Those of you who’ve been following the sorry #caredata saga will now know that for around 2000 quid in processing charges, a body of our health service would appear to have handed over hospital data on all NHS patients to the insurance industry in 2012. The BBC provides the least alarmist overview of the situation as it stands today here. Meanwhile, a useful Storify provides something I judge to be much closer to the truth here. And so I am minded to think further afield – to think that, really, this is much more than a cock-up of monumental proportions. Really, this is the result of a society, of a way of acting, seeing and believing, which has long ago gone well past its sell-by date.
I remember when I was a kid we spoke reverentially of “they”. My father, a science teacher with a profound belief in and trust of the profession, would use the pronoun regularly. “Is nuclear power dangerous?” I might ask. “They say it isn’t; they work hard to do everything right; they use science and technology to build the best power plants in the world.” “What about atom bombs?” I would question (you can tell the mushroom cloud hung heavily over my generation of helpless CND-like sympathisers). “They used them in the Second World War because they had to. Now they have them because the Russians have them. I’m sure – one day – they will get rid of them eventually.”
“They” were all-knowing, all-powerful too – but also mostly benevolent. “They” had our very best interests at heart, of that there was no doubt – and even when “they” made mistakes, they were mistakes made out of the very best of intentions. Corruption and underbelly were not part of the gameplan – and even when they raised their ugly heads, it was not because “they” were corrupt or underbellied; no, it was rather because the battle “they” fought was painful and violent in the extreme.
“They” were never the cause of our problems. The most “they” ever were was a group of unwilling participants in a sequence of replays of evil times gone by when good people were forced to fight fire with even more fire.
“They” were not quite us. But, even so, “they” were on our side.
Well, #caredata, the bollocks it’s become, the Facebook-ing of the confidential GP-patient relationship (I almost wrote, quite unintentionally, the “confidential GP-patent relationship”) … all this and much more all has a clear reason for being: we trusted “they” with our lives, our democracy, our vulnerable children, our governance, our politicking, our health, our education, our welfare state and our justice system. And “they”, who once were able to blame their own occasional forays into corruption and being underbellied on the degradingly fierce and fearsome battles against evil red empires and foul fascist regimes, can now only flail around in the self-evident reality that has led us to this Britain we see before us: a society where “they” have failed us so badly that even “they” can no longer hide it.
And how do I know this? Well, simple really. I use the litmus test I’ve used all my life: what would my science-teacher father say of this matter? What answer would he give? Not a difficult test either, in the circumstances. All I had to do the other day was ask him precisely this: “What do you think? Are you going to opt out of #caredata?” “Well, after all this, I think I’ve changed my mind. I’m going to the surgery to pick up a prescription. I’ll hand in the form at the same time.”
To then conclude briefly, sadly and resignedly thus: “I don’t know what ‘they’ are playing at.”