It’s not all doom and gloom with NHS Networks!

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Health service politics doesn’t generate much laughter, despite the gallows humour that swirls round hospitals and health centres. This is changing, as a look at NHS Networks will show. Its latest offering is ‘Build your own Forward View’, which it explains like this: Now you can build your own forward view in just 260 fun-to-collect parts.

Build Your Own Forward View is from the same people who brought you Become a World Class Commissioner in 5000 Easy Steps and NHS Reform for Dummies. Every fortnight a new part will be published on the NHS England website. Once you’ve collected all 260 you’ll be able to construct an impressive scale model of what the NHS might look like in future, complete with realistic details such as streamlined hospitals that don’t require propping up with extra cash, patients who rarely become ill and a social care system that hasn’t imploded.

But remember, this is not a plan, which means it doesn’t come with instructions and is not guaranteed to work. That’s what makes it such fun!

The Build-your-own-forward-view  kit will include a cliché generator, and some self-assembly new care models which come with a small tube of glue. Purchasers are encouraged to order doctor and nurse figures soon because supplies cannot be guaranteed. The first issue is out now, and costs only £10 billion.

Other irresponsible goodies available at NHS Networks are ‘NHS England denies plan to cull older people’, ‘Home surgery could spell end of NHS cuts’ and ‘Andrew Landsley: a blithering case study’.

A matter of words?

Labour’s day of action for the NHS on November 26th was low key, and in balance this was rightly so. The news filtered through to members only a few days before the leafleting began, so party mobilisation was less than it could have been. On the positive side the tone of Labour’s language was measured. Instead of saying that the NHS was on its knees, or close to collapse, or in meltdown, it argued that more funding was needed for social care, and that important targets were being missed because of under-investment in the health service itself. The contrast with the materials of the more macho “Fightback” day of action on December 3rd was clear.

The Conservatives are in a good position with the NHS. Their Secretary of State for Health has defeated the BMA in the junior doctors’ dispute, demonstrated that holding your ground works, and exposed the amateurishness of the medical profession’s union. May’s government seems to be working on the assumption that Labour’s campaigning on the NHS is not increasing support outside its core vote. As Owen Jones put it in the Guardian December 1st “Labour would save the NHS, but the NHS won’t save Labour”.

After six years of austerity public concern does not match campaigners’ (and professional lobbyists’) sense of “crisis”, mostly because the NHS is working well in lots of ways and places. Nonetheless there is enough steam behind the catastrophising to taint all local plans for change with the belief that their only intention is to cut services.

Crying wolf in a situation where the health service is still mostly providing good quality care undermines the credibility of campaigners wanting to ‘save’ the NHS and professional interests within the health service seeking more funding. The government will take advantage of this by questioning the judgement of campaigners and the competence of those providing and managing the service.

Alistair McClellan, editor of the Health Service Journal, describes this situation bluntly. “The NHS now faces a hard choice. It can indulge in a crescendo of virtue signalling, with various interests attempting to outdo each other in depictions of impending doom, the size of investment needed to deal with it and/or the number of celebrity endorsements. This is unlikely to work.” So what will work? Labour needs to know if it is to inform and engage its members inside and outside the NHS.

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