Thursday, July 18, 2013

Requiem for the National Health Church


From the Rev'd Dr Peter Mullen:

The NHS is the new national church. Worshippers are very devout but, just as members of the old national church the Cof E were wont to argue the toss in Synod or squabble over whether to have a fortune-teller at the garden fete, so worshippers in the new national church exchanged insults this week in the House of Commons. Don’t worry, there will be no major schism in this new church, for its members are fiercely united in their faith. Unfortunately, this means that there will never be any serious attempt to remedy the many faults and failures of the NHS. Religious commitment to it runs so deep that any suggestion it might be drastically reformed amounts to blasphemy.

As I said, this is unfortunate. For in 43 years of priestly hospital visiting I have noticed a falling off in standards. Going back a little earlier than that to recollections of my hospitalisation as a boy, I recall the hospitals as icons of orderliness, efficiency, cleanliness and run hierarchically with military precision. Every morning at 8.00 there was a most evocative sight: the day nurses would begin their shift by gathering around the ward sister’s desk for prayers. Christian prayers. Our progressive adherence to the New and Great Commandment 'Diversity' would never permit such an atrocity.

During the last 15 years, I visited most of the London hospitals. Some were clean and very well run. Others were unspeakably dirty, with evidence of carelessness and neglect of patients all around. But, despite the horror stories and devotees’ squabbles in the House this week, it doesn’t matter how many unnecessary or premature deaths occur; it doesn’t matter how appalling the A&E services become; or that the new definition of a GP is your local doctor with whom you can never arrange an appointment; or that 'care homes' have become places that are not homes and where no one cares - the NHS will continue and there will be no Judgement Day.

It doesn’t matter how many extra £billions are spent or by what scale of geometric progression the army of NHS bureaucrats increases, the institution will creak on until its final and inevitable collapse which will amount to a national trauma. There will be weeping and gnashing of teeth. Nothing will be done to remedy the inefficiency and abuses, because the NHS has the same status in Britain as that of a cow among Hindu devotees. In the old national church you might have hoped to find love here and there. In the new secular, materialistic national church you will find only sentimentality. For example, those who minister in it must never be criticised. A stranger has to learn the ritual etiquette by which employees of the NHS must always be described as 'angels…wonderful…caring…tireless…salt of the earth'. But if the salt hath lost its savour?

There is one defining cause of the decay of the NHS: the colossal increases in its funding and the barely imaginable multiplication of its senior managers and employees have created an institution which no longer exists for the health of the people it was set up to serve, but for the benefit of the hordes of highly-unionised staff who operate it. This was always predictable and indeed, more than 30 years ago, it was actually predicted by Dr Max Gammon in what has come to be known as Gammon’s Law:
“In any bureaucratic system… increase in expenditure will be matched by fall in production… Such systems, and particularly the NHS will act rather like black holes in the economic universe, simultaneously sucking in resources, and shrinking in terms of emitted production.”
It only remains for the new national church to compose a Requiem ritual for its own unavoidable demise.

43 Comments:

Blogger Span Ows said...

Perhaps the Temple needs a beasting...

18 July 2013 at 07:52  
Blogger Office of Inspector General said...

Hah !

The NHS is the secularists church. The new national church, alright. The atheists last hope of a long life, for there is for them nothing after death. Rather amuses this man when he hears of an 80+ year old expiring in hospital and the relatives scream they could have been saved. Too young to die, that kind of thing...

What sport it is to watch !

18 July 2013 at 08:47  
Blogger Brother Ivo said...

Or to put it another way, " small is beautiful"?!! :-)

18 July 2013 at 08:57  
Blogger Richard Watterson said...

Certainly there needs to be a debate about the NHS. But it needs to be based on facts and evidence, rather than politically motivated hysteria such as this.

18 July 2013 at 09:04  
Blogger Rebel Saint said...

Wonderfully expressed.

I remember my mother - a nurse of umpteen years experience - predicting much the same when they professionalised the nursing profession. Knowledge puffs up, but love builds up. Now we seem to have lots of staff who know much but care very little. It's all very reminiscent of the world of militant atheism, where knowledge is lauded & worshiped, and simple kindness & compassion are ridiculed as irrational weaknesses.

