And so, NHS reforms hit the buffers with speculation in the press that we may not hit the April 2013 deadline for D day, which frankly should be complete nonsense.
The only failing of the Health and Social Care Bill, is that no one has explained to anyone outside of the Department of Health, how the bill will transfer power straight from the hands of managers, into those of the patient, overnight.
Many Conservative MPs, me included, are passionate about the reforms and will be slightly less than pleased should they begin to be watered down. I am personally delighted that we are continuing the process introduced by Labour, to allow even more NHS services to be contracted out to the private sector. If the private sector can offer the best quality service at the right tariff, why should patients be subjected to an inferior service for the sake of a mis-placed political ideology? If the private sector isn’t allowed to ‘cherry pick’ the services they provide, why not?
I hope that over the next few weeks we will begin to see a transformation in how the NHS reform message is communicated. The job so far has been woeful with journalists writing what at times has amounted to pure nonsense. I particularly refer to the recent comment in the press that at the recent meeting of the 1922 committee of Conservative MPs, Cameron suffered at the hands of backbenchers with regard to the NHS reforms. This was completely untrue. He was asked one question by one MP urging reassurance that he would NOT back down from the reforms.
Communication is the key to the success of this bill, that and those at the top having the courage to face down the prophets of doom in a language everyone understands.
Yesterday, one commentator remarked, that in the age of the soundbite, that’s not possible. That may be true, however, as someone who explains these reforms to almost everyone I meet, below are two humble examples of how to remove the scales from the eyes of those who have become confused by all they have read and heard in the media.
I have morphed together about a dozen constituent’s into one and given him a name, Jack. However, he is heavily modelled upon a favourite constituent of mine in Barton le Clay.
Jack... I’m a bit worried about everything I am reading in the press about the NHS. I need new tablets soon; will I still be able to get them?
Me.... Jack, the reason why you had such a problem getting these tablets in the first place was because your GP didn’t have the authority to buy them for you. He had to ask the PCT and they said no
Jack... The computer said no..
Me.. Exactly, and that was difficult for us because they had the money and did all the buying, your GP had no say whatsoever. With these reforms, your GP is given the purse; he has the budget and the money. You can go and look your GP straight in the eye when it’s time for the next step in your treatment and if he says no, you ask him why. And if he says there’s no money, we can ask to see his accounts and prove to you that there’s no money, but do you know what Jack, that isn’t going to happen. Your GP will know who needs what and he will want to keep his patients happy. Not much fun for him if patients come in and moan at him all day and that’s the main difference Jack, the power that used to be in the hands of the managers and the computer in the PCT will now, via your GP, land in your hands and you will have far more clout than you ever had before.
Jack... Sounds too good to be true. What about the test my wife is going to have to go to the hospital for. How would that work?
Me.... Well, if your GP is smart, she won’t have to go to the hospital. Your wife needs a sigmoidoscopy. There are a number of private companies who employ trained sigmoid technicians; many are former highly qualified nurses. They spend their entire day specialising in sigmoidoscopy and do them over and over again, unlike the hospital doctor who does a few each month. So, hopefully, your GP will negotiate a contract with one of these private companies and they will come to the surgery every week and scope whichever patients need to be done that week and presto, scope and results all in one day, with no journey to the hospital. And you will know that the very latest technology and equipment has been used. If the scope does detect something worrying, she can be reffered quickly, straight to the hospital for treatment. The whole process will be much quicker.
Jack... Still sounds too good to be true. The wife would tell everyone she’s been done private though. She would like it.
Now, I know the above sounds simplistic to those who love to speak in the language of the civil service, but I’m afraid that if you don’t start talking like normal people do soon, no one is going to have a clue what this bill is about and the chances of it passing will become harder by the day. This bill affects 65million people. They don’t all live in Westminster village. It’s time to remember that.