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Let us pray


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Friday, 8 March 2013

Let us pray

Like all secular societies we are obsessed with new religions. Food, television, beer, football and fashion have all had their turn. Now it’s the NHS, or Our NHS as we refer to it piously with appropriate capitalisation.

Our NHS has a lot in common with other established religions with the exception of a credible prophet.

There is no end of scripture telling us what to do, what to think and how to behave. No other religion is as prolific in its teaching of moral precepts, nor sets so many rules for every undertaking in life.

There are regulations and policies for everything from buying our daily bread (procurement) to loving our neighbour (engagement) and post Francis we can expect further instruction on the major thou-shalt-nots.

From now on, in a change to the usual policy, casting the first stone will be strongly encouraged where there are concerns about the welfare of any member or the congregation or the bullying preaching style of the clergy.

There are rituals to be observed: the constant cleansing of hands and places of worship, the use of incense to disguise unpleasant smells, particularly the smell of failure, the regular ringing of bells to herald change and the ceremonial wringing of hands when it regularly fails to materialise. 

There are powerful myths: the one about the service which shall forever be free at the point of use however prodigal it becomes, the one about being too important to fail, the one about being the envy of the world and the one about all those who work here entering a state of grace that they only forfeit if they take a job in the private sector.

Mock it at your peril. Like all organised religion, the NHS has no shortage of zealots easily inflamed by the disrespect of outsiders and non-believers but oblivious to the tenets of the faith, fundamentalists who will rip your beating heart from your chest to show you how much they care.

This is normal. All religions like to have an enemy at the gate. What they are doing to Our NHS is a welcome distraction from what we might have to do if the enemy ever went away.

NHS teaching is about the plight of the individual, the salvation of ordinary people from sickness and pain, but the institution, like a thousand churches before it, has become disconnected from the faith. There is a higher, more spiritual entity, something beyond mere healthcare for the devout to latch on to. It is Our NHS.

The evils of too much regulation and too much management are nothing new. Run any organisation this way and individuals lack the incentive to perform to the best of their ability or any sense of responsibility for their actions. Add a quasi-religious conviction about the pre-ordained virtue of the enterprise and their part in it and you absolve the workforce from moral responsibility too.

A crisis of faith may be just what we need to bring us to our senses.

jonathan.murfin@rehab.co.uk says:
Mar 08, 2013 07:02 AM
petergriffiths says:
Mar 08, 2013 08:56 AM
barryf says:
Mar 08, 2013 09:21 AM
The Pope can decide to retire but can't be made to retire. Just like the head of the NHS really.
Paul.Johanson@southeastcoast.nhs.uk says:
Mar 08, 2013 01:20 PM
Most people I know think it's now 'just a job'. It's a bit like being C of E - not really too sure whether any of the artices of faith are true any more, but still turn up for Christmas, weddings etc.
lye_david@hotmail.com says:
Mar 11, 2013 09:34 AM
What a good post. One extra comparison - the association between ill-health and "sin", which is now widespread in the NHS: if you are sick, then you must have been "bad" in some way.