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23rd March 2015
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Dame Julie Mellor, Parliamentary and Health Service Ombudsman in conversation with Roy Lilley

King's Fund 15th April Details here

That's alright then
News and Comment from Roy Lilley

It's Sunday morning. The sky is blue and a cool breeze is making the daffodils dance. The sunshine turning their yellow to gold. On my desk; a cuppa-builder's, steaming, a-top Friday's newspaper.

 

I'm at my computer.  The cursor sits, blinking defiantly; daring me to spoil the pristine white screen with words. I confess, in my solitude, I'm feeling vacant and pensive. What to write about?

 

The introduction of a Meningitis B vaccine, delayed because commercial terms can't be agreed between the DH and the manufacturers. That would be worth writing about.  Bungling ineptitude on the part of LaLite's bureaucrats or unacceptable greed on the part of the company making the stuff?

 

I know, there's no point because the Department of Health Press Office will say that;

 

'Ministers are pressing hard and hopeful that negations will be concluded promptly and it is in every one's interest that this vital medicine reaches patients as soon as possible...

 

So, that's alright then...

 

I could write about the par-less state of mental health and the fall of 8% in its budget; the impact it has on people, patients and their families. There is no point because the DH Press Office will say;

 

'Ministers have set out plans for parity of esteem, increased funding in the recent budget, introduced new standards and anyway budgets are not the full picture...'  

 

So, that's alright then...

 

I could write about the over-use of antibiotics and the fact a new blood test is being developed that will help doctors decide if an infection is bacteriological or caused by a virus.

 

The Department of Health Press Office might say;

 

'This vital work addresses a serious problem and highlights Minister's determination to reduce the use of antibiotics...'

 

They will ignore the fact that a C-reactive protein test has been on sale in Finland and Germany and most of northern Europe since about 2011... ignored by the NHS because 'it wasn't invented here'.

 

Well, that's alright then...

 

I am tempted to write about the nine British medical students who have travelled to Syria, to work in areas controlled by Islamic State militants.

 

Is this a brave an unparalleled act of humanitarian caring, determined to help innocent civilians caught up in a war most of them would not make or wage? Or, is it sinister and treasonable; giving help and succour to the enemy of the western world.

 

My guess is the Department of Health Press office wouldn't say anything.

 

So, that's alright then...

 

My steaming cuppa-builders has left a brown ring on Friday's paper, neatly highlighting an article about healthcare in London and the problems at Bart's. But, could be anywhere, really.

 

There's a list of complications: 300m in the red; trolley waits up; cancelled operations up by 30%; loss of general and surgical beds; A&E attendances up 4.5%; and average bed occupancy up from 87.5% to 89.1%.

 

The newspaper, the London Evening Standard, reports;

 

"London health minister Jane Ellison failed to respond for a request for comment and Bart's refused to allow chairman Sir Stephen O'Brien to be interviewed."

 

Well, that's alright then...

 

I could write; today is Sunday and you will be reading this on Monday. However the Department of Health Press Office would very likely say;

 

'Ministers cannot be sure as to the date of authorship of the article and cannot vouch for when it might be read.

Anyway, Monday cannot be regarded as 'just following Sunday' as greater weighting could be given to the fact that, in the working week, Monday precedes Tuesday which is more linked in its relationship with Wednesday and Thursday than Sunday.

Whilst Sunday may be an anchor point for some, Friday is of equal significance to others. As is Saturday...'

 

Well that's alright then?  No of course not.  What's the point of a press office if it is merely the back door of Tory Central Office.  Close the DH press office, I say, or let the Tories pay for it.

 

I turn and look, again, at the daffodils.  My mind wanders back to English lessons and the Master who told me I'd never write anything more significant than a shopping list.  I think of Wordsworth and the poem I was forced to learn by heart, about his daffodils, especially the final verse:

 

For oft, when on my couch I lie  

In vacant or in pensive mood,  

They flash upon that inward eye  

Which is the bliss of solitude;  

And then my heart with pleasure fills,  

And dances with the daffodils.

 

Well, that's alright then...
 

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Dame Julie Mellor
Parliamentary & Health Service Ombudsman
In conversation with
Roy Lilley
15th April 2015
King's Fund
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