Sunday, 20 March 2011

Football and the NHS – in a parallel universe

Success in business (and life in general) often depends on ‘positioning’. Many a colleague/child/spouse/employee has been duped into action on an assumed premise which on further investigation may be misleading. By the same token, sometimes things aren’t nearly as bad as they are painted. A report in the Observer suggests that the government has ‘buried’ the results of a recent poll showing that ‘more members of the public than ever believe the NHS is doing a good job’ is a good example.

‘Positioning’ can certainly influence the way one could describe the current state, independently, of football and healthcare in the UK, two of my main passions.

I was at Old Trafford stadium in Manchester again this week. The game started with one minute’s silence as a mark of sympathy and support for the many thousands of people affected by the terrible events in Japan. Every single person in that stadium, all 75,000 of them, stood with heads bowed in respectful silence. You literally could have heard a pin drop and then, when the referee’s whistle blew to mark the end of the minute, the cacophony of cheering and clapping, again in support of Japan, was deafening and uplifting.

The same crowd, 80 minutes into the match were screaming abuse at the referee, questioning his parentage and disputing his decision to award a red card to a home player who had landed a dangerous tackle on an opponent, badly gashing his knee.

There you have the two sides to football – loud mouthed yobs or compassionate humanitarians (this could apply to the crowd, the players or even the managers!) One of the joys of football for people like me is the opportunity to be observer and participant, perpetrator and judge. In my defence, I tend not to shout abuse at matches, I don’t seem to be able to pull it off, but I have been known to loudly question a ref’s eyesight or a player’s sanity. I love putting my ‘ten pence worth’ in, acting as amateur pundit and enjoying the camaraderie that being part of a large group provides.

And so it is with the NHS. Our healthcare system and those involved with it can be positioned as saint or pariah, slovenly uncaring public worker or life saver from the Mother Theresa school of nurturing. Whether you are a ‘player’ (one of the 1.3 million employed in the NHS), or an ‘observer’ (patients, politicians and pundits), your view of the state funded system can be very different, fuelled by your personal experience and maybe even by what you read or hear. There are abundant pockets of excellence sullied by areas of inefficiency, lack of direction and wasteful practice.

To draw the parallel  further – the scrappy match on Saturday was dominated by the feeling that neither side were really clear on strategy, direction or commitment, until the home side scored a much desired goal, giving us the ‘right result’ two minutes from the end.

Let’s hope that this can happen with the NHS reform. That despite the heckling and abuse from the crowd, the support of the home team and commitment of the players (and their managers) will deliver the goods just in time, so we can somehow make these reforms work. Failing that – all we can do is hope for extra time and a change of tactics.

Tenuous link? Maybe – but I was determined to write about football this week….


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