Jonathan Ashworth MP, In Conversation – with Roy Lilley

Jonathan Ashworth, MP, Shadow Minister of Health.

Jonathan Ashworth MP

NHS Managers meeting at The Kings Fund in London. Jon was in conversation with Roy Lilley  (NHS managers.net). This is my opinionated summary – so if you disagree, check out the You Tube recording, and e mail me! I wasn’t able to get there, but watched on line.  It was a fascinating chat…

Roy Lilley had to allow a breaking news story in – this happens occasionally.  Jonathan had arrived from grilling of Jeremy Hunt in House of Commons regarding 500 000 letters and reports from patient test results that had been discovered in a warehouse. As far as all were aware, no patient safety issues had resulted from the non delivery of reports and letters…as far as they were aware. Interesting legal phrase, I think. Anyway I sometimes wonder if the privatisation of some of the support services only gains a cheaper result, not a better service, in many cases.

Then straight in with the usual Lilley kicking. “Your a good looking bright young man – why waste that on politics?” Good top spin serve, down the centre line…hit straight back to the questioner. “You are a cynical old goat…”.  Audience on side…

This member of the audience was even more onside with the next 20 odd minutes of personal stuff. “You had a difficult upbringing…”. I don’t remember if Roy actually said anything whilst Jonathan told us about his alcoholic father, who wasn’t violent, but who died of his condition ?is that what we say? Addiction? Illness? What? Died two months after not returning from Thailand for Jonathan’s wedding, because he might have been an embarrassment at the event. It was gut wrenching. Watch it if you can, and see if you can stay cynical, and not cry.

(see the You Tube here:  whole event on line)

It is not why he went into politics. Always was addicted from pre-student times, through student politics at Durham, then into researcher for Labour Party and successful by election winner in Leicester. Never done a real job, as Mr Lilley opined…but he was there with his heart, wanting to help change the agenda of government and to get things done. Like helping to support children of alcoholics. Like actively intervening with Sugar Tax and maybe minimum alcohol unit pricing.  His aim is to change policies.  And will feel his time well served if he can do so.

Main experience was gained in the Whips office (we had a Corbyn aside regarding not toeing the line) then Cabinet Office team, Treasury with Gordon Brown, concentrating on economic policy, before landing in Health. As Roy told us he had seen 16 Secretaries of State for health, and perhaps he would be the 17th (maybe not in 2020 was the rejoinder after that…)

He was scathing of the PM who, he suggested, has no interest in the NHS.   That was interesting. Then we got into a bit of blather about Stabilising the NHS, needing more money, STPs helping to aid the transformation, not just frittering the money away on reducing short term problems like waiting lists (so seeing no long term changes).

Most of this was pretty text book stuff to me, and felt rather at odds with the very open start.  Then, we gained a golden nugget of an idea.

“We need to stabilise the relationship between the clashing cultures of local authorities looking after social care, and health being in the Trusts domain.” A potential solution was proffered. How about nationally agreed eligibility criteria for Social Care? Then, overseen by the OBR or similar, the clashing culture wouldn’t clash. 23% of people who used to get local authority support don’t any more after years of austerity measures, Roy informed us. 900 000 people, possibly.

Much of Social care is rationed and or means tested. I personally think we should be putting the Buurtzorg model of looking after people at home as much as we can could help us discharge people more easily from hospital as Ellis as keeping more of them out of there in the first place.  In Holland (where it began) hospital occupancy is about 80%. What are we? About 90 to 93% depending on where you are. Click through and check it out. Thoroughly honest and honourable rising star, I thought. The Portable Eligibility Criteria idea may need a bit of wordsmithing, but hey, you’ve got to start somewhere. We will be seeing more of this man, I feel sure.

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