Lord Philip Hunt

Lord Philip Hunt, Shadow Deputy Leader of House of Lords, and former Trust Chair 

So here we are again at one of Roy Lilley’s Health Chats.  As you can see from below, I managed to get Lord Hunt to accept one of my books, and to pose with it!

Lord Hunt, Roy Liley & a cook Book

Philip Hunt and Roy Lilley admire my book!

Why was he being there at The Kings Fund?  Apart from the above, he is also Shadow Health Spokesman.  That’s good enough for me…

I had half hoped that Roy Lilley’s avuncular yet barbed style might have morphed into a Paxmanesque routine. How many times would he ask “So, what is Labour’s Health Policy?”

Was I disappointed? Only slightly. Three times was enough.. but it is amazing how you don’t need to be barbed to get some deep insights, and the occasional, “Did I hear that right?” moments.  As always – a health warning here – these are my own views and opinions of the event, and if you were there, you may interpret differently.

NHS Managers.net - and Lord Hunt

Calm before the questions!

He’s been around a bit. Baron Kingsheath (a bit of OK Birmingham), was on a sit-in with Jack Straw as Students Union President back in 1968. It seemed important at the time. Then on to an Iron ore mine in Australia (but as a dish washer in the surface canteen). Been there at a lot of the changes (and there have been a lot) in the NHS.

What always impresses me with the folk who get there – really at the top of their profession, pulling the levers and making things happen, is their sensitivity and ordinariness. But then you get the twinkling intellect – the memory for names, places and what happened – and the absolute passion.  Philip added a dry sense of humour and self deprecation to this mix.

It was the names and anecdotes that hit home for me.  Frank Dobson (so good that Blair sidelined him into standing for London Mayor) – was so different as Health Secretary.  He praised people (heaven forfend…).  He made the service make waiting times come down to a position where it wasn’t worth having private medical cover.  Astonishing. Now they are increasing exponentially.  I wonder if the government has any contact with private health care providers?  Sorry, becoming a bit cynical…

Some other powerful quotes: “…Enforced marketisation”.  I loved that.  And any organisation that has had Activity Based Accounting, or ever cross charged to another part of their organisation will know all it does is cost bureaucratic money.

“Why is the NHS supine in the face of the ludicrous things it is asked to do?”   What a great question.  I suppose there is no leader, no head, no General to turn to, to complain.  Maybe the Trusts and the GPs and the Junior Doctors (such a dismissive nomenclature), should start saying NO?  Maybe just to ask for forgiveness if they screw up, rather than forelock tugging begging for permission to do what they know is right?  “There are a litany of new demands placed on them which are very removed from reality”.  Amen.  Start handing stress back to the rightful owner, you local leaders…and let the central guys sweat.  Or just work with The Vanguards, and cut all the others out.  Maybe only pay for your CQC inspection if you firstly concur, and secondly that their suggestions for improvement actually work.  (What do you mean they don’t make suggestions?  Why pay then?  You wouldn’t pay an external consultant unless their report gave you suggestions?) (That bit was just me ranting, like Roy does occasionally (!) about the CQC and others…)

Lord Hunt was slightly more circumspectly political when the Junior Doctors strike ballot surfaced. No real advice to the other Hunt, but I think there was a glimmer of sparkle in his eyes which I read as ‘serves you right for being so negative and condescending’.  I may be wrong….

Devo-Manc was discussed as a good idea, but will the money really follow? (and if everything is devolved, and we stay in Europe – will we really need 650 in The Commons, and the 850+ of their Lordships?).  Contentiously, the prospect of Social Care being means tested did surface too.  I got the feeling Philip thought it inevitable – and it is happening by stealth anyway.  The Dilnot suggestion for limiting the amount you spent on your Social Care was in the Conservative manifesto, but conveniently dropped once they got in against their own odds…

I have a simpler suggestion.  Means Test all social care, and let the local authorities do that.  But if your mum is in a Nursing Home – as they used to be called – then that should still be NHS funded.  How do we decide it is nursing care?  Simple.  If the ward or home has to be locked, because your mum may walk out and harm herself, then that is Nursing, and should be NHS funded.

Lord Hunt quietly talked of the madness of allowing GPs to look after £80Bn of funds when they look after the governance of it themselves.  No public involved.  No real accountability.  He just quietly dropped that in, as is his style.  If you weren’t there you missed the musings and war stories of a fine man.  I just wish he wasn’t Shadow.

It’s all about the people…

My companion blog  “Can Men Cook?” – is all about cooking and eating.  Sometimes, it feels a bit crossover.  I just got that thought while writing today about a memorable lunch in The Old Coastguard Inn at Mousehole in Cornwall. www.oldcoastguardhotel.co.uk

The food was excellent (see blog – click here for link)

But what makes the experience memorable.  I said to our friends Wendy and Gus as we arrived, “This will be good.  The atmosphere is excellent.  All the staff are calm and smiley”.

And it is that simple sometimes. OK – it means they pay right, have enough of them, get the team to appreciate each other, all muck in, all love their job and what they have to offer as product. They understand people, and what they are there for.  And they treat you like they would like to be treated if the boot was on the other foot.

In short, the people do make the biggest difference.  It isn’t deep and meaningful.  But it is hard to do and hard to keep on doing.

We will be back.  And I look forward to seeing the smiles once more!

Garden view at The Old Coastguard

Garden view at The Old Coastguard

2012 – summary in single (ish) words

When we help people to understand mind-mapping, one of the exercises to show people we can remember things from single words or very simple phrases is that we can construct a whole paragraph from the memory jogged from that single word.  In that vein, I hope my summary will jog a lot of fine memories for you!  Biased towards the Olympics, just because they epitomise the essentials of people skills, for me.  How about you?

The Olympics Opening Ceremony

The Olympic Stadium





Hose pipe bans



Morning sickness




Sport Relief





Banter or Bullying?

I have been running workshops in recent months all around getting the balance right between Banter and bullying – not letting everyday fun and frivolity spill over into something unwanted.  It has been fascinating.

Yes, on every workshop you may have the occasional person who doesn’t want to know.  But most people started thinking “Do we really need this?”  They all ended by feeling we did – and the biggest problem is it is so difficult to define.  One persons jokiness is another persons vicious verbal assault.

Blood on the carpet? (From my friends at www.glasstap.com)

It’s a bit like sarcasm – and those of us who are big proponents of the skill will always use the excuse that although sarcasm is the lowest form of wit, it is the highest form of intelligence.  But we sometimes fail to recognise the hurt it may cause.

As I said on most of the sessions, the only way to prevent any form of potential annoyance is to keep dead silence in the workplace.  But that could drive us all mad, and would not entice people to come to work!  Banter and humour are the lubrication of everyday life at work.

The problem is that the whole area is grey and amorphous.  The main message was it didn’t really matter what you were meaning as the speaker – if it was perceived as going too far by the recipient, then that needed to be fixed.

That led us to the things we needed to do to make sure any problems were nipped in the bud.  Better communication was the catch-all.  Within that, really simple ideas like apologising, actually saying sorry as quickly and sincerely as possible, was probably as good a starting point as any.  Simple soft skills are often the best ideas of all.