Made me think of this great speech.

18 July 2013 at 09:17  
Blogger David B said...

I can only judge by my own experience, but my recent brush with a life threatening condition has left me full of admiration for the health service and its staff.

David

18 July 2013 at 09:39  
Blogger The Explorer said...

Richard:

I don't see the hysteria. Example, please.

Also, I took it to be about how one belief system has replaced another: theological rather than political. (Although, of course, theological issues cannot avoid having poitical implications; and the other way round).

18 July 2013 at 09:42  
Blogger The Explorer said...

David B:

Everone I know who has had a life- threatening condition (myself included: I owe my life to the NHS) has found the NHS wonderful when it really matters.

It's the non-life threatening stuff and the admin that seems to be the problem.

18 July 2013 at 09:46  
Blogger Martin said...

Is this not the same condition of mankind that considers it reasonable to abort the inconvenient baby and allow anyone who considers their rights to be infringed to be allowed to 'marry', sue or whatever else they consider their right?

Paul had our society to rights when he wrote:

“And even as they did not like to retain God in [their] knowledge, God gave them over to a debased mind, to do those things which are not fitting; being filled with all unrighteousness, sexual immorality, wickedness, covetousness, maliciousness; full of envy, murder, strife, deceit, evil-mindedness; [they are] whisperers, backbiters, haters of God, violent, proud, boasters, inventors of evil things, disobedient to parents, undiscerning, untrustworthy, unloving, unforgiving, unmerciful; who, knowing the righteous judgment of God, that those who practice such things are deserving of death, not only do the same but also approve of those who practice them.” (Romans 1:28-32 NKJV)

18 July 2013 at 11:00  
Blogger Martin said...

Is this not the same condition of mankind that considers it reasonable to abort the inconvenient baby and allow anyone who considers their rights to be infringed to be allowed to 'marry', sue or whatever else they consider their right?

Paul had our society to rights when he wrote:

“And even as they did not like to retain God in [their] knowledge, God gave them over to a debased mind, to do those things which are not fitting; being filled with all unrighteousness, sexual immorality, wickedness, covetousness, maliciousness; full of envy, murder, strife, deceit, evil-mindedness; [they are] whisperers, backbiters, haters of God, violent, proud, boasters, inventors of evil things, disobedient to parents, undiscerning, untrustworthy, unloving, unforgiving, unmerciful; who, knowing the righteous judgment of God, that those who practice such things are deserving of death, not only do the same but also approve of those who practice them.” (Romans 1:28-32 NKJV)

18 July 2013 at 11:02  
Blogger Roy said...

The Explorer said...

David B:

Everone I know who has had a life- threatening condition (myself included: I owe my life to the NHS) has found the NHS wonderful when it really matters.

It's the non-life threatening stuff and the admin that seems to be the problem.



I'm glad that everything went well for both the Explorer and David B. It would be wrong to condemn everyone and everything in the NHS. However, it is simply not true to write that it's the non-life threatening stuff and the admin that seems to be the problem.. Recent reports clearly state that large numbers of people have died in hospital who ought not to have died.

18 July 2013 at 11:11  
Blogger Philip said...

This comment has been removed by the author.

18 July 2013 at 11:17  
Blogger English Pensioner said...

And there was I believing that the new religion of this country was Climate Change.

18 July 2013 at 11:23  
Blogger Philip said...

This comment has been removed by the author.

18 July 2013 at 11:29  
Blogger The Explorer said...

Roy:

True; I was lucky to be in a very good hospital. Medical standards, like educational standards, seem to vary widely across the country.

Also,I suppoae you could say that my survival resulted from modern medicine rather than the NHS.

I just happened to see David's comment, and it struck a chord with me, for personal reasons.

18 July 2013 at 11:30  
Blogger Philip said...

I was talking to an elderly gent in the pub a couple of days ago. He told me that when a relative had been in hospital, the doctors and surgeons were excellent, but the nursing care was v poor. For example, repeated operation of the call button was ignored while the nurses just remained on the ward nurses' station chatting among themselves about things like what they get up to at night. Oh of course, the answer is ever increasing tax-payers money to rectify the shortage of nurses. (This must be correct as the BBC recently gave airtime to those who say a shortage of nurses is the cause of the NHS’s problems.)

