SENIOR DOCTOR ADMITS TO HOT TRAMP IN THE HILLS
Dr Bob Bury, a recently retired consultant, candidly admitted today that he regularly enjoys a hot and steamy tramp in the hills. “There is nothing to be ashamed of,” he stated to the crowd of journalists and photographers clustered outside his garden gate, “It’s just a bit of fun in the great outdoors”. However the authorities may take a different view.
MEDICAL JOURNALIST CONFESSES TO DOCTOR ROMP
Well-known medical journalist Mike Broad today confirmed rumours that he regularly sleeps with a doctor. “There is no law against it,” he retorted when challenged. However representatives of the medical profession have expressed outrage at this revelation. “This relationship is too close,” stated one angry doctor. “How can he objectively report on medical matters under such circumstances? Who knows what they discuss when they are alone? All such relationships should be transparent and above board”.
WHO ATE ALL THE PIES?
Angry catering staff at the Middle-Bit-of-England Trust have revealed that an entire delivery of pies - intended to nourish needy NHS patients - has been stolen. The police have been looking into the matter and it is understood that the culprit has been identified although they will not reveal his name. However I have it on excellent authority that the prime suspect is none other than Mr Jerry Nelson, a surgeon at the trust, and currently on “gardening leave” (although he lives in a flat). When approached for a comment today he uttered only one word - a profanity.
I expect you get the drift of this by now. I have obviously deliberately libelled and slandered three completely upright blameless individuals (well definitely two). And this in the week after Lord Justice Leveson’s report into media culture and ethics has been published.
Let me state at the outset that, like all people of sense, I deplore the actions of some journalists whose behaviour was seriously out of order. I have huge sympathy for those whose lives were shattered by the untruths published against them. However those who broke the law in these matters have or are being prosecuted, and the newspapers concerned have had to make large payments in damages.
I am reminded of Sir Humphrey in Yes Minister whose advice was that you should never set up an inquiry unless you were sure of the outcome. I suspect that David Cameron has not got what he wanted and within minutes of the report being published the whole thing has degenerated into a political dog fight. But was the Leveson inquiry really necessary and am I happy with the outcome? Well frankly no!
The idea that the entire press in this country is out of control and running wild is on a level with the idea that the entire NHS is a filthy, MRSA-ridden cesspit where patients die from neglect or are actively killed to free up beds for more victims (at least in the view of the Daily Wail). In fact most of our patients get good or excellent treatment and most journalists are ethical and thorough.
I feel very uncomfortable with Leveson’s conclusions which, in effect, is simply a return to state licensing of the press. Our ancestors saw the importance of a free press and licensing was ended in 1694 and we throw this away at our peril. I am not suggesting that we are heading for a North Korea type of rigid media control, I think the danger is more insidious. What we will get is a tame, dull, sanitised press which is anxious not to offend.
But my other objection is more fundamental. With respect to Leveson I think he has misunderstood the basic issues. These were brilliantly outlined in a series of Reith Lectures delivered by the philosopher Onora (now Lady) O’Neill in 2002. The whole series of five talks was entitled, “A Question of Trust” in which she addressed the apparent crisis of trust affecting all aspects of public and professional life including the media and the medical profession.
A quote from her first lecture: “The common ground from which I begin is that we cannot have guarantees that everyone will keep trust. Elaborate measures to ensure that people keep agreements and do not betray trust must, in the end, be backed by - trust. At some point we just have to trust. There is, I think, no complete answer to the old question: who will guard the guardians?” (Lecture “Spreading Suspicion”)
In the series she forensically analyses the whole issue which has so absorbed Leveson and large chunks of the media for the last year. Indeed in my view if they had bothered to review what she said there would have been little reason to hold the inquiry in the first place other than to give various celebrities a chance for their day in the limelight.
She makes the point that the response of the government to such situations seems to be an inquiry which in turn generates a call for stricter regulation and accountability. The medical profession has been subjected to this to our cost (Dame Janet Smith), and the letters giving the dates for our revalidation are currently hitting the doormats although many of us still find it difficult to understand exactly what will be achieved by the whole process.
O’Neill again: “For those of us in the public sector the new accountability takes the form of detailed control. An unending stream of new legislation and regulation, memoranda and instructions, guidance and advice floods into public sector institutions. Many of you will have looked into the vast database of documents on the Department of Health website, with a mixture of despair and disbelief. Central planning may have failed in the former Soviet Union but it is alive and well in Britain today. The new accountability culture aims at ever more perfect administrative control of institutional and professional life.”
In my view her conclusions and suggested actions are much more balanced that Leveson’s and I wish politicians would take note of her. She will be speaking on the subject of trust at 8.50am on Radio 4 next Sunday. I for one will be listening.