There is optimism – there is unwarranted optimism – there are fake views and faked news – and there are slippery words. The public relations industry deals in all of them. And so do politicians.
They use shifty and partial stories to give a gloss – often totally unwarranted – to policies that come unstuck and/or have disastrous consequences (whether foreseen or unexpected) leaving individuals in the kind of situations we all thought the Welfare State had ended for good.
Take our MP’s recent statement: “I spent time with the partners and managers of the newly-merged Kennet and Avon Medical Practice that brought together the surgeries in Marlborough and Pewsey into a new model able to invest and innovate so that the services provided to local patients can improve.”
We need not worry too much about her choice of words: but why, for instance, add in ‘local’? Of course their patients are local. But ‘local’ is a warm and snuggly word. Unless, of course, she was aiming to hide the fact that the GP services she was writing about have just got a little less local.
She writes knowing full well that since 2012 the number of GP practices in Wiltshire has shrunk from 58 to 49 (due to closures and mergers) and that last year across England a record 92 practices closed. And the county is still short of GPs.
She might need to know about the recent poll by the doctors’ journal GPonline found one in five practices has two or more GP vacancies. In May a similar poll found that about one in every eight GP posts were vacant.
She knows that the resignation of two GPs – one from Marlborough and one from Pewsey – followed by a retirement and the impossibility of recruiting replacements, put both practices in jeopardy of closure. She may not know that the remaining doctors spent very many late and long hours over many weeks putting together this very complex merger – which was more by way of a rescue operation than a brave new leap towards ‘innovation’.
She knows – or should do if she asked the right questions – that the newly merged practices are just about sustainable. They will still face fruitless attempts at recruitment and the future problems of the area’s growing and ageing population – and with premises that may become unsustainable.
With the extra pressures of recruitment shortfalls, more older people with more complex conditions and having to push through mergers, it is no surprise that Jeremy Hunt described GPs he has met as ‘knackered’.
On top of that she totally ignores the fact that the merged practices are still struggling to meet patients expectations – and frequently offer appointments four to six weeks away, especially for their named GP. Something marlborough.news has heard complaints about and something the doctors do not want to happen.
Only looking on the bright side of life merely hides reality. It is the next worst thing to a ‘cover up’ of the real facts and of people’s everyday experience of these abstractly woven ‘policies’.
In the wider NHS picture, she must have heard that the number of nurses working in the NHS has fallen for the first time in three years. And that reduction will before too long trickle down to increase GPs’ work load.
Politicians ignore the rise in the population because it poses awkward infrastructure questions, putting further pressure on a tax-averse government’s finances. The rise in the population means that in England the number of nurses per 100,000 people has dropped from 604 in 2009 to 576 by 2016. And this too will eventually cause more problems for GPs.
That was last week. This week Mrs Perry has been busy pouring soothing words over the desperate failures of Universal Credit as it is rolled out. She wanted: “…to clear up a few misconceptions that I’ve seen recently about this policy.”
This is not just a piece of paper – a ‘policy’. It is something that is having direct and disastrous effects on individual lives. Most politicians welcome its aim, but many have – in their surgeries – first hand evidence of the human damage its roll-out is causing.
So, the Universal Credit helpline which can cost up to 55p a minute (with some calls lasting up to an hour – but the scrapping of charges has been announced (18 Oct) although no date set), that people have to get themselves to Jobcentres on expensive buses (if they have not been axed), the frequently reported eight-weeks without any financial support, the resulting rise in rent arrears and household debt – none of them, as Mrs Perry tells the story, can be allowed to get in the way of the ‘policy’s’ success.
I wonder whether Mrs Perry heard about the young woman in Wales with mental health problems, who after several months waiting for her Universal Credit support has had to sell her television and mobile phone to keep up with her rent payments – and now has only a bed and an armchair in her flat.
Now we learn that Universal Credit cannot cope with free school meals. Is this an unintended or an intended consequence of Iain Duncan Smith’s plan?
There is no need to keep wondering where this glut of ‘fake news and views’ has come from – it comes from politicians claiming “all shall be well”. Why do they claim that? Because they and only they know they are making the ‘right’ and ‘difficult’ choices. What really worries them is losing power.