Tuesday, 14 June 2011

NHS reforms are beginning to feel like a long running TV reality show

It was a classic piece of television and, I suspect pretty much sums up how many of us are feeling about the NHS reforms.

An Orthopaedic surgeon loses his cool with the Cameron/Clegg/Lansley roadshow as they film yet another piece for TV news. The happy looking NHS patient in his bed, pretty wife alongside and the three wise men sitting round the bed like a modern day nativity scene.

In comes the surgeon – shouting at the camera crew who have clearly breached the hygiene regulations so important in keeping infection at bay in a busy ward. The surgeon insists that the circus leaves town and order is restored to his kingdom. Quite right too. It made for great viewing but also brings home the reality of this long running saga and was, for me was the single most significant moment of the day.

The news channels have deluged us with reports of the government response to the NHS Future Forum and I have absorbed as much as I can. My first reaction on reading the summary of the proposed changes to the reforms was to feel encouraged that the ‘nay-sayers’ were beginning to win the day and the coalition really had listened.

Overall accountability for health to rest with Ministers, nurses and secondary care doctors to be on the commissioning teams, Monitor to represent patients needs and choice. More support for integrated care and a relaxation of the challenging timescales for reform. It all sounds quite sensible.

But still so much is unclear and it all feels a bit unworkable and unreal. Dr Jennifer Dixon from the Nuffield Trust gave a very intelligent summary of the current situation. She pointed out that the main challenge facing the NHS was efficiency savings. And she is right. Any major restructure costs money and uncertainty is the enemy of efficiency.

And so the long running saga continues – it feels a little bit like it’s getting out of hand. Every time I see Cameron, Clegg and Lansley I can’t help thinking of the phrase ‘how many men does it take to change a light bulb’

Or maybe it should be ‘how many men does it take to dig a hole?’.  We are still in that hole but one character in today’s episode showed that he knows exactly what he wants. Yes he was a stereotypical surgeon, a ‘Prima Donna’ in his bowtie.

But for me, at least, he’s today’s hero.


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