Matt Hancock’s diary – a week of levelling up

Primary Care Training_NHS General Practice_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

Reproduced at by kind permission of Julian Patterson.