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."