Liam Farrell: 'Grim fatalism' and NHS reorganisation

Just what have the Romans ever done for us? Absolutely nothing, apart from sanitation, Latin, pouring money into Chelsea, 'doctor, doctor' jokes (no, seriously, I read this in the newspaper, so it must be true), gladiator movies, great roads and a host of pithy quotes.

According to my Big Book of Quotes, (a must for all columnists who feel insecure and need to validate themselves with a facade of scholarship), the following was attributed to Gaius Petronius: 'It seemed that every time we were beginning to make progress and become constructive we would be reorganised. I was to learn later in life that we tend to meet any new situation by reorganising; and a wonderful method it can be for creating the illusion of progress while producing confusion, inefficiency, and demoralisation.'

The NHS could sure sing a few bars of that song. Every new government, Labour, Conservative, or Conservative-Liberal coalition (no, seriously, the liberals have a lot of input, they say), insists on flexing its muscles by reorganising the NHS, and this always ends in disaster and confusion.

The behaviour of health secretary Jeremy Hunt has hardly been reassuring. Apparently he believes in homeopathy, but as Spinoza observed, belief is an emotional, not a rational state. So maybe Mr Hunt is an emotional chap, getting in touch with his feelings, no criticism there, politicians are well known for being sensitive and highly strung.

But he also seems to be constantly criticising the NHS (memo to Jeremy; you are supposed to be, like, in charge of the NHS, so you are criticising yourself), his latest being that GPs are refusing to send patients for crucial tests to spot dementia. He describes us as having a 'grim fatalism', which I admit is right on the money, but it's only code for him saying: 'It's not my fault.'

Maybe this time it'll be different and the reorganisation will put care first and defy vested interests. Maybe we'll be able to work it all out through reason, diplomacy and co-operation.

No, seriously.

  • Dr Farrell is a GP from County Armagh. Follow him on Twitter @drlfarrell

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