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The Strange Case of Dr Simon and Mr Stevens

Thursday, 9 March 2017

The Strange Case of Dr Simon and Mr Stevens

A cautionary tale of purchaser/provider split personality.

Mild-mannered Dr Simon, a clean-shaven civil servant of good breeding and some repute, finds himself increasingly drawn to his dark side.

After Dr Simon invents a potion that transforms him into the dangerously bearded Mr Stevens, he embarks on a series of reckless adventures in London’s seedy Elephant and Castle and Westminster districts.

As the Mr Stevens character gains the upper hand, he becomes more and more unpredictable, berating the government for misleading the public over health service spending plans, foisting his forward views on anyone who will listen, and setting up mysterious “transformation zones” all over the country – laboratories where doctors are encouraged to perform bizarre experiments on each other and grow beards of their own.

Amid reports of secret plots, stories emerge of hospitals full of the poor, care homes that suddenly disappear and surgeries that stay open all weekend even though no patients ever go there.

Dr Simon’s friends realise he is in the grip of forces beyond his control. Gradually he abandons the civilised world of Victorian commissioning with its genteel payment systems and quaint governance arrangements.

As Mr Stevens, he ventures out under cover of darkness to mix with the rogues, quacks and rantipoles who inhabit the squalid world of health policy. They ply him with intoxicating notions of accountable care systems in which there are no rules and everyone does as they please.

As his excursions become more frequent and protracted, Mr Stevens returns in an increasingly wild state. His friends are shocked as Dr Simon declares that procurement rules exist to be flouted and that a man devoid of conflict of interest is barely alive. Then he retires to his laboratory, where he labours into the night on fiendish new care models, amid the sound of frequent cursing, crashing and breaking glass.   

The story ends in tragedy when his worried friends break into to Dr Simon’s rooms to find that he and Mr Stevens are in fact one and the same man, that both are still very much alive and that the fantastic experiments are set to continue.

Gothic horror editor: Julian Patterson