Tuesday 23 August 2016

"Train-gate" vs "NHS patient safety-gate"

There are two stories about political Jeremies doing the rounds, it's interesting to consider which is actually the most important, and which is being given the most media attention.

Jeremy Hunt

A leaked risk assessment document drawn up by the government's own civil servants revealed serious risks in the 7 Day NHS service that Jeremy Hunt has been pushing.

One of the highlighted risks is that there are simply not enough trained NHS staff to implement the 7 day programme. In the section entitled "workforce overload" the document admits that without sufficient consultants, GPs and other health professionals the full 7 day service simply cannot be delivered.

This revelation is a complete vindication of the Junior Doctors who have always stated patient safety as their number one reason for their strike actions. The Junior Doctors repeatedly argued that without significant additional investment in staff, the choice would be either a deterioration in NHS service coverage, or patient's lives being put at risk by tired and overworked doctors. This leaked risk assessment document proves them absolutely right.

A second subsidiary lie that the report reveals is the way the Tories endlessly harked on about their "Plan" for the 7 Days NHS as if it was an actual plan, rather than a just an empty vote-winning sound bite. The risk assessment document states that the objectives and scope of the project were not properly finalised meaning it was liable to scope creep, and that there was no robust, quality assured plans for the various NHS work streams meaning a likely inability to effectively deal with delays in the project's implementation.

The leaked document reveals that Jeremy Hunt and the Tories repeatedly mislead the public by hiding concerns about the risks to public safety, and again by pretending that they had a proper plan for a 7 days NHS rather than just a vague vote-grabbing sound bite that was always likely to turn into a complete shambles.

Jeremy Corbyn

After Jeremy Corbyn filmed a short clip about over-crowding on Britain's shambolic and massively over-priced private rail franchises onboard a Virgin train, the company responded by breaching the Data Protection Act* and their own privacy policy** by releasing CCTV footage of Jeremy Corbyn apparently walking past empty seats before he recording his piece.

It's absolutely obvious why Richard Branson would want to undermine Jeremy Corbyn.

Corbyn's policies of renationalising the rail network and ending the ongoing Tory NHS carve-up would clearly hurt Branson's Virgin Health and Virgin Rail business interests.

It's no surprise that the mainstream media and a load of Anyone But Corbyn coup-plotters jumped on the story instead of focusing their efforts on the much more serious case of Jeremy Hunt deliberately provoking a series of Junior Doctors' strikes and misleading the public over the safety risks inherent in his 7 Days NHS project.

I'm not going delve too deeply into the debate over whether there were available seats on the Virgin train or not. There are pictures Corbyn walking past loads of clearly reserved seats, a video clip of him walking through a clearly crowded train and there's public testimony that the train was over-crowded too, but then there's also the Data Protection Act breaching CCTV images of what appear to be unreserved seats on the train. To me the bigger issue actually appears to be that billionaire business tycoons like Richard Branson feel entitled to completely ignore Data Protection laws and use the CCTV data they collect on unsuspecting members of the public to launch political attacks against them, which is all a bit Orwellian for my liking.

The important issue isn't whether there were seats on a particular train. Everyone who has travelled by rail in recent years knows that rip-off prices, unreliable services and dangerous levels of overcrowding are real problems faced by millions of commuters a day.

All rail users have thought "how bloody much?" when buying train tickets (even pre-booked ones); we've all experienced severely delayed or cancelled trains (especially people who are reliant on the abysmal Southern franchise); we've all had to stand on trains that are so jam-packed that it's a filthy perverts' fantasy of inappropriate touching opportunities; and we've all wondered how many people in the severely over-crowded carriage we're travelling in would end up dead if there was some kind of accident.

The sad thing is that people (including an awful lot of Labour people) are so busy going potty over "Traingate" and poring over images and video clips to see if seats on one particular train on one particular day were reserved or not, that they're forgetting all about the fact that the other Jeremy was willing to put the lives of millions of NHS patients at risk, and that he repeatedly and deliberately mislead the public by hiding the safety concerns about his project, and by misusing statistics as propaganda in favour of his dangerous reforms.

I guess that trying to discredit Jeremy Corbyn's rail renationalisation policy is a much more important political agenda for a lot of people that the safety of NHS patients.

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* = "The disclosure of images and information should only take place when it is necessary for such a purpose or for law enforcement purposes". Trying to undermine the pro-nationalisation policy of a politician doesn't really seem to be a "law enforcement purpose" to me.

** = "In certain circumstances we may need to disclose CCTV images for legal reasons. When this is done there is a requirement for the organisation that has received the images to adhere to the Data Protection Act"

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