Monday, April 30, 2007

Spare a thought for the front line!

A feature on BBC News Online incorporates a range of stories about dissatisfaction within and about the NHS with Tony Blair calling for anyone and everyone to recognise the successes he has made regardless of failure (though the latter bit does not seem to have been part of his pep talk). Parts of the article made me think how tough it must be firstly to manage the NHS, though I am not using this post to support or defend all aspects of government policy, as well as to face constant criticism as the staff often must feel that they do.

It is hard to remember any positive news about the NHS, more than often what may be isolated cases of failure become national news items that are used to signify government failure. Some research I conducted after the last election talked about trust and government delivery within a wide ranging set of focus group discussions. Most participants agreed they had seen improvements locally, and had no bad experiences, but agreed that generally the NHS is failing. What is the truth? Where is this going?

Here is the point I wished to make. Good news is not news, bad news is. Governments of every colour will get negative feedback on how they run public services, oppositions of every colour will use a cause celebre to score points. In the middle, and on the front line, are the public service providers. It is they who are doing the bad job, they are told so by the media. Independent of how well they are doing with the tools and resources they are given, they are frequently told they are doing a bad job. it must be very demoralising to be a pawn in the political game! I do not suggest a solution, particularly not that the media be soft on the running of the public services, but it does seem a shame that good reforms go unnoticed and one mistake damns the whole organisation.

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