An American sociologist, Harold Garfinkel, famously encouraged his students to go out and deliberately breach social rules (like being very shouty in public) to make visible the strength of these unwritten rules. When I was a student we could do this for one assignment and report how those present responded, or write an essay. I didn’t have the nerve to do the former.
The sacking of Katrina Percy (and the earlier unfoldings leading up to this) has been a kind of breaching exercise. Making visible the deep flaws in the organisation of the NHS. The internet/social media didn’t exist when Garfinkel developed his breaching experiments. These days, the ripples of (public sector) ‘rule breaching’ spread far with an unimagined immediacy. People are rightly outraged about the £200k pay off. How patients denied treatment or operations because of the cost must be feeling about this news is impossible to imagine. It’s simply obscene.
The handling of the Sloven debacle is worse than extraordinarily poor. On December 10 2015, Hunt stood up in the Commons and promised a series of measures in response to the publication of the Mazars review. The CQC so far seem to be sticking to their gig (albeit without using the powers they have effectively). NHS Improvement (NHSI) were tasked with sorting out the rot among the Sloven exec. They have bungled this task spectacularly. The wrong person was appointed to troubleshoot (alarmingly, Tim Smart has always maintained he contacted NHSI offering his help after seeing Tom question the board on BBC News). It was clear NHSI missed an opportunity to appoint a clear headed, sharp thinking, deeply experienced, no nonsense type of person.
Smart, as we know, failed to lift any stones (leaving it to campaigners and journalists to reveal the howlers that were in full view with the sending of the odd FOI request or ten), and decided the board were fit to practice. Etc, etc, etc.
What an almighty fuck up. The NHSI press statement is simply embarrassing. I’m reminded of Shaun Picken, a trustee of My Life My Choice asking Percy: “Katrina, why didn’t you ask for help? You clearly needed it”, at the January board meeting. NHSI. You clearly need help.
I’m a lay person with no experience in public sector management (and currently on leave in Berlin for the weekend…Brilliant timing as always) but it strikes me there are some fairly straightforward things that should happen. Including:
- Thorough scrutiny of financial irregularities around the Talentworks contract which, I’m sure, would provide evidence that Percy, supported by a bunch of longstanding exec-mates, has mismanaged public money.
- A thorough review of the Sloven exec and removal of the remaining muppetry (Spires, Berryman, Stevens, Gordon, etc).
- The appointment of replacement execs with mental health and learning disability expertise.
- Full engagement with the public and a clear demonstration of a willingness to be open, transparent, honest and robust.
- Stop relying on ‘reassurance’ and demand evidence. A reliance on ‘reassurance’ contributed to LB’s death.
Jim Mackey, Jeremy Hunt and others, you should feel ashamed at the handling of this. It’s an exemplar in how not to.