A nation's greatness is measured by how it treats its weakest members. - Mahatma GhandiFor those who think corruption only occurs when there's money involved, the publication yesterday of Health Service Ombudsman Ann Abrahams's report Care and Compassion should be an eye-opener. But it won't be; the NHS is a totem for the Brits, and none of the gruesome details in the report are in any way news.
Nigel Edwards, chief executive of the NHS Confederation, produced the usual bad faith gloss: "It is of course important to put these 10 examples in perspective. The NHS sees over a million people every 36 hours and the overwhelming majority say they receive good care. But I fully appreciate that this will be of little comfort to patients and their families when they have been on the receiving end of poor care".
How many of those treated by the NHS have any basis for comparison? The ten cases in the report were explicitly cited as tips of a vast, stinking iceberg and even the Independent was moved to comment adversely on the sacred cow:
Ageism is rife in the NHS. That has been established by innumerable investigations over the years. Denial of treatment on cost rather than clinical grounds is less of a problem than it was. But deep-rooted cultural attitudes to ageing remain. As Ms Abraham says, they are personal as well as institutional, a "failure to recognise the humanity and individuality" of the people concerned.I have had rather too many occasions to observe the workings of NHS hospitals at close hand over the past decade and I am in no doubt that the treatment of the elderly is a deliberate, institutional attempt to shift the problem out of the hospitals altogether. Even when Brown was fire-hosing money at the NHS they were closing facilities for the long-term medical care of the helpless elderly and coined the appalling term "bed blockers" to describe them. "Useless mouths" is what they mean, as one would expect of a utilitarian socialist institution.
Thirty years after Sir Roy Griffiths was drafted in from Sainsbury's to reform the NHS, it remains an institution overly focused on the interests of the providers – the staff. In a million ways – from making an appointment to see a GP to getting help with eating on a hospital ward – its lack of focus on the patient is evident.
The moral test of government is how it treats those who are in the dawn of life, the children; those who are in the twilight of life, the elderly; those who are in the shadows of life; the sick, the needy and the handicapped. - Hubert HumphreyHumphrey and Ghandi would have agreed that NHS abuse of the elderly is only the most starkly undeniable evidence that the soul of the British state is deeply, squalidly amoral.