Sir Trevor Longstay, co-chair of the NHS Blithering STP Alliance has agreed to open up his private diary and share his reflections on a typical week as a top leader
Monday – Plackard on the phone again, begging for his old job back. Few things are more pitiful than the sound of a grown man sobbing. Difficult to know what to say to him, so I just say no and hang up.
Important meeting of the STP alliance. Mix up about the agenda means there isn’t one and discussion about who should chair dominates other business. Encouraging signs of collaboration, however, as we are able to agree a date for the next meeting. We also reach consensus on the need for a co-produced mission and high-quality values.
Receive an invitation to a roundtable discussion on the future of the NHS workforce. Think tanks are worried that Health Education England farmed out the job of writing its workforce strategy to Noddy and Big Ears and have convened an emergency roundtable to remove all the Toyland references. I hesitate – the pastries and cheesy snacks are always good at the Fund – but decline. I’m a strategy man at heart, but the workforce has never really held much interest for me. We leave all that to Mrs Bickers in HR.
Tuesday – Note with satisfaction Ian Dalton’s email telling trusts to pull their bloody socks up. As Ian put it so well, our unrealistic targets are no excuse for your unrealistic plans. Inspired by Ian I fire off my own email reminding boards that where trusts felt they could not meet their control totals, they should simply be honest about it – but not so honest that we are compelled to withhold their transformation funding, of course.
Frankly I’m not overly concerned that plans are realistic as long as they’re robust. A robust plan has three main ingredients: credibility, ambition and charts. Its purpose is to inspire confidence – nothing more. I end my message on a friendly note, promising that we are there to support trusts to improve, not to punish them. I also bring the deadline for submission of final plans forward by a few days to help focus minds.
Wednesday – Beginning to regret getting rid of Plackard. Highly irritating but occasionally useful and always personable. Charlotte is ruffling feathers, particularly Rummage and his GP chums. She told them that because only half of Blithering GPs are using the e-referrals system we’re allowing them to keep using paper. So far, so good, but to meet the national target for paper-free operation the details will still need to be added to the e-referrals system. The GPs are bleating about bureaucracy gone mad. They don’t seem to appreciate the need for greater efficiency or the vital importance of the digital agenda. I despair of them sometimes.
Thursday – Charlotte has commissioned a production company to make a film celebrating 70 years of NHS Blithering. A smarmy individual comes up from NHS England’s comms team in London to make sure the piece is “on message”. He is the national lead for heartwarming anniversaries and reminds me of an oilier version of Plackard. He gives us a Fab Change Goody Bag and a long list of things to include and leave out of our video. Grateful old people, nurses, minorities and sick children are all good, while we are strongly recommended to steer clear of overcrowding, waiting times, ambulance services, unhappy staff, funding, militant junior doctors, fireproof cladding, Jeremy Hunt, or anything too factual.
Friday – Unflattering profile of me appears in the HSJ questioning my leadership, management style, morals, ethics and membership of the Caravan Club, which is – as I have said repeatedly – a chapter of my past that I deeply regret. I make my disappointment clear to Charlotte, who arranged the interview. We consider whether Blithering is the right environment for her unique skillset and I tell her that it isn’t. I cheer her up by promising to have a word with Ian. He’ll find something for her at NHS Improvement.
I do what needs to be done. I email Mrs Bickers for Plackard’s phone number.
Personal assistant to Sir Trevor: Julian Patterson
Reproduced at TrainingPrimaryCare.com by kind permission of Julian Patterson.