Julian Patterson reports on NHS Blithering, the country’s most challenged health economy

As promised, here is the second part in our short series of profiles of the top team at NHS Blithering.

Martin Plackard – strategic director of place-based communications

Martin attended Tracy Emin Comprehensive, leaving with six CSEs and a commendation for his work on the school newsletter. He completed his education at Teeming Polytechnic where he emerged with a merit in sociology, photography and film studies. Martin spent three years honing his communications skills for a maker of organic desserts but left disillusioned when the company’s claims of promoting “good bacteria in the gut” were undermined by a listeria outbreak. Saddened by the fatalities, he vowed to devote his life to healthcare communications.

Seconded to Simon Stevens’ elite planning unit as head of similes, Martin is credited with many of most powerful lines in Stevens-era plans, notably “the renewable energy of people and communities” and the rebranding of “failure regimes” as “emerging success regimes”.

Martin turned down the offer of a national role as director of forward views to oversee the launch of the Blithering STP, which later became All of Us Together Blithering ICS.

Known for the length and scope of his job titles, Martin is passionate about brand values, positioning and building on success.

He has represented his county at badminton.

Liz Wanhope – CCG accountable officer

Liz Wanhope (pronounced “one up”) is capable, hard-working and ambitious. Widely considered to be among the dullest of the 1995 NHS graduate scheme intake, she was the youngest person ever to hold the post of deputy director of primary care with special responsibility for contract variations and remedial notices for the then Blithering PCT.

After the Lansley reforms, Liz rose rapidly to the top job in the newly formed CCG because, as she puts it with characteristic modesty, “no one else wanted the job”.

Liz, who is expected to be named director of operations in the Blithering ICS, describes herself as passionate about contracting and system-wide collaboration.

When she’s not at work, Liz enjoys Pilates, walking in other people’s shoes and restoring garden furniture. She was co-author with Sir Chris Ham of what is generally regarded as the definitive history of health service operating models.

Bev Heaver – director of transformation

Bev is responsible for the development of personal and team empowerment practices for the Blithering health system. She leads on mind-mapping, sketch note theory and icebreakers, and runs Blithering’s packed unconference programme.

Bev is passionate about change and believes that work should always be fun.

She has published several books including The Joy of Change, New Power Dynamics, Leading from the Bottom, and Don’t Wait for Permission.

Bev is a prolific poster on social media and a prominent advocate for feline rights.

Joy Hunter – chief executive of the ICS

Yorkshire born and bred Joy is the most recent addition to the Blithering senior team. She succeeded former ICS chief executive Nigel Bland, who stepped down “for personal reasons” in 2020.

Joy describes herself as one of the “new breed of compassionate leaders who care about making a difference”. In her critically acclaimed book, It’s Not About Me, she talks about the importance of humility, producing numerous examples of how she has inspired others to realise their potential.

A passionate believer in integration, Joy was named Distributed Leader of the Year in the 2019 HSJ Awards.

She made history as the first ICS leader to run a global climate change summit led by refugees.

When she’s not bringing people together for meaningful dialogue, Joy likes to relax by running sub four-minute miles and highlighting injustice.

Dr David Rummage – CCG medical director

David trained as a GP but admits that he was never considered good enough at paperwork to make a success of general practice.

He was quick to spot the potential of clinical commissioning to provide challenging roles for clinicians who prefer to keep medical practice to a minimum.

Encouraged by the new commissioning freedoms of the early 2010s, David and his business partner Dr Ruth Stone (currently the CCG’s head of primary care) founded the Rummage Group to take over the area’s failing practices. Described as a charity-style organisation, Rummage Group is now Blithering’s biggest primary care provider.

David has always shrugged off questions about his dual role as a commissioner and provider arguing that his experience at the CCG makes him uniquely qualified to manage conflicts of interest.

A passionate believer in the importance of innovation in patient care, David’s interest in digital technology led him to develop the GP2Go AI app, which has been shown to make an accurate diagnosis in up to 65 per cent of cases. His Rummtech venture is also working on an augmented reality GP.

In 2018, he founded Stone Rummage Consultants, which provides strategic advice on UK based primary care investment opportunities for US private healthcare clients.

David lists his interests as amateur dramatics and clinical leadership.