Managers in the NHS are too often unfairly criticised and singled out for blame, please support our campaign to redress the balance, writes HSJ editor Alastair McLellan
NHS managers are unfortunately all too used to being unfairly criticised and singled out for blame. Rarely a day goes by on which managers are not accused of: not understanding an issue; acting in an underhand way; and/or soaking up valuable resources which could be better exploited on the front line.
- Read the Respect for NHS Managers letter
- Support the campaign on Twitter using the hashtag #respect4managers
There is little concern for the truth in these attacks. No consideration is given to the fact that managers have skills vital to the NHS that are not found elsewhere in the service; or that an increasing number have a clinical background. Few are prepared to acknowledge that – whisper it softly – some clinicians and campaigners are highly adept at twisting the odd fact to support their cause, knowing they will never receive the same level of challenge as managers.
‘It is our responsibility to address the imbalance in the public debate about the NHS’
Most frustratingly of all the myth of a top-heavy NHS persists. Research by the King’s Fund and other authoritative and independent sources has shown the NHS has – at best – barely adequate levels of management. Cuts over the past few years mean that, in all likelihood, the NHS is under-managed compared to most other comparable health systems.
Politicians, of course, enjoy very little trust, which can make them even keener to stick the boot into managers as a diversionary tactic if nothing else. When the stakes are high – as in the run up to closely fought general election – then NHS managers can come under a relentless barrage from government and opposition candidates alike.
It is this context that inspired HSJ to team up with the Managers in Partnership union to call for NHS managers to be treated with respect during the forthcoming election campaign.
This call is contained in an open letter published in today’s Times.
The letter states “NHS managers are as dedicated to the service as any other group of staff” and says that it is “regrettable” that managers are so often “made scapegoats when concerns arise”.
It is signed by 16 health leaders, including some of the UK’s most high profile clinicians and patient campaigners, as well as two former health secretaries. They unequivocally state that “unfair” criticism is “damaging to the interests of patients”.
‘Supporting NHS managers is both unfashionable and, especially for those leading clinical and patient organisations, risky’
Of course, some NHS managers deserve criticism and HSJ will hand that out where it is justified. But it is also our responsibility to address the imbalance in the public debate about the NHS and together with MiP we will continue our campaign up to and during the general election.
Finally, it is appropriate to pay tribute to those people who signed the letter. Supporting NHS managers is both unfashionable and, especially for those leading clinical and patient organisations, risky. We salute their compassion, wisdom and bravery.
Among those who rejected our invitation to sign the letter – and readers will be able to guess who they might be – some gave a reasoned response, some just provided weasel words, while others simply ignored us. We would ask all of them to reflect on the support shown for NHS managers by our co-signatories and join them in this worthwhile cause.
Please show your support for the campaign on Twitter using the hashtag #respect4managers
Healthcare leaders attack 'scapegoating' of managers
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Treat NHS managers with respect during the election campaign