1st April  2015

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Dame Julie Mellor, Parliamentary and Health Service Ombudsman in conversation with Roy Lilley

Is the PHSO fit for purpose?

King's Fund 15th April Details here

Head for the beach
News and Comment from Roy Lilley

It's been less than a week. Am I down hearted? Am I fed up already? Am I sick of it all and ready to make for the beach? To borrow a phrase from Mili-Minor; 'Hell no!' I love it. I can't get enough of it.


I know many of you will be ready to poke yer eyes out with a rusty stick. Leave the country or pull the blankets over your head. Sorry; do I mean duvet? Whatever... I'm not.


It is the greatest show on earth. It is the election! Dissembling, stupid boys (mostly) determined to show us how stupid they really are. It's a comedy show. A hoot! It's like watching a drunken magician with dove feathers floating out of his back pocket; we know what you are up to!


Why? We know our stuff. You know a thing or two about the NHS. We know how it works and where it doesn't. You know the inside and the outside.


So, when a politician says something about the NHS we will know immediately whether it's baloney or bang on the button. If we don't know, we will know where to look. We can check.


I think, we both know what most of the politicians have been saying is baloney. They are all claiming to love the NHS. For the next three weeks it will be their passion. Passion? Really?


Passion... an all-consuming love, desire, hunger and appetite? Well, we know the public think it is pretty important. So that means, for the next three weeks the politicians will be photographed next to as many doctors and nurses as possible. Never forget; a picture with smile, a stethoscope and a nurse is worth more than a picture with a smile, alone.


Do we trust politicians with the NHS? Apparently not. We trust ourselves more than anyone. Our own experience and that of our friends. Your local MP is more trusted than Andy Burnham and he is more trusted than Cameron or LaLite.


Forget passion. Think polling:

  • The Tories are promising; £2bn and seven day access, 24-7 consultant led care. Probably cutting welfare benefits to pay for it?
  • Labour are promising; organising a Mansion Tax to pay for more doctors and nurses (some in Scotland to shoot the SNP fox). And, they used to say; 'repeal the H&SCAct'? Their package will take 2 years, at least, to organise.
  • Lib-Dems; £8bn a year, integrated health and social care budgets and sort out mental health services. Some taxes and less debt to pay for it.
  • UKIP; more cash when they have hooked us out of the EU (Years away), keep the NHS free and open GP surgeries, late, one evening a week.
  • Greens; Motherhood and Apple pie and higher taxes.

Consider this; the £2bn figure Labour and Tories are trumpeting is the very minimum the NHS needs, to stand-still next year. The £8bn figure, that Tarzan wants, involves an eye watering, year on year, 3% efficiency trade-off, to stand still. Doing new stuff is impossible without EXTRA money.  It's all about the money.


Late night opening, more nurses and doctors, cranking up mental health services, integrating care... all of it sounds good to me but it can't be paid for from what's on offer. As the editor of the HSJ Alastair McLellan put it; '£2bn won't touch the sides'.


And, remember, it takes 3years to train a nurse, seven years to train a doctor and twice that to make a consultant. More clinicians in the life of a 5 year parliament? Really? And, what about the allied professions needed to support them?  Oh, and the no little matter of double running costs through periods of reconfiguration and change.


We know what is on offer for the NHS; political legerdemain that ignores the problems at the heart of our health services and the plight of Social Services, which is the real issue.


Here's the rug-pulling question; If politicians are prepared to practice their sleight of hand on something we know about... what about the stuff we don't know about?  Education, benefits, defence, local government and all the rest. Is the whole thing a farrago of fibs, fiddles and fraud?


It's hard to know who to trust, isn't it? On second thoughts, maybe I will head for the beach.


Have a good Easter. 


Come and join my HealthChat evening with the head of the PHSO, Dame Julie Mellor,

in conversation with Roy Lilley 

Details here 

Let's find out about complaints.

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Dame Julie Mellor
Parliamentary & Health Service Ombudsman
Come and hear Dame Julie in conversation with
Roy Lilley
Just what impact has the PHSO had on better care?
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15th April 2015
King's Fund
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