Disease, makes the clinical case for reconfiguration in the context of heart disease and stroke services”
It was then all over the BBC how Boyle and Alberti were in favour of reconfiguration. ( This was definitely not what Roger Boyle intended. In fact, I questioned him on the issue via e-mail and he replied:
“You will find that neither George Alberti nor I said a single word about closing hospitals, A&E departments or any other service. What we did say and repeated many times to the media was that services needed to be modernised further.”

These are the sort of dirty tricks our profession is up against, but it is time our leaders stood up to tell the truth about the reality of government healthcare reforms. The BMA and HCSA must start spending money to advertise OUR point of view. It won’t be easy to win a media battle, but as professional people we owe it to patients and the public/taxpayer.

Wednesday, 22 August 2007

Better late than never

David Cameron's sudden interest in NHS closures is better late than never.
This article appeared on the BBC news website last September:

A shocking new report could spell the end for your local hospital.

The East of England Strategic Health Authority (SHA) is to undertake a major review of health services.

And for the first time the wholesale closure of a district and general hospital is not being ruled out.

That is because the SHA wants to look at centralising some clinical services in "super" hospitals rather than providing care in several district hospitals.

District hospitals are under threat because it's been suggested that
some are just too small to cover costs
fewer and fewer patients may end up being treated there
patients will be given much more choice about where to go
So money and resources could be concentrated on fewer "super hospitals".

This report will have long term implications to the way in which we are treated - and where.

The health chiefs at the East of England Strategic Health Authority have launched this explosive report that could see the closure or downgrading of one or more of the 19 district general hospitals in Bedfordshire, Cambridgeshire, Essex, Hertfordshire, Norfolk and Suffolk.

Hospitals at risk

Most vulnerable to the upheaval is Hinchingbrooke Hospital in Huntingdon.

It is the smallest district general in the East yet has the largest debt of £24m.

The SHA will also look at cutting the number of sites providing emergency care.

The last 12 months have seen debts in the health service in the East top £200m.

So is the review about patient care or balancing the books?

Paul Watson
Paul Watson is scrutinising regional health services

Dr Paul Watson, Director of Commissioning for The East of England Strategic Health Authority said: "Many of our hospitals across the East of England are currently in very serious financial difficulty and we need to find a way of helping them through that.

"One of the ways we can do that is to look at the organisation of hospital services."

The number of Accident and Emergency Departments is under particular scrutiny with suggestions that the region could have 50% fewer.

They can run, but they can't hide

Computer Weekly scores FOI victory in NHS IT campaign
21 August 2007
By Martin Stabe
Computer Weekly has won a Freedom of Information victory in its long-running campaign against secrecy in the NHS National Programme for IT.
The Information Commissioner has ordered the Cabinet Office to disclose papers about a 2002 Downing Street meeting that led to the £12.4 billion programme.
The ruling comes two and half years after the magazine requested the materials just after the Freedom of information Act came into force in January 2005, and over two years since it filed its appeal to the Information Commissioner in July 2005.
“I think the government is actually using the Freedom of Information Act as a device to the delay publication of embarrassing disclosures,” said Computer Weekly executive editor Tony Collins.
The Cabinet Office cited section 35 of the Freedom of Information Act to claim that information about the meeting, chaired by then-Prime Minster Tony Blair, was exempt from the disclosure to civil servants’ ability to provide “free and frank advice” to ministers.
But in a 16-page decision notice issued last week, the Information Commissioner ruled that his was outweighed by other public interest factors that Computer Weekly had suggested: encouraging transparency, accountability and good practice in project management.
“They seem to have quite a clever media strategy — and it does seem to be a strategy aimed at the media — for where there is something contentious or embarrassing,” said Collins.
“If they can delay it, ideally two or three years, it becomes of less topical interest for a media that is really only interested in things that are happening now or in the future.”
In May, the Computer Weekly won the PPA's Editorial Campaign of the Year award for its work on the NPfIT story. Judges described the magazine’s campaign as "outstanding investigative journalism in the face of intransigence".
Computer Weekly has made dozens of requests as part of the campaign, but has so far had no responses.
“We’re a bit disillusioned with the Freedom of Information Act, to be honest,” said Collins.
The Cabinet Office now has 28 days to appeal to the Information Tribunal or 35 days to disclose the information

Tuesday, 21 August 2007

No third wave

So Alan Johnson has admitted that there will be no third wave of Independent Treatment Centres, which is hardly a ringing endorsement of waves one and two.

ITCs were, of course, one of Tony Blair's brainwaves, so perhaps, at long last, and after enormous waste of public (i.e. your and my) money, reality is beginning to dawn.

Too little, too late, but a very small step in the right direction.

Friday, 3 August 2007

Getting ready

Just finished the first draft of the campaign leaflet, in case there is an early election.

We're ready when you are, Patrick Hall

Thursday, 2 August 2007


...from an unlikely quarter.

Fascinating article in the Financial Times today. A report by Professor Andrew Sturdy of the Warick Business School into Britain's £12billion a year management consultant business shows that it is all very much less useful than the management consultants try to tell us it is.

Certainly we all know what a monumental waste of money the £500 million a year being spent by the Department of Health has proved to be. And don't forget it's OUR money, and money which should be spent on health care - doctors, nurses, porters, and cleaners.

Wednesday, 1 August 2007

Where's the CMO?

Sir Liam Donaldson is the government's Chief Medical Officer. He was the architect of the government's disastrous new arrangements for junior hospital doctors, which comes on stream to day, and for which Patricia Hewitt was forced to apologize with such monotonous regularity, but for which no one ever took the blame.

So where is Liam on this momentous day. His deputy has been on radio and TV non-stop. Is Liam hiding in a darkened room?

Liam once said that he had been told that he was "too talented" to be a surgeon. Perhaps he has now been told that he is too talented to be the CMO. I think that we should be told