Dear Frank. . . in response to your recent letter

Commendably, political divisions haven't prevented you learning from Archie Norman MP. Asda's 'Tell Archie' programme has generated tens of thousands of profitable ideas. Experience there and elsewhere suggests your recent letter to NHS staff seeking ideas for improving the service should produce over 100,000, most of which could be implemented tomorrow.

It might be worth asking a few hundred respondents why they have previously been so backward at coming forward. Their answers will reveal much about the service's culture. And all respondents deserve a reply: that is a prerequisite of any continuing suggestion scheme you might develop on the back of this big-bang launch.

Successful 'opportunities for improvement' schemes guarantee acknowledgements within 48 hours and considered evaluations within a week. These promises help foster a culture where employees expect to devote part of their time to changing the way things are done.

A sound OFI scheme built on a recognition that staff don't leave their brains at home when they come to work yields handsome rewards. For example, Milliken Industries in Lancashire gets close to the Japanese average of 38 ideas per employee per year and an adoption rate of 88 per cent. Imagine 38 million suggestions per year in the NHS.

Archie Norman's turnaround of Asda is sometimes disparaged because it involved little original thinking. This he freely acknowledges, but argues that copying best demonstrated practice from elsewhere is hugely profitable. In contrast, our supposed National Health Service is seriously afflicted by the 'not invented here' syndrome. There is a quite staggering reluctance to nick ideas successfully implemented in other trusts.

Almost every edition of the Journal describes at least one innovation which could be copied, but isn't. The same goes for all the winning entries in the Journal's annual Health Management Awards.

The NHS Executive publication, The A-Z of Quality, contains several hundred more, but gathers dust in most trusts. The service seems obsessed with 'ownership', and that appears to derive from reinventing wheels.

You are now faced with the stimulating challenge of how best to implement these many good ideas throughout the service. While your 'Tell Frank' initiative is welcome, even greater gains are to be had from persuading - or forcing - trusts to copy what has already worked elsewhere. Perhaps they should all appoint a poacher. After all, management consultants have been earning their fees in this way for years at the NHS's expense.