Punishing The Toys


Windsor Castle is home to more than a few of the 1,200 items of ivory in the Royal Collection.  The 1,200 items that Prince William would like to have destroyed as a gesture against poachers in Africa.  Never mind that he’s not above (legally) shooting the odd bit of wildlife himself.  The fact is that devastating the Wessex heritage won’t save a single living elephant.  Don’t they teach anythinguseful at Eton?  (And what about all those piano keys, in humbler homes across the land?)

Sadly, this isn’t the only case recently where those in the public eye have sought to ‘make a point’ or ‘draw a line’, punishing their toys instead of going after the real issue.  Our friends in Mercia have suffered a lot through the incompetence of the management at the Mid-Staffordshire NHS Trust.  The management clearly need to be replaced with others who are competent.  Instead, Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt, taking a short break from yet morepower-grabbing, announced on Tuesday that the Trust is to be dissolved and many of its services redistributed to other facilities across a wide area.  So how do patients benefit from having to travel further for treatment?  Haven’t they suffered enough?
Isn’t this just a smokescreen for some dodgy accountancy, like the rest of the ‘marketisation’ of health care, where treatment seems to matter less than how PFI can transform the property portfolio, at a price?  And why too, incidentally, is there such a pervasive culture of fining public sector organisations when they get things wrong, leaving less money available for services, instead of pursuing the individuals who are culpable?
If there’s a problem, solve it.  Don’t go after inanimate objects or blameless geography, to the detriment of our heritage or our health. 
Expect the toy-punishing to increase, as London politicians look for excuses to merge poorly performing local authorities, or police, or fire services, with better-run ones.  (Why assume that good will thereby influence bad, rather than the other way round?)  Leaving things to the local ballot box wouldn’t satisfy their cravings to interfere.  In the NHS, there isn’t a local ballot box.  Just one reorganisation after another, with nothing to show for it unless you’re a management consultant.  Just one more fix and it’ll work.  Honest.
If this is what a nationalhealth service produces, micro-managed from London, why not try a regional one?  In the devolved nations, London already has no say, yet the inter-operability of the service remains in place.  The NHS in England was first set up on the basis of autonomous Regional Hospital Boards, so ‘back to the future’ may well be the way to go.  Although it never served the whole of Wessex, the Wessex Regional Hospital Board, which 40 years ago became the Wessex Regional Health Authority, lasted 35 years in total, from 1959 to 1994.  None of its successors has even lasted ten, being reorganised again in 1996, 2002, 2006 and 2013.  Better luck next time.

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