Saturday, December 09, 2006

Untimely Death of a Public Servant

This is from Charles Moore's column in this week's Spectator. Read it, get to the end, and weep.

Too late to tip off obituary writers, I hear of the death earlier this year of Jane Parsons. She ended up being head of the ‘Garden Room girls’ in No. 10 Downing Street. The Garden Room was really the typing pool, but the phrase does nothing like justice to its central importance in what used to be a small household. Jane joined No. 10 in 1946 and left in 1981, so she worked closely with every prime minister from Attlee to Mrs Thatcher. She told me her likes and dislikes. She liked Attlee (though Mrs Attlee accused the Garden Room girls of stealing her knitting), Macmillan, Home, Callaghan and Mrs Thatcher. She disliked Churchill, Eden, Wilson and Heath. Attlee she admired for his modest efficiency. The Macmillans, Homes, Thatchers and, to a lesser degree, the Callaghans made her and her girls feel part of a family. In all those cases, the spouse supported the prime minister very closely, which made it much more fun. Eden was too neurotic. Wilson allowed Marcia Falkender to start treating the Garden Room politically, and she began a persecution of what she called the ‘Tory debs’; Heath was completely cold, and never knew anyone’s name. Churchill, honour though it was to work for him, was the worst. He loved dictating in all hours and places, with a perfect lack of consideration. Jane remembered sitting in Churchill’s car, facing backwards, trying to take down a message to Stalin. Also in the car were Churchill’s pug, Churchill’s overwhelming cigar and Churchill’s budgie, which flew round pooing on her. She felt dreadfully sick, but also much too junior to object. This distinguished public servant died under the care of our wonderful National Health Service, by the way, killed by hospital MRSA after a minor operation.


Wrinkled Weasel said...

Yes it left a lump in my throat. By all accounts a remarkable woman and someone who deserves gratitude and respect.

What a shame that we can't convince hospital workers to wash their hands.

Anonymous said...

I'm afraid thers's more to MRSA than handwashing, although that would be a pretty good start. look at for how the Dutch have more or less kept it completely at bay. The key thing in the NHS is pressure on bed occupancy. It's impossible to control MRSA if you can't isolate affected patients. Unfortunatelt bed occupancy rates of 99%+ while they may look efficient in fact make us more or less powerless in the face of this and other hospital acquired infections.

But we should (and I hope now do) wash our hands!

Anonymous said...

Just googled mrsa. If WW is correct in general terms then is NHS guilty (although protected by legal dispensation) the same as a company would be, of causing death by negligence? Did they kill this lady by negligence? Simple measures such as washing hands and wearing masks? I ask only to be informed. Should I avoid UK hospitals? It might save my life. I think we have a right to know.

niconoclast said...

Socialism kills people every day in this country. What is totally unconscionable is the Tories craven support for this evil wicked subhuman system called the NHS.

Anonymous said...

I've heard some interesting ideas about MRSA and washing hands.

Whilst I wouldn't advocate not doing so, it seems that if you clean your hands very efficiently, that leaves a pristine niche for any bacteria to multiply. If you use an anti-bacterial agent it is also a good way of breeding resistant organisms.

Whereas if you cover your hands in some benign bacteria, there is no niche for anything bad to multiply.

Anyway, this problem is clearly not under control and is undoubtedly not helped by the bed occupancy figures. My next door neighbour has an extremely persistent infection and is not in good shape after a visit to the local hospital.

This crazy idea of concentrating everything in a mega-hospitals isn't going to help, either.

I'm sure it would be better if the health service concentrated on having good and well managed basic local care rather than having the latest and greatest drug treatments and specialist departments 100 miles away.

Of course that results in media storms about some distressing individual case, but there will come a point where we have to admit that some things are just too expensive and that the needs of the majority have to take precedence.

Anonymous said...

I do hope you aren't falling to the level of cheap political points on this Iain. Remember the war of 'Jennifer's ear' ?

We could go on a long and fruitless argument about who started all the restructuring in the NHS. Or who has spent most money on it. Or contracted out cleaning services to the lowest tender.

The causes of this problem are many and varied. As are the causes of all illnesses, such as cancer and heart disease. This needs a cross-party consensus to solve it. As for the idiot who said the 'sub-human' NHS was to blame - Well, hey, let's abolish it then and let those poor people just die at home, and no-one can blame the Government for MRSA.

Yeah, great solution to the problem.

Anonymous said...

Yes, a very fine public servant. Sad that she should have died in this manner.

One wonders what her views of the present incumbents of Downing Street would have been.

niconoclast said...

Anon.If a private firm was responsible for the deaths of thousands of people EVERY YEAR there would be outrage across the land and immediate demands to close down said business.

What goes on in the NHS is nothing short of a a mini Holocaust - the equivalent of corporate manslaughter on an industrial scale.

You seem quite sanguine about it.

Yours is way beyond idiocy - and into the realms of psychopathology.

Anonymous said...

Just to correct what dr random said about the wisdom of covering your hands with bacteria:
All our skin surfaces are host to numerous beneficial bacteria. As they live within pores and tiny crevices you will never get rid of them by handwashing. They can actually help prevent us getting permanently colonised by MRSA and other nasties. However, if you get some MRSA on your hands, it will survive on the surface, potentially being transmitted to anyone else you touch until you wash it off or kill it using an alcohol-based scrub.

Dr Pants

Anonymous said...

Could Drs. Pants & Random express a view on whether MRSA has arisen due to antibiotics being handed out like the proverbial smarties for trivial little infections over the years ?

Or is this a red-herring ? Anyway, our forefathers were used to people dying in their millions due to disease. Spanish Flu killed more than World War 1.

And we are going to have to get used to it again. If not MRSA, bird flu will get us.

We might be clever, but those little bugs have it over us in sheer weight of numbers. Still, it might solve the problem of global warming..

Anonymous said...

My father died of MRSA a few years ago. I don't think that whoever was in power at the time would have made any difference.

The NHS, like all public sector organisations, is inherently inefficient because there is no profit motive. Therefore all functions that can be carried out by the private sector should be for efficiency's sake.

I joined the Conservatives this week. This is the first time in my 37 years that I have decided to start actively supporting a political party. It is not MRSA that has provoked this but some events of the past two years, and DC's (in my opinion) successful repositioning of the party.

Anonymous said...

A very frequent occurence. NHS is ungovernable. Things can only get worse until there is a structural change towards removing Whitehall from healthcare, encouraging private medical insurance through individual and company schemes - Australia and France germany provide models.
If you are interested in a real NHS scandal to make blood boil read Janet Street Porter's account of the death of her sister. Available The Independent online.

Anonymous said...

dr pants,

here is an article referencing the idea in question...

NB I am most definitely not a medical dr...