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Channel 4…Dispatches. Getting Rich on the NHS

29 Oct

Has the NHS been privatised? No one told me!! You read a lot about NHS reforms but I personally haven’t equated reforms with widespread privatisation. If what I saw on this programme is reflective of the NHS as a whole then NHS privatisation is starting to happen in a big way, and I guess largely under the radar of most people in the country.

It seems one of the main ways in for private money is buying up self managing GP groups. Once they’re in the pressure to slash costs starts and that means removing permanent staff and replacing them with locum doctors, reducing staffing hours and referring patients to alternative sites. Primary care is an expensive operation and to accommodate the need to make a profit it is inevitable that the quality of patient care begins to deteriorate as the visits to various parts of the country by the programme showed.

One of the main beneficiaries of the unraveling of a totally state-run NHS is Virgin Care, yet another branded operation from the great bearded one. The programme showed how Virgin Care is spreading its tentacles across the NHS having won over 750 million pounds of contracts, but questions were raised about some contracts they have won.

In Surrey they won a Community Nursing contract worth millions despite not being the lowest bid. In Swindon they submitted the lowest bid but questions were raised about the service they intend to supply, ironically not dissimilar to the Virgin Rail’s complaint when they lost the West Coast mainline train franchise.

For me the issue was less a case of who is winning what in the tendering, but the rate and breadth of this privatisation exercise and the implications of this for patients

It would appear the ideological mantra that “socialised medicine”, as the Americans like to call it, being some sort of evil is stealthily making a way into the UK and we are not really being given a chance to say yes or no.

It is not just big faceless conglomerates enjoying the ‘rewards’ of privatisation, your friendly local GP may also be getting in on the act, as the creeping privatisation is opening opportunities for them to make mega bucks despite increasingly glaring conflicts of interest and there is a danger they will make decisions based less on your clinical needs and more on their pockets.

Panorama…Jimmy Saville What the BBC knew

23 Oct

Panorama yesterday delved into the increasingly murky world of  who knew what about  Jimmy Savile at the BBC, the organisation that propelled him into uber-stardom, and it seems also provided him with a ‘hunting ground’ for his depraved activities.

It came on the back of the controversy  over the revelation that  BBC  shelved an investigation into Jimmy Savile  by its Newsnight programme  seemingly in favour of a fulsome tribute to the man we now know to be one of the worst sexual molesters ever unearthed in the UK.

Even more shocking are the reasons being given for dropping the programme.  A reporter who worked on the Newnight investigation Liz MacKean  claims in an e-mail referring to Peter Rippon the Newsnight editor.

 ”Having commissioned the story, Peter Rippon keeps saying he’s lukewarm about it and is trying to kill it by making impossible editorial demands.

“When we rebut his points, he resorts to saying: well, it was 40 years ago…the girls were teenagers, not too young…they weren’t the worst kind of sexual offences etc.

“He hasn’t warned BBC1 about the story, so they’re beavering away on the special, oblivious.”

The big question is – Is this  the whole matter  a cockup or  a coverup.  Is this symptomatic of a gross institutional failure or a naive attempt to bury a festering bag of worms?

Have I Got News For You …and Jimmy Savile

12 Oct

They say it never rains it pours, but in the case of Jimmy Savile it has turned into a category 5 hurricane of revelations. I never really liked him, as I found the whole shell suit, gaudy gold chains, big cigar and “now then now then” persona creepy and weird, but the breath and nature of the revelations has still shocked me.

I caught tonight’s episode of Have I got News For You, the start of a new season, and I was curious to see how they will deal with the topic being as it is till very fresh and escalating in seriousness and distaste as each day goes by

Tonight’s show was hosted by Clare Balding riding a wave of popularity after her much lauded presentation duties at both the Olympics for the BBC and the Paralympics for Channel 4.  Regulars  Ian Hislop and Paul Merton were joined by Ken Livingston and Graham Glinner, the writer behind the ‘Father Ted’ series.

The first news item they dealt with was the Tory Party conference and the jokes were on Dave’s twit-tering, Boris’s popularity and George Osborne (He doesn’t get the single name treatment) getting roundly booed at the Paralympics.

It moved on from there to the Savile story. Paul Merton started off by categorically denying the existence of a much rumored outtake transcript of an episode of  Have I got News For You from a few years back when Jimmy Savile appeared. It was said to detail Paul Merton confronting Savile as a pedophile.

That’s not to say there weren’t uncomfortable moments from his appearance on that episode, a clip was aired where he was asked by Ian Hislop “What do you do in your caravan?” Savile’s answer “Anyone I can lay hands”. More disturbingly and although not broadcast tonight on the same show he was asked by the then host Angus Deayton “You used to be a wrestler”, Savile’s reply “I still am….I am feared in every girls school”.  No. You can’t make it up.

As Glinner pointed out the vile innuendo in hindsight was some sort of attempt at “using the truth to mask the truth”.  Making a open joke of the whole sordid affair and people will think there is no way can it be true cos he wont be joking about it so openly.

The rest of the programme veered from mildly funny to very unfunny (claire Balding’s joke at Abu Hamza being surprised to fly into an airport in America, he was expecting to fly into a building) going via a long vent from Balding on what she called Daily Mail’s sidebar of shame. A reference to  the paper’s website obsession with young female celebrities yet ready to take the high ground on Savile.

I am not sure if the The Savile affair had cast a pall over the rest of the programme or if its age and that of Ian and Paul have begun to tell, Have I Got New For You seems to have lost its edge. Well it has been 22 years.

The episode with Jimmy Savile.