Wednesday, 19 January 2011

NHS reform – The Titanic has now hit the iceberg

As the NHS Reform Bill is published today, the growing sense of foreboding is translated into stark reality. Those within the NHS (aka the SS Titanic) have felt like the hull has been scraping along the edge of this iceberg for some time – but now it is taking on water.

David Cameron helped to steer the national treasure towards its icy grave on Monday with his Freudian slip – calling the NHS ‘second rate’, and quickly trying to cover his gaffe up by saying he meant ‘second best’.

The charm (?) offensive has started in earnest. The UK Secretary of State for Health, Andrew Lansley is appearing on a prime time radio programme every evening this week to answer listeners’ questions. The Prime Minister has been making speeches daily, stressing his belief and commitment to the NHS ad nauseam. (apart from his little slip of course). Rather than reassuring the public and NHS staff with this PR offensive, it is having the opposite effect. Confidence is falling and we are rushing for the lifeboats as the deck starts to tilt.

When I started this blog, it was intended to focus on health reforms and wellbeing in general and I amazed at how often I find myself drawn into political commentary, but as I have said previously, you cannot separate health from politics.

There are, of course, some good elements to the health bill. Yes the NHS does need a cull of wasteful and expensive layers of beaurocracy. We do need to improve our patient survival rates and public health. I am not entirely against the private sector’s involvement. If well managed, this could introduce some badly needed lean practices within the NHS. But it is the speed of change and blinkered approach which worries the great and the good, such as the British Medical Association, Royal College of Nursing and Public Sector unions. 

As the wise, the smart and the experienced reach out for new jobs away from the NHS, and the less able and confused batten down the hatches, the NHS is being steered through troubled waters towards serious damage.

As redundancies increase, I truly hope that the people we need to keep this ship afloat will stay. There are hundreds and thousands of dedicated, talented and bright clinicians and administrators (and interims)  currently doing their level best to man the pumps as the water levels rise and I have faith that they will not let this institution founder. But I fear that they are rushing for the lifeboats right now, while Cameron and Lansely, with all good intentions, play their violins on the sloping deck.


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