April 6, 2015
by Martin Odoni
I was out driving in south Manchester yesterday, when I saw some notice-boards that caught my eye for having letters deliberately missing from them. At first I did not recognise the boards’ meaning, as I was trying to concentrate on driving, and the missing letters were not helping. But I then had to stop at some traffic lights, and so I took the opportunity to have a closer look. The first one read, roughly; –
Spr_ins and gr_zes. Do not need A&E.
There was an ‘NHS’ logo in the top-right corner.
The second board read, roughly; –
S_re Thr_at? Won’t need A&E.
And there was the logo again.
Now call me ‘Old Mr. Paranoid’, but somehow that logo did not convince me completely that the National Health Service itself was where this sentiment originated. There is no doubt whatever that Accident & Emergency services are in a state of frequent over-stretch, but the words seemed to remind me of past grumbles from another, familiar direction.
The Conservative Party, it is well recorded, are currently determined to dress up any shortfall in public services as a symptom of poor people taking liberties, and nothing to do with resource-starvation in the service. Some of their rhetoric during this Government has almost amounted to saying, “People are ill because they have no incentive not to be ill”, which is the creeping barrage of ‘anti-scrounger’ narratives slowly advancing into realms where they are even less evidence-based and make even less sense.
Now in fairness, Executives in the NHS have genuinely been complaining in the media recently that some people have been showing up in casualty departments looking to treat minor injuries or illnesses. But given the way these Executives arrived in the NHS to begin with – essentially parachuted in by the Government to help make the NHS run more like a private corporation (which is what it is rapidly turning into) – that is not far removed from a party spokesman on Health making the remarks.
I concede I could be making up a cynical conspiracy theory without being fully aware of it, but I have a sneaking suspicion that the Conservative Party are bending-rules-by-proxy to encourage this emerging concept of ‘healthcare-scroungers’. One of the reasons I am suspicious is that, given A&E resources are so overstretched, it seems a little doubtful that the NHS could still afford to do an advertising campaign to complain about it.
But the Tories can certainly afford it, and as I say, they like to dress up free healthcare as a luxury, not a right. More pertinently, if they are the ones behind these noticeboards, are they not dragging the NHS into party politics in a way that goes beyond just implementing policy? And if such adverts are being posted under the NHS banner, does that not also get the Tories around transparency rules on Election spending?
Well, maybe a bit of a leap there. But whether I am being paranoid or not, I do question the propriety of these noticeboards in themselves. A sore throat is not a reason to go to A&E? You are sure about that? Does that not depend on the cause of the sore throat, which the patient may have no way of identifying? Sore throats can be a symptom of various fevers, some of which can be life-threatening. A sprain is not a reason to go to A&E? I dispute that, a severe sprain needs treatment almost as much as a fracture.
Yes, I know, you should go see your GP first. But some people do not have one, and some GPs have long waiting-lists of their own.
Here is a suggestion; rather than blaming people for using services they have a perfect human right to, why not have a go at the tight-fisted cynics who keep taking resources away from the services, to the point that they stop working, just so that they can then claim that, “Well obviously the system isn’t working, it must be because it’s run by the public sector! Let’s sell the lot off for not-much-money and get a private firm (that I happen to have shares in) to run it instead.”
Oh dear, now I am being paranoid and cynical, aren’t I? Naughty Martin.