Blogging from the Highlands of Scotland
'From fanaticism to barbarism is only one step' - Diderot

Wednesday 9 July 2008

Labour's statist NHS policies inadvertantly exposed at PMQs

Not the greatest PMQs ever - neither Harman nor Hague scored any major points, although Harman was nowhere near as good as last time; her responses were mostly confused non sequiturs, of an even more formulaic 'party line' nature than is usually the case, and she didn't seem to believe half of it herself.

However, one of the questions from a Labour MP hit me in the face; I only half-listened to the response from Harman and indeed think it was relatively unimportant (and certainly menaingless). What I found interesting was the mind-set which allowed a question with that content to be asked in the first place.

Anne Snelgrove MP, Labour, Swindon South, asked this question:

Will my Right Honourable Friend join me in thanking the hard-working staff of the Great Western Hospital in Swindon who have used extra funding from the Government to cut C-difficile cases to well below target and will she ensure that the Matrons throughout the country have the resources to keep the NHS sparkling in its 60th anniversary year?

Harriet Harman MP, Labour, Leader of the House responded with a perfectly-standard formula, albeit grotesquely padded-out to disguise the platitudes she was mouthing, whilst not forgetting a gratuitous swipe at the last government, which left office more than 11 years ago:

I congratulate the staff at Great Western Hospital and throughout the National Health Service in tackling hospital acquired infection; it's important work and I think it's an opportunity on the 60th anniversary of the National Health Service to pay tribute to the entire staff team of the National Health Service who have kept it going even when it was under-resourced and struggling and to pay tribute too to their work under the leadership of Arad Darzi [sp?]. Two thousand clinicians have been involved in shaping a consultation paper for the way forward and I hope that all staff in the NHS - not only can we thank them for their work, but invite them to help us shape the way forward for the future for the NHS.

- bizarre sentence structure there toward the end (and I've done my best to type exactly what she said from my recording) and much of it meaningless verbiage, but that's not unusual with responses at PMQs.

No, what interests me about this exchange was one small part of it, the bit I've high-lighted in red and focussing in on the few words that I've underlined. Is it really the case that the target for C-difficile infection is so far above 'zero', that success can be said to have occurred when infection levels have been held to well below that target, whatever it is? Personally I believe that the only acceptable target should be 'zero' infections, even if I am perfectly prepared to concede that this is never likely to be achieved, or certainly not consistently oner a lengthy period.

It's the whole language of debate on the subject of the NHS in general that I take great exception to. The self-congratulatory tone of much of the discussion on the NHS, particularly [but not eclusively] from the Labour side, is so depressing. Regarding as a success a level of C-difficile infections 'well below' a target which is set some way above zero is just one small example of the poverty of ambition which surrounds conventional thinking on how to manage health-care in this country.

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