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FAO Andrew Lansley – My Living Will

November 23, 2011

Dear Andrew,

First, let me apologise for writing to you at this very hectic time.

I understand that you are quite, quite busy dismantling the National Health Service and gift-wrapping its various component parts as delightful Christmas presents for major personal and Tory party donors. I also know that you are averse, almost allergic, to having any duties whatsoever as Secretary of State for Health to provide health services; but you are still in charge, as things stand, so hear me out.

I read a story yesterday which chilled me more profoundly than liquid nitrogen does a Heston Blumenthal pea mousse. Apparently, next to many hospital beds there is now a television monitor. The monitor carries a personal message from you to me; to everyone. Your face will appear next to me, at my most vulnerable, and say:

Hello, I’m Andrew Lansley, the health secretary. I just want to take a 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.

This message will repeat on a loop every three to four minutes. I note that this “service” is provided by a private company and is nauseatingly called Hospedia. Short of privately employed nurses dropping saline into my eyes while Beethoven’s Ninth plays over a tannoy, this is Clockwork Orange.

Naturally, I have choices – you are all about choices, aren’t you Andrew? I can shut you up by registering with the service and paying upwards of a fiver a day to gain access to other TV and internet services. I must say this seems a small price to pay. Here is the fly in the generic ointment, however: if I am lucky enough to survive a few more years of your government’s miserable administration, who knows whether I will be able to afford even five pence a day?

And even if I can afford it, there is always the risk that others in the ward – poorer or sicker than me – might not. The inevitable result is your voice echoing through the ward, like the aural equivalent of Chinese drip torture; twenty times an hour, four hundred and eighty times a day, three thousand three hundred and sixty times a week. Telling me you care; whether I care to hear it or not.

I am relatively healthy now, but the future is uncertain. And so, with my faculties intact, I make my request to you; my living will: If you will not allow me to be sick in peace and dignity, at least let me go. I don’t want to be a burden on the taxpayer anyway, which is increasingly how you make sick people feel. And while you’re at it, you may as well harvest my organs and help your deficit reduction policy by auctioning them to the highest bidder. I mean, of course, to “any willing provider”.

You think I am over-reacting. My family might think the same, if the time comes. But believe me – I know myself. With you as my own, personal, terrifying Florence Nightmaregale my health would inevitably deteriorate. Even a foot corn would prove fatal. Having to look at your smug, I-know-best-what’s-best-for-you face even for a brief hour on Question Time reduced me to a gibbering wreck. And that was when I was feeling tip-top.

What would several days of feeling helpless and low, while having to listen to you do to me? Being reminded every three minutes of what this Monty Python sketch of a Coalition is doing to a service paid for by three generations and held in trust for the next? How long before I ended up like the creature at the end of a Cronenberg horror flick – dragging myself across the floor away from that monitor, burbling like a blocked sink, my pathetic, bulging eyes begging for ultimate mercy?

So, put a pillow over my face and press hard. Turn off the machines keeping me your captive audience. Pop the morphine clicker in my hand, turn the light off and close the door. Do it, because YOU CARE.

26 Comments leave one →
  1. November 23, 2011 3:29 pm

    Very well put. I’d rather tough it out at home than have Andrew Lansley’s message on repeat in my hospital bed. Maybe that’s the point.

  2. Sean permalink
    November 23, 2011 3:32 pm

    I couldn’t agree more very well put

  3. November 23, 2011 3:39 pm

    No matter where I look at the moment I feel like I’m being sucked into the movie “Brasil”.

    • November 23, 2011 3:50 pm

      But with none of the wry wit.

    • December 11, 2011 10:37 pm

      Modern day Britain is scarily becoming more and more like the distopic future envisioned in films like Brazil – its a shame few people have yet to realise it.

  4. November 23, 2011 4:37 pm

    Wonderful as usual. Kill or cure medicine from the Tories – frighten you to death or you do a runner and are pronounced cured.

  5. blackwatertown permalink
    November 23, 2011 4:49 pm

    What an appalling prospect.

