I wish our politicians would stop talking about reforming the NHS and just get on and do it

Notebook: Medics and members of parliament who support change are not getting their message out - as dismal attendance of a meeting in north west London testifies

Share
Related Topics

You can no longer assume that churches will be draughty. The Methodist church at the southern end of Marylebone seemed quite well heated, and it wasn’t thanks to the number of people there. Two dozen would be a generous estimate of those who had turned up for a consultation on the future of hospital services in North West London.

Now it may be that more people had been there earlier in the day; this was, as I had understood, a sort of rolling, drop-in, type of occasion, where interested members of the public could learn about plans to  bring emergency and certain specialist services together in fewer hospitals. As every MP and local councillor knows, there’s nothing like a mooted hospital closure to bring out furious protesters. And one reason that some of these weren’t in Marylebone that afternoon was that they were in Fulham, marching against the possible ending of some services at Charing Cross Hospital.

Still, I found the turn-out disappointing, as it must have been for the hospital consultants who had given up part of their Saturday to present the plans from their perspective. Nor was it just a matter of numbers. Most of the sparse audience had some axe to grind about their treatment or their favourite consultant moving away. No case for change was ever going to be given the time of day.

The argument that, on the national scale, North West London has too many beds, in too many big hospitals, with specialists spread too thinly – which it has - is not one that this audience wanted to hear.

The truth is, though, that the medics and politicians who support change are not getting their message out, and the dismal attendance here was part of the proof. I only found out about the meeting from a note in the council’s glossy newsletter. It was one of three consultations – the other two were held at times many people would be working and at places less accessible by public transport. There is also a 70-plus page document in pure NHS-speak, with the opaque title, “Shaping a healthier future”.

Someone at the Marylebone meeting asked what efforts had been made to publicise it, and one of the doctors replied that (a) the health authority had made huge efforts; (b) he personally had received notification with his resident’s parking renewal, and (c) that they did not use local radio because “the media aren’t interested”. Really? If that’s true, it’s a disgrace; and if it’s not, but the hospitals believe it is, that’s another communications failure. 

I came away wondering about the usefulness of all this supposed consultation other than to tick bureaucratic boxes. Hospital services are going to have to be rationalised. Would it not make better sense – and cost rather less - if our elected politicians took their courage in both hands and used the mandate they already have?

When Angela speaks...

Not so long ago, I was awakened from my half-slumber by an oh-so-familiar voice. It was speaking in confident defence of the energy industry, when British Gas and the rest were being lambasted for announcing price rises that were more than double the rate of inflation. But I couldn’t quite place it. Then the interviewer thanked none other than Angela Knight, the redoubtable former advocate for the British Bankers’ Association, who is now doing essentially the same job for Energy UK.

I suppose you have to give it to her, that she is prepared to go to work every day to defend the indefensible – though I suspect she is handsomely rewarded for her trouble. There can hardly be a radio listener in the country who has not at one time or another wanted to throttle her, as she launched into her calm, collected and superficially reasonable explanation of how the banks, despite all evidence to the contrary, had been unjustly impugned. 

The only consolation I can find in her move is that we now know how panicked the energy companies are about their image. We should hail the reappearance of Ms Knight as conclusive proof that, in the propaganda battle over energy prices, we, the consumers, came tantalisingly close to getting the upper hand.

React Now

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

VB.Net Developer - £40k - Surrey - WANTED ASAP

£35000 - £40000 per annum + competitive: Progressive Recruitment: .Mid Level V...

Digitakl Business Analyst, Slough

£40000 - £45000 per annum + Competitive Benefits: Progressive Recruitment: Dig...

Mechanical Estimator: Nuclear Energy - Sellafield

£40000 - £50000 per annum + Car, Medical, Fuel + More!: Progressive Recruitmen...

Dynamics NAV Techno-Functional Consultant

£50000 - £60000 per annum + benefits: Progressive Recruitment: An absolutely o...

Day In a Page

Read Next
'Our media are suffering a new experience: not fear of being called anti-Semitic'  

Dress the Gaza situation up all you like, but the truth hurts

Robert Fisk
David Cameron (pictured) can't steal back my party's vote that easily, says Nigel Farage  

Cameron’s benefits pledge is designed to lure back Ukip voters. He’ll have to try harder

Nigel Farage
Dress the Gaza situation up all you like, but the truth hurts

Robert Fisk on Gaza conflict

Dress the situation up all you like, but the truth hurts
Save the tiger: Tiger, tiger burning less brightly as numbers plummet

Tiger, tiger burning less brightly

When William Blake wrote his famous poem there were probably more than 100,000 tigers in the wild. These days they probably number around 3,200
5 News's Andy Bell retraces his grandfather's steps on the First World War battlefields

In my grandfather's footsteps

5 News's political editor Andy Bell only knows his grandfather from the compelling diary he kept during WWI. But when he returned to the killing fields where Edwin Vaughan suffered so much, his ancestor came to life
Lifestyle guru Martha Stewart reveals she has flying robot ... to take photos of her farm

Martha Stewart has flying robot

The lifestyle guru used the drone to get a bird's eye view her 153-acre farm in Bedford, New York
Former Labour minister Meg Hillier has demanded 'pootling lanes' for women cyclists

Do women cyclists need 'pootling lanes'?

Simon Usborne (who's more of a hurtler) explains why winning the space race is key to happy riding
A tale of two presidents: George W Bush downs his paintbrush to pen father’s life story

A tale of two presidents

George W Bush downs his paintbrush to pen father’s life story
Save the tiger: The day America’s love of backyard tigers led to a horrific bloodbath

The day America’s love of backyard tigers led to a horrific bloodbath

With only six per cent of the US population of these amazing big cats held in zoos, the Zanesville incident in 2011 was inevitable
Samuel Beckett's biographer reveals secrets of the writer's time as a French Resistance spy

How Samuel Beckett became a French Resistance spy

As this year's Samuel Beckett festival opens in Enniskillen, James Knowlson, recalls how the Irish writer risked his life for liberty and narrowly escaped capture by the Gestapo
We will remember them: relatives still honour those who fought in the Great War

We will remember them

Relatives still honour those who fought in the Great War
Star Wars Episode VII is being shot on film - and now Kodak is launching a last-ditch bid to keep celluloid alive

Kodak's last-ditch bid to keep celluloid alive

Director J J Abrams and a few digital refuseniks shoot movies on film. Simon Usborne wonders what the fuss is about
Once stilted and melodramatic, Hollywood is giving acting in video games a makeover

Acting in video games gets a makeover

David Crookes meets two of the genre's most popular voices
Could our smartphones soon be diagnosing diseases via Health Kit and Google Fit?

Could smartphones soon be diagnosing diseases?

Health Kit and Google Fit have been described as "the beginning of a health revolution"
Ryanair has turned on the 'charm offensive' but can we learn to love the cut-price carrier again?

Can we learn to love Ryanair again?

Four recent travellers give their verdicts on the carrier's improved customer service
Billionaire founder of Spanx launches range of jeans that offers

Spanx launches range of jeans

The jeans come in two styles, multiple cuts and three washes and will go on sale in the UK in October
10 best over-ear headphones

Aural pleasure: 10 best over-ear headphones

Listen to your favourite tracks with this selection, offering everything from lambskin earmuffs to stainless steel