Matt Hancock’s week: head of visions


Thanks to a readily exploited security flaw in the Matt Hancock app, we can bring you further exclusive extracts from the health and social care secretary’s private diary

Things are going pretty well, even if I say so myself. I’m coming up with a new tech-related idea every week. These have been enthusiastically received by the disruptive innovators who back my drive to use tech to make the NHS safer, better and more lucrative.

I’ve had some very positive press coverage showing me standing next to their logos, not endorsing any particular company, but doing what I can to stimulate innovation.

Despite this success, Gavin from the media team says people want me to talk less about tech and more about other pressing issues. He points out that JH’s ratings shot up when he went on about safety and suggests that I should also be passionate about it in interviews.

I go one better than this and announce a ten-year plan for safety. It’s vital that our safety strategy develops in parallel with whatever Stevens puts in the other NHS ten-year plan. I wonder if we should also have a separate long-term plan for integration. I’ll mention it to him when we next meet.

I finally found out what Stevens does: he’s in charge of visions. He was behind the Five Year Forward View, an interesting but rather long essay about the NHS that was published before it became clear that we needed a proper plan.

Poor Stevens is quite a nice chap but continues to labour under the delusion that he’s running the show. Giving him the ten-year plan to write should keep him preoccupied and out of my way for a while.

I am disappointed that some people in the NHS appear resistant to significant tech change and get distracted by other less important issues. I talk to too many people who say we need to fix the culture, sort out the workforce, reform payment systems, rescue failing hospitals and so on. Some of these things probably need doing, but I’m making it clear that we have to get our priorities right.

This is why I’ve asked Dame Sally Davies, the chief medical officer to look at the effect of social media on kids’ mental health. She’s going to write me a report to say what she intends to do about it. That could very well be the basis for another long-term plan.

Earlier in the week doctors’ leaders were wailing about a “tech tsunami” threatening to engulf the profession. To which my honest response is: “And your point is…? But I want to keep GPs onside, so we smuggle Lucinda into the RCGP annual conference dressed as a GP to find out how the land lies.

I was pleased to hear Helen Stokes-Lampard, the RCGP president, declare that GPs are not technophobes but then she let herself down by banging on about safety, evidence and cherry-picking of existing GP services. As I’ve already said, I’m going to take care of safety and the there’ll be plenty of time for evidence later. Now is not the time for worrying about fruit-picking, it is the time for rapid adoption and agile dissemination.

Lucinda reports that generally morale among GPs was high. Delegates started the day with a rousing rendition of the Proclaimers classic 500 Miles. The mood was spoilt only by a vocal and cynical minority who declared that they were going nowhere until a long-distance walking enhanced service was on the table.

The highlight of the week, of course, was my speech to the party conference. Again Gavin told me to tone down the tech. I was annoyed that he cut out some of my best stuff, including the GPinHand demo. I did manage to keep the “biggest buyer of fax machines in the world” line in, though, because it always gets a laugh.

I covered all the essential ground – declaring that I love the NHS, delivering a heart-warming personal anecdote, promising some “new” money for social care, and calling for a lot more genomes in future. They’re something else I’m passionate about.

Everyone on my team agreed that it was an impressive performance and who am I to argue?

Diary editor: Julian Patterson


Reproduced at by kind permission of Julian Patterson.