Wednesday, August 22, 2007

My Vicky Pollard Moment

I just had one of those heart stopping moments. I went in to Sky News to do live piece on the Conservative health, er, campaign, but was bumped because Dubya droned on for too long. in the event I did a pre-record with a Sky News journalist. I gave some reasonably coherent answers about what had happened and then he moved on to the Brown bounce.

I said that David Cameron now had to hit the ground running after his holiday and reinvigorate the party. My interviewer instantly retorted: 'so what you are saying is that David Davis would have made a better leader'... I then opened my mouth like a goldfish and said 'yes, er, no, but...' and then saw him collapsing with laugher. He was just teasing...

Just to show that journalists are fallible too, the Sky presenter Colin Brazier was referring to Henry Bellingham as a Shadow Secretary of State. He'd better not apologise. He might have to retract it.

Just on the subject of Henry Bellingham, he apparently apologised to his local hospital that he hadn't told them about them being on the list in advance. The hospital in King's Lynn should indeed have been included, since the Stragetic Health Authority has said that any hospital with fewer than 3,000 births a year is 'not viable'. So therefore, it has to be regarded as under threat. or am I living in a parallel universe? Don't answer that.

The fact of the matter is that although this health campaign has been presented badly, it is one which ought to resonate with people 'on the ground'. People know that cuts are being made to their local services and that A&E and maternity services are being centralised in regional centres. All the Conservatives are doing is reflecting concerns of local people. And that surely has to be what politicians must do, particularly those in opposition.

Lessons should be learned from what has happened over the last three days, particularly over presentation and fact checking. But let's not fall for any media hype that this is some sort of crisis moment. It isn't.


strapworld said...


You did well! Truth always comes out in the end. He would have made the better leader!

On the NHS it just shows how disorganised it is. Alright a couple of mistakes were made but on Today this morning they interviewed a chairman of a trust and while stating that his A&E was not under threat his maternity unit was.....although his board was agreeing with the changes because they were told it was the best clinically!! I know from being a chair of an nhs trust that 'clinically best' is ALWAYS led by cost. So keep it up Cameron you are right.

Lastly if anyone can understand Dawn Prima-donna the Public Health Minister..I am a dutchman. She is quite terrible (BUT good for the tories).

I hope you took the opportunity to tell Sky News they are politically biased!

Anonymous said...

There'll be some sort of crisis moment if Gordon calls an October election, before your lot announce any policies, let alone actually get something right.

Anonymous said...

All Labour have to do to clear up any confusion is to produce the list - will they do that? No. It's not Cameron who is number crunching - that's Gordon's job.

Dr Blue said...

Dr Rant: The state of the NHS (22.AUG.07)

Hope you will enjoy this on state of the NHS.

Mountjoy said...

Absolutely spot on, Iain. Labour is desperate to suppress discussion of the NHS - it is one of many Achilles heels for the Government - while Kirsty Wark was deliberately obstructive on yesterday's Newsnight.

Anonymous said...

How would you choose a builder to do an extension? Would you interview a few and:
a) go for the one who says he has done a couple, or
b) go for the one who has done 50?

Personally I would go for the guy who knows what he is doing and has all the right tools - an approach most people would take.

Why then do so many take completely the opposite stance when it comes to healthcare? In sub-scale units clinical staff have less experience because they see fewer cases. In contrast, specialist centres enable staff to build up deep expertise. The critical mass also makes it possible to invest in specialist equipment and to provide more consultant cover - particularly an issue in labour wards.

I am lucky - I live in London and my son was delivered in a teaching hospital. I would be very afraid if our next was to be born in a small DGH unit.

Geezer said...

Labour were screwing around with the facts as usual to cover their sorry arse. But this illustrates the problems the Conservatives have had in oppositon all along. Many "facts" can be argued with by government with various and usual statistical "interpretations" and grey "we haven't actually said that" areas, but it was the way that Labour's broadcast news friends, once again, spun the things the way Labour wanted them to be spun to counter any criticism that the Conservatives are making, to make the Conservatives look bad! (thus taking the public's eye off the real issue of Labour failure).
Labour, in opposition, was given endless airtime to misrepresent and parrot out the tired old and usually unsubstantiated anti-Conservative cliches, but the Conservatives were not given anywhere near the airtime to counter their bogus arguments.
Sky were shocking in their bias, proving that broadcast News, in general, and not just the BBC, is just Labour bias ridden drivel. They are determined to keep Brown in office and dispense with any serious analysis of government policy. Bye Bye democracy!

strapworld said...


Superb article in today's Daily Telegraph which you could consider displaying.

