The NHS Olympics

12 August 2016

This week has been hectic locally, but the NHS has also been in the spotlight nationally. You cannot get away from the fact that the NHS is under real pressure, with headlines from St Helen’s CCG and what they are proposing to do to reduce their expenditure really bringing into sharp focus our own challenge.

Alongside this, we have the Olympics, where human endeavour and commitment are seen at their best. All of this got me thinking about the parallels.

There is no doubt that top sportsmen are focused; they plan and train tirelessly for key moments like the Olympics. They prepare a detailed plan and ensure that their plan is executed to perfection. Last night, the sprint cycling track team - who hadn’t won a medal since London 2012 - came out and won the gold medal. Nobody really expected this, but they did it.

In the NHS there are too many plans that do not focus on the big prize (Olympic final). The five-year forward view, whether you agree with it or not, is the Olympics. 2020/21 is the target date for putting the NHS finances back into balance, and yet we are totally focused on the short-term. The NHS position - unless something happens that we don’t expect - will get a little more difficult before it gets to its ultimate goal. The athletes on the NHS team need time and breathing space to put the training plan in place to win the Olympic gold in 2020/21. Unfortunately, these players are also required to deliver the here and now, some of which cannot be delivered until later on in the training cycle towards 2020/21. We need to find a way of creating the space to deliver the ultimate goals. Sustainability and Transformation Plans (STPs) may be the answer, but only if they are the focus of delivery and are not battling for space and time against the pressure to deliver in-year plans.

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