Something to Say with Keith Newbery: The Alliance’s plans for the NHS... it’s going to be an interesting few weeks

ASK the average person in the street for their opinions on the NHS and I would put decent money on the following comments being made (in no particular order):

It can always be relied upon when it comes to a real emergency.

The waiting time to see specialists is shorter than it once was.

There seem to be an awful lot of non-front line staff in certain departments wandering around with pieces of paper, chatting to each other.

The cost of hospital car parks is extortionate.

These are the sort of things we (as what the corporate jargoneers love to call ‘front-end users’) actually experience.

We suspect there may well be hidden battalions of paper-pushers at most hospitals and primary care trusts, but as we never see them when we are having our bones mended or lumps probed, we don’t give them much thought.

Unfortunately, politicians never see the NHS as we do. They regard it as a permanent battlefield, where vast armies are deployed and endless strategies played out.

When one conflict is over, they knock it all down and start again irrespective of cost – both financial and to the social wellbeing of the country.

The generals on both sides pledge their love and admiration for the NHS. Then they immediately set about blasting it with a bombardment of principle, policies and good, old-fashioned prejudice.

Meanwhile, those who survive the collateral damage are left to pick among the ruins hoping there is something left worth saving.

It is the Alliance’s turn at the moment and there is no doubting the sincerity of David Cameron’s regard for the NHS after the way in which it cared for his severely-disabled son.

It was this as much as anything which convinced voters to trust the Conservative leader – but he is being ambushed from within.

Health Secretary, Andrew Lansley, wants to preside over yet another massive upheaval in the structure of the NHS despite Cameron’s assurances to the contrary.

The Lib Dems abhor these plans and (together with the medical professions) are plotting to dilute them at best and scrap them at worst.

Meanwhile, Cameron is preoccupied with damping down fires which continue to smoulder and flare.

It’s going to be an interesting few weeks.

IT’S ODD how outstanding talent is squandered in the world of entertainment, while less obviously gifted individuals prosper.

I can’t think of a more accomplished or amusing radio broadcaster than Danny Baker in the past 30 years – with the possible exception of Terry Wogan.

He has an edgy wit, a deft turn of phrase and a motor-mouth articulacy which draws everything together. It’s an impressive package.

He also has a reputation for unfettered thinking, which may explain why he has only ever been used sparingly by the BBC and commercial stations.

But now he has recovered from a cancer scare, let’s hope some producer somewhere has the sense to give him the sort of opportunities his flair and inventiveness warrant.