I was appalled and angered by Tony Blair's comments in his address to the British Venture Capitalist Association on 6 July: 'People in the public sector are more rooted in the concept that 'if it's always been done this way, it must always be done this way' than any group of people that I've ever come across.' To make such stereotypical and sweeping assertions is an insult to all clinicians, managers and support staff in the NHS. Of course, some find change more difficult than others but so do some private sector bosses and workers (and even some MPs).
As a public servant I am proud of what people in the NHS have done to make change happen, often at considerable personal cost to themselves and their families or friends.
Here in Norfolk, as in so many parts of the NHS, we are managing major change ranging from local developments in clinical practice through to wholesale redesigning of services and commissioning arrangements. We are doing so through working together, whether we are clinicians, managers or support staff, in primary/community care, acute hospitals or health authorities, and often through working innovatively with local authority and private or voluntary sector partners.
Tony Blair's comments were bad enough. But then to hear (on Radio 4's Today programme) Jack Cunningham putting a spin on them that what he was really referring to were the 'management systems' in the public sector, is to rub salt into the wound. It is just returning to the populist management-bashing that I hoped had now passed. No fewer than three government ministers at the NHS Confederation conference paid tribute to the contribution of NHS managers in putting into action the government's very challenging change agenda.
We all make mistakes (this letter may prove to be one of mine, in being rather 'career limiting'), but a mark of a true leader is to publicly admit when they have made a mistake, and apologise and learn from it. Dare we hope for an apology from Tony Blair?
Chris Stevens Chief executive Norwich Community Health Partnership trust