I should think that the Revd Mullen's diagnosis is a lot more accurate than the usual one of the metro-lib-left that it's a lack of taxpayers’ money.

Christian prayers? Of course not. The Revd Mullen is right about the prevailing creed to which we (inc the NHS) must all adhere to, or else: Diversity, which promotes everything other than Christianity which must be marginalised and opposed.

18 July 2013 at 11:34  
Blogger Peter D said...

My local NHS is to replace the hospital chaplain with a 'Spiritual Director' - salary being calculated as we speak. No need for God - just 'spiritual' support. The 'person specification' doesn't require a faith in a Supreme Being, just an awareness of a mystical dimension (whatever that means.) Might apply myself.

We already have the 'Spiritual Space'. A hotch-potch of a cold, confusing room containing all sorts of religious icons, including satanic ones, and a compass on the floor so one can work out which way is East.

18 July 2013 at 11:41  
Blogger Martin said...

I forgot to mention that our local brand new hospital was closed in favour of an old dilapidated one in a similarly sized town that, unlike us, returned a Labour MP when Labour were in power.

Bitter, moi?

18 July 2013 at 12:06  
Blogger The Explorer said...

Petter D:

Great post!

There's a sort of logic to the room you describe, and the advertised post.

If we are simply complex animals, or machines (given Transhumanism) that terminate at death (despite Tranhumanism's efforts to date) what spiritual comfort - other than a sort of emotional fuzz - can realistically be given to a dying body without a soul?

18 July 2013 at 12:24  
Blogger Nick said...

I am reluctant to jump on the NHS-bashing bandwagon as it seems to me the service is variable from one place to another, and I suspect the variation is more down to human factors than a basic design flaw. The same could be said about schools, the police, and even the CofE.

Like education, the Government is constantly tinkering with it claiming that their new approach will radicalise the service. It never does of course, but then they can just blame the staff who work in it. All the defects Dr Mullen has pointed out are true, but by no means Universal. Don't forget the "media factor" too - i.e. brainwash everybody into believing the system is a complete failure.

18 July 2013 at 12:42  
Blogger John Thomas said...

The thing that will actually finish the NHS is drug legalisation. 20-30 years' after that has happened, the effects of drugs on people will kick in, and the amount of people going for (very expensive) treatment will be, literallly, overwhelming.
No doubt some people have had very good experiences of NHS care - they will think it's wonderful. Clearly others have had very bad experiences - they will think it's disastrous.
Yes, English Pensioner, anyone who suggests that the (new) religion is anything other than Climate Change is just pulling our legs.

18 July 2013 at 12:48  
Blogger Preacher said...

The answer seems obvious to me, get rid of the 'Managers' & other non essentials who no nothing of how a hospital works properly but are overpaid to pontificate about how to improve things (Theoretically), & bring back the stalwart of the NHS, MATRONS! it's not prospered since they've gone. The Americans got it right when they said "If it a'int broke, don't fix it!".

18 July 2013 at 12:49  
Blogger Nick said...

" bring back the stalwart of the NHS, MATRONS"

Preacher, if they did that it would offend their other god "Equality". There would have to be some gender-neutral equivalent. Mind you, if they wanted to employ a cross-dressing transexual male, that could get complicated.


Hmmmm.....

OK, forget it...

18 July 2013 at 13:17  
Blogger LEN said...

The NHS has become a' gravy train 'for a hierarchical pyramid of managers who do anything but manage.In fact they are bringing in more managers to manage the managers(all at very lucrative salaries no doubt)

Meanwhile those at the 'sharp end' a very few stretch themselves trying (against all odds) to get the job done whilst others apparently have given up trying and just coast along.

My wife was recently in hospital and asked for her pain relief medication which took several hours to receive.I observed some staff standing around apparently have a social gathering whilst my wife suffered in pain .I gave up eventually and went home and got some medication myself to give my wife(against hospital rules but what the hell!)
There apparently is no one in charge in my local Hospital people just apparently do what they like when they like.

There is a small group of dedicated nurses who are like angels when they arrive on the scene but they appear to be the minority amongst the many.


