David Cameron’s “constructive talks” on implementing the Health Bill dominated health coverage in the media this week.
There was near universal recognition that the event – revealed by hsj.co.uk on Friday – was a “friends and supporters only” occasion for the organisations he has on speed dial.
The snubbing of the Royal College of Nursing as well as the Royal College of GPs was the icing on the cake on what was a pretty dire week for the bill. The Guardian’s Jackie Ashley wrote that it “is now a wreck… it is like a car resting on piles of bricks, its doors off and its engine in pieces”.
The Daily Mirror reported that footballer Rio Ferdinand, whose mother was a nurse, had tweeted his support for the “Drop the Bill” e-petition. The Sun, however, concentrated on Labour leader Ed Miliband misspelling the footballer’s twitter name in responding to his tweet.
The Daily Telegraph reported the denials of Newcastle Hospitals boss Sir Len Fenwick that a nurse had been disciplined for arguing with David Cameron during his visit last week. Neither he nor the chair of the trust saw any such encounter. But the Telegraph had an eyewitness account of the nurse “passionately expressing opposition” to the reforms and Mr Cameron being “red in the face” and reverting to “scripted spin”.
Beyond the gloom, if anyone needs a nudge to remember the importance of the NHS, there was the BBC’s Call the Midwife series. Set in 1950s London and drawing a Sunday night audience of nine million, it reminded viewers that the newly formed NHS changed and saved lives. “You wouldn’t have an obstetric flying squad without the NHS” was the gist of one episode, as a new mother nearly bled to death.
The opponents of the bill couldn’t have put it better.