I got very irate last week about our health system. This may not seem like news to the regular reader, but it sort of is. I was annoyed by whole new things I’d not noticed before. There’s always more to discover, new ways to be dumbfounded and annoyed.
I spent Wednesday morning at a conference of the Very Important. With few exceptions, they were also the Very Whiney. The region (approx. 1.8 million people) has an unnecessarily complex system- a government Department, a Health Committee that holds the Department to account, a Health and Social Care Board that commissions services, 6 Health and Social Care Trusts that deliver services (including buying in), a Public Health Agency, several other arms length bodies, and a Patient Client Council which exists to make sure the system remembers about the patients. We’ve had all sorts of reviews, and recommendations, but really, it’s madness and nobody has the will to change it. I tried to make sense of it once, but didn’t get it right
So there I was, intent on finding out how the findings of the latest review were to be implemented. But no. That would be too straightforward. Due to the vagaries of local politics, we don’t have a health minister at the minute. That meant the Chair of the Health Committee got to criticise the Department without comeback. Then a professor questioned the value of the commissioning system. I’m not arguing with that. Then it all disintegrated.
Why wasn’t my profession asked to speak?
What is being done to protect my profession?
Why is nobody doing…?
The level of disengagement from ‘the system’ by the people who work in it was remarkable. The very real issues were somebody else’s fault, so somebody else could fix them. And before anything will actually be implemented, it needs to be approved by the politicians. Great. Even if they were attempting to run this tiny region, it’s clear they’ll never support anything that may result in a change of services in their local area. Nobody in the room full of Very Important staff in health and social care was considering taking responsibility. There was an awful lot of bickering.
I may have been at the wrong event. Perhaps this was meant to be a ‘letting off steam’ session. I’m glad I had a free place. If a charity had paid the full rate £250 for me to be there, it would have been unjustifiable. The organisers made money and 200 people who could have been problem solving in the health service got a morning out to grumble at each other. That’s a good use of resources, don’t you think?
However, that wasn’t my excitement for the day done. I headed off with Ditzy, I’monlyslightly, Chair, Awesome Academic and her mum to a meeting of the Health Committee. Awesome Academic was presenting on our behalf and the rest of us were the support crew. The committee was running late (members delayed by lunch at the conference?) so we had to hang about for over an hour waiting on them to get round to us.
It was possibly even more tortuous than the event in the morning. Awesome Academic and others made presentations and were then questioned. By which I mean that members read out written questions prepared in advance, regardless of whether the question had already been asked, or the information clearly provided in the presentation. One speaker was asked the same question three times. By the third time, I could have answered for him. It was incredibly frustrating- these were the people we’d chosen to oversee our government?
We keep hearing that there is no money to provide services, to support staff. Doctors are flowing out of the NHS, taking early retirement or heading to Australia. There are not enough nurses. Waiting times for urgent neurology appointments can be 11 months. There aren’t the resources to discharge people safely from hospital, which means there are difficulties admitting people. And our so called leaders whine, waste time and pass the buck.
By the end of the afternoon I was considering taking up politics myself. Easy money, and I’d have minions to write the questions for me. I’d be able to doze during committee sessions and nobody would notice.
Surely I’ve already proved my whining credentials?