Sack no Soldiers; Sack no Coppers; Sack no Nurses

I wish I had their confidence. The government is so convinced there could be no Mumbai-style attack in Britain they are cutting back on every resource we might need to deal with it. And as Liam Fox, Defence Secretary, told a Chatham House conference yesterday, there is more to come. He is right to say, “Tackling the crisis in the public finances is not just an issue of economics but an issue of national security too,” but as I asked in a post last year, “Should economic reality trump military necessity?” After all, we either spend the money and defend ourselves adequately, or we have no need for budgets for anything. This is a matter of survival, plain and simple.

Al-Qaeda could continue to target London, or they might do what the IRA did and seek out softer targets where they can stage what they also now call a “spectacular” with a higher percentage of success. In other words, an attack could happen anywhere in the country and we need the resources to cope with it throughout the country. But what are we doing instead?

Reducing front-line capabilities, but not tackling top-heavy administration.

Reducing front-line capabilities, but not tackling top-heavy administration.

Reducing front-line capabilities, but not tackling top-heavy administration.

As Rolf Harris used to say, “Can you see anything yet?” Is there a pattern emerging? Yes there is. Soldiers, policemen and nurses are bearing the brunt of the cut-backs, but not the generals, police chiefs and hospital administrators. Yet in a Mumbai-style attack, the police will be the first on the scene, large numbers of casualties will need to be taken to hospitals, and ultimately the army will need to be called in to assist as even a small number of armed terrorists rampaging through a city would be beyond the resources of any local police force. The police and medical services would still be stretched even if the attack was a series of coordinated bombings across a city. I ought to acknowledge that the fire service also has a vital role to play in these scenarios.

The government needs to focus attention on making the cuts where they are most warranted – at the highest levels, and not where they are most damaging – at the front line.

Corporate Manslaughter in the NHS

We haven’t properly sorted this one out, have we? Whenever members of the public lose their lives and it emerges that managers have been cutting costs at the expense of safety, we demand action. And that action never seems to be equal to the “crime” as we see it. It’s usually just a fine on the company concerned so modest it doesn’t even affect management bonuses, however egregious the failing, however obvious the dangers and however dire the warnings that were ignored. I’m not aware of anyone ever being jailed.

Such is the case for Linda O’Boyle. She has now died as the inevitable and predicted consequence of the NHS withdrawing free treatment. It was withdrawn because she voluntarily paid for some additional medication that was not available free of charge on the NHS. As such, she became classified as a “private patient” and therefore not entitled to further free treatment. She could not afford to continue at her own expense the treatment they had been providing, so the NHS left her to die.

Incredibly there is even a rationale for all this. According to Health Secretary Alan Johnson, allowing patients to supplement treatment at their own expense will create a two-tier NHS, with preferential treatment going to those patients who can afford the extra medication. He would rather see people dead than allow a two-tier NHS. Class hatred doesn’t come any more ugly than this.

According to the NHS, “It is explained to the patient that they can either have their treatment under the NHS or privately, but not both in parallel.” So if I need to be admitted to hospital, will I be refused treatment because I have been paying for my own Hay Fever tablets? No, of course not, that’s a silly question. But why is it a silly question? No, seriously? Where is this ultra-fine line? Why is there even a line in the first place? Private patients, like parents who send their children to private schools, are already paying double. First for the “free” services they are not taking advantage of, and secondly for the private services they are paying for instead.

Mrs O’Boyle was being denied treatment she was entitled to and to which she had been contributing all her working life, ironically in the NHS itself. How perverse is that? It is more than perverse. It is corporate manslaughter. The NHS is as guilty as any other business that takes cost-saving measures that results in someone’s death. That was the rationale behind Dr Shipman, who would terminate any old ladies whom he judged were a nuisance and costing the NHS more money than they were worth. He would be so proud of the lessons New Labour have learned from him.

Original Telegraph report here.