23 December, 2012

Your health service

Former Chancellor of the Exchequer Nigel Lawson once said that the National Health Service was the nearest thing the British had to a religion. I sometimes think the British have condemned themselves to living in the past: either reliving the glories of the Second World War or the nationalisation programme of the 1945 government.

Some people liked the production but I was horrified at the Olympic opening ceremony doing a celebration of the NHS, in front of bemused foreigners many of whom had far better systems.

We read today that the Alexandra Hospital in Redditch has apologised to 38 families for mistreatment of their relatives. One person died of starvation while being treated in the hospital. Redditch is not in remote Scotland or the poor North East but in relatively wealthy Worcestershire.

If you find this astonishing in 21st century Britain, look at the figures from the Office of National Statistics:

In 2011, 43 people starved to death and 287 were recorded as being malnourished when they died in hospital. 558 people died in a state of severe hydration in state-run hospitals. 78 hospital patients were killed by bedsores and 21,696 patients were suffering from septicaemia when they died; this usually occurs from infected wounds. In a hospital.

It really is about time we recognised that the system we have doesn't work. But in the face of all the evidence the British believe it is the best in the world. We used to believe this about the police and are only now being disabused of this. With both institutions we have taken our eye off the ball. We could use a few politicians with enough honesty to tell us the truth.

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