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Paul Sankey: Napoleon and short-sighted book-keepers

Napoleon famously described England as a nation of ‘petit-bourgeois’, commonly mistranslated as ‘shopkeepers’. Although this was meant as an insult, Napoleon had much to thank the petit-bourgeois for. Without the ‘sans-culottes’ he would not have risen to power.
However his insult suggested that our horizons were small, our ambitions were limited and that we missed the bigger picture in looking at the detail. We are book-keepers rather than economists, our vision short-sighted rather than panoramic.
When it comes to government cuts he was right. Small-picture thinking means one government department can make cuts without realising its very cuts increase costs in other areas. We can see this time and time again at present. Cutting legal aid for clinical negligence will mean that solicitors will no longer have the unrealistic constraints of tiny legal aid budgets constraining their investigations. Their costs will go up. Changes in ‘no win no fee’ funding will generate an army of unrepresented claimants wasting Court time. Just talk to the judges – they are worried. Increasing waits for hip replacements will leave many disabled people unable to work, a wasted resource for the economy.
I read that one apparently ‘non-essential’ service being cut concerns benign, non-cancerous skin lesions. The trouble is that some of these lesions will in fact prove on investigation to be melanoma, a form of skin cancer. I have recovered damages for the families of several people whose skin blemishes have not been investigated because they were not referred to a specialist. The tragedy is that these cancers caught early are easily cured. However if left they rapidly grow and spread, often proving fatal. So saving on ‘non-essential’ services here, apart from causing human tragedies for the patients and their families, will generate enormous costs elsewhere. The NHS will incur the costs of expensive treatments – surgery, chemotherapy, radiotherapy, palliative nursing care. Productive employees will drop out of the work-force. People will switch from work to care.
Napoleon may be long gone and his own big-picture of Europe faulty. But I fear he may have been right about the nation of short-sighted, small-picture thinkers.Paul Sankey is a solicitor specialising in clinical negligence. If you or a member of your family have a clinical negligence enquiry please call our expert clinical negligence solicitors on 0800 916 9049, fill in our short online claim form or email and one of our specialist clinical negligence team will be in touch.