Monday, 31 January 2011

NHS Reform – Has Lansley been reading ‘The art of war?’

As the Health and Social Care bill passed its first test through a six hour debate in the House of Commons, I continue to wonder at Andrew Lansley’s tactics as he forges on with his restructure plans.

Sun Tzu, the Chinese philosopher and author of the seminal work on strategy, ‘The Art of War’ advises:

Be extremely subtle, even to the point of formlessness.
Be extremely mysterious, even to the point of soundlessness.
Thereby you can be the director of the opponent's fate’

Listening to the debate in parliament today, ‘formlessness and mysterious’ is an accurate description of Tory MPs attempts at supporting the bill. One MP stood up and stated that none of his constituents had ever complained about their GP. That’s alright then – let’s give them £80 billion to run the NHS.

Another had an equally ‘formless’ contribution – ‘I can’t say that I have a medical background, but my wife worked in the NHS and I do have background as a patient and my family have background with the NHS’ Great credentials – thanks for the powerful oratory – very persuasive.

And so the debate meandered on – sound bite after sound bite. Actually more of a nibble than a bite, as we heard yet again about patient choice, more openness, but no substance or explanation as to how GPs, already stretched, will suddenly find time to ‘listen more to their patients.’

If you have been reading Sun Tzu, Mr Lansley, as you plan to reshape and maybe dismantle the NHS – can I ask you to follow one piece of advice from the great strategist….

‘In the practical art of war, the best thing of all is to take the enemy's country whole and intact; to shatter and destroy it is not so good’.


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