‘What we talk about is what we care about’; a maxim that is fraught with inaccuracies but nonetheless can prove fairly helpful when understanding the priorities of your manager, your organisation or even your Government.
I was reflecting on this over the weekend whilst listening to the on-going debates about changes to the benefits system. These are massive changes and worthy of debate but I am left wondering why these have become the leading headlines whilst the equally, if not more, significant changes happening to the health service are hardly mentioned.
Whilst it is true that the Government have felt the need to respond to opposition attacks on benefits it is equally true that there has been next to no official comment or publicity surrounding the changes. I find this rather strange; so strange in fact that I decided to do a little research.
Question 1: How many speeches have DoH ministers made about the changes to the NHS in the past six months?
I did a quick search on the newly designed DoH website and despite some interesting speeches including topics such as ‘’ (16/3/13), ‘’ (12/2/13), ‘From notepad to iPad: technology and the NHS’ (16/1/13) there was nothing this year about the NHS transition.
Question 2: Ok, so what about news stories?
Answer: Despite going back to the beginning of the year I couldn’t find one; not one solitary announcement and that is from a department who has released news stories with such diverse topics as: ‘’ (2/4/13), ‘’ (22/3/13), (8/3/13), ‘’ (1.3.13).
I only include that last one as I accidentally mis-read it as NHS changes rather than NHS charges.
I tried the same searches with press releases and other announcements and got nowhere. Which all leads to;
Question 3: Why, when these changes are so incredibly significant, has no-one from the Government been talking about them?
I don’t know the answer to that but can only make two suggestions.
Firstly, maybe the Government are sensibly trying to keep the public eye off of these changes for the moment. Anyone who has managed a change project, however small, will know that the benefits of that project will rarely be apparent straight away. Indeed, the benefits often come quite away down the line. In this case, just looking at the small element of the health changes that affected local authorities, it is clear that the re-integration of public health with local authorities will take time to bed in, let alone deliver lasting benefits. The logic would in all liklihood apply to the whole reorganisation.
Secondly, my impression is the transition has been much much harder than the Government anticipated and the less eyes on it right now is probably for the best. Linked to this there is probably an element to which it is not a good idea to shout about reforms that were this unpopular when they were passed until such a time as there is some positive news to tell. That news will not come on day one. Politically, my guess is that this is a case of tactical misdirection. This level of radio silence is never accidental.
I’m not surprised by the delays but I am surprised that the Government have been so disciplined in saying absolutely nothing about the reforms. I strongly hope that this is not a sign of the Government disassociating themselves from the reforms or of others taking their eyes off of them.
Whatever you think about the reforms I’m sure we can all agree that making a success of them is an absolute priority.
And it is still pretty weird that the DoH and all their ministers have said absolutely nothing about them.