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A Broken Narrative

  |   Thought Leadership

“If you repeat a lie often enough, people will believe it, and you will even come to believe it yourself.”

We are struck by the negative punditry coming from outside the NHS i.e. BBC, newspapers, politicians – but increasingly from inside the NHS as well. “There is only a Plan A” apparently.

Whilst it is absolutely clear that financial pressures in the system are extremely high and increasingly affecting front-line services, a defeatist perspective is a bigger concern.

Social care funding is making it very difficult to get patients out of hospital. Yes this has a knock-on effect on pretty much everything from performance against targets, to finances (often these types of patient are not profitable to a hospital) and more and more – clinically. Already we have seen two examples of deaths that coroners have attributed to delays in finding ITU beds. Make no mistake – there will be many more examples out there.

So we can all agree that there is a problem that needs fixing and yes the NHS and government leadership need to find some delivery solutions to the lack of end-to-end capacity.

But that’s not my main worry. We now live in a post-truth, alternative-fact world. The negativity surrounding the NHS is beginning to swallow it up. People are starting to believe the doomsayers.

The NHS has always run on large elements of goodwill, trust and pride amongst its staff. But it’s being eroded by this constant narrative that nothing can be done anymore.

I see admin staff who accept that patients not being able to get through on the phone for hours is “normal”. Managers who think having empty theatres and not booking patients to be treated “because we won’t have any beds so what’s the point?” and clinicians practising defensive medicine.

This is the major crisis facing the NHS – everyone giving up on it.

Consider this:

If hospitals are struggling financially and cannot operate on major cases because beds are full – why have we not seen daycase operations increase hugely? Or waits for outpatients coming down significantly? These things are not dependent on beds and they would improve financial performance.

Something can always be done.

We now face a lack of optimism, a Plan A that has lost much of its positive narrative, and a belief that nothing can be done until more money is provided.

A final thought. “If you repeat a lie often enough, people will believe it, and you will even come to believe it yourself.” Who said that? Joseph Goebbels.