Written by Karol Sikora Professor of Cancer Medicine at Imperial College School of Medicine, Hammersmith Hospital. Under the heading
"To beat cancer, we must first cut out the NHS bureaucracy"

He makes a compelling argument and shows the utter waste of money created by this bloody government with its quango's

In one paragraph he states:-
" The current Cancer Reform Strategy is the Government's way of dealing with the situation - it will build on and eventually replace the Cancer Plan of 2000. It's an inclusive exercise with over 400 people involved. Pages of text will be duly filled and released in the autumn.
Sadly, there will be little radical reform and certainly no new money"

Cameron keep banging the are on the right path.

Iain, Sky IS politically biased!

Anonymous said...

Dad's army...time to go!

Chris Paul said...

Obviously DD would have been a better Tory leader. How could he have been worse?

He certainly would have stopped Boris going for London Mayor - wouldn't he?

And of course hospitals and health are a general concern of all parties. Everyone boosts "best health", "best schools", "best rail" etc but there are also track records. In this case on expenditure and on waiting lists for example.

Cameron of course himself admits that he will not guarantee to reverse one proposed change. Not a single one. While he will not be wanting to shoot Bambi and actually admit closing anything is sensible or necessary - he DOES know it's true.

But he will try to use changes to discomfit the government. Fair enough. That is his job.

Being more honest would probably be better and more grown up, but hey ho this is politics.

Acknowledging that the NHS is pretty damn good; and that the proposed changes are mostly pretty damn sensible; and that preventative health and community units for more trivial things are in fact the way to go - all good.

But the point for the moment is that Cameron's Tories cannot be trusted with a PRESS RELEASE never mind the NHS. They could have googled their way to accurate announcements.

Serious, adult discussion on the NHS is always welcome. With arguments and evidence. I went to hospital for an hour or so last Friday and may blog about it later or soon. Very good it was.

Coming back to DD vc DC, you may disagree but I think it is fair to say that three months, two months, even perhaps five weeks ago you would not have stumbled over this "joke".

nadds said...

Big open goal for Dave

Nulab and their media men are busy spinning that some of the specifics on the list "are" (actually maybe) incorrect, because politically their policy is a stinker.

As such all the counter spin being run on al beeb and Sky is about the one offs, not the overall policy.

Dave should keep going. Any site that is now "not closing" is a positive result and should be claimed as a victory for local people as the uncertainty caused by the " consultation" is now over.

The MSM seems to have forgotten about the nulab master plan of closing and growing based upon nulab seat requirements, revealed a few months ago

Anonymous said...

Does anyone seriously believe that the NHS would be better off under a Conservative government?

simonh said...

The Tories have chosen to campaign on a subject that resonates with the public and is a problem fot eh Government. And they've still cocked it up. If there's one thing the electorate won't forgive, it's outright incompetence.

Ralph said...

All Gordon has to do is announce he'll resign as an MP if any of the cuts the Tories say are happening happen.

Go on Gordon dare you.

Anonymous said...

remind us who was crowing about the Lib Dems getting their facts wrong on hospitals last week Iain???

Maybe not a crisis, but it doesn't help Cameron look like he's completely in control of events and doesn't exactly give off an air of competence and credibility.

Will Parbury said...

Come off it Iain. The tories want to be a party of government yet it appears their research on the NHS, something that more than the odd one or two voters is actually interested in, is carried out by a hung over intern who can't wait to get back to school.

Anonymous said...

Its not a question of research. This is affecting the entire NHS, not just a few chosen sites.

For NuLab to continue to call cuts 'reforms' is divisive.

When the NHS is still 'reforming' after 10 years (nearly 11) of 'reforming', how much more 'reforming' needs to be done before we all get a decent service, free from politics.

We have all paid, and how we have paid, for this 'reformed' service, now we want the service, free at the point of delivery for all, for all ailments, for all persons (including smokers and fat people).

The real question is: Where is it, because its not in the hospitals, clinics and surgery's.

Like Education, Health has had enough of 'reforms', now its time to leave it alone, let the doctors and nurses do what they do best, and get the politics, activists and paper pushers out of it.

Anonymous said...

CCHQ fact checking is abysmal. My local A & E unit is listed as being under threat but it is simply moving to a location closer to the centre of the population that it serves.

Madasafish said...

If you are incompetent in Opposition, you will be incompetent in Government(if you get there).

Anonymous said...

The Tory presentation may not be perfect, but the real problem is the collusion between the BBC and the Labour Party, not to mention Labour-friendly newspapers.
As soon as Cameron opens his mouth, you get an instant rebuttle from Labour and this is followed by the media message:
"David Cameron was strongly criticised today...."
It happens so often, there is no doubt of the conspiracy. I suppose nothing can be done about the newspapers (Alastair Campbell's stooge Philip Webster of The Times is the most blatant example), but some kind of representation should be made to the BBC Governors.
Isn't this Andy Coulson's job?

