As discussed in my previous blog, Government Social Entrepreneur, Dr Phillip Lee, MP for Bracknell, is moving swiftly forward with his exciting plans to revolutionise the health service within his constituency which will provide the blueprint on which the rest of the UK’s constituencies can follow suit.
With his charismatic, open and consultative style, Dr Lee has successfully engaged his constituents in print and in person, and is now working with them to confront the two issues which stand in the way of overhaul of public services anywhere in the world. These issues are community concern regarding the effects of the relocation of services on current operations and coping with the feelings of attachment to the buildings and institutions which form the infrastructure of those services.
Having had a Mother who was resident in an excellent care home for nearly five years and who has now sadly passed away, I can see both sides of the coin and thus I believe it is vital for MPs to achieve the correct balance between preservation and progress when it comes to public service restructure. Fortunately for Bracknell, Dr Lee’s career as a GP means that he not only has an in-depth knowledge of the health service in his constituency but he has the necessary understanding and compassion required to address the psychological impediments to community change.
Of course Dr Lee has selected a potential site for the new hospital based on sound logic. It is in a position which is favourable to the most transport links and thus responsive to patient need, as well as to the recruitment of top medical staff. And as a head-hunter I can testify to the fact that location probably tops the league when it comes to contributing factors to problem assignments. However, I do not criticise those individuals at the public meeting who confronted Dr Lee with their concerns over location because any government plan to revolutionise the NHS during a time of grave economic trouble could feel like the thin end of the wedge – particularly for the chronically sick. But the concerns of these individuals were successfully allayed by Dr Lee’s thorough, logical and compassionate exploration of their issues. And ironically, one or two with chronic health problems actually took the trouble to speak up in favour of Dr Lee’s plans as they’d experienced the frustration of the NHS infrastructure muddle first hand.
Speaking generally, there are, however, certain cultural issues our nation will have to get over if we are to easily revolutionise our healthcare and other systems and over which Dr Lee and I are entirely in accord. Firstly, I don’t think anyone can deny that our society has become selfish – the mere thought of the station, hospital or ‘offie’ moving away from our doorsteps arouses feelings of possessiveness, deprivation and even spite. I’m not a bible basher but the drawback of a secular society does mean contemplation of perceived needless personal suffering is well and truly out – that heavy cross was chucked off long ago in favour of getting one’s own way at all costs – particularly in extremes of financial fog. And I’m no different from anyone else in that department, so help me God!
Secondly, some attendees pointed out that the existing hospitals were valuable assets for which Dr Lee should go all out to save. Of course, it goes without saying that being sick, getting well, giving birth and dying are all very highly emotional milestones for all those who are part of any human story. In many towns, therefore, the local hospital is perceived as an old friend - often with its very own special league of friends and a pivotal place in the town’s history book. And having maintained great friendships with a number of my Mother’s excellent ex-carers, at Marlfield in Alton, I do not dismiss the validity of these emotions in the least. In fact, a year ago I may well have been chasing Damian Hinds, MP for Alton, down the road with an oversized handbag (and golf brolly! :-)) if he’d attempted to close my Mother’s care home! In fact, I did write a long, scathing letter to David Cameron when news of potential redundancies broke. However, I showed it to an economist friend who responded: ‘hard and unfair - one best put in the drawer and left there - he’s doing the best he can in hideous circumstances’. Probably sensible advice as the County Council eventually managed to come to an agreement where voluntary redundancy was offered. However, this story illustrates that despite the fact that I consider myself a pretty well emotionally hardened 43 year old who has worked for the majority of her career in the City and the commercial environment, I’m no less susceptible than anyone else to emotional relationships with local institutions in this sort of situation. Call me a ‘nimby’ but that’s just the way it is for us all.
However, the economic darkness which has recently descended upon the UK demands that MPs confront issues of inefficiency head-on and restrain themselves from manipulating constituents by campaigning to preserve institutions which they know full well cannot function at required capacity and are contributing to the NHS nose-dive, but the saving of which is an easy vote-spinner. And judging by Dr Lee’s sincere and highly effective engagement strategy, there clearly is NO excuse for MPs to launch showy, disingenuous and self-serving campaigns to save medical white elephants. If people get a thorough picture of what’s going on ie good context, then they will generally support you. Furthermore, I believe that over time it cannot be that hard to get UK citizens cooperating with the concept of creating the brand new hospital structures which are so desperately needed – we went green for heaven’s sake, didn’t we?!
Finally and most importantly, Dr Lee’s revolutionary plans are the very basis of an infrastructure which will provide all the necessary visibility, structure, efficiency and financial balance to the NHS in general – a foundation which has been lacking since its inception in 1946. And I believe this firm and clear operational structure will once and for all put pay to the disorganisation, financial fog, unrealistic expectations and abuse of political power which leads to lack of fairness in remuneration, unacceptable working hours, abysmal working and care environments, insensitive and abrupt health service restructures, poor patient treatment and lack of medical progress.
Healthcare workers, communities and patients deserve better than what the NHS currently offers and there is no doubt in my mind that once the ‘Royal Thames Valley Hospital’ is up and running, they will get the very best any healthcare institution in the world can provide. And that will be thanks to Dr Lee’s courageous crusade.