Blame crisis: government acts
A predictable outcry greeted press reports that the government mainly blames GPs for the problems of the NHS. Nothing could be further from the truth.
We have never singled out any particular group for blame. On the contrary, we have always been even-handed when it comes to naming and shaming those who seek to harm our most cherished national institution – Her Majesty’s government – including managers, doctors, patients and, of course, the media.
Just consider our record.
Unfair shares for all
NHS managers are regularly blamed when things go wrong, and the lower grades are the first to get the boot whenever a new efficiency drive is launched.
We also have an excellent record of scapegoating senior managers. Hospital bosses are lucky to last a year in post thanks to a fast-track programme of culpability. The secretary of state himself has been known to ring trust chief execs to review their coursework and suggest where a sudden resignation might improve their overall score.
At the same time we have been quick to condemn boards that fail to hold blameworthy chief execs to account.
It is true that recently we have chosen to highlight attempts by family doctors to frustrate the government’s ambition to keep the NHS open for blame seven days a week. But we need hardly remind you that only a few short months ago it was junior doctors who were bringing the NHS to its knees. To other professionals who may currently feel underblamed we can only say: be patient, your turn will come.
Blame closer to home
Culpability doesn’t stop with professionals. Some of the worst offenders are patients, particularly those who ignore messages about responsible use of NHS resources and turn up at A&E with minor complaints – such as that they can’t get in to see a GP for the next month.
The NHS spends millions on “choose wisely” messages on the backs of buses and in Twitter feeds that reach tens, perhaps hundreds of people every day of the year. It is time for an honest conversation with the public to make it clear that the imminent collapse of the NHS is entirely their fault.
We have already started to identify particularly troublesome groups including older people who continue ageing despite the known risks, those with hard-to-justify long-term conditions and immigrants who flock here to clean our cars, work in our hospitals and join our world-class waiting lists.
You're all in it together
So what are we doing about the problem? Although we have already gone further than any government in recent memory to improve access to blame, we accept that there is always more to be done. We will take immediate steps to address areas where provision is known to be patchy. For example, carers have been almost entirely neglected, while nurses are rarely blamed for anything. That must change.
Our pledge is that everyone who works for or uses the NHS will be treated as an equal blameholder, now and by future generations.
Our recent record proves conclusively that when it comes to the NHS this government really knows how to dish it out. All we ask in return is that you continue to take it.
Editor: Julian Patterson
(Special adviser: M Plackard)