Yesterday morning I am sure the NHS went to work with a strange smile on its collective face. Rueful might describe it. Cynical, perhaps? Exasperated might be better.
A year ago they were being told they were useless. Management costs too high, outcomes poor, the British public deserved better. They will remember, in January 2011, LaLa telling the Times Newspaper:
"Modernising the NHS is a necessity.... we need to take steps to improve health outcomes, bringing them up to the standards of the best international healthcare systems."
They reflected on the chaos of the 'Listening Palaver' and the political toing-and-froing, trying to justify a colossal upheaval that no one wanted and no one could explain. Eventually, justified and crystallised by David Cameron 's lap-top warriors as; 'NHS outcomes are not good enough, management costs are too high and the public want better'.
LaLa pressed on, telling the BBC PM programme; 'You are twice as likely to die of a heart attack in the UK as you are in France.' The Prime Minister weighed-in; "We've fallen behind the rest of Europe. We spend similar amounts of money but we're more likely to die of cancer or heart disease. I don't think we should put up with a second rate... errrr... with coming second best". He narrowly avoided saying the NHS was 'second rate', but we all got the message.
None of it was true. The 'Liberated' NHS has lead to a centralised muddle with no built-in improvements for choice or quality and we all know it.
However, yesterday we were invited to forget all that. Suddenly the NHS is world-class. Overnight the NHS is not only a national asset, it is an international asset.
The Indy reported ; "Some of Britain's best-known hospitals are being lined up by the Government to export the "NHS brand" around the world... set up profit-making branches overseas to boost their incomes. Under a radical plan to be launched this autumn, officials from the Department of Health and UK Trade and Investment will come together to act as a "dating agency" between hospitals that wish to expand overseas and foreign governments with a demand for British health services".
Apparently the 'dating agency' will be headed by a chief executive paid £100k a year - so look out for the advert!
Well, it's not a 'radical plan'. In 2010, Labour's Health Secretary Andy Burnham set up NHS Global to help the health service make the most of the overseas market for healthcare. The Coalition have pinched the idea and given it a new set of clothes.
Only a handful of hospitals will be able to benefit. As I understand the rules; they can only invest money in overseas adventures they have earned from existing trading in the private sector. That means only the biggest hospitals will be able to afford to do it. In consequence they will get bigger. So Health Minister Anne Milton's quote: "This is good news for NHS patients who will get better services at their local hospital as a result of the work the NHS is doing abroad and the extra investment that will generate " is way out of whack. Unless there is a secret plan to claw-back or discount private earnings from Trust's NHS allocations and tariffs, freeing-up cash for other parts of the more hard-pressed NHS?
The NHS is going through an upheaval, waiting times are showing signs of strain and cash is too tight to mention but the kind of hospitals that can benefit from overseas trading are sitting on surpluses and untouched by the maelstrom engulfing the rest.
A more significant question might be; is the NHS being reduced to a brand, here at home? Is the NHS a Gucci, a Pepsi, an Armani or a Samsung? Of course it is. It is an envied healthcare system, recognised world-wide as unique and trustworthy. Belatedly, it seems, even in LaLa-Land!
You have to laugh at the temerity, the bare-faced cheek and the chutzpah.