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The deniable truth

 
Friday, 19 January 2018

The deniable truth

As winter pressures continue and NHS services everywhere are feeling the pinch, the country’s leading health economy is once again at the forefront of emergency planning. This leaked letter from Martin Plackard, director of digital transparency and social media impact at NHS Blithering, contains top tips for other communications professionals on how to take back control of winter and other challenging sub-optimal situations.

Dear colleague

In response to the deepening crisis and growing calls for action, I am personally intervening to guarantee the safety of key stakeholders.

Of particular concern are the needs of vulnerable older people and those with mental health issues, but apart from members of the DevoBlith board we have a wider duty of care to the Blithering population.

Irresponsible reporting of so-called facts by local and national media is putting additional strain on key frontline comms professionals who are already working at capacity to keep vital services running.

To reduce the risk of harm from unwarranted and inappropriate reporting, Blithering has developed the Deniability Assurance Framework and Toolkit, a new media management policy and associated resources that promise to relieve the pressure on comms teams, boards, national officials, politicians, their carers and families.

The new policy replaces all previous obfuscation guidance, including locally developed enhanced reality schemes with immediate effect.

The suite of resources includes a bite-size plain English guide to dissembling, a context-free statistics database providing unlimited access to valuable anti-data and a number of pre-populated customisable templates for dealing with common seasonal and perennial scenarios.

These provide useful lines to take on a number of hot topics, such as:

Urgent care performance – While the ambulance service and hospitals are under slightly greater pressure than usual, it’s simply not true to suggest that we had no plans in place. This year saw a 17% increase in plans and we won’t stop planning until the situation returns to normal.

Workforce shortages – Whatever highly selective figures journalists produce to show that X thousand doctors or Y thousand nurses are quitting the NHS for jobs in Australia, reply with near equivalent statistics to show the number of medics trained since 1957 in the whole of North America, or cite the government’s commitment to train (insert your own number) of (insert your own profession) by (insert your own date).  

Vanguards – Have been a complete success, which is why funding will stop at the end of this financial year. It has always been our aim that vanguards would become self-funding all at the same time. We will of course continue to support a vanguard-like entity from core CCG funding. No, of course it’s not possible to put a figure on that. Soon to be published evaluations will demonstrate clear long-term benefits of vanguards – another reason why we won’t be doing them anymore.

New care models – We are completely committed to the evolution of the Blithering Accountable Care System. There is no evidence that lack of mutual trust, public support, money or any legal basis for existing need be barriers to progress. GPs are fully behind the concept of the ACO contract. All our GPs are poised to sign up, which is why we are providing them with a range of options from full integration - known informally as the “go on, give up your contract for life, what have you got to lose?” option - to virtual integration, which is sometimes affectionately referred to as the “not worth the paper it’s written on and still no takers” option.    

Flu – Has been unfairly blamed on the NHS when in fact it’s all the fault of Australia (another reason why doctors should think twice about moving there). A number of factors beyond our control mean that this year flu is causing a few more problems than usual. Members of the public have ignored excellent public health advice to stay indoors until March and avoid mixing with family members and other potential carriers. We are taking decisive action including retweeting letters from national officials no one has ever heard of thanking people for getting the flu jab, and producing cartoons about responsible use of tissues. Above all, deny that flu is British and remind the press that foreign viruses will cease to be a problem post-Brexit.

Safety – If all else fails, point out in hurt tones that no other record-breaking secretary of state has been as keen on safety as Mr Hunt and that the alleged funding gap is no excuse for letting him down. Remind journalists of Mr Hunt’s pledges to reduce never events, ensure safe staffing levels on hospital wards, expose failures of care, protect whistleblowers, promote innovation, and make the NHS a much more digital place to work. Deny that safety is being compromised by lack of investment. Suggest instead that it may be a result of carelessness or lack of effort on the part of faceless bureaucrats. (Try not to alienate any particular group of bureaucrats in case you need their help later.)

To enable the rapid socialisation and Blithering-wide rollout of the new deniability policy, the usual requirement for plausibility (full, partial or virtual) is suspended until further notice.

Good luck – and remember that while it’s not possible to deny everything, it’s always advisable to try.

Yours faithfully

Martin

Personal assistant to Mr Plackard:  Julian Patterson

@jtweeterson
julian.patterson@networks.nhs.uk