Tag Archives: nhs

Jack Monroe and “Hodge’s killer baby adverts”

One of the latest things to trend on Twitter is the hashtag #CameronMustGo and the celebrity chef Jack Monroe waded in with a series of tweets, the most notable one of which was “Because he uses stories about his dead son as misty-eyed rhetoric to legitimise selling our NHS to his friends #CameronMustGo”.

As is usually the case with Twitter, whatever you think of the original tweet the backlash has been far worse, with Ms Monroe reporting death threats, rape threats and, without irony, threats to her son.

The thing is though, she has a point. As far back as March 2012, Alex Andreou wrote a rather famous blog post titled “We Need to Talk About Ivan” which discussed this phenomenon in some detail. At this year’s party conference, David Cameron did it again, saying:

And for me, this is personal. I am someone who has relied on the NHS – whose family knows more than most how important it is…who knows what it’s like to go to hospital night after night with a child in your arms…knowing that when you get there, you have people who will care for that child and love that child like their own. How dare they suggest I would ever put that at risk for other people’s children?

I’m sorry, but arguing that because you had a sick child you should be able to shrug off scrutiny of how you, as Prime Minister, are treating the NHS is pretty repugnant. Calling him out on this is perfectly legitimate and the fact that doing so itself results in a huge storm of controversy, only demonstrates how this is not something David Cameron should be indulging in. I can’t think of any other politician who uses their children in quite this way; it is extraordinary.

What really got my goat last night however was the decision by Dan Hodges to wade into the debate. Mr Hodges has been undergoing a bit of a rehabilitation recently, having rather self consciously transformed himself from Blairite attack dog to tree hugging liberal. But for me, he’ll always be the man behind, to use his exact words “Hodge’s killer baby adverts” during the AV referendum.


If you ever doubted the degree to which this outrage about Jack Monroe’s tweet is manufactured, you only need to look at this picture. So please spare me the high moral tone.

UPDATE: What the Liberal Democrat position on homeopathy IS

Since I previously wrote about what it was, and then wasn’t, I feel it is encumbant on me to include here what the official line on homeopathy now is:

A recent report by the House of Commons Science and Technology Committee examined the provision of homeopathy through the NHS and called for funding by the NHS to be stopped. The Committee did recognise that many users derive benefit from its use and did not argue that such treatments should be banned.

The Liberal Democrats believe that, as a basic principle, individuals should have maximum freedom about how they choose to get treated, so long as the therapy is safe. When it comes to NHS provision, we support a review by NICE into the cost effectiveness of Complementary and Alternative (CAMs) therapies, including homeopathy; as well as expanding the work of NICE to look at the cost-effectiveness of existing conventional treatments.

We know that many complementary therapies are popular with the public. The NHS budget is limited and we want to make sure that NHS funding is focused on treatments which are efficacious and cost-effective. NICE reviews of all existing treatments would give us the best possible basis for future decisions over funding.

That sounds much more sensible and measured. On top of that, I am now getting (unconfirmed) reports that the Scinos will not be at Lib Dem conference after all. Looks like the party may have had an outbreak of common sense.

Or maybe not.

Andy Burnham’s unhealthy flag wrapping claptrap

I’ve written a response to Andy Burnham’s astounding Guardian article on the NHS on the SLF website:

Given the choice between “national”, “health” and “service” the word that Burnham considers most key to the Labour approach is the former. Ignore “health”, never mind “service” – who needs a bandage when you can wrap yourself in a flag?

Read the full article here, but frankly, Richard Grayson’s article from Reinventing the State on the NHS is more interesting.

While we’re at it, here’s an article from Chris Huhne from 2004 about why the party rejected the social insurance model for healthcare (pdf), courtesy of the Beveridge Group.

Liberal Vision concede defeat

Godwin’s law strikes again:

What is more worrying, however, is that an appendage of the state is now a matter of national pride. Daniel Hannan has been called a “traitor”. This, ladies and gentlemen, is what national socialism looks like.

Sara goes on to insist that by “national socialism” she was not, of course, referring to Nazism. Surely any rational person would assume she was referring to all the other ideologies that espouse national socialism. You know, the ones which we refer to as “neo-Nazis.” So, not invoking Godwin’s law at all then, clearly.

