Tuesday, March 29, 2005

What's bugging Reid?

JOHN REID is planning to charge hospital bosses with corporate manslaughter if poor hygiene standards result in patient deaths from MRSA.
The health secretary wants to close a loophole which means that nobody is legally responsible for deaths from preventable hospital-acquired infections.

He has told the Healthcare Commission that if Labour wins the next election a bill will be introduced immediately. Chief executives and boards who fail to maintain the highest standards would face fines or possibly imprisonment if it can be proved that their negligence led to a patient’s death.
The change will be controversial. Chief executives say the causes of MRSA are so varied that no one person can be blamed. They say attempts to bring corporate manslaughter charges in other industries have failed.
However, Reid has been riled by coverage suggesting that the government has failed to stem the spread of the superbug. He wants the measures to cover care homes and nursing homes as well. “We have looked at legislative rules and at the moment we are considering them in detail,” he said.
The move is expected to be trailed in Labour’s manifesto. A source close to Reid said: “You can give matrons the power to close wards like the Tories are suggesting, or change cleaning companies like we do, but the buck stops with the hospital manager. The act would be another way of shutting all the loopholes which hospital managers use to get round spending money on cleaning.”
Chief executives said that they have a statutory duty to ensure quality. Miles Scott, chief executive of Harrogate General Hospital NHS Trust, said: “There’s a myth that managers are only interested in the financial balance. We take our statutory duties very seriously. After all, failure to fulfil them means we lose our jobs.”
Andrew Lansley, shadow health secretary, said that Reid would do better to implement what was already in place. Tory research suggests only 50% of hospitals have adopted new model cleaning contracts.
The MRSA controversy revived last week when Luke Day became Britain’s youngest victim. He died within 36 hours of being born at Ipswich hospital. This weekend it emerged that a doctor or nurse carrying the bug was the most likely source.

Tony is gagging for it too!

The Labour Party has attempted to gag one of its own MPs who strongly criticised a £90 million deal between the NHS and a private health company linked to Alan Milburn, Labour's general election supremo.
Kevan Jones, the MP for North Durham, was rebuked by local party officials after revealing that patients from his constituency were being sent 20 miles for private MRI scans, even though their own local hospital had a machine standing idle.

Mr Milburn: consultant to a firm that owned Alliance Medical
Mr Jones came out strongly in support of John Saxby, the chief executive of the University Hospital of North Durham, who complained about the purchase of scans from Alliance Medical, while his own NHS scanner was "considerably under-employed".
The row originally appeared to be little more than a local furore. However, it led to serious concerns in the higher reaches of the Labour Party because of the links between Alliance Medical and Mr Milburn.
Mr Milburn was paid £30,000 for a six-month stint as a consultant to the venture capitalists Bridgepoint, which owns Alliance Medical. While he was on the company's books, during the period between his departure as Health Secretary in 2003 and his return to the Government last September, the £90 million scanner deal was signed.
The contract was announced by John Hutton, the health minister and a close friend and former flatmate of Mr Milburn.
Mr Saxby originally wrote to Mr Jones, claiming that money poured by the Government into the private sector with the aim of reducing waiting lists, could have been better spent on the NHS.
Mr Jones went public with a furious assault on the policy of private-sector involvement in the health service, which had been championed by Mr Milburn when he was Health Secretary.
He described the situation that saw patients told to travel 20 miles to a hospital in Middlesbrough as "frankly ridiculous" and warned ministers to put their plans for a greater private-sector involvement "to one side".
He added: "If it is the case that the zeal of certain people in the Government to continually push the boundaries of the private sector in the health service has led to a poor service for my constituents, then I think it does need a closer examination."
His comments, The Telegraph understands, provoked a telephone call to the MP from a Labour Party official demanding an explanation and warning him that they should not be repeated.
Mr Jones last night refused to comment on the revelation that Labour had tried to lean on him. However, he insisted that he would continue to ask ministers questions about the scanner deal.
He said: "There are a lot of questions to be answered. I can't believe this arrangement is in the interests of patients in my constituency or anywhere else."
In total, he has tabled 20 parliamentary questions to health ministers.
While he was out of office, Mr Milburn had to manage without his former £71,433-a-year minister's salary. However, he made use of his extra spare time to earn £85,000 from speeches, articles and advice, including his Bridgepoint role.
Since his return, with the official Cabinet title of Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster, he has been paid £130,347 a year, a figure that has provoked a political row. The Conservatives argue that the taxpayer should not have to fund Mr Milburn's salary because he is engaged almost exclusively on Labour Party, and not Government, business.

