Saturday 7 May 2011

The Big Society and football pitches

An interesting week ahead. Next week marks the first anniversary of the launch of the " Big Society " initiative. So ACEVO will be launching the Report of it's Big Society Commission a week on Monday , the 16th May. The Commission has been chaired by Lord Rennard , with such luminaries as the Bishop of London, Nick Boles MP , Phil Collins, Lord Paul Boateng and Dame Clare Tickell. it will be an exposition of what civil society itself thinks of the notion of Big Society.

The government have been lamentable in explaining what the notion actually means. This report will attempt a better explanation. It will be critical .but it will do so in a positive way.

If you are interested the event is 10.30 at Church House in Westminster.

And next week also see the second meeting of the NHS Future Forum, this time in a football stadium in outer London, facilitated by Cap Gemini. It will all be most interesting. Will they have us out on the pitch for some bonding I wonder ? I fear the worst. I have been to one of those Cap Gemini facilitated events. Dynamic young men leaping around with felt tips drawing pictures of what we are saying! I have been clear. I shall be chairing my Panel Sessions. Without a felt tip and flip chart or spotty youth facilitating me? But I must be positive. Who knows, I might enjoy it? Mustn't be such an old fogey.

I had a teleconference call of my panel on Friday . Conference calls are a tad frustrating and have their amusing side when we were interrupted by the airport announcements as my friend Charles Alessi valiantly tried to take part. We agreed there are some key areas of enquiry. First the main issue of how competition aids choice and whether the Bill amounts to privatisation. It has to be recognised there is considerable concern on this. The Any Answers programme today illustrated this. We had Douglas Alexander and Shirley Williams honing in on how this will lead to private sector takeover and an " American style health service " . We shall need to address this. And we will undoubtedly need to make some changes in the Bill.

We will also need to look at the role of Monitor , unhelpfully named the " economic regulator. ". How should it act. Old fashioned procurement body ever obsessed by rule books , or progressive supporter of choice and protector of the consumer.

Then there is the role of the new NHS Commissioning Board. Will this simply replicate the top down , highly centralised DH model of current unloved memory , or will it promote innovation , diversity of providers, integration and cooperation. Will it continue to think the world revolves around hospitals or focus it's attention on where the money is spent ; long term conditions and elder care?

And finally how will we ensure more choice and consumer power, personal budgets and customer centred care? My view is we must now build into the Bill some external challenge and that is an area me and my colleagues will explore on the football pitch. Come to think of it , much of the debate on commissioning focus on level playing fields so how appropriate is that!

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