Wednesday 13 March 2013

Letter 98: Jakey writes to Dave about the NHS, mediocrity and competition

As I said in my last letter to Dave, I'll be laid up for a while following an operation. I've been told to take it easy if I want to make a speedy recovery, so I've enlisted the help of a few respected people to stop Dave connect with what the electorate, rather than than think tanks and the Cabinet think. Here's the first letter sent to him :

"A word-processing programme;
Edge of the Big Society.

8th March 2013

Dear Dave

I know Bern O'Donoghue wrote to you last week to tell you that she was just going into hospital and that “some friends” would be taking over the letters for while. I'm one of those friends

Like Bern, I've recently been in a NHS hospital. I had an accident and was quite badly injured. I was looked after really well and met with nothing but real care and compassion. Despite all the horrible things we've been hearing about Mid-Staffs and despite all your government's efforts to force 'compulsive competitive markets' on the NHS, I really believe that pretty well all its staff  want to care for their patients and respect their dignity. They didn't go into clinical care to make a lot of money, to skive, shirk or give poor value. The people who looked after me were working really hard with unfailing good grace.  They don't do this be part of a market making profits for other people either. (And by the way, quite a lot of those standing to profit seem to sit behind or alongside you on the green benches.)

And now we've got Jeremy Hunt, your Health Secretary, attacking “mediocre hospitals” who “cruise along” rather than “striving for world class levels of excellence”. Don't you think that there might be something a little shaky about those levels being set by politicians? 

Despite your promise of no more “top-down re-organisation”, the Coalition has plugged into the same stream of targets, directives and commercial re-orientation as previous governments. You've also reduced nurse numbers by 5000. Isn't is likely that all this combines to distract and divert front line staff from their core functions?

So I hope you'll find time to reflect on the recommendation from Robert Francis' report that  there should be “a common patient centred culture which produces at the very least the fundamental standards of care to which we are all entitled, at the same time as celebrating and supporting the provision of excellence in healthcare.” Enabling those basics seems to make a good deal more sense than pushing hyperbole about trying to be the best at everything.

Hope you keep well,

Best wishes, 
Jakey (Bern's friend.)"

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