Tuesday, 22 November 2011

Health Secretary’s Scheme Forces NHS Patients to See his Face Before Dying

Health Secretary Andrew Lansley has fulfilled a “lifelong dream” in the introduction of a new NHS initiative whereby video of his smiling face is played on a continuous loop in hospital wards throughout the country, to be gazed at by the sick and dying. “I always thought that more people would have to gaze upon me before the life left their ailing bodies. And now they shall!” Laughed the conservative cabinet minister.

The broadcasts of Lansley’s eerily cheerful face is played continuously on patient bedside entertainment systems where he can whisper messages to the stricken and stare into them with myriad electronic eyes. The scheme is being rolled out only in selected hospitals so far but Lansley hopes that soon his face can be found “wherever there is sickness and disease.”

The taped segments show the Minister claiming that patient care “really matters” to him, asks them to show consideration to NHS staff and whispers other assorted messages when the system registers that a patient is asleep or vulnerable. Some are suggestions that their ailments are all in their head, others are pleas for them to stop wasting a struggling NHS’s time and others are simply-stated suggestions that the patient should probably just go ahead and die.

Lansley assured detractors that these messages can be deactivated if a patient signs on to a £5-a-day media package that provides TV, email and a temporary block on the health minister’s broadcasts “for as long as the patient can afford to keep him at bay.” The Government claim that the monetary incentive is purely incidental and they expect that most patients are likely to welcome the ever-present face of the 54 year old Tory talking to them as they suffer or await some kind of surgery, a face that would keep returning again and again and again and again and again and again. Or they can pay. Whatever.

However some patients have balked that the only way to avoid the filmed segments- wherein Lansley talks to the camera from the deck of a small rowing boat at dusk with a raven perched on one shoulder- is to either pay a fee or simply let themselves die. “Either way, it feels like he wins,” complains appendicitis sufferer Andrew Stokes, “But the alternative is that face, over and over. The eyes! There’s something in them. Every time he returns I see more through them. Another place, a place so stark and cold and ancient, where health and light and the simple act of laughter are naught but bitter memories."

Lansley laughed off the accusations of profiteering from the weak. Speaking to the Today Programme he claimed ,“It’s not about the money. It’s way beyond anything as paltry as that. No, this is borne of my pure wish to help ferry the dying into the void, and to be able to speak to them as their life ebbs away. And for the living? I am a reminder. Oh, yes, they will see this face again. They will see this face again and they will understand what it means for them finally”

Felix Prenderghast,
Senior Features Correspondent

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