The Government may hope to get through the COVID-19 crisis before any public inquiry, but with cross party select committees and the media asking questions experience may triumph over hope. This is not just about ministers’ decisions or the effects of a decade of underfunding but the way the NHS has been reconfigured. Indeed, my concerns precede this pandemic. NHS structures, ‘reformed’ by the Coalition in 2010, are confusing, with several layers between ministers and the frontline. Regional structures are too large and inflexible, with our local NHS directed from distant Leeds – when the NHS in the North East could be given the tools to get on with the job.
There seems little point in command and control if you can command the message but not control it. Where the message did cut through like ‘Protect the NHS’ that only confirmed to many that social care was the poor relation. And local public health staff who do testing day in day out were left scratching their heads when the job was given to private companies.
Far from being a criticism of frontline NHS staff or managers, I applaud the fantastic job they are doing despite the odds. For example, NHS Trusts in the North East have taken the initiative to procure, share and even produce their own PPE; and regional cooperation on staff and patient testing has been amongst the best in the country.
It may well be that when this is over the NHS will need to be reset once lessons have really been learned.