Neil Carpenter, a retired teacher and NHAP member, has just published ‘Killing You Softly’, a novel set in Cornwall that brings to life what is happening in some surgeries across the country as a result of the government’s so-called reforms to the NHS.
Without spoiling the plot, what’s the book about? It’s set in 2014 when coalition policies are biting more deeply across the country. In a small village community, three teenage girls, unsure of themselves sexually, struggle with both their adolescence and their attempts to understand the political changes around them.
Their perspectives are influenced by their fathers: one is a GP, Colin Goldsmith; one is a Lib Dem MP, Tom Andrews; and one is a laughable but unscrupulous ‘adviser’, Martin King, used by the Tories. Two of the girls, Becky Goldsmith and Sarah King, gradually realise how privatisation is affecting their community and Becky sees the consequences at home when her father is targeted as a result of his opposition to the changes in the NHS.
Why Cornwall? Cornwall is the location partly because it’s where the author lives but also because it provides a setting that readers should find easier to relate to than the remote Westminster background that has often been used for political fiction in the last few years.
What’s the aim of the book? ‘Killing You Softly’ has been written, with the help of a GP, because the significance of what has happened to the Health Service has passed many people by despite the efforts of organisations like the National Health Action Party. The novel illustrates in fictional form how a small Cornish community could be affected by the changes made by the current government. It shows ways in which the doctor-patient relationship would suffer: for example, how treatment might be rationed for financial rather than clinical reasons; how a doctor might no longer be trusted because his decisions could be clouded by those financial factors (one sign of this in the book is that the surgery is, in effect, picketed); and how financial conflicts of interest lead to specific problems such as certain patients being referred on to a privately-run hospital sixty miles away rather than their local NHS one and others being treated privately by a company set up by some of the GPs.
Near the end of the novel, Sheila Beckford, a doctor, attacks the profit motive that underlies the actions of two of her fellow doctors – and other changes that stem from government policy. “Planning, health, education - you name it - it’s all meant to fit together. And it does, so that people like you can profit.” The book aims to be an enjoyable read but using the girls’ perspective makes apparently bureaucratic changes easier to grasp for readers and should encourage them to look more closely at what’s going on around them.
Where can I get a copy? The novel is now available in print and as an ebook from Amazon, using the links below.
It’s also available as an ebook on Smashwords in a variety of formats - epub, mobi etc.