The run up to the 2017 General Election has been more frenzied and dogged than almost any in my memory. Certainly if you’re under twenty five or so you are being treated to a political firework show that probably (hopefully) won’t be repeated for another twenty years. The gloves are off and the public is being treated to a display of politics red in tooth and claw. We’ve learnt that Diane Abbott can’t do maths. Theresa May thinks that fox hunting is a political football that still has a few kick abouts left in it. And that Jeremy Corbyn still fails to understand the concept of nuclear game theory by being unable to grasp the purpose of a ‘deterrent’. Then there’s been a smattering of lower level blunders across the political spectrum. Jeremy Hunt bunkered down in his office as the NHS was being ransomwared off to the highest bidder. Michael Gove demonstrated he also struggles with maths when under the cosh of Nick Ferrari. John McDonnell strolled right out of his quasi-Marxist closet live on air. The list goes on and on and on.
These gaffes offer a morbidly dualist insight into human nature. We have all experienced the sense of schadenfreuden from watching another human crash and burn in front of you. That feeling is much harder to come by when the people crashing and burning are supposed to be leading the country. Even medical negligence made a few waves in the media when it emerged that a terminally ill woman, Susanne Cameron-Blackie, was standing as an independent in Jeremy Corbyn’s constituency. Her platform is based on what she perceives as the unnecessary removal of NHS funds due to litigation. After she herself was prescribed the wrong painkillers that were weaker than the ones she should have had it was suggested that she sue the NHS to get a payout. She was mortified at the suggestion saying “If I sued, I would be taking away yet more money from the NHS, so making it more likely that a future patient would endure a similar ordeal.” The end goal is of course a noble one, to reduce the money wasted in the NHS. But it feels like Susanne isn’t making a distinction between cases of genuine medical negligence and the more frivolous ‘ambulance-chasing’ kind of lawsuits. Some cases that patients try to bring against the NHS are patently absurd and nothing more than a thinly veiled cash grab. However sorting out these cases from the genuine ones can be difficult and sometimes the case can go far before being dropped; which obviously will cost the NHS money.
Unless Susanne turns out to be some kind of political master of puppets it is unlikely that she will unseat the great Corbyn. But as a way to raise an important issue into the public consciousness then it is certainly to be commended. The NHS is by no means perfect and interestingly enough one of the most popular reasons for engaging in litigation with the NHS in the first place is to force someone into taking responsibility. A study recently showed that people often report they feel fobbed off in cases of negligence and that they simply want someone to say ‘Sorry’ and mean it. Usually the only way to force someone into taking on this burden of responsibility is to heave it upon the trust through the court system. Feeling let down by ‘the system’ can often leave families with no other recourse. Fostering change within the culture of responsibility at the NHS would be a way to combat such cases. This is no easy feat however Susanne has taken it upon herself to take that first step forward.