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May 01, 2010

HC2010 Conference: sitting uneasily?

Doubling the quality of thinking on the podium of the opening plenary session of HC 2010, veteran Professor Heinz Wolff arrived late and stole the show.

After listening to the platitudes and threadbare academic definitions of the three previous speakers, octagenarian Professor Wolff hobbled across the stage on crutches, followed at a respectful distance by a cushion for his rear carried by the session chair, and applied his razor sharp mind.

The UK's aging population would ensure healthcare became unaffordable, so it would be split into acute and community care, he suggested. Acute care, treating and operating on disease, would be the job of the NHS. Community care, watching out for your neighbours and helping to care for them, the job of the local community. To fund your own community care, you would acquire credits throughout your life by good deeds and community service. Agree or not, at least it was insightful and stimulating.

Which is more than can be said of Dr. Ben Goldacre's after dinner speech that evening. Delivered at the rate of the 36 barrel Metal Storm gun, his speech was too clever, too factual and too long. After 15 minutes I watched Blackberry ® smartphones (yes, I did look up the plural) being unsheathed and eyelids drooping.

But any who did drop off were galvanised to wakefulness by the first chord of Helter Skelter's set, so potent it immediately drove guests at the tables nearest the stage to the exit with the rest of us soon following. 'Was the enterainment no good?' asked one of the cloakroom staff as I left for my hotel 40 minutes later. 'About 200 people left all at once.' The band was very tight, I assured him, but their music inappropriate and too loud.

Though it has been relocated, recovered with go faster stripes and refitted with stereo headphones, the comfortable old chair that was the HC conference stands unsteadily.