In April, I resigned from my administrative post in the UK’s National Health Service (NHS), having spent 6 years in various roles, pushing pencils and wheelchairs alike. The insight I gained in this time inspired my first steps into writing on the marketisation of healthcare, and campaigning on this focal point as part of a local advocacy group.
While many of my experiences working in the NHS carried a lesson of compassion and camaraderie, my observations over the past year have left unshakeable bad taste that now taints my former romanticism.
Under the premise of social distancing, I witnessed elderly patients turned out into the cold and rain for being early for an appointment. In the interest of infection control, I witnessed mentally frail patients quizzed on their movements to the point of tears.
In December last year, I was publicly reprimanded by a Matron for reassuring a concerned patient coming from a tier 4 area, that he was fully entitled to attend long awaited treatment, which indeed he legally was. The underlying humanity is ebbing, and a prevailing mania is becoming an authority unto itself.
My apparent embittering has certainly not been matched by many groups I worked with in writing and campaigning, for whom a hysterical and unjustified state of perpetual state crisis is seen as the best protection for people and healthcare.
In 1977, Italian-American philosopher Paul Piccone, argued that monopolistic systems of control find their legitimacy through the creation of controlled opposition groups, whose emancipatory claims work toward strengthening established power, allowing it to restructure, and further its agendas under an adversarial guise.
Piccone’s theory is indeed rooted in history. In 1791, French Revolution leader and nobleman, Count Mirabeau, was posthumously disgraced, after it was found he had been in pay and service of King Louis XVI all along.
Between 1956-1971, The FBI’s Counter Intelligence Programme (COINTELPRO), sought by way of infiltration, to “misdirect, discredit, disrupt and otherwise neutralise” the activities of subversive groups, along with creating sham leftist FBI front groups such as the Red Star Cadre in Tampa, Florida.
Naturally, such a tactic can only be efficient if the cover of those controlled is not blown, and consequently much hypothesising on the concept remains both shrouded in secrecy and fraught with paranoia.
Yet the myriad of lies and deceit that have dominated the political landscape over the last 16 months, have shone a light on another form of controlled opposition, akin in function, yet somewhat distinct from more overt forms of state manipulation.
In Noam Chomsky’s 1998 work, The Common Good, he states that “the smart way to keep people passive and obedient is to strictly limit the spectrum of acceptable opinion, but allow very lively debate within that spectrum”.
The science is absolute. The figures are candid. The expert’s judgement sacrosanct. These remain the naive parameters on the stage of public discussion, now inhabited most livelily by an intelligentsia of academics and network of campaign groups.
Restrictions & Marketisation
An exemplary example of the acceptable opinion zealotry Chomsky describes, can be found in the nexus of health campaigners, professionals, and academics that make up The People’s Covid Inquiry, whose findings were published on July 7th.
Leading campaign body, Keep Our NHS Public (KONP), state the inquiry’s intention has been to “to ensure we learn lessons and save lives”. For an organisation seeking to probe and investigate the government’s response to Covid-19, their mission statement is strikingly reminiscent of the government’s own public relations campaign, and if at least one of the lessons were found to be for us all to stay shut in our homes, would be a carbon copy.
In March last year, KONP called on the government to “impose a state of lockdown immediately in order to halt this escalating emergency”. Since these initial demands, KONP and related groups have continued to support the necessity of lockdowns, and the continued use of a wide array of ‘protective’ measures.
The transitioning of Covid protocols from legal requirement to moral expectation in the UK just over 6 weeks ago, has been viewed by many as a move of wanton abandon, with IPSOS research from July indicating a majority of the British public as supporting a continuation of restrictions in their numerous forms.
Clinical epidemiologist and statistical geneticist, Dr Deepti Gurdasani, who has featured on national news channels and in KONP’s inquiry live sessions, has been a prominent proponent of prolonging restrictions, so that greater numbers can be vaccinated to protect the vulnerable, and now children.
In an interview with Sky News on July 8th, Gurdasani refuted the notion that protracted restrictions were having a detrimental impact on patients access to healthcare, asserting that “the reason people aren’t getting healthcare for other conditions isn’t because of restrictions, it’s because coronavirus is spreading”.
Such a conviction very much contradicts my own recent experience. On July 9th last year, the Trust in which I worked had 7 designated Covid patients, none of which were in critical care. Nonetheless, my day like all others in the outpatient clinic, was one rife with phone calls from distressed patients, still unable to access treatment and surgery. This was solely down to limitations on clinic capacities caused by social distancing, and severe staff shortages caused by the imposition of isolation and shielding measures, i.e., restrictions.
Having done great work to counter the privatisation of NHS services, KONP will be fully aware of the implications of restrictions, and how the strangulation and deprivation of services plays right into the government’s ploys toward marketising healthcare.
KONP’s campaign trajectory has, however, provided tacit approval for the mounting backlog of elective waiting lists, which the NHS is already planning to be addressed through independent sector involvement.
NHS England’s performance figures published on June 10th, revealed that the number of patients waiting for NHS treatment in England had exceeded 5 million for the first time, even with 6 million fewer referrals for treatment having been made throughout 2020.
In assessing the mitigation methods to this issue, two reports from May and November 2020 from charity, The Heath Foundation, give significant credit to the independent sector for creating “additional elective capacity”. The reports also laud the intervention as one that provided an “incentive for trusts to raise their game and avoid losing lucrative extra income”.
The reports also foresee “potentially an important role for the independent sector” in returning NHS waiting lists to an 18-week standard, with NHS England now expected to “clarify how much capacity the sector is expected to contribute in the longer term”. Prospects would indeed seem rosy for the saviours of the independent sector, as their further deployment to the frontlines is already being demanded.
