“The hottest places in hell are reserved for those who in times of great moral crisis maintain their neutrality”
–Dante, via JFK
So – Dodders has produced his report, and, despite the best attempts by the media to whip it up, it is predictably doddery. The general gist is that the Nicholson challenge, that the NHS achieve £20 billion efficiency savings by 2015, isn’t going too well. La La’s response – that the report was unfair on NHS staff, because they are all doing a spiffing job – baffled everyone. At some point, Dodders may have suggested the Health and Social Care Bill might be something of a distraction, or words to that effect. Whatever it was the report said, it was not the rocket up the Bill’s backside that many hoped it would be.
Later this week, the BMA will organise a summit – summit? who does HM think he is? Henry Kissinger? – to bring together doctors, nurses and the Medical Royal Colleges to ‘share concerns’ – a turn of phrase which, by the way, invariably has Dr No reaching for his revolver – about the HSCB. Although the RCN and the Royal College of Midwives joined the BMA last week in calling for the Bill to be scrapped, the Royal Colleges, with the gallant exception of RCGP Chair Dr Clare Gerada, have been largely silent as lambs on opposition to the Bill:
• The Association of Medical Royal Colleges’ website hardly mentions the Bill, although its Chairman, Professor Sir Neil Douglas, is on record (Hansard) saying last June ‘there are so many disadvantages in delaying that we have to get on with it [reform] to the best of our ability now’ – hardly steely opposition to the Bill.
• More recently, Professor Norman Williams, Chief Sawbones at the Royal College of Surgeons, took a pop at the ‘naysayers [who] are at present engaged in trying to block the bill completely’, adding that ‘to stop the bill at this late stage, even if that were possible, would create chaos’ – hardly steely opposition to the Bill.
• Meanwhile, the Royal College of Physicians’ ‘Health Reform Timeline’ makes it clear that, to date, the RCP has ‘responded to consultations, produced parliamentary briefings and proposed changes to the Health and Social Care Bill’ – hardly steely opposition to the Bill.
• Only last week, the Chair of the Royal College of Psychiatrists, Professor Sue Bailey, writing in her President’s blog, accepts the Bill may yet crash and burn, but then adds that the future of the NHS ‘clearly has to now be in partnership with the independent sector, the voluntary sector, and social enterprise’ – hardly steely opposition to the Bill.
It has been suggested (and not for the first time: remember MMC/MTAS) that the Medical Royal Colleges are in hock with Government, and that behind the scenes they have been horse-trading advantages in return for Collegiate support for the reforms. Dr No is unsure to what extent that is true. He thinks it may equally be true that the many of the College authorities, who by nature are deeply conservative, have simply not appreciated that outright opposition to the Bill is a viable option. But it is: the RCN, the RCM and the BMA have made that clear.
In response, the Colleges might answer that the RCN, RCM and BMA are all trade unions, while the Colleges are apolitical, academic institutions, and it is not their job to take political positions. To which Dr No says: stuff and nonsense. The Colleges may be apolitical, academic institutions, but the members – and that includes those in high positions – are not. They are individual doctors, who have a duty to do the best for their patients; a duty that does not extend to lubricating the introduction of a toxic Bill that will harm both patients and the profession.
Dr No opened this post with a quote from JFK. There is another quote, perhaps the best known of all JFK’s quotes, that strikes Dr No as apposite; and he wonders whether the great and the good of the Colleges may wish to reflect on it as they approach Thursday’s summit. It is, of course:
“Ask not what your country can do for you; ask what you can do for your country.”