Wednesday, May 22, 2024
HomeNewsBlood on the carpet, but not in the blood bank

Blood on the carpet, but not in the blood bank


ANOTHER day, another NHS problem. This time it’s run out of blood. That’s quite an achievement given that there is an army of volunteers who routinely give blood. Astonishingly, no one in the NHS has yet blamed it on a lack of investment. With the chair and chief executive both being removed in August, there are clearly management problems. I suspect crap management is to blame for many of the NHS’s other current problems.

I have some personal experience of this which is, I think, instructive. A while ago a head-hunter phoned, asking if I was still available and still in the area. I confirmed I was, so he asked if I would be interested in running an NHS company in the area. It delivered cleaning, maintenance and portering services to the local hospitals. As the head-hunter said, I was in the frame as I had just turned round a similar company and I looked a great fit for the role – not least because it needed filling at short notice. The pay was £150K plus generous pension and an ample 30 days of holiday etc for leading an organisation of just 200 staff – an example of the public sector pay and terms which go some way to explaining its productivity problem. 

‘Great,’ I said. ‘You are aware that I’ve never worked in the NHS?’

‘Of course,’ he replied. ‘I specifically asked the client about that and they confirmed that NHS experience is not a criterion. In any case, the chairman has plenty.’

So I filled in the forms, wrote the darn personal statement and sent it to him. A couple of days later he called again, telling me that I was on the short list of five, was a very strong match and, in his opinion, the top candidate. We discussed my availability for interview and hung up. The next week he called.

‘I’m really embarrassed,’ he said. ‘The client is only calling those with NHS experience for interview. I pointed out to them that this was not one of their criteria when they started the search and that they had some top candidates without such experience, but they were adamant. By the way, only two of the five on the shortlist have NHS experience, so I’m having to make this call twice more. My client has misled me, but they’re my meal ticket. I’m really sorry.’

During my research for the job I had noted that the chairman was ‘working from home’ from a substantial property 300 miles from the hospitals, that he and two of the interview panel had common interests in some medical supply companies and that all their careers had overlapped repeatedly. None had worked outside the NHS.

That, in a nutshell, is the NHS’s problem. Its management are largely a self-serving coterie, few of whom have recent external commercial experience. The former CEO of the Blood Transfusion Service, Betsy Bassis, worked for Enron, Centrica and British Gas before becoming COO at Defra in 2014. She moved to the Blood Transfusion Service in 2019.

Her predecessor, Ian Trenholm, now runs the Care Quality Commission. He too was the COO of Defra before he became CEO at the Blood Transfusion Service. From 2003 he was involved in local government after five years in finance and ten as a police officer.

Millie Banerjee, the former chair of the Blood Transfusion Service, is currently chair of south-west London integrated care board (whatever that is). Her LinkedIn entry says she has held a number of non-executive appointments including non-executive director of the Cabinet Office, Channel 4 TV, the Prisons Board, Ofcom, Barts Health, the Peabody Trust and the Carnegie UK Trust and the Nominet Trust. She was the chair of Postwatch (the postal consumer body), and Postcomm (the postal regulator) and the chair of British Transport Police and the College of Policing.

That, in a nutshell, is the blob that runs our public services. Very little recent commercial experience, very little track record of profit and loss responsibility and very little time dealing with customers. Whether that is offset by a plethora of quango appointments is an open question, but the NHS has run out of blood, so they collectively stuffed up.

Let’s face it, collecting blood is a straightforward exercise in logistics. Get the blood from the donor, test it, store it and distribute it. The key part of the chain is the donor. For some reason in 2016 it was decided under Trenholm’s reign to abandon the mobile collection units and ask donors to come to fixed locations, mostly in town centres. For a variety of reasons, not least of which was fear about Covid, the number of donors has fallen from 878,000 to 760,000, a 15 per cent drop. There are, apparently, problems with having to book a donation session online and a lack of staff at the centres – apparently staff turnover is 25 per cent (another sure sign of crap management). Interestingly Mr Trenholm has already got his non mea culpa in; the Telegraph reports a CQC spokesman as saying ‘NHS Blood & Transplant have made it very clear the amber alert that they have issued is a result of the same staffing shortages that are affecting the rest of the NHS, rather than operational decisions made five years ago.’ That contrasts with some (nameless) health official who is citing a ‘change in donor behaviour’.

No sh*t, Sherlock. Who would have thought that switching from sending the collection facility to the donors to requiring donors to arrive at a place more distant to them at a specified time might, just might, make it too much hassle? It’s the sort of decision that may look attractive in a spreadsheet but won’t work in practice; humans are not pliant cells in a computer program.

Over to you, Thérèse Coffey. Get busy with some P45s and hire someone from outside the NHS and Civil Service to fix it. I anticipate blood on the carpet.

If you appreciated this article, perhaps you might consider making a donation to The Conservative Woman. Unlike most other websites, we receive no independent funding. Our editors are unpaid and work entirely voluntarily as do the majority of our contributors but there are inevitable costs associated with running a website. We depend on our readers to help us, either with regular or one-off payments. You can donate here. Thank you.
If you have not already signed up to a daily email alert of new articles please do so. It is here and free! Thank you.

Sign up for TCW Daily

Each morning we send The ConWom Daily with links to our latest news. This is a free service and we will never share your details.