The Curmudgeon


Thursday, April 27, 2006

Health Fascists

Yesterday the secretary of state for health service privatisation, Patricia Hewitt, suffered at the hands of the Royal College of Nursing what many of us have wanted to give her, and one or two of her predecessors, for some years. Now that the NHS is officially having its best time ever, with cheap nursing staff flooding in from the Third World and investment in personnel managers at a level unprecedented since the days of Asclepius, Hackitt was able to make a constructive suggestion about reorganising rotas "to make better use of permanent staff". A little later, after the unruly nurses had cut short her statistics-powered flow of ever-onward-ever-upwardness, a neonatal practitioner was uncouth enough to ask about understaffing, with "one qualified nurse and one auxiliary having to care for 14 premature babies." The health secretary's advice on how the two of them could reorganise their rotas was unfortunately drowned in antisocial behaviour. Chopitt's parting shot was a virtual potted history of New Labour rhetoric, starting with the 1997 touchy-feely "I know you are angry with me", continuing through the 2003 damage-limitation-oriented "You disapprove of some of the answers I have given", and concluding with the present-day rhetoric of democratisation through difficulty: "the more nurses are involved in the difficult decisions that have to be made, the better". In Standard English, this might be rendered: "the more nurses agree with our decisions and accept the difficulties we are imposing, the better". A source in the unenviable position of being close to Ms Cutitt said she was "annoyed" at not being allowed to finish the sermon, and described the protests as "a political stunt", something a speech by a New Labour minister could never be.

Today, addressing a congregation of 1200 personnel managers who have been tasked with the implementation of the Department of Health's various difficulties and the reduction of staffing costs, the health secretary experienced "her first smooth ride of the week".


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