UPDATE: I should make it clear that I am referring to the author of the above referred to Liberal Vision article, Sara Scarlett and not Sara Bedford or indeed any other Sara.

When rightwhingers demand nuance, count the spoons…

The Right isn’t particularly famed for its sense of nuance. The shenanigans going on in the US over healthcare rather suggest that and even the touchy-feely Cameroons are not exactly strangers to Mister Brickbat. Yet when lefties employ the same tactics (as is the nature of politics), they suddenly lurch up on their hindlegs and demand to be treated like sensitive, intelligent human beings. It won’t wash.

The current source of the UK Right’s distress is this #welovetheNHS twitter thing. Now, to most people participating in the meme, this was little more than a way of standing up and being counted and reacting against the nonsense happening in the US. That nonsense has been made all the worse by people like Dan Hannan spreading outright malicious falsehoods about how the healthcare system actually works. At one point Hannan even claims that our system is inefficient compared to the US system, despite the fact that it costs twice as much as our one and has measurably worse outcomes.

The effort has been a sucess. Yesterday, and to a lesser extent today, was informally declared LoveNHS Day by thousands of people. You had a choice: piss or get off the pot. It isn’t really something worth intellectualising; it wasn’t even orchestrated – merely a phenomenon. But boy have they been having a go.

None of the points being made are of particular merit. Apparently we are meant to be awestruck by the recognition that the NHS fails a lot of the time. Strangely, this is a point being made repeatedly by many of the #welovetheNHS crowd.

The Rightwingers who complain that they neither want the current US healthcare system or the NHS in its current form have a golden opportunity here. They could be telling us what they do want and why it would be better than either of the alternatives. This seems particularly appropriate because the Obama proposals seem to be more along the lines of mainland Europe than the UK. Lib Dem “Orange Bookers” (in this case the term is appropriate because David Laws’ chapter on health in the Orange Book was indeed about health insurance) could be singing its praises, or at least adding constructive criticism. Instead, they seem to be stuck in bleating mode about how dreadfully unsophisticated the argument is. The conclusion one draws is that either their own ideas aren’t actually much more sophisticated than “the NHS is a bit shit really” or their views are somewhat closer to the likes of Dan Hannan than they feel comfortable admitting. Indeed it is interesting how few friends Hannan seems to have. No-one appears to be rushing to his defence, and yet his views are surely representative of a significan minority. He did get elected by Conservative members in the South East at the top of their list after all.

I’ve got to be honest and admit that the lack of intellectual debate here is beginning to bore me too. The nature of these things is however that as time goes on, the debate will inevitably move on. Remember the expenses scandal? After that, we had a very creative debate about how to fix politics. A debate, it should be noted, that the usual forces of conservativism have been doing their damndest to stop ever since.

Having firmly established that the NHS is an institution the country supports, we really do now badly need a debate on why it isn’t better. We might have a better healthcare system than the US, but other countries are delivering more effective systems for the same cost. But you will excuse me if I spend just one more evening enjoying the discomfort of people whose ideas I’m pretty confident would leave us, and especially the poor, much worse off.

UPDATE: Sunder Katwala is also calling for a debate.

UPDATE 2: I take it all back Progressive/Liberal Vision Progressive Vision, of which Liberal Vision is a wholly owned subsidiary, and Liberal Vision’s Director of Development have launched a campaign in defence of the Dan Hannan position. Its supporters include Liberal Vision’s Director. Charlotte Gore of Liberal Vision is keen to emphasise that this is not a Liberal Vision project, but Sara Scarlett is being permitted to use the Liberal Vision Facebook group to promote it:

In conjunction with Nurses for Reform, Progressive Vision has launched the #no2NHS campaign.


Show your opposition to socialised healthcare by joining the #no2NHS campaign and invite all your friends! Our target is to make #no2NHS the No.1 trending topic on twitter and make the case against the NHS.

Warmest regards,

Director of Developement
Liberal Vision

The NHS: my tax money at work

I managed to fill in a registration form for my local surgery today, on my second attempt. To be clear, I didn’t actually register – that is a formal appointment next Wednesday. But they did at least let me fill in the registration form, which I have to do before I can have the registration, once I had gone all the way home to pick up some proof of address.

