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Plackard gets the last laugh


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Friday, 26 January 2018

Plackard gets the last laugh

Another big week at NHS Blithering, the country's most challenged health economy, where head of communications Martin Plackard is worried about the glass ceiling. A rumour about the activities of Sir Trevor Longstay could be just the opportunity Plackard needs for a breakthrough...

Dr David Rummage laughed. “Oh come off it, Plackard,” he said. “Not that old chestnut.”

Martin Plackard looked hurt. “It’s high time communications was recognised as a strategic function,” he said.

Rummage looked doubtful. “If you say so, Plackard, but Longstay won’t see it like that. Last time you raised the idea of a seat on the board he laughed in your face.”

“Yes, but last time I didn’t have this,” said Plackard, handing Rummage a piece of paper.

Rummage studied it for a few seconds, then let out a long low whistle. “Is this…?”

“The Presidents Club,” said Plackard, nodding gravely. “According to my source, Sir Trevor was there swilling champagne served by scantily clad hostesses. It won’t look great for the chair of Blithering CCG and the patron of the Cleaner Blithering campaign to have been on the guest list at the biggest groping event of the year.”  

“This is dynamite if it gets out,” agreed Rummage.

The transformation steering group

An emergency meeting of the transformation steering group to discuss the week’s big news: Jeremy Hunt’s announcement that accountable care organisations ACOs were to be “paused”.

Acting interim deputy head of impact Jenny Slack presented a risk analysis that pointed to a very high likelihood that Blithering’s transformation plans would be delayed.

The analysis also suggested that the delay would have a very low impact as a result of several mitigating factors, namely the early stage of development of the Blithering strategy, which had not yet evolved beyond the pre-draft discussion document phase, the ambivalence of local GPs, councillors and the public, and the failure of the mission and identity task and finish group to agree a suitable logo.

Pressed for details of the progress of the ACO socialisation programme, Ms Slack acknowledged that talks with the three main stakeholder groups, Over My Dead Body, Don’t Sell Our NHS to the Yanks and Blithering GPs Against Everything indicated “disappointing” levels of engagement. Negative media coverage and unspecified cultural factors may also have played a part, she explained.

Plackard pointed out that the situation had a silver lining: the pause would almost certainly lead to a long and drawn out consultation, a major PR campaign and a refresh of the ACO brand, all culminating in a policy reset. “It’s unlikely we’ll see much progress until we have an acronym that plays better with stakeholder focus groups,” he said.

Everyone agreed that a new acronym would be an important step in the right direction. 

Working lunch

During a working lunch, the steering group discussed the crisis at Blithering Teaching Hospital Trust. Sir Trevor Longstay read a short statement from the board.

“As you know, Ian Grinder, former chief executive, recently stepped down following rumours of bullying, fraud and nepotism. Mr Grinder’s departure creates the opportunity to realign our management team more closely to the vision set out in our long-term strategy, the Blithering Forward View. The board would like to thank Ian for his commitment during his six months in post.”

Everyone agreed that the story would require careful management. “See if you can get the papers to concentrate on the positive aspects, Plackard,” Sir Trevor said. “Listening to the concerns of staff, real commitment to change, bright future ahead, that sort of thing.”

Plackard looked doubtful but said he would do his best.

Identified savings

Sir Trevor also expressed concern at news that NHS Improvement would no longer sanction funding for external “turnaround” consultants in trusts. The programme had been such a success that it was now being abandoned, he explained.

He quoted NHSI numbers that showed the consultants had identified savings of £180m, enabling the release of resources for further consultancy and improving the chances of efficiency exemplars of accessing additional transformation funding. 

After what Sir Trevor called “an unhelpful shift of focus” from potential to actual savings, NHSI had decided to show the big consulting firms the door.

Expressing regret, Sir Trevor noted that there would need to be a greater reliance on locally sourced providers of support, such as Longstay Consulting Services and Rummage Associates.

Everyone agreed that locally sourced support was vital to the sustainability of the Blithering health economy.

A productive meeting concluded with a vote to change the name of the Blithering STP to reflect the newly enlarged job title of the health secretary.

Everyone agreed that Blithering Healthier and Socially Caring Lives for All perfectly expressed the soon to be identified aims of the local transformation strategy.

A warm seat

Rummage watched from a window as Plackard caught up with Sir Trevor Longstay in the car park. There was a brief discussion, followed by a loud and distressing bellowing noise, like a heifer caught in a cattle grid. Rummage recognised the sound as Sir Trevor’s laughter.

Plackard returned just as the clinical waste disposal magnate’s Jaguar was roaring away.

“Did you get your seat on the board?” Rummage asked.

“Not exactly,” replied Plackard. “It turns out that my source had the wrong event. Sir Trevor was not in London at the Dorchester but here in Blithering visiting the Residents’ Club at the Twilight Memories care home, where the only drink being swilled was tea and the only groping involved octogenarians reaching for their spectacles.”

“Bad luck, Plackard,” said Rummage, grinning. “We’ll keep your seat warm.”

Editor: NHS Networks