“What the hell’s wrong with Plackard?” asked Dr David Rummage. “Is he on drugs?”


Liz Wanhope, interim accountable officer of Blithering CCG, looked up from the meeting paper she had been trying to read and towards the door where Martin Plackard, director of buy-in for the STP, had appeared.

Plackard was bouncing into the room in slow motion, as if someone had turned down gravity immediately around him. He wore his usual expression of unbearable smugness but with a new element of dangerously suppressed excitement. 

“He’s going to explode,” said Rummage, enthusiastically. “This could be messy.”

To Rummage’s disappointment, Plackard failed to detonate.

“Can we start please?” asked Sir Trevor Longstay, chair of the STP strategy committee.

Lesser men might have been defeated by weightlessness. Not Plackard, who slid into the remaining vacant seat just as Sir Trevor called the meeting to order.

Sir Trevor was not in a good mood. There was a crisis in the offing, but not the kind that he liked, where someone would get their feet held to the fire or their career destroyed.

The crisis heading their way, he explained, was news from the centre that STPs were to produce new five year plans.

“They’re trying to make us relevant again,” he said, clearly irritated.

“Why would they do that?” asked Wanhope, genuinely puzzled. “It’s not as if we’ve done anything to deserve it.”

Plackard, who was still showing signs of imminent combustion, could no longer contain himself.

“The STP reset is a fantastic opportunity to build on the success of our last plan,” he said, his voice cracking with emotion. “We will be able to refresh the five-year strategy we published two years ago.”  

The cause of Plackard’s agitation was now clear. There would need to be more meaningful stakeholder engagement, more feedback, more messaging, more co-produced initiatives, more unconferences, more infographics, more social media campaigns, more dashboards and more media briefings. Above all, there would be more Plackard.

“No wonder the useless sod is so excited,” Rummage thought.

Sir Trevor was keen to move on.

“NHS England and NHS Improvement have promised to loosen their grip on the operational detail. They plan to focus less on assurance and take a more strategic role supporting success at local level, which means…?”

Longstay paused and looked around the table for someone to complete his sentence.

“Which means we have a transitional period to co-produce and mobilise success?” Plackard suggested.

Rummage feigned a coughing fit to cover his laughter. “Sorry, bit of Hobnob caught in the throat,” he said.

Longstay studied Plackard carefully for signs of irony. There were none.

Sir Trevor continued: “No, man, it means business as bloody usual. We’ll have about two weeks before the first templates arrive demanding to know in detail how we want national bodies to hold us to account for success at local level in a hands-off manner, and a few months before we’ll be expected to come up with something more substantial to keep the centre off our backs.

“Meanwhile we have to worry about getting the CCG and the acute trust out of special measures and think of something else to sell to meet our PFI commitments.”

“I think you can trust me to come up with a realistic, sorry, I mean a credible plan,” Plackard replied.

More coughing from Rummage, who appeared to have inhaled another biscuit.

“We’re depending on you, Plackard,” said Sir Trevor, pausing for a moment to let the gravity of that statement sink in.

Editor: Julian Patterson


Reproduced at TrainingPrimaryCare.com by kind permission of Julian Patterson.