Tuesday, September 28, 2021
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Building Back Baloney

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AT LEAST I can’t hear the News Quiz on BBC Radio 4, but I do need my ears syringing. This used to be done by a GP, then a nurse, but in early August my GP phoned to say it will no longer be done at all. ‘You can go private,’ he said. ‘Ninety pounds. Not much.’ I think it’s a lot and was shocked. He said it was all about concerns over ‘health and safety’. I think it’s about cost-cutting, and more people will be going around unintentionally freed from Radio 4. Of course ear wax is nothing compared with waiting lists at a 14-year high and a backlog of nearly five million patients, poor comparative cancer survival rates, higher than European average infant mortality and an epidemic of diabetes and obesity.

Despite the organised clapping and a medal from the Queen, no can be confident about the future of the NHS. As we begin trying to ‘Build Back Better’ as Boris Johnson has it, a popular topic among the middle classes is how surprisingly good health services are in the rest of Europe, even Spain. A friend in Singapore says westerners are astonished when they see their hospitals and the kind of health care offered. There is now a promise of another large tranche of money winging its way to our health service, but actual ideas about its future amount to heresy. Like the issue of the status of the Pope in the 1530s, it’s far too dangerous to discuss openly. Last month the government plonked the matter on a back-burner by, ‘after a global search,’ appointing ‘continuity candidate’ Amanda Pritchard as chief executive of the NHS. 

Matthew Taylor, CEO of the NHS Confederation, says the job is ‘arguably the most significant across the entire public sector and this continuity at the top of the NHS will be vital’. Ms Pritchard greeted her appointment with teenage levels of hyperbole: ‘thrilled’, ‘proud’, ‘amazing’, particularly wonderful for a woman to get the job for the first time for as she pointed out eagerly, ‘seventy-five per cent of NHS staff are women’. Then she outlined her priorities. ‘Its diversity makes the NHS really special,’ she said. ‘I want to make it somewhere that embraces diversity and inclusion at the core.’ Perhaps she hasn’t noticed but the NHS, as one of the largest employers in the world and the biggest in Europe, already does that. Of the current staff, 67,000 are from the EU, 64,000 are Asian nationals and there are 8,000 Nigerians, from a country badly lacking medical staff. 

It’s questionable why a woman in such an important job should be so preoccupied with the sex and race of her staff, and feel the need to emphasise such woke views. But tragically for all of us, the NHS is now a shining socialist monolith constantly used by the Left to discredit the white indigenous culture, presumably in the hope of one day seeing a truly multicultural Marxist state. In April last year, Carol Cooper, ‘Head of Equality, Diversity and Human Rights’ at Birmingham Community Healthcare NHS Trust, said non-white nurses and healthcare assistants felt they were being deliberately sent on to dangerous Covid wards by their white colleagues. ‘BME staff feel that they are being exposed to patients with Covid over and above their colleagues,’ said Cooper. ‘Some are saying they are being taken from the wards that they usually work on and put on the Covid wards and they feel that there is a bias . . . and they are terrified.’

She had no data to prove this but repeated the allegations of racist murder by white NHS staff on BBC Radio 4 Woman’s Hour. The government launched an inquiry into the higher rate of ethnic minority Covid deaths. The result was inconclusive but for a whole section of NHS employees and our educational and cultural institutions such as the BBC, there is no explanation except lack of diversity, or as it’s also known, institutional racism.

In July, Afro-Caribbean writer Sian Ejiwunmi-Le Berre, a bright young woman doing brilliantly in her career, claimed on Radio 4 that her cancer was misdiagnosed and black women suffer a higher peri-natal death rate because of ‘systemic bigotry’. No health problem can be blamed on individual life choices, she said, that is just ‘medieval’ cruelty. For her, even ‘eating well is a privileged (i.e. white) position’. People who hold such ideas have received a fillip from Pritchard’s appointment, which could have been made by a Labour administration, and it surely shows how far the government has drifted from the views of the average Conservative voter. It’s hard to believe this Tory government came into power on a tide of populist sentiment, or recognise anything truly conservative about them now. The Telegraph’s Allister Heath recently suggested that Johnson should be proposing an insurance scheme for social care, using market forces, rather than drifting towards another cumbersome NHS-style system. 

But ‘building back’ seems to be another term for more of the same; a winter of the usual NHS beds crisis, just like old times, plus a possible tax on heating gas and energy price hikes. Radical decarbonisation, with a ridiculous deadline, along with attacking motorists, is now the government’s top priority, leading some to wonder whether we are getting the PM’s views or his new wife’s. In areas such as crime and immigration, Priti Patel seems to be a lone voice, abandoned by Johnson, with no tools to carry out reforms; her cash has probably been spent on HS2.

As we take stock of the future, post-pandemic, we are left to ponder, not inspirational and challenging plans presented to us by our leaders, supported by the best brains in the country, but instead the depressing reality of how a successful Tory government became so easily addicted to state spending and central planning, with all the obfuscation and waste of public money we know too well, that inevitably involves.

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Jane Kelly
Jane Kelly was a journalist with the Daily Mail for fifteen years. She now writes for the Spectator and the Salisbury Review.

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