Monday, 1 October 2012

Dr Narinder Kapur

Dr Narinder Kapur feels extremely strongly that we need a more just NHS. I use this adverb advisedly: The Good Doctor is so shocked about effects of NHS cuts on patient safety and care, and particularly about how NHS whistleblowers are treated if they try to do anything about it (he himself was sacked unfairly from his role as Head of Neuropsychology at Addenbrooke's Hospital for raising the alarm) that he is going on hunger strike this coming week. Inspired by Gandhi (whose birthday it is this Tuesday, 2 October), and his brand of peaceful protest, Dr Kapur will set up camp outside the Department of Health from 8am to 5pm each day, except for Tuesday when he'll be attending a conference at the British Medical Association, "Protecting Whistleblowers - Working together to create a safe culture for patients and doctors."

I met Dr Kapur through his lawyers earlier this year, when he was in the Employment Tribunal this March against Addenbrooke's. Ironically, just days before his Tribunal hearing kicked off, then Health Secretary Andrew Lansley (who is also Dr Kapur's local MP), called for a change to the NHS Constitution to protect whistleblowers. The rhetoric is clearly there. It's just the reality that isn't matching up.

Dr Kapur took time out from planning his current hunger strike campaign to talk to me this week. "The aim of this hunger strike demonstration is to bring pressure to bear. We need change! My strong belief is that having a fair and open NHS means better care for all of us. We have to stop this culture of cover-up if we are to face the NHS's challenges and prevent the negative impacts on patient care and safety that so easily happen when budgets have to be cut.

"Promises are being made to open up NHS culture and protect those who speak out. But so far I don't see much evidence of change on the ground. Are these promises any more than political posturing?"

These are serious issues requiring an equally serious response. Dr Kapur's hunger strike certainly makes that point.  "I am undertaking this 5-day hunger strike with reluctance but with resolve.  It pains my heart to see how failures in the NHS have contributed directly or indirectly to harming patient care, to a waste of public funds and to distress for NHS staff and their families.  Over the last to years I have raised my concerns in a wide range of settings - NHS, legal and political - but with no tangible outcome to fix these failures in the NHS system.  

"I am fortunate that God has given me the strength, knowledge, experience, determination, resources and good health to be able to make a protest in this way.  I regard it as my moral and ethical responsibility to do what I can to bring about changes in the NHS."

The points Dr Kapur wants to see embedded in the new NHS regime can be found on his website:

A likely candidate for the
Van Rouge Tour?
Charon QC's marketing campaign for his "Van Rouge" tour has got to be one of the best I've ever experienced. Mike Semple Piggot, the man behind  the fictitious Charon QC persona and who founded BPP Law School back in the day, is planning a tour of the British Isles over the next year in a camper van (I told you this campaign is brilliant) to interview the nation, lawyers and the general public alike, to find out what they think of our legal system. He will be posting daily podcasts, vox pops, blogposts, under the banner 'Reports from the front line'.

So calling for financial support, as he'll have to drop his London consultancy work to do the trip, he sent what has got to be one of the most engaging fundraiser emails/tweets to his contacts in the legal profession. Example: "I need a bit of help to fund a van, recording equipment and petrol etc. The sponsor costs are modest: £250 for a logo on the new Tour Blog and a mention in reports from the front line. £500 gives you a logo sticker on the van itself." Well that did it. I was sold! And we're in good company: The Law Society, Riverview Law, Boutique Firm of the Year Brecher  are just three of a large number of sponsors already - and this is just since Wednesday. Apparently he is buying the camper van this weekend.

To keep up to date with the Tour, look out for the dedicated Van Rouge Tour Blog which Charon QC will be setting up soon.

Big excitement in my household (we have teenagers) as JK Rowling's latest book came out. But this time an adult book and a rather bleak tale by all accounts, called The Casual Vacancy. Reaction from the reactionaries has not been good: "Surely it's not right for the woman who's been writing for our children so many years to bring out such dark, socially challenging material?"

In defence of Ms Rowling, I thought the Telegraph's Lorna Bradbury put it best: "It's clearly absurd - and not a little misogynistic to view Rowling as some kind of benevolent aunt, and someone whose job it is to protect and nurture our children. And it is something she has roundly rejected, declaring recently that she never represented herself as our children's babysitter or teacher."

If you're intrigued, you can buy the book here. 

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