18 July 2013 at 13:26  
Blogger IanCad said...

What is this!? Hate week or something?

Live in a land with no BBC or NHS then let me see you howl.

These great institutions are part of the fabric of our civilization. For the betterment of our nation. Sure, they need overhauling but an administration with even minimal cojones could put in place the means to revitalise both of these national treasures.

18 July 2013 at 14:05  
Blogger Richard Watterson said...

Matrons actually returned some years ago, but why let facts get in the way of a good old moan?

18 July 2013 at 14:13  
Blogger The Explorer said...

Richard:

My question at 9:42 still stands.

18 July 2013 at 15:16  
Blogger Richard Watterson said...

Explorer: the whole tone of the thing is hysterical from soup to nuts. The vast army of managers that make up a mere 3 per cent of NHS staff, the highly unionised staff that have gone on strike, what, once in the last 30 years? Come on, there's a massive propaganda campaign going on against the NHS. It couldn't be privatised because the public supported it in massive numbers. So the public are being persuaded to change their minds.

18 July 2013 at 16:06  
Blogger C.Law said...

I think you are correct Richard.

Completely off-topic: I'm surprised that HG hasn't had any comment on this gem "Vatican offers 'time off purgatory' to followers of Pope Francis tweets", full story at "http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2013/jul/16/vatican-indulgences-pope-francis-tweets"

18 July 2013 at 16:34  
Blogger Richard Watterson said...

Philip, I must be imagining the chapels and indeed chaplains that I see in every hospital I visit. It is rather ironic that Peter Mullen himself is apparently biting the hand that fed him.

18 July 2013 at 16:40  
Blogger The Explorer said...

Richard:

Thank you; that makes it all much clearer.

The slogans in the picture acompanying the post could be deemed hysterical; I did not find the post itself in the same vein.

I see where you're coming from now about the political angle; although I don't personally think that's what the post is about. It would be interesting to know if other readers see this as a plea for privatisation. Comments, anyone?

18 July 2013 at 17:09  
Blogger Office of Inspector General said...



Dr Mullen states the staff are highly unionised. Well, they have to be. The Inspector’s Nursing Sister friend will admit if pushed that management will throw you to the baying relatives if it came to it, however reluctantly. If you lose your registration or place on the roll as a result of being scaped, that’s your career over. Hardly surprising then if you have any sense, you join a union if you do not already enjoy representation by a professional body. Now that’s a long time nurse in middle management saying that, not some staff nurse with a couple of years under her belt. They didn’t used to, but when it comes to today’s NHS, people (to wit, the relatives), are increasingly likely to demand a guilty hide, spurred on by ‘no win, no fee’ legal scoundrels. There was a time when death would be greeted with heads hung low, and a solemn and dignified exit from the hospital. Behaviour last seen in the golden age of cleanliness and discipline our man today alluded to in his piece. How this country has changed in just a few short decades, what !

One is sure she would not mind the Inspector saying the following. You are only in hospital because you need to be. Unless you are there for observation, you are ill , or in this time of an aging population, worn out. And if that is the case, there is a chance you will not leave the place alive. Relatives – that is how it is - No one owes your loved ones an extended lifespan beyond what is reasonable to expect. It is outrageous for you to think otherwise…



18 July 2013 at 17:50  
Blogger Office of Inspector General said...



Commentators who do not have access to the Midland news may not be aware of a development concerning the so called Stafford hospital disgrace. One of the leading figures of the cure or fix the local NHS campaign, whatever it be called, has reported that she feels she has been hounded out of the area. Maybe we have here a case of a perceived wrongness not being as devastatingly awful as it appears or has been presented. One presumes the hard working types at Stafford General took understandable exception to what many would consider hysterical hyperbole from a handful of activists, or maybe rabble rousers, depending on your point of view.



18 July 2013 at 17:51  
Blogger Office of Inspector General said...

More reminisces of his intimate time with Nursey from this man. This one inspired by the deeply unpleasant sight of tattooed and head shorn riff raff in their summer clothing polluting the central streets of Gloucester. Men AND women.

