the subject which nobody wants to talk about is the National Health Service. It is just over a week since the publication of the Francis report into Stafford hospital, where some 1,200 patients died in appalling circumstances. Had any other institution been involved in a scandal on this scale, the consequences would have been momentous: sackings, arrests and prosecutions. Had it involved a private hospital, that hospital would have been closed down already, and those in charge publicly shamed and facing jail.
Astonishing to relate, nothing has happened. Politicians have made perfunctory expressions of concern, while agreeing that there must be “no scapegoats”, and that Sir David Nicholson (the senior figure responsible) must remain in his job.
By contrast, consider the media storm over horse meat:
Not a single life has been lost, or even threatened. Indeed, so far as I can discover, no one has even fallen ill as a result. By comparison with the tragic and terrible events at Stafford hospital, the so-called horse flesh scandal does not register. It matters not a jot. It is beneath insignificant.
How to explain, then, the contrast between the recent, obsessive interest in horse meat and the near omertà surrounding Stafford? First, we need to grasp something important about modern media and political discourse: prominence is only very rarely the same thing as importance.
Second, there is a certain type of sentimental British do-gooder who, while relatively indifferent to human tragedy, is captivated by dumb animals. These do-gooders have been much to the fore over the past week. Consider the utterly false and inverted set of priorities at Staffordshire County Council, which (as we know from the Francis report) sat on its hands while hospital patients were dying in agony.
Staffordshire County Council has been among the first to jump on to the horse flesh bandwagon. Courtesy of the current issue of the Staffordshire Sentinel we know that the local council, so negligent and dismissive over the local hospital, has ordered that beef should not be served at the local school as a “precautionary measure”, even though it poses no threat of any kind to human health.
I recommend the whole article.