IT WAS BAD enough for UK health secretary Andrew Lansley when John Humphrys, the esteemed presenter of BBC Radio Four’s Today programme recently accused him ofs “playing a wee bit of politics” in his criticism of Private Finance Initiative (PFI) contracts sanctioned by the previous Labour administration.
But now he faces the more sinister charge of having transformed himself into something akin to Big Brother, the deified party leader whose image was constantly beamed to a cowed population in George Orwell’s bleak political novel Nineteen Eighty-Four.
After all, as noted by various media sources, patients in National Health Service hospitals across the country are now faced with the prospect of Lansley addressing them every three or four minutes on a continuous loop on monitors above their beds – unless, that is, they pay around £5 (€5.80; $7.80) a day for access to TV, email and phone services.
According to a report in the Guardian newspaper, the message runs as follows: “Hello, I’m Andrew Lansley, the health secretary. I just want to take another few moments to say that your care while you’re here in hospital really matters to me. I hope it’s as good quality care as we can possibly make
it and I do hope you’ll join me in thanking all the staff who are looking after you while you’re here.”
The first time you hear this message, it might seem rather benign – mildly cheering even. But after having been repeated for, let’s say, the 20th time, it may start to get a little wearying. Indeed, all but the most frail of patients could be tempted to jump out of bed and flee for the exit. Perhaps that’s the
objective – after all, can you think of a better way to reduce hospital over-crowding?