Wednesday, 13 March 2013
Horses for Courses
So where to start? Well we should probably go with the story that had the most direct and dire consequences for the public at large - likely widespread criminal behaviour in one of the most important sectors. A vile underbelly of corruption masquerading in a great illusion of quality forced on the unknowing British public. I speak, of course, of the HORSE MEAT SCANDAL! You'd be forgiven for thinking I meant the appalling NHS Mid-Staffs affair - the report detailing the horrific standards of care and indeed lack of basic human compassion reported that led to at least 1,200 deaths. You see, whilst that seems important, it appears we don't care very much about that, based on the column inches. No, we care much more that unscrupulous people have been selling Shergar in place of Daisy the cow.
Not to belittle the affair, but nobody is dead. Horse meat in general is perfectly edible. Clearly the issue is with mis-selling (and making a profit from selling a cheaper meat as a dearer one) and quality (if you don't know what is in it, you don't know how good it is or if it is safe/organic/volunteer beef). Fair enough there's been a bit of a hoo-hah about this, but the perspective is very wrong.
We don't mind eating chicken nuggets (some of us), and having carved a chicken up last Sunday, I certainly didn't find any naturally occuring ones. We knowingly put in our mouths things which are labelled one thing because of a sometimes rather loose connection with one of the ingredients - think turkey twizzlers, beef kebabs and value pork chipolatas. There are all sorts of filler put in cheap meats the world around - to use my favourite quote that I crowbarred into every history A level essay I wrote; "laws are like sausages, it's best not seeing one made".
Otto von Bismarck's erudite point is certainly true of the (no pun intended) ghastly horse trading that today sees 1/2 a Lib dem policy and 1/2 a Tory policy put together to ensure the alienation of both sets of supporters in conjunction with an utterly useless piece of legislation. It is no less true of cheap meats, and has ever been thus. That someone has found that they can pass off selling horse is no surprise considering how much water-blasted shin gristle, 'reclaimed' scampi and sawdust-based fillers we've probably eaten in our time.
Surely there is a suitable legal chain whereby shops have a certain requirement for due diligence in confirming what they are being told they are receiving really is just that (they cannot personally monitor every animal from cradle to gravy, so it has to only be a reasonable level of diligence). If they have done that (as dictated no doubt by the FSA (not the banking one)), they're in the clear and can then sue their suppliers for reputational damage, whilst the courts can prosecute those who intentionally deceived them. If not, they're in hot water too. No matter how many people in the chain, the process works the same. Not surprising, not terribly important in the grand scheme of things and already perfectly well catered for in law. Move on shall we?
The actual big story though, is the elephant in the room. The Tories are so concerned by their lazy but extrmemely adhesive image of the nasty poor-bashing party that they dare not do the right thing over Mid-Staffs. It seems you simply cannot say that there are some useless people in the NHS. You also cannot say there are some nasty people in the NHS. No, every worker in the NHS goes to work wanting to do good.
Quite how everyone is content that every single one of the 0.5 million banking sector employees in this country go to work with greed and class-based hatred in their hearts, yet cannot countenance even one of the 1.5 million NHS employees not being 'an angel' is beyond me. We are a nation of morons, intent on buying into themes, not listening to facts and making sound judgements. It's how Labour are ahead in the polls where everyone thinks the economy is the most important thing but cannot see Labour have not produced a single economic policy in 3 years of Opposition since they totally ruined the country's finances for generations to come.
The Tories refuse to point out that whilst Sir David Nicholson certainly is accountable over all the deaths to a degree, what is far more important is that at least several hundred medical professionals are vastly more culpable in individual cases. No, the "system" and the "culture" wasn't right in many ways, and top management (and all the levels in between) have to take responsibility for that. However, to allow someone to dehydrate to death in bed, to give someone a vase of flowers to drink from, to allow someone to not be moved for days at a time causing fatal bed sores, to fail to monitor properly the care of over a thousand people (and they're only the ones who died - I dread to think how many suffered and survived), that is cold-hearted, even evil, certainly sackable, definitely culpable and probably criminal behaviour. And it must have been perpetrated by hundreds of nurses, doctors, ward sisters, health workers, care assitants etc.
Sod the "we don't learn by blaming" - I don't remember such restraint (still ongoing) regarding 'the bankers' (catch-all for every single person in the financial services, all misanthropic, all went to Eton (they must have big classrooms), all earn £1,000,000 a year, all eat babies and love Jimmy Savile). There are people in this "envy of the world" health system of ours that deserve to go to prison, not just fired and never again allowed to work in healthcare. But no, the Tories don't want to give the Grauniad et al the "nasty Tories turn on the NHS" headline they are dying to print. Which of course is why DC still won't cut their bloated budget despite the damage it is doing to other departments.
And the other reason we are quiet over the hundreds of awful and culpable workers? Because if we convince ourselves only the chief exec who will never have even set eyes on a single one of the victims is to blame, then as he wasn't also the chief exec of all the other hospital trusts, there's no chance this exact behaviour isn't mirrored in all parts of the country. If, however, we admit the NHS is a very sodding long way from perfect and throwing money at it doesn't cure it any more than applying a soothing balm constituted of £50 notes cures cancer, we might have to look under a lot more stones and find a lot more willful neglect and in some cases, outright abuse. And more dead people, naturally. And we wouldn't want that - we'd rather moan about pony arrabiata.