According to the British Medical Journal, David Cameron recently asked a healthcare advisor how the NHS could “move to ‘zero harm’ in the wake of [the Mid Staffordshire scandal]”. Dalrymple is not amused by this utopianism:
If this is an accurate representation of what the Prime Minister asked of Dr Berwick, he should resign at once from public life and never return to it. For if he meant by ‘zero harm’ what it appears to mean, namely that a system that treats millions of patients, conducts millions of examinations, performs millions of operations, every year, should harm no one, then it is so stupid and ignorant that anyone who could think such a thought and believe it worthy of expression is not what in managerialese is called ‘fit for purpose.’
If, on the other hand, he meant something else by it, something more sensible, he is an unscrupulous demagogue playing to a gallery that he believes can be courted and won over by sentimental claptrap such as the possibility of human existence in which nothing untoward ever happens (actually, such a life would be intolerable, like a permanent Sunday afternoon from the time when everything was shut on Sundays). And the second possibility, while intellectually better than the above, is, from the point of view of his character, even worse. In neither case is he fit to govern.