Posted by: Witch Doctor | July 15, 2009

Lord Darzi – a shot in the arm?


The Witch Doctor has believed for some time that, long before the stock market and the banks collapsed because of global arrogance and greed, the government was grappling with two contradictory problems relating to health.

1. The NHS should remain a comprehensive service free at the point of use.

2. UK healthcare is a significant untapped commodity that could bolster the economy (as well fuel the arrogance and greed of any fat cats who survived the collapse).

Rationing is not a word that could be mentioned. The Witch Doctor knows this because she was told that it was so. Over the years The Witch Doctor, with her tongue in her cheek, often mentioned the word “Rationing” as she sat through boring committees. It had the effect of wakening everyone up.

She was told the “R” word was forbidden.

This made her mention it all the more.

Healthcare had not to be rationed. It seems it had to be exploited in such a way that a market for something or other could be created.

If it was not privatised then public taxes flowing into healthcare somehow had to find their way into the business world – not just the pharmaceutical industry, and estates suppliers but also into some weird and wonderful “soft” and un-necessary activities not remotely related to direct patient care. For example, 360 degree appraisal could turn out to be a money making investment.

Just keep a lookout for companies that are poised ready to profit from the Revalidation Bandwagon.

Anyway, all the witches and black cats in the land believe that the fast and excessive attempt to roll out polyclinics throughout the land was largely an act of despair. The economy had to be saved. Somehow. Doubtless there are some towns and cities where polyclinics might offer a great advantage over the existing service.

But to introduce polyclinics up and down the land indiscriminately…..


Now, it may well be, that many working doctors could have helped Gordon Brown when he came into power. They might have been able to suggest ways that healthcare could boost the economy. But no-body asked them. Instead he sought the help of GOATS. And so, the plans that already were in place for a dumbed down, protocol-driven type of healthcare continued. Presumably the hope was that this might help bolster employment figures and perhaps save some money during the inevitable forthcoming recession (The Witch Doctor does not believe for a moment that those in the highest levels of government did not see the collapse coming). This new dumbed down NHS required the cracking of whips to render the medical profession submissive.

This didn’t work very well.

The juniors in particular made their stand.

The second approach was considered a softer one.

Enter, an intelligent, hardworking, respected and dedicated surgeon.

Lord Darzi.

In one way at least, Lord Darzi is similar to the majority of doctors in the land. When given a challenge, doctors find it difficult to say no. It is not always wise to say “yes” when challenged because there are only 24 hours in the day and those within the medical profession often accept situations that put enormous pressures on them. I don’t know how much pressure Lord Darzi put himself under by accepting this job, but I imagine it would have been substantial. I have no doubt that Lord Darzi wants the best for patients but also have no doubt that he will have been briefed so that he has a good grasp of the economic problems facing this country’s politicians. Possibly he found himself in the horns of a dilemma.

Although he has now resigned from his ministerial post he is now going to be involved in helping to rebuild the economy.

In a letter acknowledging his resignation, Gordon Brown said….

“Dear Ara,

Thank you for your letter setting out your reasons for wanting to step back from your role as a minister in the Government in order to focus more fully on your clinical work and research.…………..


I am delighted that you have agreed to take on a new role as a Health and Life Sciences Ambassador for the Government and will chair a new NHS Global Forum to promote the NHS and the UK’s life sciences industry around the world.


Yours sincerely,


The following are some quotes from The Pharma Times:

“Lord Darzi said that placing innovation at the heart of health care delivery will help to create a pioneering NHS, and is essential for the Service to be able to meet current economic challenges.

The Blueprint outlines action points in four categories: the NHS as an innovation champion; building a more integrated life sciences industry; providing greater access to finance and stimulating investment; and marketing UK life sciences.”

“In a joint statement, health care industry groups welcomed the Blueprint as “an excellent basis for firmly securing the future of the life sciences sector and re-establishing the UK’s global competitive position.”

“Richard Barker, director general of the Association of the British Pharmaceutical Industry (ABPI), said: “In January we warned the Prime Minister that the life sciences industry in the UK needed a shot in the arm – Gordon Brown has clearly heeded that warning. The OLS Blueprint charts a course of action which is both sound and welcome.”

Mr Brown forecast that the Blueprint “will ensure the life sciences and biotech sector continues to be one of Britain’s leading industries. Harnessing innovation, speeding up access to cutting-edge medicines and technologies and creating high value jobs, the strategy will not only improve the health and well being of patients, but drive economic growth too.”

Notice the emphasis on economic growth.

There are other doctors who will have been well briefed on the need for economic growth and are therefore are aware of the two contradictory problems surrounding UK health care.

The CMO will have been one of these doctors no doubt. For all we know, this might be why he got himself into such a pickle over MMC.

I think I came across another doctor yesterday who may be well briefed.

Sir Muir Gray, the walking doctor who has connections with Iwantgreatcare.

Now although we witches regard iwantgreatcare with the utmost disdain, nevertheless we keep and eye on what Sir Muir Gray is saying and doing because we respect him as an expert in his field. His field is not patient feedback but public health. (Heaven alone knows how or why he decided to become tangled up with iwantgreatcare).

He also mentioned the need for support for the pharmaceutical industry recently (his is the first comment at the end of this article).

The questions The Witch Doctor is asking are these:

1. Is the government now backing off creating new markets in healthcare and focusing more on supporting those markets that already exist eg the pharmaceutical industry in order to support the economy?

2. If so, will it work?

3. Is Lord Darzi the “shot in the arm” that the pharmaceutical industry requires?

4. Or is that role to be given to the motor-racing entrepreneur Lord Drayson, – another interesting man.

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