Monday, 4 April 2011

Pause for thought and not much else

The UK press yesterday was full of reports that David Cameron and Nick Clegg would take over the ‘selling’ of the NHS reforms as they were unhappy with Andrew Lansley’s handling of the biggest shake up in the NHS since it’s inception.

Today we have been treated to a ministerial statement from Lansley, the UK secretary of state for health, saying that the government ‘is listening to concerns ‘ and will undertake a ‘listening exercise’  during a round the country tour.  He continued:
We want to continue to listen to, engage with and learn from experts, patients and frontline staff within the NHS and beyond and to respond accordingly. I can therefore tell the house that we propose to take the opportunity of a natural break in the passage of the bill to pause, to listen and to engage with all those who want the NHS to succeed and subsequently to bring forward amendments to improve the plans further in the normal way’
Is this a different form of listening to the type used during the consultation process? Nothing that the Bill’s detractors are saying now is any different from what they were saying before. In fact the only difference is that there are more of them and their tone is more desperate.

There is a brilliant cartoon in the UK Times newspaper today, showing a battered and bruised Cameron lookalike observed by two colleagues saying ‘he tried to back pedal and do a U turn at the same time’

But I don’t think that a U turn is planned and the back pedalling is more of a hiatus than movement in a backwards direction. In my opinion, David Cameron has always looked uncomfortable when trying to promote the Health and Social Care Bill. Back in January he delivered one of his biggest gaffs of his premiership by referring to the NHS as ‘second rate’.

It is now becoming patently obvious that there is no real substance in terms of how these reforms will actually work. Even the general public are beginning to wonder how a GP can do everything that the Bill promises AND find time to consult with their patients. Lansley as good as admitted in the House of Commons today that many of the experts, formerly employed by the Primary Care Trusts who have received generous redundancy payments can and will be re-employed by GP consortia within the next 6 months to fill skill gaps.

What does this new ‘listening exercise’ really mean? The debate in parliament is continuing as I write this piece, but I have had to walk away before my ‘listening’ abilities were severely challenged through boredom and death by cliché.  Being ‘passionate about the NHS’ is no qualification for dismembering it, limb by limb. If I hear ‘nothing about me without me’ again I fear I may not be responsible for my actions.

A few months ago I wrote that one of the most damaging effects of the uncertainty surrounding the reforms and the future of jobs was the ‘rabbit in headlights’ method of management, where very little was being achieved in the PCTs as people questioned the way forward.

It would now appear that this condition is contagious as the coalition stand still and stare….. or should I say ‘listen’.


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