Thursday, 8 February 2007

Dysfunctional Britain

When I heard on the news yesterday that the weather forecast for today was 10cm (4“) of snow in Wales, the Midlands and South East England, I knew what I would be bogging about today. I was right, the first item on today’s news was the chaos caused by the snow: airports closed, schools closed, roads closed, interminable disruption on the railways, on the list goes.

Four inches of snow in most European countries would be regarded as a light shower, but in the UK it brings the country to a grinding holt. In previous years the excuse is “it was totally unexpected”. But no such excuse can be used today, there was adequate warning given yesterday. Lorries should have been out overnight gritting the roads and snow ploughs keeping the roads and railways open but evidently that is too much to expect.

I read with amusement the reaction of people on internet message boards. They report of going to supermarket to find shelves cleared of goods. Yes it’s the normal British reaction, panic buying. The first thing to disappear off the shelves is bread, followed by flour. “We can bake our own bread” - they ignore the fact that they haven’t baking tins, or have forgotten to buy yeast. The flour will be put in the cupboard to join the packets bought the last time we had snow - five years ago. And of course ‘The’ must buy item toilet paper - whatever the crises, you must have an adequate supply of toilet paper. Nuclear wars, hurricanes, floods, epidemics Britain will survive as long as there is a supply of toilet paper.

Why is it that this country can not cope with anything but mild weather? In the summer, if the temperature goes above 80ºF / 26Cº railway tracks buckle and the rail service comes to a grinding holt. A ban is imposed on watering gardens as there is a “drought” and we are likely to run out of water.

On first sight Britain looks a reasonably well governed and managed country, but it only takes 4” of snow to reveal the true level of incompetence which exists in all branches and at all levels of government.

The British army is sent to war with an inadequate supply of body armour and the wrong type of troop carries. There aren’t dedicated hospitals to treat injured soldiers. While the soldiers are away fighting, their families are housed in substandard housing.

The National Health Service would be a joke, except the inefficiency and incompetence results in patients suffering and premature death. Last week my wife was due to undergo Endoscopic Retrograde Cholangiopancreatography (ERCP), fortunately the doctor due to perform the procedure reviewed her records. “Why is this patient having ERCP?” There in the records was clear evidence that the procedure was unnecessary. But the doctor who ordered the procedure wasn’t to blame; at the time, the relevant information was missing from the file. So because of a missing piece of paper, my wife could have suffered the pain and discomfort of undergoing ERCP tests and exposed herself to the associated risks.

Every week for nearly a year, reports appear in the news of yet another mind boggling example of incompetence in the Home Office which is responsible for the police, prison, customs, immigration, etc services. Last week judges couldn’t give jail sentences to people found guilty of crimes because all the prisons were full.

We look critically at “Third World Countries” and deride their shortcomings at not being able to provide clean drinking water or a reliable electricity supply, but in reality Britain is just as much an Underdeveloped Country.

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