The media seized on HSJ’s scoop on the Department of Health-commissioned McKinsey report.
Most interesting were interpretations of the reactions of health minister Mike O’Brien and shadow health minister Andrew Lansley.
With public spending at ruinous levels, the health service must share the pain of reducing the nation’s £1trillion debt
In the Financial Times, Nicholas Timmins described the “panicked reaction from health ministers” once the story spread, as they rushed to reject the report - having told HSJ a day earlier the suggestions “will be looked at”.
Simon Heffer in The Daily Telegraph, while sticking to the line that there were too many NHS bureaucrats, saved his venom for politicians on both sides.
“Labour rejected McKinsey’s plans because it deemed them politically unworkable. It is not prepared to have a mature conversation with the British people about how their right to a health service free at point of use would not be affected by a desire to secure better value, in an economy that is cruising towards bankruptcy. Sadly, the Tory party doesn’t want to have this conversation, either.”
The Daily Mail, too, criticised both parties’ reaction: “With public spending at ruinous levels, the health service must share the pain of reducing the nation’s £1trillion debt. The McKinsey report should begin a grown-up debate on how to achieve this. It is high time Gordon Brown and David Cameron had the courage to play a full part,” its editorial said.
The widespread criticism of NHS “bureaucrats” was predictable, but there were defenders. All hail Jocelyn Rose, of NHS Dumfries and Galloway, who wrote to The Guardian with a controversial but firm message: “People, the NHS needs managers. They are the infrastructure. It needs financial planning, human resources departments and maintenance staff. It needs pharmacists, caterers, cleaners. It needs people to do research. It needs, God help us, people to keep us on track to meet our government targets. If the doctors and nurses had to carry out all these tasks, what does Mr Lansley think would happen to patient care?