The low hum of mediocrity can never be acceptable to patients

You can’t beat a good juxtaposition. And August seems to throw up more than its fair share.

It’s as if the soil, hard-packed by hardened hacks over many months, has been freshly tilled by novice reporters, revealing pearl white fragments of porcelain that say as much about now, as then.

This is the slow news month when the 30 year rule is lifted on a new batch of public records. And run-of-the mill things like the release of air accident reports assume a status unwarranted.

So it was last week with the Air Accidents Investigation Branch report on the FlyBe pilot whose prosthetic arm had become detached during landing. You could sense the media’s rising frustration at their inability to sensationalise this matter.

In the face of a rather doughty pilot interviewee – also with a prosthetic arm – who took it all in his stride in that calming cabin crew tone we all know so well. The splendid retort of the company that they were proud to employ ‘competent disabled’ people. And radio phone-ins dominated by the common-sense approach of the public based on their experience of being flown safely around the world every year.

As they say, actions speak louder than words.

Meanwhile, on the same day, plans for inspecting family practices were announced by the new inspector of GPs, Sir Steve Field. Sir Steve and his merry band of inspectors will be visiting and assessing practices up and down the country. Surgeries that consistently under perform, we learnt, will be put on special measures. All sounds good.

But it begs the question from a patient perspective: what the heck’s been happening before now. As the Today presenter asked both Sir Steve and the Head of the BMA’s GP committee. Very little is the answer.

Even more confidence sapping was the tone and style of the BMA’s response. This implied that, at any given moment, a certain number of practices will always be below par. They feared a blame culture developing out of the inspection regime, they said. Then pointed out all the mitigating factors why yours or my practice might be poor. From premises to funding.

There’s nothing like getting your excuses in first is there? All of which the media seemed to accept with a sanguine shrug of its shoulders.

How did we get to this point where it seems better to defend the low hum of mediocrity in our health services rather than aspire to make every landing a safe and comfortable one for patients and their families?

I mean, would you fly with an airline run by the BMA?

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