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A Blithering plan


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    12 November 2020

    By Professor David Colin-Thomé, OBE, chair of PCC and formerly a GP for 36 years, the National Clinical Director of Primary, Dept of Health England 2001- 10 and visiting Professor Manchester and Durham Universities.

Friday, 5 January 2018

A Blithering plan

As the NHS finds itself in the grip of winter pressures and panic is setting in, it's time for strong leaders to step up. At NHS Blithering, Sir Trevor Longstay, knighted for services to the clinical waste industry, is getting ready to do his bit. Follow a typical day in the lives of the Blithering team as they battle on tirelessly against the odds.

08:30 Reception, Blithering CCG

“Ah, it’s Lord Plackard,” boomed Sir Trevor Longstay, bowing to NHS Blithering’s communications supremo.  

Martin Plackard smiled weakly.

News of Plackard’s OBE had spread fast, mainly thanks to Plackard himself, who had issued an immediate press release protesting his unworthiness.

He was already on the train to London when a civil servant called to say that there had been a mistake: they had the wrong Plackard. Any suspicions of unworthiness were confirmed. A crestfallen Plackard had turned back at Milton Keynes.

“Embarrassing for you, Plackard,” said Sir Trevor, with obvious relish.

“Yes, bad luck, Plackard,“ agreed Dr David Rummage.

Plackard scanned the ruddy face of Blithering’s medical director for signs of irony. But Rummage was inscrutable. Valium and whisky can do that to a man.

“Congratulations on your own honour, David,” Plackard said, through gritted teeth.

Rummage’s DocOnTap healthcare app had won acclaim from everyone except the medical profession and patients. The NHS England comms team and the trade press loved it. The DH had listed it among the top 20 “uniquely disruptive healthcare innovations of the year”. The HSJ had given it an award. Rummage’s MBE was the cherry on top.

“Thanks, Plackard,” said Rummage.

“You jammy bastard,” thought Plackard.

09:50 Board room

“So we’re agreed then,” said Martin Plackard. This was a typically Plackardian intervention, a ploy he used whenever there was an absence of agreement or credible ideas. Both problems were evident in the meeting of the Blithering winter pressures taskforce.

“I’ll summarise, shall I?” asked Plackard, gamely pushing on with the pretence.

He listed the top suggestions so far for alleviating winter pressures.

  1. Compulsory flu jabs, “Here to help” T-shirts and badges for all frontline staff. Sir Trevor offered to wear his “HelloMyNameIs…Longstay” lanyard to make him more approachable to non-execs and nurses.
  2. A 400% increase in hospital car park charges - proposed by Gill Stark, interim director of finance. Everyone liked this idea, which would boost parking income and/or reduce demand for hospital services. Win-win either way.
  3. A hard-hitting campaign to stop patients using the NHS unless they really need to. Suggestions for slogans included: “Have you any idea what this costs?” (Sir Trevor), “If you think the NHS is free, there really is something wrong with you” (Rummage) and “Why don’t we talk about it when you’re feeling a bit better” (Jenny Asda, patient empathy lead).   
  4. Recruiting winter ambassadors - a scheme to harness the energy of local communities and find natural leaders capable of educating ordinary people about winter and coming up with solutions for the coldest time of year. Very high social return on investment for a modest half-million pound investment in social media and community activism.
  5. Cancelling outpatient appointments – a highly effective way to underline the seriousness of the situation to the public and maximise the efficiency of hospitals. “I’m sure they could do with some extra dermatologists and podiatrists in the emergency department at busy times,“ said Rummage, neatly summarising the clinical benefits of the strategy.
  6. Better “signposting” to help people choose wisely. This is one of several areas that Plackard claims to be “passionate” about. “All the evidence suggests that people care deeply about NHS funding and are keen to educate themselves about the most cost-effective and appropriate services,” he says. Everyone agrees that this could make a big difference.
  7. Blithering’s senior team are to do shifts at Blithering General until further notice. “We need to lead from the front, roll our sleeves up, muck in, do what we can to help, show ‘em what we’re made of...” Sir Trevor paused, aware that he was running out of clichés. “People need to see we’re doing everything possible to keep the service going. Get some press there Plackard – and find them some grateful old ladies to interview.”  

11:30 The Blithering Healthy Options Cafe (sponsored by Dunkin’ Donuts)

“It’s you or Sir Trevor, “said Plackard, “and people trust doctors. Nobody trusts Sir Trevor.”

“I haven’t seen a patient for years,” protested Rummage.

“We know that, but as far as the press are concerned you’re a bona fide medical practitioner, David,” said Plackard.

Rummage looked unconvinced.

“All you have to say is that you’re very sorry about all the ambulance queues and cancelled operations, but that there’s a lot of flu this year,” said Plackard. “It’s local radio. You won’t get any difficult questions.”

“They’ll ask me if there’s a crisis,” said Rummage. “What shall I tell them?”

“Tell them it’s only a crisis if you don’t have a plan,” replied Plackard.

“Do we have a plan?” asked Rummage

Plackard rolled his eyes. Had the money on Rummage’s press training been spent in vain?

“Just tell them that we have been aware of winter for several months and planning accordingly. Here,” said Plackard, handing Rummage a sheet of paper. “Read this, it tells you everything you need to know.”

Rummage studied the document, a “lines to take” briefing from NHS England.

He frowned. “I don’t need a bloody script,” he said.

“It’s not a script, David, it’s a plan,” said Plackard.

21:00 Waiting area, A&E, Blithering General

“I don’t understand it,” said Rummage. “This place is usually heaving by now.”

“Oh they’re turning up, they’re just not getting through,” said Ramesh Kandhu, the hospital’s director of emergency care.

“Triage?” asked Rummage.

“You could say that,” replied Kandhu.

A familiar voice reached Rummage. “There’s absolutely nothing bloody wrong with you, man. Pull yourself together and go back to your hovel. I don’t want to see you back here unless you’re on a stretcher.”

A terrified looking man hobbled for the exit.

Sir Trevor Longstay waved to Rummage from the reception desk.

“We’ll soon have this place back on its feet, Rummage,” he bellowed.

Winter pressures editor: Julian Patterson


Paul Morgan
Paul Morgan says:
Jan 05, 2018 03:21 PM

LOL. I love it when a plan comes together:)

Anonymous says:
Jan 09, 2018 02:34 PM

Brilliant parody..... or is it?