Posts Tagged ‘Life Support (Book)’

Tories Ashcroft and Oakeshott Demand Privatisation of NHS Hospitals

May 23, 2022

A few weeks ago Private Eye carried a review of Michael Ashcroft’s and Isabel Oakeshott’s book on the supposed failures of the NHS in its issue for 29th April – 12th May. Ashcroft is, I believe, the Tory donor now resident in Belize, and Isabel Oakeshott his pet journo, responsible for the otherwise uncorroborated claim that when he was at Oxford, David Cameron poked a porker. Now the two have written a book, Life Support, giving their critical analysis of the NHS and their suggestions for its improvement. The pair examine two hospitals, St. Mary’s in Paddington and King’s College Hospital in Camberwell, which they describe as being in run-down areas. St. Mary’s Hospital is in a dingy backstreet off the lower Edgware Road between the railway station and a long strip of burger joints, pawnbrokers and shops selling cheap luggage. King’s College Hospital occupies a neighbourhood where drug and gang crime are rife, and is filled with the victims of gang warfare.

The book claims that hospitals ” are badly run by management teams that tolerate waste, allow patient safety standards to slip”, whose bosses “prise over a culture of bullying and cover-ups and fail to grip budgets”, which is “terrible for taxpayers, terrible for NHS staff and potentially fatal for patients”. They also claim that the NHS has a code of omerta similar to the Sicilian mafia.

So what are their solutions to this crisis? Well, get rid of foreign doctors and health tourists, sell off a few hospitals, have people transform themselves into cyborgs and lose weight. They are suspicious of Indian doctors, because there is less regulation and greater corruption in their country of origin. When they start working in the NHS, they have a paternalistic attitude towards patients.

As for the health tourists, they gave as an example a Nigerian woman who flew in from Lagos so that she could have her triplets delivered by the NHS, complaining that ‘Part of the problem is that most healthcare professionals believe they have a moral duty to help the sick,, wherever they are from.’ After demanding the privatisation of a few hospitals, there’s a chapter, “Cyborgs: Futuristic Medicine” in which they encourage people to turn themselves into the real-life equivalents of Dr. Who’s Cybermen. But they claim that ‘Nobody is suggesting that thousands of patients will go to such lengths and attempt to become ‘full cyborgs'”.

They also attack the various fashion brands and social media influencers who they claim have made obesity fashionable, which they state is grossly irresponsible. Despite all this criticism, however, the book says precious little about the Covid pandemic, which has cause a crisis in the Health Service. The Eye’s reviewer states that it’s commendable that Ashcroft and Oakeshott are donating the profits from the book to NHS charities, but concludes

‘Any suspicion that the authors set out to slag off the NHS across 400 pages of ill-informed vanity-published guff but then had to bung some Covid stuff in the intro as events unfolded is surely nonsense’.

Let’s critically examine some of their recommendations. Firstly, many NHS doctors are foreign. During my illness, I’ve been treated by a number of South Asian doctors, as well as those from the Far East and eastern Europe. And I have absolutely no complaints whatsoever. I can’t speak for others, but I believe that they, and the other British and foreign staff gave me excellent care. I am not aware that NHS doctors from India have been found to be any less competent than others. This looks to me like a bit of racism on Ashcroft’s part. As does the bit about health tourists and the Nigerian woman. with triplets. I don’t blame the woman for wanting to give birth over here, than trust herself and her unborn children to medicine in her own country. And I thought it was a fundamental position of modern medical ethics that everyone has the same right to care, regardless of ethnic origin. Besides, Nye Bevan was aware that there would be people coming from less developed parts of the world to take advantage of the NHS, and considered that the Health Service would be more than capable of dealing with them.

There are indeed some very cool and advanced artificial limbs being developed, but some of these – the most advanced – cost tens of thousands of dollars. And despite the invention of dialysis and heart-lung machines, I am not aware that anybody has come close to creating mechanical counterparts of the kidneys, heart and lungs that can be implanted in the body. The idea of people turning themselves into cyborgs is, at present, Science Fiction.

Dr. Who’s Cybermen – the future of patients cutting costs for the NHS. From the Dr. Who Monster Book.

As for the demand that hospitals be privatised, this is obviously what Ashcroft as Tory donor and capitalist clearly wants. But it’s because of privatisation that NHS administrative costs have mushroomed and standards of care declined because of massive funding cuts. And as we’ve seen, privatisation actually leads to few hospitals and doctor’s surgeries as the companies running them close them down in order to maximise their profits. This is bad for taxpayers, who are having to fork out more for poorer service, as well as staff and patients. And it would also be a massive step towards the transformation of the Health Service into one operated through private healthcare companies and funded through private health insurance, like America.

But this is what is happening under the Tories and Blair’s New Labour, as these right-wing Thatcherite politicos seek to enrich themselves and their corporate donors in the private medical industry. Ashcroft’s and Oakeshott’s book are the latest in the propaganda campaign to tell you this is a good idea.