Wednesday, 20 February 2013

Entertaining and gagging

Entertaining last night at home, so somewhat jaded this morning. Emma-Jane Cross, the dynamic and go getting CEO of Beatbullying and Wanda Hamilton, the engaging and effective Director of Fundraising for RNIB joined me and my niece Amy and her Christ Church boyfriend, for dinner. A fine meat pie from a Yorkshire farm (no horsemeat for my guests) and a stunning 2009 Shiraz from the Jarra range in Australia which I brought back in my suitcase from Perth. The Hound was just too excited, especially with the left overs!

Congratulations are due to the Royal Colleges of Surgeons and Physicians. Their presidents have spoken out against the disgraceful culture of gagging and hounding of whistleblowers in the NHS. They need to. Doctors are at the front line in seeing how bad management affects patient care. They need to speak out more and not be punished when they do!

But I am not convinced the NHS as it stands is capable of making a major culture shift towards openness. There needs to be more independent scrutiny and the announcement that Camilla Cavendish is to head an enquiry into health care assistants is a great step forward. The NHS needs outsiders to challenge entrenched view and attitudes.

Will culture change? We see today from a report in the Times that the current enquiries into the high death rates in a number of hospitals will ignore whistleblowers. The NHS Commissioning Board statement was astonishing. This is “not about investigation of historical issues" they said. Not to talk to the very people who had raised concerns about patient care and discuss how this happened on the basis its history is an indication of how bad the culture is and how far the NHS needs to go in reforming itself.

And this just adds strength to the need for more diversity of provision of health services and for stronger citizen and patient voices. If you want a new culture, new ways of doing things, it is crazy to try to lock out third sector organisations and the innovation and person-centred approach they bring.

We also need a “right to challenge" for organisations and citizens. There are many good people working in our hospitals and, as we now know, many who have been silenced from telling us about bad care. The fact that this has led to unnecessary suffering and, in cases, to the death of patients is a scandal. Action is needed to reform the culture that goes beyond mere statements from politicians. As they say, actions speak louder than words.

Yesterday I had a fascinating chat with the CEO, Michele Rigby and the new Chair of Social Firms, old friend John Pepin. They are an umbrella body representing social enterprises whose prime focus is on giving employment to the usually excluded- people with learning disabilities or mental health issues for example.

There is a brilliant example around the corner from the ACEVO office in York Way; "Clarity" set up in 1854 to make soap and employing blind people. So to be a member of social Firms you must be third sector, earn at least 50% from trading and employ at least 25% from the hardest to reach communities. A great example of what our sector does best. We campaign but we also take action to provide support to the marginalised and excluded. These are the type of organisations that the Work Programme should be including but often do not. The recent Third Sector Research Centre report on the Work Programme makes dismal reading but also provides us with evidence to make the changes we need to the programme so it does work better for our sector. Our ACEVO task force on the WP is now underway and looking at what practical ways we can suggest making changes now but, importantly, looking at how to conduct the next round of tenders after the current 5 year contracts end. It’s not good enough to whinge about the problems. We need solutions and ACEVO as a CEO body is determined to provide those.

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