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.

#WILY week 13

So we are a quarter the way through. Never thought I’d still be going and still getting great ideas . I hope some of you are also doing the thinking bit at least.  It really does get your subconscious going to just keep ‘what did I learn today?”. I really does make you think about life work and where you want to be. As my mate Jay Dodson says “life begins at the edge of your comfort zone”.

Just some great celebration stuff in the family. It was so lovely being at a sigh-ful, smiley and very moving wedding.  It really is so life affirming to see people setting off on their life journey. They kept the celebration going by having an at home at the end of the week away.  We had the 411 photos as a presentation – and all the immediate family were there to witness it for the first time.  There were a few ‘happy hankie’ moments.  Love it!


Mnemonics.  Luckily we remembered the ‘spring forward, fall back’ bit for the change of the daylight saving time.  Otherwise, we might all have been late for the wedding!

The leaders debate was frankly not too helpful, except to prove how narrow UKIP is.  The twitter verse did explode after Farage’s HIV outburst.  Shocking stuff.  And the post debate polls proved my point – totally confused! My only political point would be that we do have a set of 7 leaders, a true multi-party situation. And we still have the non-democratic first past the post system. We are less likely to get a decisive result this way.  And sadly, I think I prefer to have weak government.  You do need leadership in all walks of life, and in organisational life (and at home) but there has to be listening, compromise, position changing and open-mindedness.  You don’t get that with autocracies.

The night could have been chaotic.  But I thought Julie Etchingham as chair was quite exceptional.  They all looked as scared of her as they used to be as young boys with Nanny! The woman on the other hand, especially when they gave Mr Farage what for, really did make me sit up and think.

Also learnt I’m getting old.  Moaned in a pub that I refused to pay £1:25 for a bag of crisps.  My dad used to do that.  Oh dear.

I am still surprised how we manage to have our museums with free entry.  Ashmolean had exhibitions too (for a price) and is well worth a visit.  Just too much to do for one hit.  And hard to do any more walking on a visit to Oxford.  Just a great day out.

Sage prioritisation advice from my wife, as I was planning a walk as well as a visit to to family, and some DIY and cleaning, and washing the windows….cut out the walk and everything was OK.  Try not to cram too much in a day.  You enjoy it more! This works for personal as well as work.  I hope I  continue to remember…

Finally – a Twitter excitement.  I managed to have a quick exchange with Raymond Blanc (chef extraordinaire). It is weird to have a quick conversation with one of your heroes. Is social media a force for good, and equalising and democratising?  I think it may be so, more than I ever thought possible.  I was madly excited, anyway…

What I Learnt Yesterday (WILY) week 6

(Sorry everyone – I am working on a MacBook and can’t find the Hashtag. My friend Jay Dodson will be giggling at this. I bought this mac from him – for a case of Rioja – because he got fed up with it not being a PC…maybe he is right).

Some strange things in week 6. Personal ones first. Broke dry January a day early. We had a dinner party, and venison casserole sort of demanded to be teamed with the excellent reds our gusts had brought. I was a cheap date though. Your tolerance of alcohol via the de novo synthesis of Alcohol Dehydrogenase (the enzyme which breaks it down) takes a few drinks to happen. So, I was a bit squiffy after half a pint of beer. But enjoyed a fab dinner and great chat. Then rediscovered Brakspears bitter on day 2 of wet February. And it is still scrumptious. Walking in East Cornwall on a bright cold English winters day just makes the heart sing. Having a great lunch out is what being away is all about too…still feels naughty having a pint and leisurely lunch on a working day.

Had an altercation with Spell Check (my mate Tony used to call it ‘smell check’). Plough became Plugh then Plow. Why do we have to suffer American English?

Communication was the second theme – meeting up with an old friend for lunch, and making plans. Having 3 long phone calls over 4 hours one day – it is just good to talk, as BT used to say. And it is what sets us apart from other creatures.

And finally – Enthusiasm. It is infectious and you cannot fake it. I met an 87 year old at a networking event in London. He had been Head Producer at Radio 2, and was still working assiduously. Looked in his 60’s – sprightly, bright eyed, flu of ideas. This keeping active stuff does seem to work. Shami Chakrabati being interviewed on Newsnight about To Kill a Mocking Bird ‘sequel’. Totally excited – the book had informed her career choice, and it really showed. Looked her up on WikiPedia…and we share a birthday. One of those quirks of maths is you will have a better than evens chance of that happening if you randomly assemble 40 people in a room. Two will have the same birthday. No idea why. Final enthusiast – new landlord of a pub in Duloe, Cornwall. The aforementioned Plough. Telling us of his plans – just so enthused and infectious. Food is excellent there too.

Gratuitous pic of Izzy the time share dog  just for fun!

Gratuitous pic of Izzy the time share dog just for fun!

#WILY week 5

#WILY has created a strange problem last week.  I had one contact who asked what #WILY meant – and it had taken him some time to work it out. The Double Entendre made searching difficult.  But he did say the posts were insightful and interesting…praise indeed!

What I Learnt Yesterday is my one year project to tweet everyday as near to 8:15 as I can (hard in the car or when a workshop starts early!) Based on the old phrase “Every day is a school day”,  which Wendy espoused on a course last year. And it is true – there is something that happens every day that reminds you of something you ought to do, kicks you into a new action, or is something startling that adds to your way of thinking.  Everyday feels a bit of an ask – but have managed a month now – only 11 to go.  And this will form the basis for a book early 2016 too.  So there you are.  All happy now? Good…

Week 5 highlights:

  1. It was fun breaking dry January a day early, as we had a dinner party – the Venison Casserole (with Chilli Chocolate – yep…) demanded a glass or three of red.  And a pudding wine for the cheeses (it works well) and it was lovely.  I was also a cheap date, having become slightly tipsy on half a pint of beer!
  2. Cramming too much into a day leaves me feeling a bit unsatisfied – and it is too easy to focus just on tasks and almost forgetting the wetware (as IT geeks call us humans – as we are 70% water – how demeaning…).  Don’t forget the people
  3. Our bathroom and en suite are now finished – and it was lovely to have a calm craftsman in the house for a few days.  Thanks Andy – we feel like we have a new house.
  4. GPs are so in demand and vilified in the media – and all the ones that I know and work with are hyper committed and lovely people.  And they are being worn down by the repeated attacks.  Careful what you wish for,  say.  And don’t believe everything you read in The Daily Mail.
  5. My new whiteboard is such a help in organising my tasks that I wonder why I didn’t buy it a year ago!  It has replaced a year planner that I didn’t use…and it means I have more time for item 2 above..

And  great quote from @therealbanksy last week who is worth following on Twitter – “You can’t change how people treat you or what they say about you. All you can do is change how you react to it”

Look forward to seeing you at 8:15 on Twitter tomorrow.