Monday, January 26, 2009

Will this NHS Constitution stand up?

The contradictions from this government never cease to amaze. Once upon a time, they made some very sensible noises about how the mother of parliaments - ours - was fatally compromised by having an unelected second chamber built on privilege and patronage. They did away with part of the House of Lords but then got bored and left the rest of it looking, in constitutional terms, like a mad hatter's tea party.

Why mention this on a health blog? Because I was reminded of it when I saw the government's new constitution for the NHS. Gordon Brown called its signing a 'momentous day'. And to some extent, he's right. Clarifying our rights and responsibilities with regard to our most popular institution makes perfect sense. So presumably the next step will be a written constitution for the country as whole. You know, the sort of thing that Barack Obama has pledged to defend in the USA. Don't hold your breath.

It's these contradictions that make me wonder whether when push comes to shove, the NHS constitution will be worth even a wholly-devalued pound of the £1million spent on putting it together.

Will it, like the US constitution, be subject to amendment? Will Saturday night shift casualty doctors be given the right to bear arms, for example? Or, given the wages some of the sub-contractors are paid to clean our hospitals, what about an equivalent of the 13th amendment which abolished slavery? Either way, download it now ahead of the first amendment.

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