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Observations Life and Death

An open letter to the Prime Minister

BMJ 2008; 336 doi: (Published 14 February 2008) Cite this as: BMJ 2008;336:360
  1. Iona Heath, general practitioner, London
  1. iona.heath{at}

    Dear Mr Brown

    On 8 January this year, David Beckham emerged from a meeting with you at 10 Downing Street saying: “He’s a very good man, you know, he’s a man that’s looking after our country and he’s doing a very good job.” I want to believe this ringing endorsement not only because, despite Mr Capello, Beckham still has the most beautiful right foot in football but also for the sake of the National Health Service. Sadly, the day before your meeting with David Beckham you gave a speech that makes it very difficult for me to sustain any such belief.

    Your speech had two ostensibly worthy themes: access and prevention. Elaborating on both, you made some astonishingly simplistic statements, which obliged me both to question the quality of your advisers and to ponder the point at which a distorted claim becomes a lie.

    On the subject of access, you describe your ambition in these words: “An NHS which is personal to the patient not just because it’s available at a time to suit you, with the clinician of your choice, in the setting and environment which meets your needs, but also because it works directly for your needs and …

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