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Matt Hancock’s diary – a week of levelling up


Blog headlines

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    2 July 2020

    This week Karen Mikalsen from the Spinal Injuries Association shares some information on their work and events for healthcare professionals.

  • Guest blog:Karen Chumley
    25 June 2020

    Thank you to Karen Chumley for a second blog –this time on the local use of an Electronic Palliative Care Coordination system during the Covid-19 pandemic. Karen is the Clinical Director and Deputy CEO at St Helena.

  • Link of the week
    19 June 2020

    This week's link of the week is article by Yasmin Khanagha published in Nursing Times – Why we need to open the conversation about racism.

  • Guest blog: Dr Karen Chumbley
    12 June 2020

    This week we have a guest blog submitted by Dr Karen Chumbley, clinical director and deputy chief executive at St Helena (https://www.sthelena.org.uk/)

  • Social care to become lifestyle brand
    16 April 2020

    Social care is to get a new brand identity as the government seeks to reverse the perception that it is the poor relation of the NHS.

  • Blithering Covid-19 bulletin plays vital role
    2 April 2020

    To fill a gap in the market for timely and relevant Covid-19 information, Martin Plackard, director of global crisis communications at NHS Blithering introduces his latest initiative to reach out to stakeholders during the outbreak.

  • Social distancing the Longstay way
    27 March 2020

    We asked Sir Trevor Longstay, chief executive of the NHS Blithering University Hospitals Foundation Trust and commander-in-chief of the Blithering Covid-19 Taskforce to give us some practical tips on social distancing. Here he shares some of the lessons learned over four decades of leadership – not all of them relevant or epidemiologically sound

  • Nothing left to shift: fears grow over NHS paradigm supply
    12 March 2020

    The government has issued a stark warning that stocks of paradigms and other basic supplies could soon run out if NHS managers continue panic-buying.

  • Matt Hancock’s diary – a week of levelling up
    27 February 2020

    Taking personal charge of global pandemics is one of the perks of this job. I’m referring to coronavirus, of course, and I’m booked to appear on Sky News to talk about it.

  • Exceeding your expectations: the Blithering staff survey
    20 February 2020

    Staff at NHS Blithering feel listened to “at least once a year” and report that their expectations of taking part in surveys have been “met” or “exceeded” in the past 12 months.

  • Martin Plackard’s week: Tuesday
    7 February 2020

    The second in our series of privileged insights to the working life of Martin Plackard, the NHS’s most gifted communicator

  • Martin Plackard’s week: Monday
    30 January 2020

    First in an occasional series of glimpses into a typical week in the life of Martin Plackard, the NHS's most influential strategic communicator

  • A quick guide to quick guides
    24 January 2020

    Few of us have time for long documents that take ages to read or a lot of expertise to put together. That’s where quick guides come in.

  • Towards people and impact
    17 January 2020

    This week the Royal Pharmaceutical Society advertised for a head of engagement and belonging. Such titles can be controversial – but not for Martin Plackard, whose CV features a number of leadership roles in the fields of impact, euphemism management and talent delivery.

  • National log-in reset will change everything
    9 January 2020

    This week the Department of Health and Social Care announced a £40m investment to make it easier to log-in to NHS computers. It’s a laudable aim, akin to fitting a keyless entry system to a Ford Anglia to make it go faster.

  • Martin Plackard’s top tips for making a difference in 2020
    3 January 2020

    NHS Blithering’s Martin Plackard MBE was recognised in the new year honours list for services to strategic communications and meaningful engagement. Here he gives his top tips for others who hope to make a very real difference to people, communities and their own career prospects in 2020.

  • My amazing Twitter year – by Matt Hancock
    20 December 2019

    It's been a fantastic year on social media for the secretary of state for health and the other thing. Here it is in very nearly his own words

  • Sustainability and transformation parties: mandatory guidance
    5 December 2019

    As Christmas fast approaches, system leaders are getting ready for so-called sustainability and transformation parties, the highlight of the year for those who enjoy kinky integration with strangers.