Nich Starling said...

Iain, with your knowledge of Norfolk health services you will know there are only three maternity units. One is in Gorleston, One in Norwich and one in Kings Lynn. the on ein Norwich is not big enough and mothers from Norwich are often referred to Kings Lynn, indeed my wife was told that even though we live right on the edge of nrwoch, it might be necessary to travel to Kings Lynn for her to give birth (44 miles)if the hosptial is full (which at this time of the year is not uncommon).

Given those circumstances and given what you know (and Henry Bellingham) The maternity services in Kings Lynn were NEVER going to close. So Bellingham was right to apologise.

Well done though for at least covering the story. I'll have to mention on my blog that you did after I challenged you to do it.

Iain Dale said...

Nich, you make a fair point, but the fact is that there are no doubt maternity units in Lincolnshire or Cambridgeshire which they could site as realistic alternatives. You ignore the point made by the SHA.

Chris Paul said...

wrxIanp asks when the reforms will end. Well, the need for change and improvement will not go away will it? Constant improvement is a good maxim - kaizen in Japanese - a worthy aim. Standing still is going backwards, discuss.

I do hope that major reorganisations are not undertaken lightly but I also hope that the health service is organic, flexible and not stuck in mud.

As I tapped before a Press Release is not safe with the Tories never mind a Hospital. Comments welcome on a baker's dozen of clear factual questions. No ifs not buts just YES/NO here.

A response to Dr Blue's intersting rant. He seems full of glee at how bad he thinks things are.

Chris Paul said...

Is that true about the drunken intern Will? Or you just make it up as an ironic comment on the Tory research process?

I have been assuming that Grant 1234 Schweppes must be the detail-resistant and strategically-incompetent brains behind the campaign.

Let's hope he is not hospitalised in the re-shuffle.

Anonymous said...

A couple of points.

First regarding rebuttals, especially by PCTs or SHAs. I'm involved in fighting my local PCT over its Fit For the Future plannning. Specifically I've been analysing the data they're using to support their case -- full of lies, errors, inconsistencies -- and, as with much government data, likely to change in a blink so that you're left without an argument unless you replicate everything you look at.

In short they're liars & I wouldn't trust a word any of them came out with, but then I don't work for the BBC et al.

Second, as usual, Chris Paul shows himself up as having no understanding of the words he uses. Kaizen is not a top-down process such as we are seeing in the NHS. It is a bottom-up methodology that trusts and empowers individuals to improve processes. I'd call him an idiot except that probably has two too-many syllables for him.

Anonymous said...

"But let's not fall for any media hype that this is ome sort of crisis moment. It isn't."

As a one-off of course its not. But coming on top of grammargate, Rwandagate and Aligate it does make you wonder.

Anonymous said...

Chris Paul - "... the proposed changes are mostly pretty damn sensible..."

"changes" = cuts, in NuLab speak.

Speaking from an area of the country where our local hospital (built 15 years ago, excellent, room to build and expand, and serving a large population) is under extreme threat - close A&E, close maternity etc. we don't see this as a sensible change. We see people who are sick or injured having to travel 25 miles or more over congested roads into the city hospital which has no heli-pad, (can't get one, area too built-up) and which is far too busy already dealing with the city population. We see not enough ambulances having to do blue light runs through heavy traffic and people probably dying on the way - the golden hour, anyone?

We see 2000 babies being born last year at our local hospital - where will those babies be born now? Either in the ambulance or in the car, probably.

It would be far more sensible to beef up our local hospital, rather than shove everything into the city hospital - however call me cynical, but -

What we also see is the city containing the hospital has 3 marginal Labour constitencies, whereas our area has a Conservative MP with a large majority...........

Anonymous said...

I fear that the people have been hearing too many confused messages this past week.

When will we returne to good old fashioned conviction politics?

Anonymous said...

We're in danger of losing sight of the big issues here in a row over the length of a list of A and E depts.

As I see the real points:

1. the NHS is a bottomless pit of cost and getting deeper - is this possible with a bottomless pit?!- as technology advances.

2. it is the duty of the haves to look after the have nots, healthwise.

3. it is not the duty of the haves to look after the have nots in terms of minor operations or optional ones.

4. there is WASTE on a gargantuan scale within the NHS; voters experience it and know all about it.

5. the BMA is the most successful trades union in the UK - it has quietly negotiated the most ridiculous contracts and easy life for GPs.

Instead of blindly supporting NHS inefficiencies and gravy trains, we should not be afraid to hammer home these points. First because they are right, morally and, secondly, if a further justification were needed, because voters agree with them, for goodness sake, and no longer see the NHS as the sacred cow it once was.

Anonymous said...

.....related but not exactly apropos this.....

