A good leader takes a little more than his share of the blame, a little less than his share of the credit. Arnold H.Glasow (1905-1998)
They’re all the rage aren’t they? Leaders. As we witness the fall of one of the world’s longest serving, the now former President Mugabe, you can’t help but compare the plight of Zimbabwe to the NHS.
Yes the downfall of that wonderful place, overseen by dreadful leadership from a self-obsessed autocrat who refuses to listen to any advice, dragging down a whole population, is not dissimilar to the plight of that small country in the south of Africa.
Of course, I’m not really suggesting our health secretary’s behaviour is on a par with that of someone widely accused of crimes against humanity, but hear me out.
I have wonderful memories of a trip to Zimbabwe over 25 years ago, well before the full force of Mugabe’s reign had taken hold. We hitched around and camped every night for a month, enjoying the hospitality of the wonderful people, and appreciating the wildlife and scenery along the way.
It wasn’t without any drama – for example, a bit of a run in with the sunset, a car stuck in the sand and a lion, but that’s a story for another day.
The rectrospectoscope is a tool to be used with caution, but I have similar memories of the NHS from the same era as I started out on my working life. I hitched and camped around different hospitals, enjoyed the wonderful staff, appreciating the patients and families along the way. Again, it wasn’t without drama, but I’m sure we’ve all got a story to tell about plaster of paris, the hospital priest and the ward dualit toaster.
Fast forward to 2017 and our brave new Hunt-inspired NHS. Where are we now? It’s not the lack of funding, over regulation, idiotic non-evidence based health policy, multiple reorganisations, obsession with A&E, or unrealistic expectations of the public fed by the government that I find most troubling. No, it’s none of those.
What really gets my goat is how we have managed to lose the mojo and goodwill of many of the NHS staff. When you are led to believe on a daily basis that you are underperforming and at fault for the woes of the NHS then you slowly start to believe it, or accept it. A bit like the Zimbabweans who had given up hope of ever seeing a post-Mugabe nation, we, the NHS workers are losing hope and the vision of a post-austerity NHS. You can’t blame one person for all of that, but there is one who is especially responsible for such low morale.
It’s time for a change of tack and if I was the leader, I would be taking a long hard look at myself in my narcissistic mirror. Even Mugabe eventually got the message.
Dr Richard Cook is a GP partner in Hurstpierpoint, West Sussex. You can follow him on Twitter @drmoderate