Over on Paul Corrigan’s blog, we learn that Dr Smith has been updated. Whether the update was achieved by a Freeview over-the-air broadcast, or plugging Dr Smith into a USB port isn’t clear, but, following the update, Dr Smith is now crystal clear on how the new NHS commissioning structures will work. This put him way ahead of Mr Corrigan, who in more normal circumstances understands more about healthcare than the entire medical profession put together. But then, it’s amazing what you can do with a bit of IT these days. We shall just have to wait until Mr Corrigan gets updated, and perhaps then he can explain it all to the rest of us.
Meanwhile, Dr Fiona Godlee, editor of the BMJ, is also waiting to be updated. One might imagine the BMJ could run to Freeview or a spare USB port, but it seems not. Or perhaps Dr Godlee’s firmware is not yet ready for an update. Whatever the reason, she and two other ranking editors have published a joint editorial, in which they lay a cold hand on the balls of Mr Lansley’s Health and Social Care Bill. The reforms, they say, did not have to land us in ‘this unholy mess’, a mess in which leaves at least one NHS trust believing it has taken ‘a running jump into the abyss’. Trusts, it seems, are also waiting to be updated.
The editorial prompted a discussion on Radio Four’s Today programme, featuring Dr Godlee and a Dr Charles Alessi. Dr Godlee remained firmly un-updated. Dr Alessi, on the other hand, appeared either to have tuned in or plugged in, for he was fully updated. As well he might be, as Chair of the National Association of Primary Care, a pro-reform outfit not only aligned with the equally pro-reform NHS Alliance, but also partnered with a lugubrious assembly of drug companies, management stooges and American connected vultures hovering in the hope of rich NHS pickings.
The problem with the BBC’s ‘balanced’ coverage – when it can be bothered to cover the NHS reforms at all – is that it is all too often anything but balanced. We had Adam Brimelow, a BBC health correspondent – he should know better – still peddling the ‘independent’ Future Forum myth. And by giving airtime to fringe interests, without allowing that they are fringe interests, a very false impression is given of the true strength of opposition to the bill.
Today, the editors of three leading healthcare journals have re-joined the BMA, the RCN, the RCM, the Chartered Society of Physiotherapists, Unison, countless academics, The RCGP, [add your own several organisations here] and the Commons Health Select Committee in saying the bill, far from being ready for Royal Assent, is instead a Right Royal Balls Up.
Is it not time for the coalition to stop updating its Dr Smiths, and instead start updating itself on the vast and overwhelming – and here vast and overwhelming are the right words – majority of informed opinion that says, directly or indirectly, that the bill must go?