These types know their ‘rights’. No doubt about that. One can’t help feeling that these so called rights filled the void left by the collapse of discipline in schools in the 1970s and after. So, any riff raff reading this, know the following. Nursey will do her best for you and yours in hospital, but unfortunately for you, you and yours are NOT the most important consideration in her life. There are other you and yours to think about, and indeed, at the end of shift, to forget about, until the following day…



18 July 2013 at 17:52  
Blogger Dreadnaught said...

Dr Mullen states...

Oh the unintentional irony!

18 July 2013 at 18:32  
Blogger AncientBriton said...

Off course there are pockets of excellence in the NHS, usually of the TV drama variety, but what is missing is the good old-fashioned care as when nurses learnt their craft on the wards where patients could be observed instead of learning in universities to be "too posh to wash". Whatever happened to observation?
http://ancientbritonpetros.blogspot.co.uk/2013/07/whatever-happened-to-observation.html

18 July 2013 at 22:37  
Blogger LEN said...

Richard Watterson,


The NHS Careers website lists 78 categories of manager, including clinical management, human resources management, IT and financial management. There is no data available on which of these broad categories of management has seen the most growth.(Not surprisingly!)

The figure of 'managers 'in the NHS
is closer to 20%.

19 July 2013 at 12:51  
Blogger Peter D said...

Len

We are in complete agreement (saint's be praised!)

Here's what Dr Gammon observed in 2005 as the 'heart of the matter':

"As for staff, the number employed by the NHS has more than doubled from 350,000 in 1948 to 882,000 in 2002.

The greatest percentage increase has been among designated administrative staff. Between 1997 and 2002 Senior Managers and Managers increased by no less than 47.6% compared to an overall increase in the workforce of 16% (nurses increased by 1.8%).

But these figures reveal only the tip of the bureaucratic iceberg. For example large numbers of nurses are now wholly engaged in management but are still counted as nurses.

Of even greater significance is the proliferation of bureaucratic procedures involving all staff, progressively displacing their productive activity."

19 July 2013 at 16:59  
Blogger Office of Inspector General said...

Number of managers in the NHS by %.



1999 = 3%

2009 = 4%

Source, the Kings Fund, which is a charitable organisation. The King’s Fund seeks to understand how the health system in England can be improved. It organizes conferences[2] and other events.[3] (Wikki)

http://www.kingsfund.org.uk/projects/general-election-2010/key-election-questions/how-many-managers



One would hazard a guess that, for example, a ward sister would be counted as a working nurse, rather than the middle management she is as well.





19 July 2013 at 17:45  
Blogger Peter D said...

Inspector

From the same website it is apparent managers increased by some 80% in the period you cite. And you've omitted the 11% of 'central support'.

Statistics, eh?

19 July 2013 at 23:14  
Blogger Yvonne said...

@ C Law - Off topic -
http://www.catholic.org/hf/faith/story.php?id=51666#
"Additionally, Pope Francis has said that those who are "legitimately prevented" from attending the event will also receive the indulgence if they too follow the event with the proper spirit of prayer and devotion.

He did not spell out precisely what those requirements were.

However, a reasonable interpretation would suggest it means more than just reading or viewing news updates and saying a simple prayer. Instead, expectant devotees should strive to view the masses, speeches, and to fully receive the message sent by the Church to the world's youth. In addition to this message, prayers and attendance at local Mass is reasonably expected.

Confession should be part of the plan. Cardinal Manuel Monteiro de Castro, the head of the Vatican office that handles indulgences, has asked priests around the world to make themselves available for confessions during this time.

Priests will also encourage public prayers during this time."

20 July 2013 at 11:14  
Blogger Anglican said...

There is a good comment in The Times (20 July) by Matthew Syed. He compared it to the aviation industry, which meticulously checks every accident and tries to learn from them so that they do not reoccur. This, he says, is its prevailing culture. But in the NHS the instinct is too often to cover up mistakes and attack whistle blowers. The culture of the NHS is such that it is unable to make much progress in ensuring that similar mistakes do not happen again.

21 July 2013 at 17:38  
Blogger Richard Watterson said...

Len

The number of different categories of manager cannot help you to arrive at a 20% figure for the percentage of managers. You've just plucked that figure out of thin air.

Do you think a large organisation can do without HR, IT, and admin staff? Really?

23 July 2013 at 06:15  

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