It being August, and so the Silly Season, TweedleNaughtie and TweedleWebb presented the Today program on Radio 4 this morning. Both are science-lite, but this morning TweedleWebb surpassed even himself. In an attempt to force a bun-fight between a medical sociologist and a doctor – normally as easy as torching petrol – about a study looking at the effect of religion on a doctor’s end of life practice, he declared he didn’t want to ‘get bogged down in a discussion about the representativeness of this study’. So absurd was this remark that it quite fused all combativeness out of the two contestants. The doctor emitted a curt ‘sure’ and dried up like a prune, while the sociologist started a bizarre love-in with the doctor.
So – The Goose is to be roasted in the oven of the courts. The CPS has decided that Ray ‘I did it wiv t’pillah’ Gosling has led the police on one big, err, goose chase, and that he should be charged with, err, leading the police on a wild goose chase.
Meanwhile, the very same CPS has decided that Gosport’s Diamorphine Queen, Dr Jane Barton, should not go for a Burton, despite a sea of inquest findings suggesting Barton’s overzealous opiate prescribing contributed to a number of deaths.
Nobody, least of all doctors, seems to know whether doctors themselves have an addiction problem. Smart-arse wise-cracking punters may define an alcoholic as someone who drinks more than their doctor, but, as with most smart-arsed wise-cracks, real evidence is hard to come by. What is more certain is that most doctors have problems with crack heads and cotton shooters. Substance misuse – to give the subject its sanitised, politically correct name – remains very much a Cinderella specialty, while many GPs – despite touting themselves as generalists happy to take on all-comers – refuse to admit drug addicts to their lists.
As a medical student, Dr No was greatly impressed by a particular surgeon. This surgeon was that rare thing, a surgeon whose mind was even sharper than his scalpel. He taught Dr No perhaps the most important surgical lesson of all: that surgery is not about how to operate – any competent surgeon can do that – it is about when to operate; and it is fidelity to that decision that distinguishes the great surgeon from the average surgeon. That same great surgeon taught Dr No much else, often in the vernacular, and none more certain than that which holds that the only sure-fire way to advance one’s medical career is to apply regular and consistent negative pressure at the anus of one’s superiors.
Americans, Fanny Trollope observed in that acetic manner of hers, pursue the DOLLAR with such a unity of purpose, such a sympathy of feeling as found nowhere else, except, perhaps, in an ants’ nest. “The result” she added “ is exactly what might be anticipated. This sordid object, for ever before their eyes, must inevitably produce a sordid tone of mind, and, worse still, it produces a seared and blunted conscience on all questions of probity.” To which we on Blighty’s shores might happily reply “Amen to that”, were it not that American ants’ nests have lately appeared with pestilential frequency in NHS offices up and down the land.
Those whom the Gods wish to destroy, they first send to the King’s Fund. The current Chief Pongo at the Fund, an academic cove who was publishing papers when Dr No was still in cap and shorts, has spent a life-time studying health policy and management at a variety of red-brick institutions. The trouble with studying health policy and management is that it is so dull that it addles the brain. Over a period of years, a selective memory loss sets in, leaving victims unable to recall what happened last time the NHS was re-jigged. The condition, known as hamnesia after the eponymous Professor, is progressive, and has no known cure.