In my opinion, one individual who fulfils this profile to a tee is Dr Phillip Lee who is a working GP and MP for Bracknell. Dr Lee came on to my radar due to my healthcare campaigning activities and his work is a source of much inspiration and hope for anyone who has become frustrated and scared by the World’s virtually unprecedented economic problems and what they could herald – particularly for the sick and vulnerable.
As the only working GP in Parliament and based on his concern for the impact of our current economic troubles on the NHS, Dr Lee has hammered out an innovative, clear and concise document which provides a comprehensive, methodical and logical explanation of how he envisages the healthcare system should be reorganised and consolidated in his constituency. Inevitably, this will lead to closure of some healthcare services – an idea for which he has received a lot of support, but needless to say for which he has also received a lot of flak.
Understandably, any mention of the closure of healthcare services makes the blood run cold as images of trudging 50 miles in one’s dressing gown in Siberian-like snow to the local A&E flash before the eyes. However, we should be grateful, very grateful in fact for the attempts of the likes of Dr Lee in tackling the organisational and financial cracks in the world’s systems which have been gathering force and have the potential to bring the whole structure to its knees and the sick and vulnerable with it.
Unfortunately it is not widely publicised that there isn’t an inexhaustible supply of money even in the good times, and we are now in the throes of a fiscal drought of epic proportions. However, although I believe some leaders have failed to perform, our crumbling systems are really due to the fact that we collectively fail to understand or accept that we are all part of a giant, invisible entity which although powered by millions of forces of varying impact, has fundamentally only one engine which is its massive, interlocking and invisible accounting system. And the figures inherent in this system don’t, won’t and can’t lie but because the master accounting system remains invisible, we pretty much only know that we are broke because we are broke – in other words there isn’t much more cash in the machine, but we really don’t know the precise reasons and there wasn’t much in the way of prior warning. In my opinion, it is preposterous that we can put a man on the Moon, but in the age of advanced technology, we can’t see what is going on in our ‘financial grid’ in terms of individual interlocking and collective P&L, balance sheets and cash flow. Is this acceptable in the 21st century? I don’t think so, I really don’t. And although it may be appropriate to point the finger at various individuals in positions of leadership, the reality is that if we can’t see what’s going on, then how on earth can one set out the occupational remit for a position of power and then truly hold the incumbent to it?
Last year, I underwent one of my rants at an excellent debate run by Benenden Healthcare and the Guardian Newspaper which I must say was very well orchestrated by David Brindle, their Public Services Editor. The debate centred around the development of health services but I gradually became sick and tired of hearing about the banalities and minutiae of tariffs, policy etc etc etc, so I eventually stood up and in essence shouted that really people just need to know what is at stake and basically what it takes ie most citizens will do the right thing if they have the full picture. There were many people who supported me but others who ‘crab-scuttled’ away from me, as though I were in the throes of some species of brainstorm! Coincidentally, a few months later, I noticed that Dr Lee had written on this very subject in the Guardian – like me, he believes in the practical solution of creating visibility as the only logical first step towards the preservation and evolution of our healthcare system and is thus keen for patients to receive financial statements in respect of their treatment.
Our national financial and administrative ‘grids’ have developed haphazardly over the years for many different reasons. This is partially in response to satisfying party political whims, but also because in the pre-technology days, it was genuinely difficult to map systems, track information and plan ahead, but we no longer have that excuse. And I blame this continuing lack of visibility on the fact that we have become a very specialist society and there are not enough people like Dr Lee who truly specialise and strategise ie he demonstrates that he not only sees himself as a GP and MP but also as an ‘engineering interface’ between the interlocking systems of his hands-on GP duties, the NHS and the government. He is thus keen for us all to see and understand how our behaviour impacts society and society impacts us.
I have talked about conversion of competency in previous articles and this is exactly what Dr Lee brings to the parliamentary entrepreneurial table in terms of converting a deep appreciation of systems he will have gained through study of biology, the human body, the NHS and now the government system into visionary and workable solutions for improving our services. Unfortunately, our education system tends to go directly from the study of a diverse range of subjects to specialist level, rather than fostering study which seeks to analyse and develop relationships with neighbouring systems, on the basis that ‘no system is an island’
Crucially, Dr Lee is also a very good networker and has built his very own mastermind network for his work in the energy field – he is a member of the Energy & Climate Change Select Committee. So for those who view networking as a bit shallow and disingenuous then you should try to think of it as human systems development, in the same way as Dr Lee would.
In essence, Dr Lee is able to do all he does precisely because he has been an enthusiastic participant and observer of a number of different systems, he works at both the sharp and blunt ends of the healthcare gamut simultaneously and he cares.
Thankfully, Dr Lee appears to have the strength of character and commitment to weather intense criticism because as a caring and visionary GP and MP, he realises that he has to do what he has to do. There are certainly not many others in society who can or will bite the bullet and take the meaning of leadership to the next level – one that understands and cares for both the individual and the system and without pulling any punches, seeks to inform and coach its constituents accordingly.