Thursday, March 22, 2007

Virgin NHS????

For the next financial starting 1 April 2007 the budget to run the National Health Service will be £100 billion pounds. The number of staff in the NHS is around 1.3 million people.

I am not one of the many people who knock this government about the state of the NHS.

People have short memories. When Tony Blair first came to power in 1997 there was a massive listening exercise when professionals and managers in the NHS were asked to tell the government about the problems faced. The message went back to the Government that there was a desperate need for more money in the NHS.

This government- true to its word - has ploughed more money into the NHS than any government in history but when the money was given it was conditional that having listened to the professionals the government would expect delivery for the massive extra investment. That sounds fair to me.

And yet we still hear the NHS is in danger of falling apart. I don’t believe that and I still think existing money can be used far more effectively in the NHS with some brave leadership.

I have seen huge improvements in the NHS in the last 10 years. OK it is still far from perfect but before leaping to blame the government I think the NHS needs to have a good look at itself and ask how the additional money has been managed in the last 10 years.

Imagine now just for moment that Richard Branson was running the NHS with £100 billion pounds turnover and a sales force of 1.3 million people - do you think it would be a more efficient organisation than the current NHS? – I do

My question is – is this simply about leadership?


Dan said...

I think you're on to something, Trevor (as usual!). It really is about leadership, and I have no doubt that if Sir Richard focused his tremendous talents on NHS, great things would happen...

You should call him up and suggest it!

David Wike said...

I don’t think that anyone would deny that this government has put record amounts of money into the NHS. I doubt also that many would think that it has all been spent to best effect. It would be interesting to know the breakdown of staffing i.e. percentages of medical staff, supporting staff e.g. cleaners and porters, and management.

It would also be interesting to look at how the money has been spent, again categorizing it.

I just have this sneaky feeling that we would be horrified at the level of expenditure on things that didn’t directly contribute to patient welfare. One of the complaints that one frequently hears from NHS staff and from those involved with education, is that a significant percentage of their time (therefore money)is spent complying with the latest government initiative or target.

Trevor, just before you follow Dan’s suggestion and pick up the phone to call Sir Richard, it might be worth considering whether even his talents could fix the problem. I imagine that one of the most significant differences between Virgin and the NHS is that Richard Branson and his management teams do not have to spend their days worrying about the latest whim of government ministers reacting to the latest tabloid press campaign.

Trevor Gay said...

Thanks Dan – I wish it were that simple to get hold of Sir Richard.

I am with you completely about leadership although David is right about the interference of politicians. I think Sir Richard would either sort it out within a year or two or alternatively leave because of interference.

It would be wonderful to see him try. Sadly I suspect he would rather keep out of it because of the reasons David rightly puts forward.

David is right about questions on how the extra money has been spent and that is my point. It is not the fault of the government – it is the fault of management in the NHS. The government rightly expected outcomes and results for the extra investment and I think managers just threw extra money around without enough thought about outcomes.

Anonymous said...

yes better leadership would help

but even virgin companies fail

the way richard knows this is the little feet of the customers walk somewhere else

it is that dynamic where the customers can take their money elsewhere which is missing from the nhs

the nhs should be a state backed insurance scheme, with all of the providers free market, let the patients have a cheque when they are diagnosed, and let the providers compete for the cheque

watch the places get clean, see folk sooner, answer the phone politely etc etc

its not just about leadership, although this helps, and its not just about lack of political interferance, its about consumers empowered to take their business anywhere they dam well like with no fuss and no arguments

Trevor Gay said...

Thanks for that but it would be brilliant to see Sir Richard try to sort out the NHS. I am all for giving more power to patients and carers and I said that throughout my entire NHS career. After 35 years of the system not listening I guess it was time to get out and rattle the cage from outside. I agree with you that customer choice will always drive up quality.

Richard said...


I do not think Sir Richard could sort out the NHS... But he could build and run a Virgin Healthcare system that would blow the NHS away... The new model would be about wellness not illness and Sir Richard is a perfect role model for those who want to provide an alternative to the current NHS....


Trevor Gay said...

Brilliant comment Richard and it would be fabulous to see someone like Sir Richard create a new healthcare business to rattle the cage of the NHS. I use Virgin trains 6 or 7 times a month regularly in my work and the standards on Virgin far exceed competitors in my opinion. The trains are cleaner, they are more reliable for timeliness, they are more comfortable and the staff are definitely friendlier

Virgin Healthcare? … Mmmmmm …..We can dream ….

Anonymous said...

I think Sir Richard needs to get involved. I have zero confidence of the Govt and NHS managers to fix the problem. I dont blame them its just they are working within the current "rules of the game" ... If Virgin gets involved im sure the rules will be changed very quickly for the consumer and healthcare professionals. Look at BUPA Hospitals up for sale because the Govt stifled their growth due to their belief of anti competitive reasons. Im sure they will rebrand the front door(maybe virgin hospitals) which will allow greater freedom for investment and growth.. Somebody out there has to change the rules of the game.. and fast ...

Trevor Gay said...

Thanks for that 'Anonymous'

Having worked for 35 years in the NHS I assure you that you are correct. Maybe we need more people like you to be asking the questions of the Government and senior healthcare managers.

I would love to see Sir Richard re-write the rules and see the fun and games he would have with civil servants trying to block all his good ideas.

Thank you for your refreshing comments - feel free to send me an e mail with any other NHS ideas