3 minute read
Written with the realist eye of the outsider, Lord Ashcroft and Isabel Oakeshott have struck the delicate balance of presenting constructive criticism of the NHS as it emerges from the pandemic that is both informed and accurate
We all care about the future of the NHS. As patients and taxpayers, we are all invested in it. Yet too often the debate about the future of health services is driven by those interested in the delivery of the NHS. Many NHS insiders believe those outside the health service cannot understand how it works or care about its future.
Yet, as so often in life, the best challenge comes from a new perspective.
In life support Lord Ashcroft and Isabel Oakeshott strike that delicate balance of constructive criticism of the NHS emerging from the pandemic that is both informed and accurate, but brings the realistic eye of the outsider.
The book achieves the aim of being sympathetic to the mission of the NHS, but also unapologetic in its analysis. He tells the story of patient safety failures that horrify and sadly do not surprise, while his trash analysis is ruthless. There are times when the page-turning narrative slips into anecdote, but also sections of shocking clarity.
Analyzing NHS problems is the easy part. The hardest part is making meaningful improvements
The feeling that the NHS workforce is less than the sum of its parts shines through. I think that changed during the pandemic. The NHS is finally starting to learn that if you look after your staff, you look after your patients through them. But there is clearly a long way to go.
The NHS has made serious progress in its use of technology in recent years. The old view that the NHS is different from everywhere else, and therefore requires tailor-made responses to every problem, is at the root of many of the worst problems. But the lucid description of how technology can improve the nation’s health is perhaps the most insightful and constructive part of the book.
Analyzing NHS problems is the easy part. The hardest part is making meaningful improvements – and this is where I wish I had learned more about the authors. The pandemic has brought change to the NHS faster than at any time in its history. Now is the time to capture the dynamic spirit of reform – in people, data, research and technology – that the crisis has catalysed.
Anyone like me who loves the NHS because of what it has done for loved ones and family shares an interest in its future success. So, for NHS enthusiasts and critics, it is really important to understand the challenges facing the NHS today and to understand how they can be met without the application of an infinitely greater proportion of our national income. . The authors produce a thoughtful and detailed contribution to this debate.
Although the NHS is not perfect, we must never forget the reasons why we are so proud of it. During this country’s most difficult hour, it was the doctors, nurses, porters, pharmacists, cleaners and clinicians who selflessly put themselves at risk as the pandemic ruthlessly tore our lives apart. It is these incredible men and women who are not only the heart and soul of the NHS, but also of society.
Matt Hancock is Conservative MP for West Suffolk and former Secretary of State for Health and Social Care
Life Support: The state of the NHS in the age of pandemics
Written by: Michael Ashcroft and Isabel Oakeshott
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