  6. November 23, 2011 5:05 pm

    Could do with a daily dose of your wit – I do follow on twitter – more please

  7. November 23, 2011 7:01 pm

    Excellent piece and like all good satire, painfully close to the truth. Will death by Lansley become a commonplace death certificate entry?

  8. November 23, 2011 7:21 pm

    This was happening when I was in hospital for 14 days in September. The service is massively expensive – £4 or more a day – and even if you turn the telly off, at some point it springs back to life and Lansley’s head is there again. You need headphones to hear the telly and these are dispensed by ward staff which is an extra little task for them.

    It was literally beyond satire – how could any politician be so unaware as to have himself forcibly screened at patients in hospitals telling them how much he cares about them.

    Other than this incredbly expensive and not very good pay per view service, there was one TV in a lounge but for those who weren’t up to going to the lounge and sitting on the upright chairs to watch it, this was the only option if you wanted to watch TV or go online.

    • November 23, 2011 7:30 pm

      And all this after study after study showing that the higher patients’ spirits are the quicker the recovery. It is beyond a joke. Only a matter of time before “standard” menu and “finest” for a small supplement.

  9. Joanne Davis permalink
    November 23, 2011 7:29 pm

    1984 as I live and breathe…Scary, and very well put!

  10. November 23, 2011 8:13 pm

    I used to carry a ‘Don’t Let Margaret Thatcher Visit Me’ card, in case of accidents. This is even more chilling.

  11. Phil permalink
    November 23, 2011 8:43 pm

    To continue the ‘Clockwork Orange’ theme it seems to me the NHS has been given the ‘Old In-Out’ routine !

  12. Rob McD permalink
    November 23, 2011 9:48 pm

    A true wordsmith. You are to justice and fairness as Cameron, Lansley and his whipping boy Clegg are to corruption, sleaze and incompetence.

    Their politics is one of hostility – brother against brother, worker against worker (private/public), immigrant against national. Looking after the privileged few at a cost to the many. Billions stolen from hard working people but only 1Bn from their party funding backers in the city. But we are told we are all in it together. No, we are not, only the tax strangled middle are.

    Northern Rock is a prime example – 1.5Bn of our money stolen to bailout incompetence and greed (private companies) – Osbourne gives it away to his mate at Virgin for only 750m then has the temerity to claim “its a good deal for the public” NO OSBOURNE IT IS NOT. 2Bn is a good deal you fool. Clearly, maths wasn’t his strong subject at Eaton.

    Anne Widdecombe once said of Michael Howard that there is “something of the night” about him. He never really recovered from that. For me, there is something of the Blair about Cameron and his merry men. Ask not what you can do for your country but what your country can do for me, the Tory party and the rich few.

    I’m 50 and never been on strike – I will be next week. Like the child snatcher from Chitty Chitty Bang Bang, Cameron is stealing our pensions.

  13. Clear Voice permalink
    November 24, 2011 10:12 am

    Brilliantly put, but nonetheless fantastically unbelievable. How can he be so vain and crass! I was on a train yesterday with some annoying TV screens flashing inanities at me, and I pretty quickly worked out how to turn them off, but (as Pam experienced in hospital) discovered that they spring back into life if left unguarded. This is rritating but not life-threatening.

    However, being in hospital usually means one is sick and vulnerable, and greatly in need of rest, and in some cases silence, prayer and meditation. When I was in for an op last year I was really scared and needed to draw deeply on my inner reserves to find peace. People who are near the end of their strength need to do this for their physical and mental health – and it doesn’t cost anyone else anything!

    I was under the impression that the deliberate and sustained deprivation of sleep was a form of torture proscribed by law, or did I miss another coalition sleight of hand?

    I’ll join you in the queue for the morphine! This Goverment is making our lives miserable but we ought at least to be left to die in peace. On second thoughts I’ve virtually no pension so perhaps I should be careful what I wish for, as it seems only a matter of time before the economically inactive are offered a way out.

