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Cowper’s Cut 303: Happy New Crisis

Cowper’s Cut 303: Happy New Crisis

“I’m extremely disappointed that they (junior doctors’ leaders) have taken the decision to walk away from the discussions we were having – which were live and we had not in any way made a final offer or anything of that nature.

“As I've said since they announced their decision, should they call off the strike action I will get right back around the table with them”.

Secretary Of State For Health But Social Care Victoria Atkins,
House Of Commons Health Select Committee, 13 December 2023

There’s been some Kremlinology in the Westminster political community about whether Chancellor Of The Exchequer (and former longest-serving Health Secretary) Jeremy Hunt’s announcing the date of the Spring Budget for 6 March 2024 means that a May General Election becomes more likely.

When will the next UK general election be? | Institute for Government
The prime minister can call the next general election any time between now and 17 December 2024.

On this topic, I’d again refer to the Institute For Government’s piece on the moving parts which will affect this decision, written in October. It doesn’t seem to me that any of the fundamentals have changed. Isabel Hardman’s shrewd Guardian column about PM Rishi ‘The Brand’ Sunak’s prospects is also a good source of perspective.

The current NHS winter crisis is already bad, and getting worse before the longer junior doctors’ strike. Its problematic effects on the system’s already-dire performance are likely to remain highly visible well into March. This isn’t likely to make the Government more popular.

Moreover, the Conservative And Unionist Party would, by going in May 2024, deprive themselves of the revenue from a last-in-government Party Conference.

This could be challenging, as recent history tells us that the CAUP are going to have an awful lot of leadership elections to fund while they’re in opposition. Just think of the Boris comeback, and then the Truss comeback - oh, you think I’m joking?


And first up after the General Election, there will be the Badenoch-on-Braverman action (I suspect that due to her popularity with colleagues, Penny Mordaunt won’t make the second round, sword-wielding notwithstanding).

What fun.

The Boris Johnson Fanzine fails to find a single serving NHS consultant to criticise the junior doctors’ strike on the record

Junior doctors’ strike leader: ‘I may leave Britain to work in Canada’
Dr Vivek Trivedi and Dr Rob Laurenson are the faces of the crippling six-day junior doctors’ walkout – and say they have no regrets

One must have a heart of stone not to laugh at the pitiful efforts of long-impertinent erstwhile national newspaper the Boris Johnson Fanzine when it comes to typing about the NHS. (One can scarcely describe what the BJF publishes as writing.)

Its excruciating interview with JDC co-leads Trivedi and Laurenson included a series of anonymous (and I suspect, invented) quotes from ‘senior consultants’ and ‘NHS leaders’.

Despite its network of reactionaries (and let’s not forget that the BJF gave column space to ‘The Positive Professor’ Karol Sikora during the pandemic, and indeed since), the fact that it could not find one single working NHS consultant to go on the record with a quote is hilariously telling.

This barrage of editorial self-nationalisation (being publicly taken into ownership) reaches its comic crescendo when Laurenson, a GP in training, says he may leave to work abroad. Typist Eleanor Staefel concludes, “for a man leading a movement, Laurenson doesn’t sound particularly optimistic about its prospects”.

Such inability to join the dots is wilful to the point of being almost heroic. Steafel confirms the old saying that if a person’s salary depends on their not understanding a thing, then you can be sure that they will not understand it. Nor, indeed, try to do so.

Crumbling dice

Four fires a day in ‘crumbling’ NHS hospitals
Lib Dems complain that buildings exposed to extreme weather are also plagued by overheated wards and flooding

NHS Digital data on estates analysed by the Lib Dems reveals that (according to a Times report) there were an average of four fires per day recorded in NHS trusts. The number of fires this year rose by 18 per cent, from 1,159 fires in 2021-2022 to 1,372. 

“The number of serious flooding incidents also rose from 176 incidents last year to 279 in 2022-2023.”

It says that overheating events (where an occupied ward’s maximum temperature rises above 26C) “reached a record high of 6,822 incidents, up 23 per cent from the 5,554 that were recorded the previous year. such incidents have more than doubled since 2016-2017, when 2,980 were recorded”.

Thousands have urgent cancer appointments cancelled three times
Thousands of cancer patients had crucial hospital appointments cancelled at least three times last year amid widespread NHS disruption.With junior doctors due to stage a six-day walkout from Wednesday

A Labour Party investigation based on FOI and shared with The Times found that their “analysis (which) … extrapolated the data for the 30 trusts across the 124 acute trusts in England, suggests that last year an estimated 165,000 patients had their first consultant appointment cancelled, with 19,000 cancelled twice and 9,000 three times or more”.

Everybody’s New Favourite Noble BaronessWatch: Tory peer Michelle Mone’s suspicious £3 million

Michelle Mone: crime agency reviews £3m sent to Coutts account
A payment is being scrutinised as part of an inquiry into fraud and bribery claims surrounding contracts for PPE Medpro

The Sunday Times reports that a £3 million payment made into Baroness Mone’s bank account is being scrutinised by the National Crime Agency as part of its investigation into the PPE contracts scandal … it arrived after £65 million in profits from PPE Medpro were transferred to trusts and accounts connected to her husband, Doug Barrowman”.

It adds, “if proven that the payment came from the profits of the lucrative government contracts, it could suggest that Mone was a direct beneficiary”: an allegation that she still denies (just as she originally denied having any involvement with PPE Medpro, even threatening legal action).

If this is proven, it would be the Ultimo proof that ENFNB is a liar. Which she has already admitted that she is.

The impressive Dan Neidle of Tax Policy Associates has more on ENFNB: demonstrating how the nominatively-determined Mone failed to declare her interest in an offshore trust. Ooops.

The Alan comeuppance

It seems that our hero has diversified into retail.

FT piece on a NHS ‘Onward Care’ pilot using AI monitoring tech to detect deterioration in frail people at home.

FT piece in AI-powered stethoscopes detecting heart disease in primary care.

The hardy perennial of NHS car parking fees got its annual airing.

Blog by Paul Corrigan on why big change is possible in the NHS.

Our Future Health chair Professor Sir John Bell defended his financial stake (£773,000 of shares in Roche) in the project’s partner drug company, telling BBC Radio 4 that he did not think his shareholding was relevant. Merry COI-mas!

Two Times pieces on how the high-productivity ‘two theatres, one team’ HIT surgery system works.

The Good Law Project claims that Conservative-linked PR agency Topham Guerin was hired by Federated Data Platform contract winner Palantir (COI declaration: I am paid for my work on Palantir’s health advisory panel) to co-ordinate payments to social media influencers to attack the Good Law Project online, without mentioning Palantir.

The appalling EveryGrifter are at it again, trying to crowdfund money for a campaign against fictional NHS privatisation. (Curiously, EveryGrifter’s formerly much-touted ‘in-house barrister’ is no longer listed among ‘the team’.)

You made it down to the end, again? Happy New Year to all ‘Cut’ subscribers: best wishes to you and yours for a happy and healthy 2024.