Ooooh, Matron!

Right: so I understand that hospitals sometimes feel the need to raise revenue, and I understand the idea that resources shouldn’t be left idle – an unused ward represents wasted money.  I also fully understand that hospital wards have provided a rich source of smut over the years, some of which has been almost entertaining.

Still, when the NHS’ internal market was proposed, I don’t think that this was planned…

A “big budget” porn film was shot in a London hospital when it hired out one of its wards to a film company.

The movie generated “substantial income” for the hospital, Tory MP Penny Mordaunt said.

Ms Mordaunt, Portsmouth North MP, was speaking during a House of Commons debate on improving transparency in government accounting, on Monday.

That’s from the Beeb.  The Sydney Morning Herald has the same story.  The hospital trust in question has, so far, not said anything about the claim.  I’m going to try to restrain the childish giggling for a moment so that I can offer a serious comment.

Clearly, there’s going to be a great deal of wailing and gnashing of teeth if it turns out to be true.  But… well, I wonder if things’re that bad.

The first thing to note is that it’s probably the word “porn” that gives the story its newsworthiness.  Other films, hospital dramas and so on frequently use hospitals as locations.  So let’s put the porn aspect to one side for a moment.

Now, if hospitals do routinely hire out equipment and wards to film crews when that materiel could be used for healthcare, that’d clearly be a bad thing.  But I’ve not seen any evidence that that ever happens: what’s much more likely is that hospital managers have bits of their estate that aren’t doing anything at the moment, and that aren’t – as a result – paying their way either financially or in health terms.  It makes sense to let them out to film companies (for example) – it’s probably good for the trust overall, in terms of revenue-raising.  Put another way: the materiel may not be directly contributing the the health of the nation, but it might still be doing so indirectly.

Indeed, I can imagine an argument along the lines that that it’s probably better to hire out facilities like this than to have a film crew following real medics around for the sake of day-time fly-on-the-wall documentaries, because filmmakers in these cases are likely to be in the way.  Yet such fly-on-the-wall stuff doesn’t generate the headlines – so it looks like there’s some muddled thinking going on somewhere.  Treating an out-of-use facility as a commercial resource, as long as the project’s well-managed, ought to inconvenience noone.

So, the real action is with the porny aspect of the film in this story.  This being the case, we have to decide whether we’re criticising the hosptial trust for allowing the film to be made, or porn more generally.

In the first case, a lot rides on whether the hospital managers knew what was going onwhen they agreed to let the film crew in, which doesn’t seem obvious.  If the request to use a ward as a setting comes on notepaper headed SuperBonk Adult Movie Co – well, you might be a bit suspicious.  But I guess the production company’d’ve been smarter than that.  Maybe you think that the managers should ask for a plot synopsis before allowing filming; but maybe the managers have better things to worry about – things like, say, running those bits of the hospital directly involved with patient care.  And maybe the film company would avoid the question anyway; my hunch is that they’re probably quite good at mollifying the mamagement of hotels, hospitals, or whatever other locations they use.  So I can perfectly easily imagine that the management didn’t know what was going on until it was too late to do anything about it, and the ashen faces around the boardroom table when the truth did manifest.  Oh, crap.  We’re SO going to get roasted for this….

In fact, the news content of the story seems potentially to reduce to pointing out that some hospital managers have done something that might get them in the news.  That’s not, in itself, news, though: it’s meta-news, and a more appropriate headline would be Person Attracts Attention of Headline Writers.

If your objection is to the porniness of the film, rather than the fact that it was filmed on NHS property… well, again, the NHS aspect of it seems to fall out of consideration here.  It’s a tag on which a story about porn can be hung.

Well hung.

Right.  Back to the childish giggling…

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