Friday 16 May 2008

Bells and the health service

You know you are getting on when you arrive at the Doctor's surgery to be warmly greeted by name . I'm spending too much time here I thought . But what frustrates me is that I have had to take the day off to get to see the doctor for a blood test. And as my Doctor is in marvellous Charlbury I came up from London last night . So why could I not go to any hospital , or even Boots round the corner? And why are Doctor's not open at the weekends and evenings ? Of course , silly me ; I'm thinking the health service is run for the convenience of patients . Time for reform . The professionals have had it to easy for too long and they start needing to think more clearly about their customers. Just because it is the NHS why can't we get the same level of customer care you would demand if you went to a private clinic?

Yet again I think how we need a bigger role for the third sector in the NHS. One of my members runs a dental service in a deprived city in Southern England . The irrepressible Debbie Scott , the CEO of Tomorrow's People runs surgeries for people out of work in doctor's surgeries. She provides support and advice to many people on disability benefit who want to get back into employment. Perhaps she should take over the management of the surgeries themselves?

This week I spoke at the annual meeting of the NHS charities . A fine bunch . They have long and distinguished histories and , in some cases large endowments. I know the one at Guys and Tommies in London well from the 2 decades I was on the health authorities in South London. But I encourage them to be more outward focused ; looking at their local communities , at health promotiom work and at their local health charities , and not just fund capital work or work within the hospitals themselves. They do great work , for example at St Thomas's they supported the building of the Evalina Children's Hospital . This is crucial , but we also need money spent in supp roting communities to be healthy and to charities who work to keep people out of hospital . I talk of the work of Marie Curie and how there funding arrangements with the NHS mean they cannot meet all the requests they have for help to support people who want to die at home. And , of course , when they cannot help , people end up in an expensive hospital bed. How clever is that ? Alan Johnston - get it sorted.

A call from an acevo member . Chief Executive of a good charity and social enterprise . They have a serious funding crisis around their public sector contracts . Whilst I believe contracting for public services is crucial to public service reform for our sector , the contracting system is imperfect and convoluted. I help with what information I can . But I like the description she gives of the CEO job , she says it is like a white knuckle ride. It is a shame this is so often the experience of a third sector chief executive. it should not be like this . We should be able to concentrate on the job of delivering our mission .Not tackling the deficiencies of the state 's imperfect system for engagement with our sector. It is why acevo has spent so much time lobbying Government to secure changes to funding and procurement regimes. The battle continues.

Now the talking point in Charlbury has been the incident in the Tower ! The bell tower of the Parish Church to be precise. At bell ringing practice on Wednesday ( St Mary's has a fine peel of bells ) one of the ringers , our friend Mr Merry was not paying sufficient attention and gets tangled in the bell rope and lifted into the heavens and deposited rather firmly back on the floor , concussed and with a broken collar bone. Oh dear . They cannot get him down the narrow stairs so the fire brigade are called and they hace to cut a large hole in the floor of the tower and lower him out. A major news item on BBC news Oxford . It all goes on in the Oxfordshire countryside you know!

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