We are a nation that no longer knows when to put its rubbish bins out.
So I reflected, as I dragged our two overflowing wheelie bins back to their usual place. To be fair to Bromley Council, it’s not that they fail to pick-up our rubbish; just that no one can quite predict what sort of rubbish they are going to collect in any given week.
I won’t bore you with the details. Suffice to say that some months ago they changed the system of waste collection here – successfully ‘piloted’ with local residents I should add – so that various items would be picked-up on alternate weeks. Well, for the life of me, I and my neighbours have got it wrong at least 40% of the time. I wouldn’t mind that much but after hours toiling over separating tetra packs from the New Scientist it does get a bit irritating to see the bin men and women dump it all together in the back of a dustcart. As my mother would say – and she is usually right about most things: ‘it all goes down one way.’ But I do wonder if I am part of some sort of rather wicked observational study.
Such episodes in life do however serve as useful metaphors for larger trends at work. In this case, perhaps, it is the passing of what was once certain, fixed, reliable. Now I just sound like John Major don’t I?
Anyhow, enter stage centre-right, the NHS. September is upon us after another crummy August and our politicos have quickly rejoined battle over the health service reforms. The Sunday Times front page from yesterday suggesting that overseas companies are being primed to run hospitals (or should that be the other way round) left me unsettled to say the least. Notwithstanding the so-called ‘Listening Exercise’ prior to the summer, it really does feel as if the tectonic plates are shifting beneath the NHS and fast.
The BBC Online has a good overview of where the battle lines have been draw if you wish to look deeper and I wish that I had been able to attend this evening’s Stempra briefing and discussion on the Bill – perhaps someone will post a comment giving us a sense of what happened.
But I was struck by the passage in the BBC piece about the anticipated forensic scrutiny of the legislation when it gets to the House of Lords. Heavens knows it needs it. When I was a little closer to these things than I am now it was well-known that Peers were getting together regularly to examine and prise apart the Bill in preparation for its stages there.
This is the thing. If you are into your pure politics then I suspect you will be attracted by the likely rough and tumble during the party conference season and in the House of Commons come October. If, however, you are looking to throw your weight behind the forces that might ensure the reforms are changed for the better then I encourage you to assist our Peers in every way you can with good evidence and good briefing.
Otherwise, it will not be that the NHS fails to treat people in the future, rather that none of us will be able to predict which patients it will treat in any given week in any given part of the country.
PS: Apologies that the links are to ‘home pages’ but I can’t seem to use anything other than the WordPress recommended links on this computer.