RATHER mischievously, but marvellously, last week’s Spectator had an article by Sir Simon Stevens, Chief Executive Officer of the NHS, opposite a polemic from Rod Liddle highlighting the difference in Covid experience between the public sector (pay rises) and private (pay cuts and P45s). It’s behind a paywall, so I can’t share.
The NHS Notebook by Sir Simon, who started work in the health service 32 years ago and has been CEO since 2014, is an exercise in hubris that makes Fred (I destroyed RBS and much of the banking system) Goodwin seem as humble as Uriah Heep.
He also subscribes to the Government school of numeracy, citing any numbers without context and choosing opacity over clarity. For example: ‘NHS hospitals are now caring for 20,000 more non-Covid emergency patients each day than when they last had 15,000 Covid patients.’
Which I take to mean that lockdown means that the NHS A&E is doing a bit better than it did on April 24. Forgive me for being underwhelmed. The crap performance in the first wave was largely due to a near-criminal failure to prepare for a pandemic.
Since then, there have been unlimited sums available to the NHS to prepare for winter. If there is anyone who is having a problem accessing healthcare, A&E or otherwise, then the blame ultimately lies with Sir Simon (all bucks stop with the Chief Executive).
Not in his view. ‘… we need to see Covid infections and in-patient numbers drop decisively (sic) before we face more winter pressures and the risk of a third wave …’ No, matey. We need to see the NHS properly prepared and managed (decisively).
Sir Simon does concede that ‘all this is far better for patients’, but comes at the cost of putting ‘brilliant NHS staff’ under ‘even greater strain’. I bow to none in my admiration of NHS medical staff. But not all the NHS staff are medical.
The administrative buffoons who could not plan for this, could not distribute PPE (needing the Army to sort it out), could not deliver track and trace and the rest are far from brilliant. Incompetent is the kindest word I can find. While I can see that they would want to identify with the medical minority, that’s not justifiable. (Sir Simon is not medically qualified).
He also tells us that ‘rather than say “protect the NHS”, health service staff prefer to say: “Help us help you”.’
What – like help beyond the hundreds of billions of pounds we throw at the NHS every year in the naïve hope that it might actually plan for stuff like this? Or does he mean help like bankrupting the entire country because Sir Simon and his ilk can’t do their bloody job?
Sorry, Sir Simon, it’s not like that at all. The NHS and that bastard creation Public Health England has failed abjectly and repeatedly. No other country does healthcare the way that the UK does and, given the pathetically poor performance compared to Europe, one can see why.
He also mentions Prue Leith’s review of hospital food. But it seems to me that the challenges of feeding sick people from a central kitchen may not be that familiar to a celebrity chef, author and TV personality well on their way to becoming a member of the chumocracy.
(Oh yes, Sir Simon was at Balliol and president of the Oxford Union. Guess who was there at the same time and whom he helped get the union presidency. Yup – BoZo. Long live the Balliol Chums!)
And it should not be forgotten that from 1997, Sir Simon was special adviser to Labour’s first two Health Secretaries, then advised Prime Minister Tony Blair on health reforms.
These included cutting the number of hospital beds, a policy that continued under the Tories, contributing to the shortage that panicked the Government when Covid struck.
Finally, Sir Simon shares with us the news that he has rediscovered his love of offshore sailing (he must be very well paid, as that is not a cheap pastime).
Well, choppy waters will lie ahead of him when the public enquiries kick in. The awful reality is that the NHS failures in 2020 have done more damage to this country than Fred Goodwin and his cohort of toxic bankers. A reckoning awaits.