Friday, 2 March 2012

The NHS Reform sitcom - in homage to Blackadder goes forth

This week there’s been yet another debate on NHS Reform in the commons, BBC’s Newsnight programme did a Healthbill special, and just about every political programme continues to follow the tale of misinformation, misery and mayhem. Yes the Health and Social Care Bill is taking on the persona of a confusing sitcom, with three of the key players, The PM, Deputy PM and Health Secretary sticking true to character throughout.

The Health Bill sitcom scripts aren’t great and the characters not particularly appealing but I can see some similarities to the brilliant satire, Blackadder, especially series 4, based in the trenches during the first world war. Captain Blackadder, a battle weary, worldly wise leader struggles to keep his troops in line, fighting a war he doesn’t understand and facing a particular battle that he knows he is unlikely to survive unscathed. Captain Darling, similar in rank but lacking is good sense and paying lip service to his paymasters away from the front line is an unwelcome but compulsory presence in the trenches. And then there’s the unpalatable batman, Private Baldric – who has his own warped version of reality - diligent, loyal but, to be frank, living on a different planet to his colleagues. A good example of Baldric’s ‘brilliance’ is to shoot a pigeon so that Blackadder will have meat for supper. The only problem is – he shot the carrier pigeon used to relay vital information to and from the command post…

I shall leave you to decide who should play each character in my version of this tale…

Blackadder: ‘We need to improve the NHS – it’s too expensive, badly run and unsustainable. I have pledged that there will be no top down reform but we need to improve services and efficiency’
Baldric: ‘It’s OK Captain Blackadder – I have a cunning plan…’
Blackadder: ‘Good – I’ll leave it to you then.’
Baldric: ‘The patient will be at the heart of everything we do. The lion share budget will go to GPs. Nothing about me without me…’
Blackadder is distracted and doesn’t really listen - ‘Good, good …. Carry on…’

 A year passes and the troops don’t seem to like the Health Bill very much. They decide to try a new tack..

Blackadder: ‘No-one knows more about the NHS than Baldric’
Darling: ‘No-one knows more about the NHS than Baldric’

That doesn’t seem to rally the troops – in fact – it seems to irritate them.

Blackadder: ‘Baldric – this doesn’t seem to be going very well – most of the NHS staff, the medical colleges and even GP’s themselves don’t seem to be very keen, even your cunning plan of pausing and reflecting doesn’t seem to have distracted the troops enough, there might even be some desertions – what do you have to say?’
Baldric: ‘…many, many GP’s I’ve spoken to support the Bill…’
Blackadder: ‘Great! Where are they…?’
Baldric: ‘…nothing about me without me…. The patient at the heart of everything we do….’
Darling: ‘Can I help?’
Blackadder and Baldric look round to see where the noise has come from and at last realise that it’s Darling who doesn’t really say or do very much in the trenches.
Darling: ‘Why don’t I write a letter to all my troops and advise that I want a few more amendments and then we can discuss the Bill again in the commons and then I can pledge my support for the Bill and…’

That plan, which was carried out this week, didn’t work very well either.

The series ends with our three heroes preparing to go over the top to fight a major battle. As haunting music accompanies freeze frame shots of our characters leading their troops into the abyss we know how this is going to end….



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