One of the worst things about our political system, is the heavy use of negative campaigning to persuade voters to X the right box. This has been going on for as long as most of us can remember, we almost take it for granted. Many voters really dislike it, and many politicians who took up the political calling because they want to “make a difference” recognise that it damages their ability to find solutions. But it still happens. Why is this?
The common sense phase we all trot out is “if it ain't broke – don’t fix it.” but a cursory glance at the political campaigning from 2005-2010 will show the sustained development of the broken Britain theme, designed to convince us that many of our social systems were broke and did need radical change to fix them. The fact that this radical change would mean creating many new opportunities to convert public service into profit making enterprise was not stressed and is only slowly becoming apparent.
One of the most important parts of the Broken Britain theme was the NHS and the symbolic heart of the “broken NHS” was the Midstaffs story.
There is plenty of evidence that the NHS is actually doing quite well. This latest academic study gives us some objective indicators to compare NHS with a range of other countries . http://www.delicious.com/redirect?url=http%3A//costhome.eu/management/images/b/bc/How_NHS_compares_BMJ.pdf but people are often uncertain about what statistical information is telling them. Graphs lack the emotional impact of grieving relatives shaking hands with Andrew Lansley or David Cameron.
In a rational world we would have waited for the outcomes of the Mid Staffs inquiry, which will give us much deeply useful information on the challenges that the NHS faces. The evidence supplied to the Mid Staffs Inquiry by so many professional organisations can give us solid ground for informed debate on the best way to reform the health service, but the government is in a hurry and the Mid Staffs report will come too late to influence the Health bill.
Without the report people are free to use the symbol of Mid Staffs in the way that suits them best. It was interesting to see a vitriolic exchange on Health questions, between Ben Bradshaw and Andrew Lansley. Ben Bradshaw was pointing out that the Health bill is likely to lead to more cases like Mid staffs, and Andrew Lansley angrily responded using Mid Staffs as proof of a broken NHS and proof of the need for his bill.
Andrew Lansley wants us to “look at Mid Staffs” so let’s take a look at this symbol, and work out how it can possibly mean such different things to different people. Let’s really look at Mid Staffs.