    Kidney anyone? One careful lady owner…..

  14. November 24, 2011 2:21 pm

    Well written that man! Lansley cannot have any perceptible human feelings or self-awareness at all, because, if he did, he would flush with embarrassment at his utterly idiotic, deluded arrogance!

    God save us from ‘Big Brother’…

  15. November 24, 2011 3:11 pm

    Love it!

  16. November 24, 2011 3:31 pm

    The amazing Alex. I see Sturdyblog in my mailbox and I think “Oh great” but I am filled with anticipation tinged with dread. Inside will be another revealed twist in the world of governmental greed and deception.It will however be wonderfully crafted, insightful humerus and easy to understand . I look forward to the next with dread. x

    • November 24, 2011 3:33 pm

      How lovely. Delight and dread in equal measure. Like a properly dysfunctional relationship. 🙂

  17. Craig permalink
    November 24, 2011 3:44 pm

    My granddad spend his last year of life in a local hospital, and grew to hate those TVs. Many didn’t work, and credit didn’t transfer between TVs when he was moved (which was quite often), and so you had to buy again every time. In the end, he gave up and left them off. The thought of his discomfort therefore being made worse by being ‘forced’ to watch Lansley saying he ‘cares’ genuinely makes me both angry and upset.

  18. November 24, 2011 8:25 pm

    Clearvoice and Revpam smith made me think about the vulnerable patient and the nurses responsibility.
    The Nursing Midwifery Council code of conduct states:-

    Care of people is first concern, treating them as individuals and respecting their dignity, Protect and promote their health and well being.
    No3 treat people kindly, considerately
    No4 act as patient advocate
    No34 report and act on problems in the patient environment which affect patient care
    No 57 you must not abuse your priviliged position to your own ends
    No 58 ensure your professional judgement is not influenced by commercial considerations.
    The General Medical Council have their own directives.
    So it is pretty clear that this repetative subliminal electioneering situated in the patient environment is not kind, considerate, caring, respectful of dignity or allowing for individuality.I doubt it protects or promotes well being. It sounds like an abuse of privilidge, influenced by commercial considerations. It makes me wonder who is responsibile for the patient environment. When I trained it was the preserve of the ward sister, no-one ever questioned her authority . This piece of nonsense wouldn’t have got within a mile of the hospital.

  19. November 24, 2011 11:53 pm

    Another beautifully written piece. Horrific though the subject matter is, I could read your writing all night.

    I’m Scottish and I live in Scotland, where we have a National Health Service, so important that it is overseen by the Deputy First Minister.

    Should I ever have the misfortune to fall ill in your country (I always carry my credit cards) I hope Mr Lansley, or whatever his name is, won’t mind too much if he gets a bed pan flung at his face. Hospitals should be quiet places.

    If it is electioneering that he thinks he is at, I can only imagine that it will have an effect quite contrary to that which was intended. Of course I’d never vote for that lot of self serving millionaires, but if I were in a position where I might consider it (ie inordinately rich and selfish at the same time), I’m certain that the sound of his voice and the sight of his face would be enough to dissuade me from that course of action.

    If he is not electioneering and if such a thing is to be allowed, it most certainly should not be a politician who is doing it.

    I’ve heard that in the old days sisters were formidable creatures to be feared from a distance, but I have to say that pabu46’s comment above makes me long for that kind of powerful person in charge of any ward I was in.

  20. November 25, 2011 12:11 am

    Another point about LansleyVision in my hospital was that the TVs were fixed to the wall behind the bed and come out on a large unwieldy movable ‘arm’. So the TV gets in the way when staff are carrying out nursing procedures.

    The care I received was absolutely fantastic, but I certainly didn’t come out of hospital feeling grateful to Andrew Lansley, who is doing his best to destroy the whole concept of a national health service.

  21. November 25, 2011 4:24 pm

    Once they have privatised the NHS it will be removed.

    The strategy is to increase the death rate of patients under the social system in order for the private to show an immediate improvement.

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