It's about time someone started to challenge the "natural childbirth" lobby that Labour govts have supported. Why:

1. is formula milk banned from being advertised? (Who realised this before "the Jordan saga"? I didn't...)

2. can women not choose between natural delivery and Caesarean when most female obstetricians - ie women who know what they are doing - choose Caesareans?

3. is such emotional blackmail applied to women to breastfeed when,frankly, it can be AGONY for them and their babies 90% of the time suffer prolonged jaundice as a result?

4. are maternity services closing, necessitating emergency drives cross country plus the tragedies of babies who need not have been brain damaged?

5. are pregnant women encouraged to have the most dangerous medical procedure most will ever undergo AT HOME?

6. does such a thing as a maternity ward exist? it's a throwback from when women had no say and no vote but did have babies several pounds tinier than today. It's obvious giving birth should be part of general surgical, given what delivering mothers are undergoing.

7. is automatic pain relief - eg epidurals - not immediately available?

......Because it is cheaper.

The Govt would rather spend on admin people, "deep breathing " midwives and GPs than on specialised services for women. It dresses it all up as natural and plays on everyone's preference for it to be sweet and beautiful and painfree. It's not for most women and it's time midwives got that straight.

{sorry: a bit off topic I know but it sickens me how women suffering feel that to complain and demand better is wrong}

Scipio said...

Ian - you are dead wrong. The party should be behind these changes, not oppossing them. In fact, we should be saying 'too little too late' and atacking Bron for threateneing to pull the plug on these consultations.

Instead we smell a political advantage over scare stories about hospital closures (which is false - no hospital will close under these proposals), put some junior researcher on the job, put 2 and 2 together and come up with 3, then look really silly when a journo adds up properly.

The changes to maternity units are about increasing choice for pregnant women who currently have a 'one size fits all' option on giving birth - hospital based Obstetric lead maternity units, which treat labour and pregnancy as a medical/clinical issue.

But pregnancy is not an illness, sickness or disease, and women want some choice. Sure, have a obsteric lead unit for first-timers, breech deliveries and difficult births, but there should also be exactly what these proposals are offering - midwife lead birthing units which are smaller, more intimate and offer effetively a suported 'home birth environment'.

Reforms to maternity units are about widening choice and access to midwifes, not closing hospitals down

I have a freind who is paying £4k for the services of a private midwife because she doesn;t want to have to give birth (again) in a hospital where she had an appaling experience of ippersonal consultanats running dirty wards whose first reaction at the slightest coimplication is a C section!

She wants an assisted home birth, which is effectively what these new midwife lead units will offer.

Secondly, on A&E, we are again worng.

The proposals are to change some existing A&E units into 'Urgent Care Centres' (UCCs) which will treat about 85% of all the current patient flows, but with regional 'Major General Hopsitals' based 'super' A&Es which offer better and more expereinced clinicials 24/7 (not currently available in district general hopsitals) to deal with the severe emergency cases which would usually struggle to be treated at the current existing district general A&Es.

Too many people go to A&E for minor injuries/illnesses, wasting time and money, and also waiting for hours to be seen whilst the clinicians deal with an heart attack or a major trauma. Oh, and then complain about waiting times!

Giving people access to local UCCs which are convenient to get too and will treat you quickly and effectively, whilst having regional centres of excellence dealing with the more seriuous cases which, in the case of where I live would usually mean someone being airlifted to London, makes a hell of a lot of sense! It also means that money will be better used!

Therefore, our opportunistic bandwagonning is playing politics with peoples lives and makes me angry!

A lot of clinicians are in favour of these reforms. So am I.

In fact, these proposals don't go far enough, and when Gordon Brown scraps them (which he will do after the elction, as he is doing his utmost to delay thyem at the moment) and goes instead for greater centralised control over the NHS, we will not have a leg to stand on and criticise him!

Finally, this is not lead by cost. The PCT I know in West Sussex (the one Cameron visited) is offering 3 options for change. Each option will lead to extra spending!

Scipio said...

Anonymous 4.15: You are talking crap about childbirth being 'the most dangerous medical procedure they will ever undergoe" Where are your statistics for this?

I have seen women dig a hole in the ground, pack it with straw and give birth into that! Now, I am not aspiring to that for women in the UK - but it shows that, in extremis - what can be done without fetal monitors and doctors desperate to slice you open!

Childbirth is a natural process for which the body is more than equipped. It is not a sickness or an illness and doesn;t need to be treated as such.

even breech births don;t need anything like the medical intervention there is now.

My local Midwife Unit looks after 400 women a year and only a tiny minority need to be hospitalised. The majority deliver without intervention with gas and air!

So, show me your stats on why childbirth is so dangerous please. The medical proffession disagrees with you.

Painful yes, but not dangerous!