Monday, 2 July 2007

New Leader, same old New Labour

The public are fed up with spin and lies, so it is no wonder that Gordon Brown's recent words promising 'change' and a new 'listening' style of government have gone down well. It is just a great shame that so many people have been sucked in by this dishonest charade. Gordon Brown has played a key role in Labour's antidemocratic reform over the last ten years, and judging from his actions he promises to push yet more reform through in this rather antidemocratic manner for as long as he posssibly can.

If you thought Gordon Brown as leader meant an end to unelected unaccountable cronies running the country, then think again because Gordon is assembling an array of 'yes' men who would not dare stand in the way of his grandiose plans and ironically he calls these men 'the ministers of all the talents'; it really does take some talent to unquestioningly follow orders and please the boss with a 'yes sir, three bags full sir' response every time.

Sir Ara Darzi appears to be one of these compliant 'yes' men, a man who poses as an objective voice but in reality he has been supplying the government with what it wants to hear for several years now. Sir Ara was handed his first role in 2002 and was asked to conduct an emergency review of services in Darlington and Durham county by the health authority. Unsuprisingly Darzi's report told the health authority exactly what they wanted to hear, even though the vast majority of local medical opinion felt his suggestions were flawed and unsafe. Darzi's plan silenced the criticism of clinicians and managers by forcing a merger of the two Durham Trusts. The North Durham trust chairman, a local Labour councillor called Kevin Earley, was sacked after speaking out, while the able CEO of the Northern Durham trust was also moved out. The sacking of Earley did attract a bit of attention in Parliament though.

A rather similar situation repeated itself a few years later involving Sir Ara Darzi, this time it involved the 'reconfiguration' of acute hospital services in Hartlepool and North Tees. Again Sir Ara's report came up with a report in which the medical community had absolutely no faith:

but to the medical profession I am afraid that it was an outright disaster.'

Again it was a case of Sir Ara providing what was wanted to be heard, even though this appeared to be a clinical disaster area. The Darzi report conveniently came just before a Labour election victory, only for a maternity unit to close just after this election victory. The conservatives see Darzi as a man who serves up exactly what his masters order:

Mr. Lansley: "It does not clear it up at all. The hon. Gentleman implied that I somehow misrepresented the situation. It is very straightforward. The Prime Minister went to Hartlepool. He said that there was no question of the general hospital in Hartlepool closing or being run down. The truth of the matter is that the North Tees review had proposed that it should be run down and eventually closed and that a new hospital should be built. The Department of Health put in Sir Ara Darzi, who seems to be its spokesman of choice for this purpose, in order to try to keep the hospital going. He said that it could be kept going. The matter then went to the IRP and the IRP went back to the North Tees review. According to the IRP, the hospital will be run down and then closed."

In fact Sir Ara's words have been used as a crutch in the Commons by none other than the ex-Secretary of State for Health, Patricia Hewitt:

Hewitt: "Professor Sir Ara Darzi, one of our country’s leading surgeons, who is conducting a review of health care across London, has summed up the changes that are taking place very simply:“health services as close to people’s homes as hospital where necessary”."

You would never guess that his latest offering seems to be proposing yet more of the same, this time in London. Again a report is produced based on the most scanty of evidence bases, and conincidentally it says exactly what is wanted to be heard by those on high. The 'bonkers' nature of proceedings are explained below by Mike Grapes MP:

Mike Gapes MP: "There is something bizarre about the process. On11 December, the chief executive of the NHS London region, Ruth Carnell, sent a letter to all London Members of Parliament in which she said that the NHS London region is commissioning a major document from Professor Sir Ara Darzi setting out a framework for “radical thinking about how to deliver services” across London. That is to be published in spring 2007 and a final health strategy for London will be published in the summer. That seems bizarre and absurd: one starts the process to carry out cuts in services in one part of London and then one decides the strategy for the whole of London. It is bonkers."

There is another far more cynical explanation of events that does not need to be spelt out by myself in absolute terms. It does seem more than coincidence that clinicians and the public are being ignored in every single consultation, while clinically dangerous cost cutting reconfigurations seem to go hand in hand with the government's centrally enforced NHS deficits; meanwhile the 'ministers of all the talents' provide the objective justification for this cruel charade. It seems that under Gordon nothing will have really changed:

Stephen O'Brien MP: "We have seen Ministers and Cabinet Ministers running around seeking to defy their own Government policy. That may be collective hypocrisy, rather than collective responsibility, but I hope that at last they will now listen in order to make reconfiguration respond to the demands of patients, rather than simply to act as an emergency outlet for their financial mismanagement."