Back in the summer of 2008 everything was so rosy for Polly Toynbee. Eleven years of Labour dominance, the Prime Mentalist was in power and, according to her, the NHS was going from strength to strength:
“This anniversary week the NHS has never been in better health. Never good enough, but now is the golden age on just about every available measure. No deficit but a surplus, no winter ward closures, no annual crises. Best of all, mortality amenable to healthcare figures – the avoidable death rates – now show a 21% improvement, far more than any other EU country. As those figures cover only 1998 to 2003 before the big spend, they are expected to have improved sharply.”
As Polly penned that piece from the confines of whichever million-pound house or Tuscan villa she was staying in that week, just what was happening back in the real world? This week’s Francis Report found that hundreds of patients had died needlessly at the mid-Staffordshire trust in the years between 2005 and 2008.
“Fundamental rights were denied,” Francis says, slamming the “appalling and unnecessary suffering”. Polly saw a golden age, Francis found a “lack of care, compassion, humanity and leadership”. For Polly it was a story of the NHS never being in better health, for Francis: “this is a story of appalling and unnecessary suffering of hundreds of patients. There was lack of humanity”.
Truly the envy of the world…