Yesterday was not a good day to be Jeremy Hunt.
“What day ever is?” I hear you cry. Good point, well made.
Yesterday was worse than usual. Not only did the High Court tell him thathis plan to penalise Lewisham Hospital for the failings of a neighbouring health trust was illegal, but the Court of Appeal upheld a ruling that right-to-die campaigners did not have the right to ask doctors to end patients’ lives.
Mr Misprint was found to have been acting outside his powers as Secretary of State for Health, and in breach of the National Health Service Act 2006, when he announced his plan to close or substantially downgrade casualty and maternity services at Lewisham.
Mr Justice Silber said that the decision of the Trust Special Administrator – which was the first made under new, Conservative, health service guidance – was also unlawful.
And he referred to yet another spectacular Parliamentary lie by David Cameron. He’s really racking those up, now, isn’t he? In this one, he told Dame Joan Ruddock, “What the Government and I specifically promised was that there should be no closures or reorganisations unless they had support from the GP commissioners, unless there was proper public and patient engagement and unless there was an evidence base. Let me be absolutely clear: unlike under the last Government when these closures and changes were imposed in a top-down way, if they do not meet those criteria, they will not happen.”
Unfortunately for his reputation, it took a High Court judge to make sure that this guarantee was carried out. Liar Cameron would have pushed the unlawful measure through, even though none of the conditions he described had been met.
Of course the consequence would have been a reduced, substandard hospital service for people living in or near Lewisham – not because the hospital itself was poorly run (it wasn’t) but because the neighbouring South London Healthcare Trust has been haemorrhaging more than £1 million every week. The decision was made with an eye on costs, and with no regard for the effect on people’s health or lives.
Meanwhile, over in the Court of Appeal, the Lord Chief Justice, Lord Judge, upheld a ruling that the late Tony Nicklinson had not had the right to ask a doctor to end his life, and neither did fellow right-to-die campaigner Paul Lamb.
The perverse aspect of this is the possibility that they would have got what they wanted – if they had only kept their mouths shut.
Readers may think what follows is in bad taste, or out-of-turn, but it seems that every family in the country has a story in which they suspect doctors of “switching off” a loved one.
From my own family, I can think of two occasions without even trying: One was an uncle with a long-term illness. His wife (my aunt) cared for him but, being a senior citizen herself, she reached a point where she needed to take a break, and booked him into a respite care home. He didn’t survive the experience.
The other was another uncle with a terminal illness who was on painkillers which could kill him if a wrong dosage was applied. We don’t know that this is what led to his death – just as we don’t know what happened in the respite home. But on the face of it, the circumstances are questionable.
All of the above leads us to conclude that yesterday was not a good day to be Jeremy Hunt. You can be sure he was unhappy about it, too.
Picture the scene if you can: The Cabinet room, during a tea break. Various Tories are lounging around, sucking down on some of the plasma they privatised the other week, while Mr Hunt declares: “It isn’t fair! Iain’s policies get to kill hundreds of people every we- sorry, dozens. dozens of people every week – and I can’t even top one or two who want it? What’s the world coming to?”
What indeed. Perhaps Mr Hunt should remember he’s the Secretary of State for Health. It’s in his job title that he should be preserving health, not destroying it.
And money – filthy lucre – should be his last concern!