Tuesday, 4 October 2011

Andrew Lansley fails to ignite the Tory Party Conference

Lansley fails to ignite the conference.

Sad as I am, I sat in front of the TV in rapt anticipation for Andrew Lansley’s Tory party conference speech. I wrongly assumed that the contentious Health and Social Care Bill would be high on everyone’s agenda but the conference hall was only half full as the audience awaited the Health Secretary’s appearance.

The choice of music just before the start of the session was bizarre – Shawn Mullins’ song ‘All in my head’ with the lyrics:
‘Is it all in my head?
Is it all in my head?
Could everything be so right without me knowin’?’

The song goes on:
‘Everyone needs a little love – to make it all work out..’

Was this a subliminal plea to the Tory faithful to be kind to their beleaguered reformer?

Lansley gave, as usual, a polished performance. Quoting many of the good work going on in the NHS and it was notable how often the N word was mentioned. Nurse. Lansley has realised that bigging up GPs as the only clinicians who count with the initial draft of the bill was a fundamental error.

The audience was as lukewarm as a cup of tea left by an old lady’s hospital bed. Ripples of polite applause interspersed the usual sound bites but to be fair, I found the Health Secretary more convincing that normal, especially when discussing outcomes and integrated care.

He received the mandatory standing ovation, albeit very muted – and I couldn’t help wondering if the delegates were stretching their legs after a long day sitting in conference rather than getting excited about a Bill that could cost them a second term.

The panel who joined Lansley were actually more convincing. An amazing nurse called Vicky Bailey spoke with great authority about practice based commissioning and the excellent work that her organisation, Partners in Health, had achieved with integrated care.

The next speaker, Neil Bacon, was billed as ‘a doctor and entrepreneur’. Yes. I’m judgmental and yes I mentally switch off when anyone refers to themselves as an entrepreneur.

Another nurse, Sylvie Hampton spoke with true passion about her wound healing social enterprise, while turning a few gills green by showing an explicit slide of a nasty wound. This speech described a great example of the value of private providers as she demonstrated the high quality cost saving treatments her organisation offer. Sylvie is a powerful advocate for ‘any qualified provider’ and went on to say that her team were ‘a new breed of private provider to the NHS – anyone who thinks this is privatisation is nuts’

And then it was business as usual as Simon Burns, huffed and puffed his way through his presentation. There is always something of the pantomime about this health minister and he didn’t disappoint as he raged about how the reform plans have been ‘discounted by those with an axe to grind’

It was interesting to note that the most positive and memorable messages came from the two nurses who described the success of their services so effectively. More interesting was the fact that both these initiatives were in place long before the Health and Social Care Bill was a twinkle in Andrew Lansley’s eye.

Vicky Bailey’s initiative was in her words ‘nothing new – we’ve been doing this since 2006’. And Sylvie Hampton’s company first did business with the NHS in 1999.

The words of Shawn Mullins song, played just a hour earlier sprang back into mind..

 ‘Could everything be so right without me knowin’?


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