A February report from Westminster based think tank, Reform, has claimed capacity in private sector hospitals during the height of restrictions was not effectively used. The report also called for the publishing of waiting list recovery plans, and a clearer strategy on how NHS Trusts will better utilise the private sector in addressing the backlog of elective treatments.
The chokehold of government restrictions is making the NHS debilitated prey for the private sector, while an unwavering insistence that a service founded on the principle of universality, should remain restricted and inaccessible for so many, only hastens its dismantling.
Democracy & Accountability vs Technocracy
Another central focus of KONP’s current campaigning, has been “fighting against” plans for integrated care systems (ICSs), that look to restructure healthcare governance, centralise decision making, and cause a “loss of local democracy”. “ICSs are set up from top down as a bureaucratic fait accompli, with no public consultation” they add, that “are not going to be responsive to demands or pressures from local communities”.
Bureaucratically intolerable, the consensus building processes of the government’s independent scientific advisory group (SAGE), has been a scientific fait accompli, undiscussed in parliament and locally, yet remains more than permissible.
In fact, paediatrician and member of SAGE, Professor Anthony Costello, has even featured in the inquiry’s live sessions. In a session from 27th March, Costello argued that the UK “didn’t set up appropriate contact tracing”, and heralded the suppressive methods exhibited by the Chinese authorities in Wuhan.
In following ‘experts’ envious at the methods of authoritarian police states, the UK’s prioritising of suppression through track and trace technology and subsequent ‘pingdemic’, now forces thousands to isolate, threatens food and fuel supplies, and grinds a society and economy already on its knees, to a further halt.
Furthermore, the undue fear purposefully unleashed by SAGE’s sub group, SPI-B, upon a British public that did “not feel sufficiently personally threatened”, has exacerbated a mental health crisis, which KONP themselves have previously rallied to address.
Nevertheless, Costello and his cohorts stand venerated, whilst their ‘independent advice’, remains as unaccountable as any virus, algorithm, or vaccine manufacturer. The burgeoning technocracy has been welcomed with open arms by KONP, who have fawned the very technocrats that legitimise the most draconian government policies and run roughshod over the principles of local democracy and accountability.
While Gurdasani and Costello may be worthy experts, there are those experts whose observations unfortunately lie outside the parameters of debate. Despite KONP promoting whistleblowing as a means of maintaining patient safety, it appears the courage of those professionals raising alarm on the risks of novel vaccines, are unworthy of mention.
In June, General Practitioner, Dr Sam White, had his licence to practice suspended by NHS England, after he publicly challenged the logic and efficacy of Covid protocols, and the safety of the vaccination programme. Whilst there has been an outpouring of public support online for Dr White, The UK’s General Medical Council (GMC) is contemplating taking further action against him, that would see his licence to practice medicine revoked completely.
Despite being unavailable for comment, it would be fair to say Dr White likely didn’t get an invite to the inquiry’s live sessions, and his case is absent from KONP’s campaigns. Perhaps whistleblowing should indeed be promoted, but only to a pitch that resonates with a potentially marketable campaign.
As mentioned, a founding tenet of KONP Covid policy has been the need for better and publicly owned track and trace systems. In such a vein, one could be mistaken for thinking that the domestic use of vaccine passports, no matter how fascistic, would also be a tolerable application of technology if it could only keep down cases.
But wait, in January before restrictions began, KONP supported a campaign in partnership with Medact, called Patients Not Passports, which sought to oppose the hostile environment policy, and NHS staff being charged with immigration checks, which stand to deter immigrants in need of healthcare from seeking it.
Similarly, staff across an ever-expanding range of commercial venues are also look set to add passport control added to their job duties, as part of a coercive policy that codifies exclusion, and undermines fundamental human rights.
Downing Street’s latest assurances that the policy won’t creep into a requisite for accessing public services, including healthcare, should be cast against the months of identical lies from Boris Johnson and Nadhim Zahawi that preceded our arrival at this point.
Unable to find any information on KONP’s website, I contacted their press department to try and ascertain their stance on such a ‘protective’ measure, only to be told panellists were unable to agree on a viewpoint, and that they would have to decline to comment.
I must mention that since my initial query, KONP have devoted a whole 280 words at the bottom of a press release toward a mild-mannered afterthought, characterising vaccine passports as lacking in scientific basis.
KONP also declined to comment when questioned on Zahawi’s proposals to make Covid vaccinations mandatory for NHS staff. Arguably one of the greatest legislative changes to affect NHS staff of all ranks, it should be remembered that NHS Trusts across the UK have reported vaccine uptake to be lowest amongst staff from ethnic minority groups.
Under such a mandate, staff from ethnic minority backgrounds that yesterday were heroes, now stand to face disproportionately greater levels of extortion, and potential dismissal. KONP themselves have campaigned against racism in healthcare, championed rights for migrant workers, and drawn attention to crippling staff shortages, yet this ethical conundrum is seemingly best swept under the carpet.
‘Vaccine apartheid’ is simply an issue of unequal access to untested vaccines in developing nations, and not a domestic system of medical segregation. Justice for staff means pay rises for those still allowed to work in the service but need not concern those driven away in droves by the mandating of unlicensed medicines.
Keen to build support for the NHS beyond the tokenistic gesture of clapping for carers, KONP’s myopic campaign focus now characterises a tokenism of its own. The spectrum of admissibility has been drawn to encompass only that which corresponds with conventional favour, and a hubristic institutional exceptionalism, even if it means excluding empirical reality and founding principles.
The British public do indeed deserve a people’s Covid inquiry, one that cuts straight to the institutional fraud of PCR testing, the euthanasia of care home residents, and fatal effects of novel vaccines. The sheer unwillingness to address the most glaring inconsistencies, has resulted in a public sphere all but drowned in a cacophony of ‘official’ nonsense, under which totalitarian control awkwardly lurches forward.