Tuesday, 25 September 2007

The "Brown" Economy

Tarmac your drive guv?

For a Party which gave the Inland Revenue unprecedented powers to forcibly enter homes and businesses without a warrant, force banks to divulge information on their customers' accounts and even to empty a customer's bank account without even having to inform the owner, it is odd that it has chosen to pay lay participants in the Citizens Juries in cash. The payments (which were only offered to the "public" after NHS staff were asked to leave) were described in my earlier blog and caused a bit of excitement and frank disbelief but have now been admitted and documented in this article in the GP magazine "Pulse".

The reasons given for handing out tax payers money in this way are quite frankly an insult to our intelligence. The money is claimed to be for "expenses". This may seem reasonable at first sight, but if this was the case why were "expenses" not offered to everyone who attended. My colleague had a 100 mile round trip to attend the meeting while supposed to be on leave. Then there is the irony. Blood donors in the UK receive no payment. They are expected to give blood as a public service. In fact, the argument is made that offering money would attract the wrong type of person whose blood might be tainted and impure. So, a pint of blood is worth less if it is paid for but an opinion on the future of the NHS is worth £75.

Why was the money handed out at the end of the meeting if it was "for expenses"? A cynic might suggest that the payment of expenses was contingent on a "satisfactory" outcome.

The Department of Health spokesperson said the money had to be paid in cash because not everyone would have a bank account. It was, in fact, this government which stopped pension and benefit payments in cash. This lead to the closure of thousands of Post Offices. This was done to reduce fraud. We can all work out for ourselves why payment was made in cash. The recipients will be untraceable if someone should question who they were and how they were selected. It won't be detectable if the same people turn up at every meeting. Conveniently the money will also be untaxable

There was an explanation for the sealed envelope too. The spokesman said it would have been difficult to handle the loose £50 and £20 notes. That is true enough but why were the NHS staff asked to leave before they were handed out? Did someone have something to hide?

The rules under which doctors deal with drug companies strictly control inducements and gratuities. If a drug company offered doctors £75 in an envelope at the end of a sponsored meeting it would find itself in breach of the Pharmaceutical Industries Code of Practice and the doctor may well have to face a GMC investigation. It is not unreasonable to expect the same standard of behavior from the politicians who write the rules.

Don't forget. Prof., Sir, Lord, Your Worship, Dr., Mr., His Majesty Ara Darzi is doing a webchat on Thursday. Go onto the Downing St website and ask him if he is happy with medical staff representation at the Citizens Juries bearing in mind that they were given as little as 24 hours notice to attend. They are taking questions now. Make them realize we do not believe this is "consultation".


Dr Ray said...

I have lifted this comment on the "Dizzy" (www.dizzythinks.net) blog.
We need more people in the know to come forward and show how this "consultation" is being done because the results are going to be used to justify massive changes in the NHS.

judith said...
As a member of a PCT informal patient consultation group, I can confirm that notices for meetings with some important characters in the Fit for the Future charade, sorry programme, are being sent out at the very last moment. This means that quite a few laypeople who know what they are talking about often have prior engagements and can't make the meetings.

But hey, the public have been invited to have their say, haven't they? Shame they couldn't make it!

In London, not only are the Health Trusts having to manage the Fit for the Future plans, they are also having to deal with Aru Darzi's mom-and-apple pie suggestions - well, why wouldn't the DoH run two similar processes at not quite the same time, proposing much of the same thing, but requiring lots of management time that might be better spent trying to run the Health Services?

9/23/07 8:03 AM

Garth Marenghi said...

Dr Ray,
The interesting thing that hasn't been answered is how were the members of the public recruited by the government?

I suspect the answer would be quite revealing if it could be found

Dr Ray said...

Yes we need to hear from the polling company that recruited people.
I suspect that the reason which will be given for the short notice and the non-disclosure of venue until the last minute will be "terrorism" but I can't see how a representative cross-section of the public could have been recruited at such short notice. People with kids and jobs can't just turn up in Birmingham for the day. I suspect the people there will have been labour party researchers or people working in PR for NuLabour (or even actors I suppose). This will be the reason they were paid in cash; no names or addresses needed to be recorded. It is very strange that absolutely no one has appeared to say how they were recruited.