A Land Under Siege

To be absolutely clear, I am in favour of self-isolation or quarantine, if you prefer, where necessary.   I fully appreciate the efforts of the National Health Service in meeting the challenge of COVID-19.  I am desperately sad for all of those families who have lost loved ones, and I feel the pain of those thousands who are fighting for their own survival, either suffering the disease, or from annihilation by DEBT.

I think it is time to ask some questions.

In UK at the moment, there is no media coverage for anything apart from the virus, its effects, and ‘Our heroic National Health Service’ .  Presumably other things are happening in the world, but we do not hear about them.  The news media has a job.  It is to report the news.  It is not doing it.

Saturation-level propaganda is a bit of a speciality where the British Establishment is concerned, so whenever terminology like ‘The National Health Service’ is subtly adjusted to read ‘Our National Health Service’ we know we are being manipulated towards sympathetic patriotism.   ‘Our National Health Service’ is incomparable; it is the best in the world, and so on.

No, it isn’t.

It is better than some, it is worse than others.  It is streets behind the German equivalent, for example.  The heroes are the people on the ground who struggle with the limited tools they have been given, because ‘Our National Health Service’ only serves the poor bloody infantry.  Anyone who can afford it ‘goes private’, including those poverty-stricken doctors who quietly accumulate small fortunes from their private clientele.

Shutting a whole country has further, less publicised effects.  It all but eliminates small business, leaving the field clear for the better-padded moguls to move in.  And small businesses will fail to sustain an artificially low unemployment figure, because a lot of those people living on the margins will soon be forced to return to the ranks of the unemployed.

Debt and the inability to service it may be manifested in destroyed dreams, broken relationships and ruined lives.  Confinement to some is intolerable, especially to those who live alone, or those whose mental state is already disturbed.   A government’s task is clearly to walk a fine line between prudence in terms of the virus’s spread and preserving financial stability – or at least that is what it should be doing.  So when we are told a plateau in the number of those contracting the virus has been reached, only to have it dismissed as ‘the eye of the storm’ and be advised that quarantine will continue for a further three weeks, we are entitled to question.

Be a conspiracy theorist for a moment.  No-one doubts the authenticity of the virus, or the need for some response to it, but it is, in some ways, very convenient.  It serves, for example, those who would wish to further increase the funding and influence of the National Health Service.  Make no mistake, the British Medical Association holds our medical profession in an iron grip, and it advances the cause of doctors, their working conditions and their salaries, very well.   It serves the interests of those wishing to delay or reverse the process of Brexit, because nobody is talking about EU issues now; and it serves a Chancellor who prepared a huge giveaway budget that defied the basic rules of economics, and will now ‘have’ to be scrapped.

Hastened by COVID, in years to come High Streets will be rearranged, Malls closed, on-line marketing and working from home will become the norm.  If there is a future for small business in this country, and if we can continue to steer clear of the EU reef, and if property prices are forced to a realistic level, then it will have redressed some of its terrible cost.

If, however, it merely becomes a tool for the Establishment, a series of excuses for promises broken, the embryo of a police state and a vessel to sail back into the jaws of Federalist Europe many thousands of people will have suffered and died in vain.

I’m sure the conspiracy theories cannot be true.  No sovereign government or its organs would stoop so low as to use a profoundly dangerous virus to further its own ends…

Would it?

Oh, Doctor!

Brothers and Sisters!

Today’s moment for thought is dedicated to our wonderful British National Health Service.  The envy of the world, it performs a sterling function in the community, for which I do not feel sufficient appreciation is given.  As you know, illness is generally suffered by old people, and old people can be notoriously difficult to deal with, especially in times of stress, so I think doctors generally, and nurses especially, show incredible patience.

But…

Doctor – dear nameless doctor ( because I never get to see the same one twice) – why do you need to know what’s wrong with me before you see me?   Why, when I call to make an appointment, do I get fed this line:

“For what reason do you want to see a doctor?  The doctors have requested that I ask you this.”

“Er…why?”   I presume my answer – this information, if I give it, will be passed on to the medical practitioner I am booked to see.  Does this person have special treatment kits they need to remember to bring for my particular complaint?  Or is it a matter of fine tuning?  The length of the consultation might be pertinent:  five minutes for anything above the waist, seven or eight minutes for anything involving removal of trousers.   Three minutes for a sick note, four minutes for flu, twelve minutes for a liver, and so on.

This is a receptionist.  She is not a doctor, she is not qualified.  I may have met her before, or not. She may have the phone on speaker, I don’t know.  Is my confidentiality being respected; are my details being broadcast for the amusement of the office, kept for blackmail purposes, for transmission to insurance companies, drug suppliers, the Russians?  There are certain things I would rather not discuss with anyone other than a qualified practitioner, and why should I?

