Friday, 14 October 2011

Ministers behaving badly must go.

I try to keep this blog apolitical and would struggle if pushed to give an allegiance to one party. So I am writing this post as an independent observer disappointed with three of her majesty’s government ministers. I am also writing as a healthcare evangelist – and it is impossible to separate health and politics right now.

I won’t delve too deep into today’s resignation of Liam Fox, the Minister for Defence, as there is blanket coverage already available. At best – he showed very poor judgement - at worst, broke the mistrial code regarding conflict of interest. But either way – you don’t take your mates to work with you – do you? Ministers are, or should be, leaders. And leadership can be a lonely role. I must confess that when I was an employed director I would have quite liked to have a friend in tow – even my Mum sometimes! But it’s simply not done.

Then – even more bizarrely – we have the case of Cabinet Office Minister Oliver Letwin disposing of sensitive government documents in a park litter bin on five separate occasions. What?? I’m not a particularly over cautious individual but I shred any bill with my details on it and burn client information of it’s no longer needed. I would never, ever, ever dispose of anything remotely private in a public bin! Letwin is guilty of extreme stupidity. If his judgment is so poor on something as fundamental as confidentiality – Heaven knows what other imbecilic things he gets up to. He has to go

And finally – oh dear. Andrew Lansley – the beleaguered Health Minister. I have no doubt that Lansley is an honourable and intelligent man who genuinely believes that his reforms are the right way forward. But for nearly a year now he has consistently ignored the views of the experts in health – the consultants, nurses, GPs, therapists and managers who all tell him that the Health and Social Care Bill isn’t the way to solve the NHS woes. He is fixated on a solution that does not actually address the problem and this intransigence is now actively damaging the state provision.

But the killer blow for me was Lansley’s performance at BBC’s flagship discussion programme, Question Time. Questions are posed by a public audience to a panel of politicians and ‘thought leaders’ and the audience have an opportunity to join in the debate. With Lansley on the panel, of course health came up. The question logically enough was something along the lines of ‘when so many medical institutions and clinicians are against the NHS reforms, is it wise to go ahead?’ Lansley’s response was measured. Then a member of the audience, a health worker, very calmly and eloquently gave her opinion, finishing with ‘Mr Lansley, I don’t trust you’. I’m not sure if Lansley knew the camera was on him – but he sneered at this woman with undisguised contempt.

It was actually quite chilling. Twitter went ballistic demonstrating very clearly that I wasn’t the only person to notice that the one thing NHS staff and Andrew Lansley have in common is a mutual and reciprocal dislike and disrespect. In that split second, 8 million viewers saw what Lansley thinks of many of the 1.5 million NHS workers for whom he has a responsibility. He is so disconnected from this population and apparently dismissive of their views that he didn’t even hide his feelings.

If a CEO of a large corporation loses the respect of his staff and ploughs a furrow not in the best interest of that organisation – the board would normally dismiss him. And so it is with the UK Secretary of State for Health.

It’s time for Andrew Lansley to go.


Chairman Chegwin said...

To be replaced with who? And why? And what change of direction do you expect to see for the NHS?

Personally, I thought the QT audience, pretty much to a man, were extremely ill informed - like a lot of front line professionals and commentators I might add. How many can actually say they've read and understood the Bill or the narrative behind it? Not many I'd wager....

The point you make about Twitter is also very interesting. Twitter is inhabited by people who think they have something to say. And if you're not very careful, it would be easy to get caught up in all the breathless indignation over the reforms. It's like virtual mob rule.

The NHS may well be this country's greatest post-war achievement but that doesn't mean it is perfect in every way. But apparently we must not touch it. We must not let innovation in. We must not accept that patients are going to have to contribute financially in the future. The state must provide.

ALL RUBBISH (in my humble opinion!)

Personally, I prefer to take a more independent view. This is not to say that I think the reforms are right, but let's face facts here - the NHS has brought this situation upon itself. The continual waste of resources, the ignoring of patient's wishes and input, the pursuance of personal feifdoms, and the erosion of caring standards and principles....all add up to NHS failure in my book.

Is this ALL Lansley's fault?

Finchers Consulting said...

Yes - it is easy to get caught up with the heat of the moment. And yes - there are many failings within the NHS. And yes - reform or at least re-vamp is needed. I am just not convinced that GP's leading commissioning is going to help improve the quality of care provided - especially in our hospitals. But as you know - the most effective way to succeed with change is to bring people along with you for the journey and I fear that Andrew lansley's stock is so low now that even his good ideas will be discounted. Maybe I am letting my personal prejudice get in the way - I find his attitude arrogant and his views narrow (maybe that could describe commentators such as me too!) As far as a replacement is concerned - good question. I wonder if Stephen Dorrell would be an option but I guess he wouldn't want the poison chalice. Who would?

Chairman Chegwin said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Chairman Chegwin said...

We agree on that - I think GPs and clinicians generally are the last people you want to entrust with the lion's share of the NHS budget! Their job is to diagnose, to cure people, to manage conditions - not pen pushing and bean counting.

This is why I support the current push towards centralisation via the NHSCB (well, I would, wouldn't I?!) There is too much variation and badly explained rationing locally - patients are confused about what they are and are not entitled to on the NHS. We need a national offer - let's get some clarity into the system (incidentally, this may well be a by-product of the work on the cross-border healthcare directive - the Commission expects Member States to be clear about what their citizens are entitled watch this space...).

As for the SofS, he is now not the most important player in all of this. So much power and responsibility has been ceded to David Nicholson that I wonder whether anyone will be able to haul the reforms back on track....

Post a Comment