Implausible Story 14


Ad-hoc Cabinet Meeting on the future of the NHS (September 2003)

An entirely fictitious story based on reports and an interview with the Health Secretary on Radio 4 mid-Sept 2003

Well now we're all here folks, I'd like to welcome you all to this special ad-hoc meeting. The Boss will be here in a minute but he can't stay long as he has to get his story straight for that annoying enquiry about you know what….

The door flies open and the Boss enters smiling from ear to ear.

I was just saying you can't stay long Boss….

No problemo Deputy PM I've managed to sort out that little contre-temps and I won't have to bare my conscience again.

That's simply wizard PM. You must really have a charmed existence!

I won't argue that point Alistair. My aura is something really special.

Why are we here PM?

Didn't I say Deputy PM.. well I'd like to tell you all about this wizard idea one of my chums…. sorree advisors, has come up with. I asked him to invent another of those super wheezes to make us a few pounds so we can reduce taxes and make sure we get in again for a few more years of easy street. Frankly, I don't know about you lot but I really need the money.
I just couldn't live on a shadow salary… what with University fees , rent for my lads' flats and Cherie's shopping bills, flowers for the First Lady etc etc it never stops….
Anyway… I digress… It goes like this…

We make a new Bill for creating new types of hospitals called treatment centres
We talk to big business
We license them to open new centres
We get loads of money for the licenses
We guarantee them steady business
We guarantee people to staff them
We pay them pre-agreed fees from their nearest NHS hospital's budget to do operations and stuff
We won't call them hospitals because we can't be seen to condone private healthcare. They'll be "Special Health Treatment Centres" or something equally innocuous-sounding
We charge lots of money for the privilege of starting up the new centres
We switch NHS business to them, nothing complicated at first, just the easy stuff so they do really well
We lend them NHS staff if they get short
We agree a price for operations that is less than the NHS and more than is reasonable
We'll crack on to the plebs that extra resources are being made available
We'll tell everyone that they're getting a really good deal
We'll say waiting lists will disappear
We'll shut down NHS hospitals as they become redundant
They don't have enough staff to continue
They don't have any waiting lists to keep what staff they have left fully employed
They're becoming a drain on the countries resources and being mis-managed
We'll give everyone the option of going private if there isn't an NHS hospital within 200 miles of where they live
We'll make opting out of the NHS compulsory
We'll rename the new treatment centres "Hospitals" and any remaining NHS hospitals will become "places for advanced treatment"
NHS "advanced treatment" will only be carried out if people pay a surcharge
Finally after changing the definition of "easy stuff", all operations will be transferred
We'll close down the remaining NHS hospitals
We'll offer all the NHS buildings to the new private hospitals
Any that aren't sold we'll sell to supermarkets and they can knock them down and build huge shopping centres. Guess who suggested that one to me? Don't answer that it's rhetorical!

What does everyone that doesn't want sacking think?

Wonderful PM
Fantastic PM
What a spiffing idea PM
Well bring Britain into the 21st century PM
Hear hear

Just a few helpful questions PM

Yes Horace what is, and be quick I've got a luncheon appointment with the head of BUPA

Can we suggest some weasel words so we can answer the BBC's awkward questions PM. You know how it is at 8am. If I don't have something lined up I usually make a botch of it.

I've already thought of that Horace.

We'll restrict the numbers of NHS staff that can be made available to 70%

Why 70% PM?

Well I'm sure the new treatment centres will only want doctors and nurses. They won't want anyone that's in a trade union such as cleaning staff for starters!

I reckon 70% will nicely cover ALL the doctors and nurses and that wally on the BBC won't think of differentiating between trolley pushers and brain surgeons, ho ho.

Just keep saying that this will cut waiting lists and does he agree that cutting waiting lists is a good thing?

What about the hospital bosses PM?

Well we've been dragging our feet over that legislation that stops bosses giving themselves golden handshakes. They'll do very nicely I'm sure.

Now just one final thing….

I have it on good authority that there are some useful part-time jobs about to come up. You know… health policy advisors, lobbyists, in fact you don't actually have to do anything just let these special health treatment centres add some really influential names to their headed paper and Bob's yer uncle… useful pocket money… ho ho ho.

Now that BUPA meeting…. I'll be back later folks to sign anything to get things moving..

Before you go Boss. I've just thought. If everyone switches over from the NHS in a huge surge as it were.. won't there be big waiting lists all over again?

We already thought of that Deputy PM. Once the new centres are running smoothly, the only way extra people can transfer to the new treatment centres will be via a special telephone number. They'll ring up and transfer their NHS appointment through a special operator.

I don't quite see PM.

Watch my lips Deputy PM. I said Special Operator.

There'll be one operator handling all the transfers. We'll set up a premium phone line at £1 a minute. There'll be a series of questions demanding the caller presses a numbered button. You know…. "Type in your postcode via the telephone keypad, push button 9 if you want a hip operation", etc. then we'll have special music playing while they're waiting and after 60 minutes the line will go dead, just before a message that says, "Your phone batteries are going flat, replace the phone and call back in two days".

Frankly, I suspect most people will fail to type in their postcode Deputy PM.

Don't worry about it.

If you say so PM. I'm sure you've thought of everything as usual.

Right Deputy PM and I don't think we really ought to bother the opposition about this just slip a new Bill through at the bottom of a heap of boring stuff like a new "Bill to allow MP's expense reports through without scrutiny", or something…

You know the form deputy PM

Yes indeed PM leave it to me..


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