Cast your mind back to this time last year, and you may remember the Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt announcing with some fanfare the beginning of the Rose Review into NHS Management. Chaired by Lord Rose, the former Marks & Spencer Chief Executive, the review would assess how NHS hospitals could ensure they have “the very best leaders to help transform the culture” of care across the Health Service and monitor the quality of management within them.
It was a timely review – there have, of course, been a number of shocking stories which have come out over the past few years in which the management and supervision of NHS hospitals has come in for sharp criticism. Reports into failings at Mid-Staffordshire and in the Medway have both noted that managers of these underperforming hospitals were focussed too much on targets and administration, and not enough on patient care.
However, it is reported today that Lord Rose’s review was handed to Ministers before the end of 2014 – but has been put “on the back burner of the back burner” and is unlikely to see the light of day before the election.
This is nothing short of a scandal. The Financial Times and the Daily Mail both report that a source with knowledge of the report describes it as finding the overall standard of much NHS management to be “totally shocking” – with fairly obvious implications for the quality of the care patients receive.
We have written numerous times of the danger posed by refusing to have a grown-up debate about the NHS. Instead of asking how to finance a Health Service with an ageing population, we have parties competing to throw more borrowed money at it. Instead of asking whether we need to bring private providers in to the service or adopt an insurance model to make it financially sustainable, we have scare stories about “privatising the NHS.”
It is deeply concerning if the Department of Health itself is now complicit in keeping crucial information about the quality of care in our hospitals buried until it becomes less politically sensitive. Taxpayers deserve to know now – not after May 8th – whether NHS managers are delivering the service that taxpayers deserve. If we continue to hide from the facts, the risk of another Mid-Staffs rises exponentially.