Enough people have linked to the latest stop on Tory MEP Daniel Hannan’s ‘Look at me, America! Look at me!’ tour – an appearance with bloviating imbecile Glenn Beck – that I thought I ought to take a look. And I managed a couple of minutes before the urge to smash my head against a wall – though at least I could get the NHS to deal with that without them claiming that my medical insurance doesn’t cover me for self-inflicted injuries – became too strong to allow me to continue.
But, in that time, I learnt something. Mainly that while many people may hold to the belief that the plural of anecdote is not data, for Hannan the singular of it definitely is, with his tale of his friend with a broken ankle’s experience of an NHS A&E Department on a Friday night enough to damn not just the NHS, but the entire idea that American healthcare needs reforming in any way.
Let’s break down this tale of Hannan’s. First, he doesn’t tell us that his friend is a medical professional, but he appears to have self-diagnosed his broken ankle, and got to A&E all by himself – note that there’s no mention of an ambulance in this story. So, at one of the busiest times in the week for A&E, someone presents themselves at reception with what seems to be a non-critical case. With there not being a line of doctors and nurses waiting at reception to diagnose and triage patients immediately on their arrival – they were probably spending their time with people who were inconsiderately in danger of death whilst earning less than Hannan’s friend – he’s told to wait, and most likely take a seat, while they arrange for one of the finite number of medical professionals they have to come and see him. Remember – this is at the busiest time of the week.
Now, this isn’t good enough for our intrepid hero who demands that they give him – with his amazing powers of self-diagnosis – painkillers there and then. Now, the worst I’ve ever done to my ankle is sprain it, and I suspect breaking it hurts a lot more, so you’d probably want painkillers that are somewhat stronger than the ones you can buy in Boots. When the receptionist – most likely not a medical professional – says they can’t just give them out on demand, and there are many many reasons why no competent medical institution in any country would do that, Hannan’s friend demands that they sell him painkillers, yet they won’t do that. And for Hannan, this is a damnation of the NHS, not a triumph for a responsible member of NHS staff.
Let’s look at it from the perspective of the A&E worker – someone comes in, insists they have a broken ankle, refuses to wait to see a member of the medical staff and insists you give them painkillers. When you refuse, they start offering you money in order to get them. Now, is this the action of a responsible member of society with remarkable skills in self-diagnosis, or could it be a clever addict attempting to get hold of some prescription drugs with a vaguely-clever if unoriginal ruse? Even if we assume that you recognise that the man is a friend of Daniel Hannan’s and thus a totally sane and upstanding member of the community, do you – not being trained to prescribe drugs to random members of the public – give him some anyway, sure that whatever you give him will do the job required and not cause any undesirable side-effects or allergic reactions?
Is Hannan claiming the situation is different in American hospitals? Having only limited knowledge of them, I can’t say for sure, but I’m pretty sure that emergency rooms – even at their busiest times, when Americans are indulging in their ‘quaint custom’ of shooting each other on every night of the week, not just Friday – don’t just dish out prescription painkillers to anyone with a handful of cash who claims to have a broken ankle.
But then, we are talking about a discussion between Daniel Hannan and Glenn Beck, so we’re at a level where reality as you or I might understand has been left far behind.