American Tim Ferris has just been appointed as the new NHS National Director of Transformation (photo right),  Surely, now is the time to think carefully about what is
Timothy G. Ferris, MDneeded in the NHS?  Do we need an ‘incomer’ to fill such an important post?
Surely now is the time to choose someone who understands the problems of an under-funded NHS reeling after lockdown?
Instead, in comes Ferris, lately CEO of the Massachusetts General Physicians Organization.
Surely someone in the NHS could have been found? It’s supposedly the biggest employer in the world.  During lockdown, NHS staff performed miracles, came out with new ideas, innovations and improvements, often radically changing healthcare for the better. So why not utilise this talent, instead of head-hunting across the Atlantic?
After the Covid Crisis, one would expect the NHS to work out what needed to be restored after an awful year, and build on improvements; of which there have been many.
But this appointment begs the question: the US medical system is known to be inefficient, and possibly one of the most expensive in the world.  So what do we have to learn from this?  Except perhaps how to ‘add value’ by increasing bills?
But having served on Dept. Health committees (paid) I soon learnt that questioning where money was coming from to fund Whitehall’s flights of fancy would be met with a bland “the money is available”.  But no-one could ever tell me where this was coming from.
After Covid
Instead someone has taken a ‘holiday’ trip across the Atlantic to go head-hunting.  Instead of looking around for home-grown talent. What a slap in the face for loyal NHS staff who worked incredibly long hours, every efficientky,  last year.  So much for all the clapping.
In Britain, private sector involvement in healthcare is a deeply unpopular prospect, with 76% of Britons wanting an end to privatisation of health services. The old adage of the NHS as “the closest thing the English have to a religion” still rings true.  Yet involving outside agencies from another country will mean they have to be paid – somehow.
GPs surgeries under threat
For some time. London’s GP surgeries have been eyed up by greedy US invaders.  Quietly, Londoners found their smaller, local surgeries swallowed up and amalgamated into mega-surgeries, forcing them to move – perhaps only 1/2 a mile away, but often this came with longer waits to see the doctor, and no guarantee it would be ‘your’ GP.

US corporate giant Centene, a Fortune 500 company listed on the New York Stock Exchange, and the parent company of Operose Health, is now involved with 58 GP surgeries across the UK: making it the largest GP network in the UK.

UK boss of Centene, Samantha Jones, was recently appointed as an adviser to Boris Johnson on “NHS transformation and social care”! As Silver Voices, the very-much-on-the-ball campaigners for the elderly say, “Worrying times indeed”.

Our healthcare could now be provided by locums, moving from surgery to surgery whenever there is demand, and making it difficult to book an appointment with a doctor known to you.

Instead of phoning the doctor when you are really sick (and the majority of Britons only do this when urgent), you are often asked to dial 111 and talk to someone reading questions off a screen.

Lack of contact with patients is one reason why GP’s leave the profession early. Today, we have a shortage of 9,000 GP’s, with the shortest consultation time of any economically developed nation. (French GPs often ask how can our doctors give a diagnosis in 10 short minutes?) Can we really afford to let the Centene experiment continue in our GP practices?

Ferris comes with the usual PR promises of “setting forth a strategy and overseeing the design, development and delivery of clinical and digital technologies aimed at improving health care quality, increasing productivity and ensuring convenient access to services and health information for more than 56 million people in England”.

This begs the question “what’s new?  and what do we get out of it?”  Answer – a whole lot of upheaval, changes and cut-backs.

Do we want this?  Ferris is coming into the role promising to look out for a “wide range of efforts aimed at improving care in the hospital and in the community for the sickest and most vulnerable patients”. We all want this, but how to deliver this, in a grossly underfunded NHS, needs someone who understands how the NHS works,

Use what is available

No-one needs to point that out the NHS is facing a challenging time. What does need to be demonstrated is that the service needs to take stock, take advantage of good things that came out of lockdown, and give back power to re-organise the system to those who understand what needs to be done.

This will take a deep understanding of how the health system works in Britain, which means someone who had had years to understand what is going on in Whitehall, as well as what is urgently needed in the NHS.

Does Ferris have this knowledge?

This video was made by a group of patients, worried about what was happening to their local surgery

There are a lot of skeletons buried around in the NHS – don’t let them out to rattle expensive cages with no benefit for anyone, least of all patients.  


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