Thursday, April 02, 2020

Public Health England has blood on its hands

As your humble Devil has recently opined, the WHO is not fit or purpose—its original mandate of public health having been perverted by single-issue hucksters and authoritarian killjoys.

The only reason that the same cannot be said of Public Health England (PHE) is that—unlike the WHO, which did good work once—this organisation has never been anything other than a pointless waste of time and money, stuffed to the gills with more than 5,000 charlatans, bullies, corrupt academics, and fake charity apparatchiks.

Formed in 2013, under Dishface Cameron's coalition, PHE has the mission is "to protect and improve the nation’s health and to address inequalities". The latter part of this mission statement is presumably justified by frauds such as Wilkinson and Pickett, who attempted to show that inequalities cause health problems in their Spirit Level treatise—an entire book full of lies that was comprehensively debunked by Chris Snowdon in his Spirit Level Delusion (disclosure: your humble Devil designed the cover for that edition).

As for improving the nation's health, there is little to indicate that the £4 billion that PHE spends each year has done much towards achieving this target.

Where the organisation has fallen down extremely badly is... well... just look around. The coronavirus pandemic has shown PHE to have been caught with its pants down—and as the infection has developed, the stupidity of its denizens is beginning to look a lot like malice.

It seems superfluous to detail every single fuck-up that has led us to this position, and in which the supposed guardians of the nation's health has failed—so I will concentrate, instead, on the vexed issue of testing.

Whether or not testing alone is of use in stopping the virus is something that can be left to the epidemiologists—and most seem to agree that testing for coronavirus is of paramount importance. If nothing else, being able to gather data about the true spread of the virus, how many people might already have had it, and how many people are likely to become extremely ill from COVID-19, is vital in assessing how long this lock-down should go on.

Because, as others have pointed out, declines in GDP also kill people—through a variety of well-established mechanisms, such as suicides (especially of business-people who are seeing their life's work wiped out), cessation of treatments for other health conditions (such as chemotherapy) or non-treatment of others, or poverty. And my god, but we are going to see some colossal declines in GDP—and, possibly, millions of businesses bankrupted (rising ever more the longer the lock-down goes on).

So, the exerts—both economists and epidemiologists—tend to think that testing is pretty important. So, how has PHE been handling that then...?

In a word, "shit".

The new "Testing Times" report from the Adam Smith Institute's Matthew Lesh has established that PHE has right royally fucked it up by refusing to involve other organisations—seemingly through ridiculous intransigence and incredible arrogance.

Matt Ridley sums up this farce in The Spectator today:
The contrast with the United States is especially striking. America was found badly wanting at the start of the epidemic when the federal Centers for Disease Control insisted on controlling the process of testing people for the virus. It 'sought to monopolise testing, discouraged the private sector developing its own tests and misled state and local authorities about efficacy of its tests', writes Lesh. After heavy criticism, it reversed course, decentralised the system and rapidly expanded testing.

Germany and South Korea began farming out the work of testing samples to contractors from the very start. Britain did not. It initially sent all samples to one laboratory, at Colindale, in north west London. Public Health England also 'chose to develop and encourage the use of its own diagnostic tools, rather than seeking the development of a range of private sector tools and providing fast-track approval', Lesh finds. On 12 February, it began to use 12 other laboratories, but still only with its own tests.

When the number of people showing symptoms shot up in the second week of March, rather than outsource the testing, the NHS simply gave up testing all but patients in hospital. As if to reinforce the centralisation strategy, the government then announced the construction of a huge new testing facility in Milton Keynes, which may work well eventually but to date has been accumulating testing devices donated by universities some of which are sitting idle. The centralisation urge runs deep in this organisation.

By all accounts government ministers were calling for more involvement of the private sector from the start but their orders were being frustrated somewhere inside the bureaucracy of the NHS and Public Health England. The excuse was that the reliability of the tests had to be maintained at a high level, or else false positives and false negatives would cause confusion and danger. So even when other laboratories were eventually allowed to do tests, any 'presumptive positives' had to be sent to Colindale for confirmation right up till 28 March. The United States had suspended a similar policy on 14 March.

[...]

Here, private-sector providers were banging on the door of the NHS throughout, offering to do testing.

[...]