However, not wishing to seem obstructive, I have come up with a solution that should be agreeable to all.

I have made a list of medical conditions I am at all likely to suffer and given each an easy to remember code.  I have used as my key Stations on the East Coast Main Line railway timetable.   I am ready to distribute this list to every doctor in the practice, so that, for example, when I tell the receptionist:

  • London King’s Cross is throbbing a bit
  •  I am failing to stop at Newark North Gate (or occasionally missing the end of the platform)
  • I’m still at Peterborough
  • Edinburgh Waverley hasn’t worked for three weeks now, or
  • The very thought of Berwick Upon Tweed is agony –

she will be able to relay this information in a form that respects my privacy and is at once easy for the doctor to understand.

The National Health Service is very good, but it tends to be a bit mercenary.  For example, apparently the last time our local surgery advertised for a new doctor they got a zero response.  Nobody wanted to sample the pleasant coolness and invigorating rain of County Durham.   The standard NHS explanation for such difficulties is always centred around money.  “We are under-funded”, they say, “which is why our doctors migrate to other countries where they can earn more.”   Could it be that these brave  doctors want to surf, and swim – to bathe themselves in a balmy sunlit glade somewhere?  Is it possible they simply want to get warm?

There are, however, a few – a very few – areas where, in my personal experience, financial improvements might help to oil the wheels, so to speak.

Dear Jeremy Hunt (Minister for Health), please give these matters some consideration:

  1. In a hospital with ten lifts (elevators), it would be preferable if more than two were working, especially if one of those is being used to transport patients to and from the operating theatres.  If there are times when an elderly person feels disadvantaged – or even, dare I say, humiliated – lying on a gurney in an inadequate hospital gown must surely be one.  Sharing a lift with a full load of ward visitors and their children is, for some less exhibitionist types, a very good reason to choose euthanasia.
  1. If the NHS is truly a seven-days-a-week service, why are almost all procedures booked for Monday to Friday and in ‘office hours’?
  1. Allowing people to sit or lie about in corridors is untidy and generally bad for your image. I thought at first these individuals were homeless persons, but it turned out they were just waiting for a free lift (elevator).
  1. In the above stated negative lift (elevator) situation, installing the cardiac ward on the fifth floor might be regarded as:   a.  an ingenious solution to patient overload, or b.  a sick joke.
  1. Adequate signage is essential. In hospitals please reconsider the seemingly ingenious method of direction which instructs visitors to follow coloured lines painted on the floor when searching for their appropriate department.  Allocating a green line to STI Clinic and a blue line to Maternity can cause real difficulties for colour blind patients.

Dear patient, dear (dare I say?) geriatric patient, be – well – patient, I suppose.  You may feel the NHS’s constant bleating about inadequate resources is inconsistent with your consultant’s Aston Martin in the hospital car park; you may feel victimised as your buttocks numb to their fourth hour on that plastic waiting room chair, or slightly patronised when a young intern tells you that persons of your weight and sedentary habits must expect to start bleeding out every now and then.

Remember he is overworked, and in the front line of a battle with an increasing army of the aged and the drunk.

What would we do without these selfless people?  More seriously, what will we do when they are gone?   For bad as it is, the NHS is under threat from rampant private interests who would have us all pay the real price for our medical care.

And who, in creaking austerity Britain, could afford THAT?

 

Charlie Gard

The BBC’s morning programme used two inappropriate words in its report of the Charlie Gard tragedy this morning – they spoke of the baby’s parent’s ‘dilemma’ and of doctors’ ‘advice’.

The Great Ormond Street cabal did not ‘advise’ they dictated.   There was no ‘dilemma’ – the parents were painted into a corner from which they could not escape by a legal machine which, whatever its protestations, is more interested in the money than the welfare of the child.

There was a time when doctors advised – no more.

There was a time when legal redress was the right of every citizen; a time now gone.   The withdrawal of most aspects of the Legal Aid structure, inadequate though it always was, has made access to justice beyond the reach of people in the street.

Is it not strange that the medical profession believes it morally defensible to disregard the rights of parents and patients along the well-trodden (and expensive) road to court?  Does no-one find it odd that a vocation so dedicated to the preservation of life should be so steadfastly intent on ending it in some cases, preserving it in others, and always, it seems, militating against the will of the most interested parties?

I am not suggesting the National Health Service should have been prevailed upon to sustain life in Charlie Gard indefinitely.   I am stating that he should have been released into alternative care as soon as they admitted to being unable to help him and as soon as his parents asked for this to be done.  Instead they held onto the poor child as if he were in some way their property until no alternatives remained, and weighed the validity of their own prognosis above everyone else’s.

Is this the health service any of us want?