Monday, March 28, 2005

I's Impotent but I Still Get General Elections....

Some ramblings from the last few weeks!
Dear Mr Blair

I am concerned about your requests for spoof examples of Michael Howard jumping on bandwagons. This smacks of panic on your part as in reality he has identified a number of issues which are important to the electorate and has developed credible and popular policies to deal with them.

For your part, you have been forced back onto relying on your so-called successful handling of the economy and railing against imagined £35 million of ‘Tory cuts’. It doesn’t take a genius to work out that what they are actually saying is that they are planning to spend 1% less compared to the sainted Gordon’s plan for 5 years in the future. Instead of increasing government expenditure by 5% over that period, the Conservatives plan to increase it by 4%. This is a statistical fact which you are seeking to distort – indeed you spent many years in opposition simply banging on about “Tory cuts” which never actually materialised. Indeed, in real terms they increased government spending in the nineties and you benefited from this level of spending for the first two years of your ill-starred administration.

It is also a statistical fact that you have taxed and spent on an unprecedented scale since you have been in office. The question New Labour has to answer is has that money been well-spent? All the indications are that the tax payer has not received value for money. You will have to raise at least £12 billion extra in taxation in the next year. How do you justify this?


Sixty-five years ago, in the May 1940 House of Commons debates which saw the political consequences of appeasement come home to roost, Harold Macmillan cried out: "Will someone speak for England?" And Leo Amery quoted Oliver Cromwell: "Be gone with you for all the good you have done. In the name of God, go."
Is it over the top to say I sometimes feel like that now, watching the political class babble away about what might happen in 2011? Will someone speak for the little people? Please?
In the interests of balance I have opted to receive email newsletters from the three main UK political parties. For some reason the Labour one always starts "Dear Supporter" or sometimes "Dear Colleague". I think I may have got one from Gordon Brown that actually said "Dear Comrade". Not for him the modern language of New Labour!
So I was fascinated to receive this recent missive from the Prime Minister - yes, he writes to me too - when Michael Howard had got him on the backfoot about Mrs Dixon's shoulder operation:
"Labour is the party of the NHS. Always was. Always will be. The Tories opposed the setting up of the NHS. They have opposed the investment and reforms of this Labour government. Yesterday Michael Howard highlighted one case, that of a patient who had her operation cancelled several times. Where that happens, it is unacceptable. In a health service that treats one million people every 36 hours, not everyone will get perfect treatment. But for Mr Howard to take one case and use it to undermine the whole of the NHS is typical and wrong. I welcome the fact that the election debate is beginning to focus on the public services.
"People will not easily forget the cuts and privatisation programme that undermined our hospitals for years. With Labour, spending is up, waiting times are down, standards of care are improving."
There are a number of interesting points here, not least that he talks about the "election debate" beginning to focus on the public services. So there is going to be an election? Well there's a surprise! More importantly, he was continuing the spin already put on the story by the odious Dr Reid who tried to claim that anyone who even remotely criticises the performance of the NHS is somehow being disloyal to all its hardworking staff.
I don't remember the same sensitivities in 1992 when the Labour Party (for that is what it was called back in those days) tried to use Jennifer's Ear for exactly the same purposes. And it almost worked for them until the cretinous Kinnock opened his mouth just once too often at that memorable Sheffield rally.