Past Posts...

Lansley’s Barking Spider

The Ollie Wright/Indy/Number 10 axis of spin has spun again, choosing today to front page a week old ‘let’s be friends’ letter from Dr Clare Gerada to the Prime Minister. Why The Indy ran last week’s news as today’s front page is quite beyond Dr No. Perhaps the wheels of spin spin slowly at the Indy’s offices these days. Those at the BBC however were up to speed, at least when it came to peddling the Indy spin. Radio Four’s Today programme grabbed the week old story and put it at the top of the day’s news, and gave Dr Gerada one of the coveted post-eight o’clock news slots: doctors in massive climb-down. In the event, the story back-fired. Humph humped, but Clare was clear: the RCGP position remains the same - the bill must go.

Very Great Deal

Right queer goings on at the Lib Dem Spring Conference this weekend, after Shirley Williams started bowling from the pavilion end last week. A procedural vote yesterday to decide which NHS motion should be debated today had the ditch-the-bill motion win on first past the post; and then, by some quirk of bent Lib Dem voting logic, the Williams didn’t-we-do-well motion won. Since the two motions were in some respects mirror images of each other, it did not seem to Dr No that yesterday’s vote was the end of the world: a vote against Squirls’ motion sends much the same message as a vote for the ditch-the-bill motion, the only significant difference being the former lacks the explicit ‘ditch’ directive of the latter.

Lib Dems Must Wake Up and Smell the Cyanide

The Faustian nature of the coalition pact is now plain for all to see. In the run up to, and now at their Spring Conference, the Lib Dem grandees have been forced into an ignominious cul-de-sac of bombast. The crowing and gloating fools no one except those who crow and gloat. The empty rhetoric of influences exerted and battles won sounds ever more like a catastrophe of paperclips rearranged, files shuffled and deck-chairs shifted this way and that. Baroness Bloomers has emerged from the parliamentary salon sporting a new blue rinse, her blustering opposition seen to have all the substance of a wet paper bag. She may say that the amendments she has brought about are substantial and significant, but even a cursory examination shows them to be insubstantial and insignificant: the central thrusts of the bill remain unchanged. Professor Pollock, the thinking doctor’s crumpet, provides an excellent of just how little real change Baroness Bloomers - definitely not the thinking doctor’s crumpet - has achieved here.


So - the Lib Dem peers have folded up their cardboard swords faster than an Edwardian maid folding up her ladyship’s drawers, the fat lady has failed to sing, or rather sang on the wrong side of the choir, Chief Pongo ‘No Regrets’ Farron is crowing, and Clegg, ever the tetchy head of a minor public school, wants his flock to ‘move on’. To many, ‘shove off’ may seem les mots plus justes.

Meanwhile, the Medical Royal Colleges have been doing a bit of wobbling. The Royal College of Caring and Sharing cares so much it wants to hold Dave’s hand as it stabs his beloved bill in the back. The Royal College of Surgeons yesterday cut itself down the middle, and voted narrowly against calling for the bill to be withdrawn, by 99 to 76 votes. The Physicians, as ever, are still deliberating: their decision is due next week or the next, perhaps within hours of the bill gaining Royal Assent.

Merely Potential Persons

An extraordinary paper published in that hot purple-top The Journal of Medical Ethics has ignited a storm of controversy. The naïve authors argue that a newborn is morally no different to a foetus – both being ‘merely potential persons’ – and thus infanticide – renamed after-birth abortion by the authors – should be permitted on the same grounds as those used for abortion. The pro-life lobby reacted predictably, and demonstrated forcefully that for many of them, pro-life sentiments do not extend to academic philosophers who espouse eugenic arguments. Quite the opposite, in fact: the authors, and the JME for publishing the paper, have been subjected to a torrent of hate, abuse, fire-crackers and death-threats.

Not Having Your Cake and Not Eating It

Maxamillion Pemberton, the sugar in the petrol of the Torygraph’s accelerated pro-NHS reform package, has written an excellent summary of why the NHS is a jewel in today’s British crown. Predictably, the Rancid Right have started to pour the oil of scorn on Maxamillion’s article. One of the more able early commenters – many others are more lurid than lucid – takes phrases from the article, and puts the record admirably straight:

“‘It might be that none of this concerns you…’ It doesn't. ‘…or you may be horrified…’ I'm not. ‘Whatever your political leanings…’ Free market capitalism. ‘or health status…’ Perfectly healthy, thank you. ‘or experiences of the NHS,’ My experience(s) with the NHS (sadly) lead me to believe it was a diabolical 3rd rate service I wouldn't wish on a dog. ‘it is YOUR health service…’ No it's not…” To which Dr No can only riposte: well – that is all right then, isn’t it.

How to Fix the NHS

The Institute of Economic Affairs, reckoned by Diamond Marr to be a mustard cutting outfit if ever there was one, has come up with a plan to nuke not just the NHS, but anybody even remotely concerned with providing healthcare. Dr No has studied this plan, and can reveal that it is in fact a typical skipload of NeoCon tosh; it may even be a NeoTosh con. Dr No has a much better, simpler and eminently more practical plan, and he proudly takes this opportunity to present it to his readers:

• Perhaps most importantly, shoot Lansley, and abolish the DoH. To be fair, some brighter Tories have suggested the former, but in typical political fashion, have failed to execute any plan, let alone Lansley.

Calling Time on Minimum Pricing

Once again, the brown trout that wont flush away has bobbed up for air. Yesterday, David Cameron put alcohol minimum pricing back on the agenda. Across the land, responsible doctors cried Cheers! The Chair of the Royal College of General Practitioners, Dr Clare Gerada, who counts addiction – in others, one hastens to add – among her special interests, spoke for many when she tweeted the price, availability and advertising is all mantra. This mantra is underpinned by left shift, which sounds cool, being the sort of thing cool astronomers like Brian ‘Wow, Magnificent’ Cox might say, but it suffers from a defect WM would never allow: it is chasing the wrong hair, or rather tail, of the dog. In practice, minimum pricing will be spectacularly ineffective at reducing high alcohol use, and even worse, it will almost certainly result in blowback, by which Dr No refers not to the visit to the loo on the morning after the night before, but unintended harm arising from well-intentioned practice.

End Game

Dr No is getting increasingly bored by the futility of the gesture politics flaming round the NHS reforms. Being bored, he found himself, by quirk of a daydream, thinking of another kind of bored, a chess board, and for a moment he saw the end game of this blasted bill as a game of chess, played not on a square, but on a triangle. Three opposing GP sides – for as Dr No has said many times, it is in the hands of GPs that the fate of the bill now rests - face each other across this lone and level triangle, one side dark, another light, and the third grey.

Who, then, do we find on the opposing sides in this end game? On the dark side, we find, as we did last Sunday, the likes of Hot Burning Coales, pro-government, pro-competition, pro-private sector and so pro-reform. Their strength is that they are aligned with government, and government with them, but their evidence is blown, and their arguments in tatters. Neither stridency nor volume could save HBC’s case for the reforms, as they wilted and folded, a styrofoam cup of competition coffee microwaved in the radiant beam of Evan Harris’s glare.


Dear Reader–

I have recently been travelling around the country, on your behalf and at your expense, visiting some of the chaps with whom I hope to be shaping your NHS. I went first to Wales, to Llwelliwindywillow, and there I spoke with the Welsh health minister, Ms Llwesley Griffiyd, and we exchanged many frank words in our respective languages, so precious little came of that in the way of understanding. I did however remonstrate with her that offering free PIP implants was reckless, and I am told she remonstrated with me that not offering free PIP implants was reckless.