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Who would now dare put their trust in the NHS?

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Who would now dare put their trust in the NHS?

Post  Panda on Tue 22 Apr - 3:04

Who would now dare put their trust in the NHS?
BBC newsreader George Alagiah, who has bowel cancer, once expressed his admiration for the NHS. But the recent rash of bad news stories might make him think again

George Alagiah: he once called the NHS 'the civilising and defining institution of British life' Photo: BBC
Judith Woods By Judith Woods7:20AM BST 19 Apr 2014Comments120 Comments
How sad to learn of newsreader George Alagiah’s bowel-cancer diagnosis. With characteristic good grace, the 58-year-old declared that he felt “optimistic for a positive outcome”. It goes without saying, but I will say it anyway: the nation wishes him just that.
He has asked for space and privacy, but I am sure he won’t mind me quoting his admiration for Britain’s health care. “The NHS is the civilising and defining institution of British life,” he once said, comparing our cradle-to-grave provision with the abject prospects of those who fall ill in the world’s benighted regions.
No wonder, then, that as the curtain was raised on the London 2012 Olympics the tribute to the NHS made for an unforgettable, show-stopping mise en scène, with its starched phalanx of doughty nurses and illuminated beds, occupied with real child patients from Great Ormond Street Hospital.
But the good ship NHS is listing and may not stay afloat much longer, apart from on the waves of our rosy nostalgia.
On the same day our favourite newsman made his own bulletin came a slew of negative NHS stories. Waiting lists are worse than any time in the past six years; Britain has one of the lowest number of hospital beds in Europe; one in 16 patients picks up an infection while in an NHS hospital.
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We also learnt that half of all foreign doctors in the UK lack the skills to work here, but are allowed to practise because the competency bar is set too low.
Language is often a factor. But we are so freakishly, uniquely hypersensitive about appearing racist, it is an issue we tip-toe around, to our own cost.
A dear Leftie friend who was examined for suspected lung cancer saw a consultant whose eastern European accent was so impenetrable she couldn’t understand the medic – no small matter when the potential life-or-death results of a chest X-ray are discussed.
But my friend, with excruciatingly middle-class politesse, was so reluctant to offend, she didn’t kick up a fuss.Instead, she strained to listen, nodded and muddled through, had a cry afterwards and then quietly but firmly requested a second (or at least an intelligible) opinion from another consultant at another hospital.
She has since been given the all-clear and will not, thank God, be dying from embarrassment any time soon.
What would have happened had she asked for a translator? I think we know the answer would probably have been hostility, a closing of ranks and possibly the alteration of her referral letter from “this delightful patient” to “TBP” , doctors’ code for “Total Bloody Pain”.
That’s the thing about the NHS; we pay for it, we use it as patients, it’s meant to be ours. But at the first sign of criticism, the drawbridge goes up and the management blindly defend it from all-comers.
They reserve their toughest response for those they perceive as enemies within – pace NHS whistleblower Dr Raj Mattu, the consultant cardiologist who spoke out against overcrowding and patient safety, and found himself vilified, smeared and bullied to the point where his health collapsed, due to stress, and then he was sacked.
All this for having the humanity, the temerity to warn that patients were dying because of cost-cutting measures introduced at Walsgrave hospital in Coventry, where he worked.
He was motivated by genuine concern. What motivated the NHS bosses who suspended him for eight years, hired private investigators in an attempt to discredit him and racked up an estimated £6 million bill aggressively pursuing the case against him?
Colleagues say Dr Mattu, 54, was “hounded mercilessly” in a witch-hunt. He says his reputation and professional life have been damaged irrevocably, along with his health.
The employment tribunal says he was unfairly dismissed. And the hospital? It says it will consider grounds for appeal.
Before change can be effected – and everyone from professors to bean-counters and politicians of every hue agree that the NHS must change, urgently, to meet the evolving needs of its end-users – the cover-up culture must be ended.
If we the public, we the patients, are to countenance radical transformation, we first need to trust those in charge.
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