Thursday, April 25, 2024
HomeCOVID-19The letters that spell out the uselessness of the NHS

The letters that spell out the uselessness of the NHS


I’ve just received a letter from the NHS offering me a Covid booster on the grounds that I’m over 50 and/or have a relevant health condition. This is the second copy of the letter that I’ve had, despite informing my GP several times that I don’t want it. Indeed I told them that again yesterday morning as I received my flu jab, which the nurse entered into the computer (again).

Surely in the self-professed best of all possible healthcare organisations they’re capable of sharing relevant clinical and information. It would seem not – unless of course the NHS regards me as an idiot for declining a Covid booster and is therefore targeting me (and every other over 50-year-old) with a propaganda campaign.

The letter arrived in an envelope melodramatically marked ‘IMPORTANT HEALTH CARE INFORMATION’ and comprised four sheets of A4, folded to A5. The first was a personalised letter. The next two were translations in 29 languages from Albanian to Yiddish. Why? Surely the NHS, which has known me for almost six decades, has a record that I’m an English speaker? The last sheet was a glossy colour brochure carrying the logos of the UK Health Security Agency and NHS CARE (they seem to like block capitals). It explained the thinking (I use the word loosely) behind the booster programme and on the back, at last, a link to the MHRA Yellow Card site.

What value was created from this spending? £0. If you’re in a ‘vulnerable’ Covid group and don’t live under a rock you already know that there are boosters on offer.  I’ve heard that by email multiple times from my GP. Who is it in the NHS administrative machine that thinks GPs aren’t communicating with their patients?

Who authorised this spending? Whose budget is it on?

Assuming it was posted second class (68p), the cost of the letter, the paper and the glossy was probably close to £1. Given 25million people aged 50 or over in the UK getting two letters each, that’s £50million. That’s a rounding error in NHS budgetary terms. The envelope was marked with the information that a missed appointment costs the NHS £160, so the mailing cost 312,000 appointments. Or something like the pay of 1,300 nurses.

The Chancellor’s programme of austerity and extortion didn’t cut the NHS budget. Jeremy Hunt (why him and not Steve Barclay, the Health Secretary?) subsequently appointed ex-Blair babe Patricia Hewitt to conduct a review of NHS and Social Care, to report in six months. Ms Hewitt was a Labour Health Secretary from 2005 to 2007 – i.e. before the Lansley and Hunt reforms. Quite how she got the role is a mystery; she has no current experience. She left Parliament in 2010 to ‘spend more time with her family’ having been suspended from the Labour Party after a cash for access investigation. In 2020 she became an adviser to the Board of Trade. Her appointment looks awfully like the Whitehall establishment at work, rather than a genuine attempt to sort out our failing health service.

Which raises the question of what Steve Barclay, the Health Secretary, is doing. He’s been in the role since July – albeit with 40 days off when Thérèse Coffey had a go. Why is he not already all over its spending, tracking down and eliminating waste? Why is a Blairite failure supplanting his role?

Is there anyone in the Westminster and Whitehall blob who is capable of running a whelk stall?

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Patrick Benham-Crosswell
Patrick Benham-Crosswell
Patrick Benham-Crosswell is a former Army officer who has spent the last 30 years in commerce. He is the author of Net Zero: The Challenges, Costs and Consequences of the UK's Zero Emission Ambition. He has a substack here.

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