  • All the latest health policy news from the general **** campaign
    29 November 2019

    Because purdah is still in force, this week’s **** has been heavily redacted. Here are the main parties’ plans for government as set out in their manifestos. A full unexpurgated version can be obtained from **** Party HQ.

  • New outfit more splendidly integrated than ever
    21 November 2019

    The emperor has announced plans for yet another new outfit, amid claims that this one will be even more splendid than the last.

Thursday, 27 February 2020

Matt Hancock’s diary – a week of levelling up

Taking personal charge of global pandemics is one of the perks of this job. I’m referring to coronavirus, of course, and I’m booked to appear on Sky News to talk about it.

Dom says I need to show concern but mustn’t spread panic. “Not like Boris and the floods,” I say. Dom gives me one of his looks. “No, not like that,” he agrees.  

I tell Kay Burley I’m “pretty worried”, which strikes about the right note. Make sure I call it COVID-19 to show I’m on top of the science. I use the grave expression I practice by thinking of England losing the ashes or a favourite Labrador being put to sleep. Dom sometimes jokes that it’s my about-to-cry face. 

Love it or hate it

A man named Professor Sir Michael Marmite has been kicking up a fuss about health inequalities. He wrote a report about it ages ago which people feel very strongly about – some love it, others hate it. Anyway, his theory is that your life expectancy depends entirely on where you live, which is frankly bonkers.

According to Marmite, people in one area can live ten years longer than people just a few miles away. Why would people stay in a place where they are going to die young, when they can just hop on a bus and get to safety?

Marmite says it’s to do with social mobility. Perhaps he doesn’t own a car or lives a long way from the nearest bus stop.

DAFT idea

I’ve decided to replace the global digital exemplars with a tech scheme of my own. Exemplars were JH’s idea, so they really need to go. I hate to criticise Jeremy – and by the way it’s great that he’s got a part-time job running a committee after his failed bid to become PM – but there’s not much to show for the hundreds of millions pumped into exemplars and fast followers. That’s going to change on my watch, mark my words!

Our biggest challenge has been coming up with a name. Vanguards, beacons, pioneers, pathfinders and trailblazers have all been used before, but after some intensive brainstorming by my tech strategy unit NHSX we’ve settled on “digital aspirants”. I’ve asked NHSX to produce a slide deck to explain how digital aspirants are different to exemplars and to set out a streamlined process for trusts to reapply for funding.

When I mention it to JH, he is quite gracious. “It’s a very catchy name. I’m sure hospitals would be proud to be known as digital aspirant foundation trusts,” he says.

I’ve told NHSX to come up with a logo.

Infection control

Back at the office Lucinda is very moved when I present her with my SoS COVID-19 survival pack, which includes a face mask, hand sanitiser, packet of Tunes and a box of man-size tissues – part of the pre-Brexit emergency stock I ordered from Poundland. Thinking ahead is arguably my greatest strength.

She makes a funny squeaking noise as if she’s trying to hold in a sneeze – sneezing is one of the danger signs – but insists she’s okay. I’m keeping an eye on her and the rest of the team for symptoms. A man in my position can’t afford to get sick.

Safe pair of hands

Dom says I should go on telly to talk about health inequalities. I protest that the Marmite Report is old news and that nothing has changed since he wrote it ten years ago. But apparently there are new figures out that prove that things are getting worse. For some reason people are blaming the government and austerity.

The media are confusing health and economic policy, I protest. Dom agrees. Journalists are a pretty dim lot, he says, which is why we’re getting rid of them. “I would ask Rishi,” he says, “but we can’t even trust him to make a cup of tea, so I think you’d better handle it.”

“Just tell the BBC that you’re pretty worried about the gap but that we’ll close it by levelling up,” he says. I start to ask him what this actually means, but he gives me another one of his stares and I think better of it.

Decisive action

Write a letter to drug companies telling them to hurry up and find a cure for COVID-19. I want it on my desk on Monday morning just in case Lucinda really is going down with something.  

Diary editor: Julian Patterson


Sabbir Ahmed Rahman
Sabbir Ahmed Rahman says:
Feb 28, 2020 07:18 AM

Why does this feel like I am reading "The Secret Diary of Adrian Mole, Aged 13 3/4"?