Yet centralisation is plainly a big part of the problem. Lesh finds that 'The UK’s Covid-19 testing has been dangerously slow, excessively bureaucratic and hostile to outsiders and innovation. There appears to be an innate distrust of outsiders. PHE has actively discouraged use of private sector testing. Even within the system, the process for testing and validation is very centralised.'
If, as many seem to, you believe that the lack of testing is costing lives—whether it is in NHS workers who are being sent to the front-line with little or no information, or those poor souls facing the ruin of their businesses, or those cancer sufferers now refused their therapies—then it is very clear that Public Health England has blood on its hands.

Despite spending billions of pounds of our money every year, the people at PHE have failed in their primary mission—"to protect and improve the nation’s health". When all this is over—or sooner, if possible—there needs to be a reckoning.

I think that it is fair to say that Public Health England has failed, comprehensively and catastrophically, at every point. When it comes to a real public health crisis—as opposed to bullying the population based on entirely baseless and fictional targets—PHE has demonstrated that, despite spending £4 billion of our money every year, it is entirely unfit for purpose.

If anything good can come out of this crisis, then it should be a very close examination of the purpose of our state agencies, and their performance against that purpose. PHE has failed on all fronts.

PHE's leadership (at least) must be sacked for gross misconduct, with the loss of all pension privileges: those at the very top should be prosecuted for culpable manslaughter. And no one who works for that organisation must ever be allowed to suck on the taxpayer teat ever again—there must be no "sideways" promotions for these useless bastards.

PHE should, ideally, be abolished. There is, alas, little hope of that but, if nothing else, its mission must be re-drafted: PHE must be focused on real public health issues—life- and economy-threatening pathogens such as COVID-19, and whatever comes next.

And PHE's record of failure this time around should be publicly displayed as a terrible cautionary tale of what happens when bureaucracies forget what their purpose is supposed to be. Or, of course, of how terrible bureaucracies are for getting things done effectively.

If there is a silver lining to this disaster, then re-thinking why these unaccountable state QUANGOs are spending so much of our money to so little effect must be a positive corollary.

Alternatively, we should burn it to the ground, shoot the staff, and sow salt into the remains.

Whichever—I'm easy.

WHO: burn it to the ground

In this critical pandemic, one would naturally look to the various public health organisations to understand how to react. Unfortunately, those most pertinent to your humble Devil's whereabouts—the World Health Organisation (WHO) and Public Health England (PHE)—have signally failed to step up to the plate.

As the lock-down—and whole-scale destruction of the economy—continues in the UK, some media outlets and think-tanks have been examining just why these organisations' responses have been so lack-lustre. And the reports are shocking—revealing not just, as one would expect from state bureaucracies, a culture of stupidity and uselessness, but very strong suggestions of corruption and mendacity that are still costing lives.

In the case of the WHO, it seems that a deference to Chinese sensitivities meant that Taiwan's warning—delivered at the end of December—that human-to-human transmission of the novel coronavirus (nCV) was not passed on to other countries.
Health officials in Taipei said they alerted the WHO at the end of December about the risk of human-to-human transmission of the new virus but said its concerns were not passed on to other countries.

Taiwan is excluded from the WHO because China, which claims it as part of its territory, demands that third countries and international bodies do not treat it in any way that resembles how independent states are treated.
Elsewhere, the WHO has been accused of being too deferential to China in its response to the virus, and a senior WHO official hung up when asked about Taiwan's highly successful response to the outbreak.

As your humble Devil has been saying for some years, the WHO is not the same organisation that wiped out smallpox—that smallpox remains so famous as the only major disease that humanity has wiped out would be testament enough to that statement. Indeed, wiping out diseases is actually quite hard work, so perhaps we should not be surprised that this organisation has, instead, turned its attention to reducing "non-communicable diseases"—also known as "bullying people about their lifestyles".

That the WHO has been allowed to pervert its mission so entirely that it sees rolling back the cause of liberty as its raison d'être would be bad enough: but its entirely inadequate response to a real public health issue only confirms that this organisation needs to be entirely destroyed. Lest we forget, in January, as the coronavirus was swiftly spreading around the world, the WHO was still Tweeting about the evils of e-cigarettes.

The organisation is not fit to do the job for which it was formed: as with all bureaucracies, its only real purpose now is to perpetuate itself. It must be destroyed, its staff sacked and publicly ridiculed (accompanied by photos), and the ruins sowed with salt.

And as for Public Health England... Well, your humble Devil will opine about that organisation presently.

NHS Fail Wail

I think that we can all agree that the UK's response to coronavirus has been somewhat lacking. In fact, many people asserted that our de...