Gordon Brown makes much of his Presbyterian upbringing, but what happens in his brave new world to non-believers? I think that I have just found out.
I make no secret of the fact that I have been critical of some aspects of the implementation of the new Labour project for the NHS. I have, for example, criticized the rather reckless way that the extra funding for the service has been squandered (although here my views have recently been endorsed by Sir Derek Wanless and the King’s Fund); I have criticized the massively overspent NHS IT programme (where my views have been endorsed by the House of Commons Select Committee on health, and by the National Audit Office); I have criticized the relentless pursuit of targets as an end to themselves, and have pointed out some of the incidental casualties that this policy has produced. I have also pointed out the destabilizing effect on a hospital such as Bedford of putting all the medical secretaries on redundancy notices.
What I have said has never been less than the truth, even if at times it has been a harsh truth for some officials of the Department of Health and for government politicians. My intention has never been anything other than to open up public debate on the conduct of a vital public service.
A few weeks ago (5th September to be precise), I was summoned by the chairman of Bedford Hospital NHS Trust, Ray Rankmore, to his office. Mr Rankmore has a reputation for speaking frankly so I was interested to hear what he had to say. “In business” he told me “ if management think there is someone who isn’t 100% behind them, they get rid of them; they call them in and they get rid of them, just like that”. He repeated the “just like that” for added emphasis. “In the NHS, we can’t do things quite like that, so we have to do things somewhat differently.”
So there you; make up your own mind. But if I mysteriously disappear you might just ask Mr Rankmore where I’ve gone.