Cameron and Murdoch, healthcare variation and the war on drugs.

The unspeakably sinister developments that appear to be taking place in the relationship between the Murdoch clan and the Conservative party should give anyone inclined to cast their vote in that direction a deafening wake-up call.
The deal is suspected to involve not only crippling the BBC and removing the long standing obligation on the media to observe balance and impartiality in their news coverage but also steps to disable other private sector media providers. The only party to gain from the deal is, of course, Murdoch’s News Corporation and Sky, as they inch toward domination of the world media. The public’s interests are, needless to say, of no interest to either the Conservatives or Murdoch.
An impoverished, struggling rump of public service broadcasting and an unopposed glossy, plausible deluge of extreme right wing propaganda on all other channels would be extraordinarily dangerous for any country but News Corporation’s reach is global… Worse still, by the time the deal was to be delivered James Murdoch would be in charge and his delusional world view is perfectly embodied in the aphorism: Socialism without capitalism is tyranny and capitalism without socialism is barbarianism.
Profits and power before people always and everywhere with Murdoch and the Conservatives.
There is one bright spot in all of this gloom and that is the misfire that the politically promiscuous Sun experienced with its story on the PM’s letter to Jacqui Janes – 65% of its readers are reported to have been affronted by the story. This grubby, spiteful and mean exploitation of a real man’s sacrifice and a mother’s grief should be a warning to all of the depths to which some media players and Conservative politicians are prepared to sink.
The Social Market Foundation (http://www.smf.co.uk/) has produced an interesting report of a survey that it conducted into public views on local healthcare provision.
The area under consideration is what is often referred to as the postcode lottery on healthcare provision. Local control can cause local variations but, on the other hand, central control can cause patterns of care provision that are locally unsuitable. Where is the balance to be struck?
The SMF survey asked questions about access, involvement and funding.
73% of respondents stated that treatments should only be available on the NHS if they were available to everyone. 23% said availability should be determined by local need.
54% said the public should be consulted about decisions on services and treatment but that the final decision should be made by health professionals. 20% favoured greater public involvement and 20% preferred no involvement.
When prioritising funding choices 30% favoured Government prioritisation and 28% by the NHS. 18% favoured tax rises and 13% said individual contributions should rise.
The discussion groups that SMF organised came up with four areas in which they considered the public should have greater say:
• Issues affecting a lot of people a lot of the time – e.g. GP services
• When the NHS is getting it wrong
• When people think they know better than the service providers
• Where public acceptance is crucial to success – e.g. reducing childhood obesity
There were two areas where the public should not be involved:
• When the NHS is getting it right
• Where clinically based decisions must be made objectively
Overall, the consensus appeared to favour the existence of local variation (postcode lottery), especially when explanation and involvement were provided. Further, decision makers would be better explaining unpopular actions properly than attempting to mitigate them.
‘Government and local healthcare commissioners may be able to build on the public view that the NHS is a precious resource that should be used responsibly, to introduce certain charges or discourage certain healthcare seeking behaviours that jeopardise the ability of the health services to perform their most important functions – dealing with serious and ongoing disease’
Would you vote for a 60% reduction in burglary, an end to street homelessness and a 147% increase in drug users in effective rehabilitation programmes? These are the sorts of results that have been achieved in Switzerland and Portugal following reform of drug laws. Contrary to expectations, use did not increase when drugs were more freely available, in fact use dropped.
The ‘war on drugs’ was lost at the same moment it was begun. Prohibition fails routinely. It is time for a grown up discussion about legalising drugs, making safe provision for users to acquire their supplies and providing proper, well funded rehabilitation.
Above all we must kill off the massive organised crime gangs that currently provide almost all the drugs. They achieve thousands of per cent profit on their trade and it this that fuels the ruthlessly lethal nature of their operations.
Alcohol causes 13 deaths per day in the UK and costs £2.7 billion in annual health service costs and yet it is legal and supplied at lower profit rates by high street retailers who do not routinely shoot each other over turf wars and other disputes.
As has been pointed out recently, horse riding is more dangerous than Ecstasy use.
The crazy positions that political parties find themselves in on the drugs issue and their craven subjugation to media opinion results in much harm to our country and even further damage to the reputation of politicians. An official Flat Earth policy is not sustainable.
Independent MPs can act where party politicians dare not.

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