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Too old for his own good: the case for reforming Dickens


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Friday, 10 February 2012

Too old for his own good: the case for reforming Dickens

Charles Dickens, the greatest English novelist, is 200 years old. Many people regard this as a reason to celebrate, but only because they have not thought it through.

Living past retirement age increases a person’s chances of acquiring several long-term conditions. This means more episodes of care, and in the case of Dickens, who liked his episodes short but tediously regular, many more. 

Dickens depicted a world very different to ours.

Preposterous plots, convoluted sub-plots, sentimental storylines, two-dimensional characters, petty crooks and villains, charlatans, eccentrics, unlikely heroes, meddling bureaucrats, arrogant aristocrats, heartless cruelty, heartwarming acts of kindness, a downtrodden salt-of-the-earth underclass struggling against poverty, privation, ignorance, disease and ill health.  

All in stark contrast to life in the early 19th century.

In our own modest contribution to the Dickens bicentenary, NHS Networks has commissioned modern editions of some of the great man’s most popular works, tactfully edited to reflect 21st century sensibilities.

Bleak House

NHS Chesney Wold Foundation Trust is in financial trouble following a long-running dispute with the landlords. The local hospital was a PFI build but the contract is onerous and the trust is struggling under the weight of legal fees and increasing demand. The trust’s chairman, Sir Leicester Dedlock resigns in disgrace after it emerges that he has paid millions in unspecified “consultancy projects” to a firm owned by his wife Lady Dedlock. 

The trust’s problems deepen after Panorama runs an expose on the alleged mistreatment of inmates at Bleak House, a local care home run by philanthropist John Jarndyce. 

The story is told from the point of view of Jarndyce’s ward Esther Summerson, a trainee dental nurse.

Jarndyce has taken his eye off the ball after falling in love with Esther, who in turn falls for smooth-talking cardiologist Dr Woodcourt.

Great Expectations

Pip, a young person whose carers are struggling to meet his development needs, possibly as a result of death, encounters an offender in the village churchyard, mosque or other local place of worship. Pip agrees to support the offender’s rehabilitation programme by grinding off his shackles. 

Later, Pip is embroiled in a chain of events ending in the death of Ms Havisham from burns caused by an inflammable wedding dress. Chapter 12 ends with a legal case for negligence against the manufacturers of the dress and the local authority, which failed to perform routine health and safety checks at Satis House.

Pip is investigated by Monitor following the discovery of financial irregularities arising from an alleged “donation” by the offender he helped in Chapter 1. 

Oliver Twist

Dr Twist is an inner city GP who works with disadvantaged children and young people to overcome health inequalities. Oliver teams up with a group dedicated to community fund-raising and self-help initiatives. The innovative programme uses cash donated by ladies, gents and toffs in general to fund various community projects. 

Lord Fagin, the government minister responsible for the scheme, said: “It’s a great example of what young people can achieve when you give them a chance to help themselves.”

© All rights reserved. C Dickens.