Yesterday’s main session on the government’s future plans for health was utterly inspiring, heartwarming and completely lacking in any detail or solid plans whatsoever.
I’ll explain. Secretary of State for Health Andrew Lansley spoke passionately about the NHS and the future of patient care. He then introduced a series of exceptional speakers. Two in particular were awe-inspiring.
A nurse who has independently set up a wound healing unit that reduces the time of healing to around six weeks, even for patients who have not received treatment on their injuries for over three years, and Ann Milton another nurse who has been working for the NHS since she was 18-years-old.
She has set up a practice based commissioing system by pulling 16 local GP practices together to help treat more patients in the community.
Listening to these women, it was impossible not to get caught up in the brilliance of what they have achieved. And all credit to them. But you couldn’t help but feel that Lansley and his health minister sidekick Simon Burns were using these amazing stories of local successes as an emotionally charged screen to hide behind.
With such colossal reforms underway, the future success of the NHS will be characterised by firm plans, clear policy, guidelines and clarity. And this was what was distinctly lacking from the session yesterday.
Lansley mentioned nothing about how the reforms will actually work, what impact they will have - apart from on patients. And even this was pretty wooly. Of course, patient experience is crucial. But what about the route to patient experience? It’s not just about reducing the number of managers and increasing the number of doctors. It’s about their environment, their facilities and having access to an estate that matches their needs.
For the construction industry and GPs alike, the future relationship between the NHS and the industry on estate upgrades and delivery has been left totally unexplained by government.
The creation of a new client contact, the Clinical Commissioning Groups (CCGs) is all well and good. But how exactly will they work? How will one contact the other? How will plans for estate development be drawn up? Where will the funding actually come from? Will CCG’s have to run plans by the newly created NHS Commissioning Board? The unanswered questions go on and on.
Obviously the session yesterday was not construction specific. But with such a vast overhaul of the current NHS estate required, it seemed like a huge omission not to even touch on plans.
Lansley said that every day, 1 million people will go to a GP surgery, 2 million prescriptions will be filled out, 30,000 operations will take place, 50,000 people will visit A&E and 2000 babies will be born. Each and every one of these things will happen in an NHS building or facilitiy and the future of this side of the health care sector was ignored.
So yesterday’s session was full of good news stories and examples of individuals doing incredible things. But that does not a healthcare sector make. Inspirational stories should be the icing on the cake of strong policy and clear explanation, not the substitute.