Wednesday, 6 April 2011

How many cooks does it take to spoil the broth?

Oh dear. The Coalition NHS Roadshow is already beginning to feel more like car crash TV than the ‘hearts and minds’ campaign launched by David Cameron, Nick Clegg and Andrew Lansley today.

Standing in identical white shirts - jackets removed to facilitate using antiseptic gel on their forearms as they visited a ward at a Foundation Trust Hospital – sadly they looked more like three uncomfortable pasty faced civil servants than swashbuckling musketeers ready to revive the Health and Social Care Bill.

If it wasn’t so worrying it would actually be quite funny. The PM and deputy PM put me in mind of parents trying to calm disgruntled neighbours after their wayward teenager aka Lansley, UK secretary of state for health had committed some random act of vandalism.

They have all promised to ‘pause, listen, reflect and improve’ and relaunched this campaign, not by listening, but by yet again delivering soundbite after soundbite.

Cameron started by stating his passionate and ‘personal’ belief in the NHS. I’m sorry Mr Cameron, but everyone in the UK has a personal tale to tell, good or bad about the NHS. Clegg then went on to say ‘This Coalition government will never mess around with the basic principles behind the health service’  Umm – you just did – with this Bill.

And Lansley – true to form, reverted to his original script, presumably feeling a little chastened that due to his failing to sell the policies effectively the big guns had to take over.

How many times must doctors, care organisations, think tanks, healthcare managers and commentators tell the Coalition: Its not about fluff – it’s about substance. These reforms cannot be sold effectively because they haven’t been thought through properly.

I applaud the trio for visiting a hospital, the health sector due to be most seriously disenfranchised by the reforms. But why will this ‘listening exercise’ be any different from the hasty consultation process undertaken before the Bill was published?

I would prefer not to see these three amigos (what a hysterical film – with Steve Martin, Chevvy Chase and Martin Short) trotting around on this particular bandwagon during the ‘pause’. I would like to see them behind closed doors, talking and listening to key stakeholders including hospital doctors, nurses and therapists. Formulating plans, fine tuning the nitty gritty of how improvements will work and outcomes be measured. Then they can come out of their bunkers, face the public and deliver action plans, realistic timescales and safety measures.

And then maybe Cameron and Clegg will stop looking so uncomfortable every time the NHS is mentioned.


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