The Tories are up to their old tricks: “Look! Over there – a bandwagon! Fetch me my jumping shoes!”
This time it’s A&E reorganisation, and the shift towards fewer departments, but larger ones that are better furnished with specialist expertise. People are alarmed about the loss of their local A&Es. As did William Hague before him, David Cameron is exploiting the unthinking appeal of uninformed ‘common sense’. And, for once, he’s being cheered on by the Telegraph (whose love of the NHS is legendary):
”Yesterday, the Prime Minister attempted to persuade people that having to travel further for medical help in emergencies would be good for them. The apparently bizarre logic of this argument rested on the premise that highly specialised ‘super-regional’ (i.e., not local) centres of excellence are the best places to treat such life-threatening events as heart attacks and strokes. … But the common-sense objection to this plan remains: the most sophisticated treatments will be of little use to a patient who has died before he arrives at hospital. …simple logic will make it difficult for most people to reconcile enormous increases in NHS spending with what will seem to be a loss of easily accessible medical help in frightening circumstances.”
If it sounds rum to the ordinary bloke in the street (“I don’t know much about health service management policy, but I know what I don’t like!”) then it must be bad. Never mind what expert opinion says:
“We have to be upfront and tell the public that, in terms of modern medicine, some of the A&E departments that they cherish… cannot and will not be able to provide the degree of specialist services that modern medicine dictates and the public deserves. That means we have to change services so we can deliver safe, high-quality care to everyone who needs it, when they need it.
“Every service cannot be offered by every A&E department - it never has been, and never can be - so it makes sense to create networks of care with regional specialist centres to give the best possible treatment to the sickest people. … Major emergencies affect a relatively small number of people. For most people, care will continue to be as local-or indeed more local - than ever.”
Or: “Campaigns to save services currently provided in district general hospitals could lead to more than 1,000 unnecessary deaths each year, according to new analysis from the Institute for Public Policy Research”.
Opportunism is only to be expected in an opposition party. But hypocrisy at the same time takes a certain gall (or ‘total contempt for the public’ if you prefer). Cameron has made a very big thing about taking power away from centralised politicians and bureaucrats in Whitehall so that the people on the front line can run things as they see fit. But when local NHS Trusts try to reorganise themselves in a way that superficially looks worrying, he junks his supposed principles in order to exploit fear.
Cameron said last month: “The NHS matters too much to be treated like a political football.” He added: “Goooooooaaaall!!!!! One-nil! Wuu-uun-nil!”