It all seems horribly familiar. I last attempted to register for a GP at my old address four years ago. Tried several local surgeries – all were “full up”. Even my landlord’s tip of emphasising that I lived in the leafy Finchley Garden Village* didn’t pay off. Things came to a particular head when I managed to contract the mumps from a dirty intern (thanks a bunch evil media) and no-one would see me. In a state of delirium I ended up walking to the nearby hospital and getting completely lost. I really didn’t think we lived in a country where it was so easy to get into such a state even after going to the authorities for help, but we do.

Back to the present, once I had provided my proof of address and established that my partner was already registered there, the actual form filling went along quite smoothly. The fact that beyond a cursory glance they took no interest in my proof, and that this rule was neither mentioned to me on the phone or on their website, suggests this isn’t a national policy, but a filtering mechanism. It wasn’t a way of determining who I was, but a trial of willpower.

Why is this? I can’t help but suspect it is related to the experience of one of my work colleagues. Of Turkish descent, but born and bred in Sussex, he registered for his GP on the same day as his fiance. Her form went through instantly. His, complete with his name full of Eastern promise, somehow managed to get stuck in limbo for three months and only got processed once he started making some not-too-veiled threats to them down the phone.

What I want to know is, to what extent are my and my colleague’s experiences related to a policy – unofficial or otherwise – to crack down on health tourism? This is the only semi-rational explanation I can come up with. But how well thought out is this policy? From where I’m sitting it is a policy that is doomed to fail. If you are determined to register, you will get on (and if you’ve come all the way from another country, you will be pretty determined). If on the other hand you aren’t really that bothered, you stay adrift. I’m only registering now, partly because of the endless nagging from pretty much my whole family (it’s a conspiracy!) and the fact that my asthma has come back with a vengeance after being in abeyance for the best part of six years.

In the case of the asthma, if I had managed to register four years ago, I’d have always had a beclazone and salbutamol inhaler on hand. If truth be told, it would almost certainly not have got as bad as it is now. Result? Assuming I do manage to get registered, I will probably end up taking more time than I would have done otherwise. And yes, I know, I should have seen this coming. I should look after myself more in general. But life gets in the way, and pretty much my entire experience of the NHS when I was a kid was having my mother told off by my dreadful then-GP for wasting his time (if he’d been a little more helpful, I somehow suspect my allergies would have been diagnosed before my twenties) and a dietician whose wonderful advice began and ended with eating more digestive biscuits. The clear message I got from the NHS when I was growing up was that I was broadly on my own and to only come to them in the case of a real emergency. So that tends to be what I do.

The NHS does a great job at looking after extremely sick people, treating injuries and in crisis situations, but in my experience it is absolutely appalling at preventative health. Is it really that difficult to provide everyone with the basics such as a registration system that can cope with people moving house every now and again? I do believe in universal healthcare, free at the point of need, but I do wish they didn’t seem to go so out of their way to test my patience.

* Which is basically a ridiculously cute little road with its own war memorial, village green, Lion, The Witch and The Wardobe-esque streetlight** and property prices in the millions. Needless to say I was renting!

** Since the Pevensie children are supposed to come from Finchley, I’ve often wondered if this was somehow an inspiration for the Narnia books, but have no way of knowing.

Tories confused over whether Peter should rob Paul or not

Last week, you may remember David Cameron defending his plans to fine hospitals for superbug infections on their turf:

“We have got to make sure every hospital, every service, is prioritising this and the best way to do that is to make it part of the payment by results system.

“That will mean that every doctor, every nurse, every ward sister, the management of the hospital will be absolutely thinking of infection control first and foremost.”

As I’ve already suggested, replacing targets with incentives is to fundamentally miss the point about what is wrong with targets which is that they can game the system and are subject to the law of unintended consequences. Both problems also apply to incentives. Now it emerges that Cameron has another critic on his front bench.

Speaking in an Opposition Day debate on the New Year Network Rail debacle, Theresa Villainous said:

As my hon. Friend the Member for Macclesfield (Sir Nicholas Winterton) noted earlier, merely imposing fines on Network Rail would not be an adequate response, as the taxpayer would pick up the bill for them anyway.

Good point, well made. But, um, doesn’t that apply to hospitals as well?