The author of any New Year Newsletter has two main choices, it seems to me. Look back – revisiting triumphs, disasters, moments of laughter, a time of tears. Look forward – predicting the incidents that might attract those labels. The difficulty in one of our main areas of interest – the NHS and the voice of the patient and citizen within it – is that while there have been plenty going on and the sound and fury seemed at times to drown out all competing discourse, there has been no conclusion, no learning, no progress, no solid improvement. La La Land – not our coinage but one we are happy to embrace – where it would seem that the performers in the great new commissioning production featuring the all singing, all dancing GPs have taken their agents’ advice and handed back their scripts, resigning their chance of stardom before the curtain has even risen for the preview nights. Like Stephen Fry who fled to Bruges much to the rage and despair of the playwright Simon Gray, the GPs have left the stage and unlike Stephen Fry, they did not even manage the first three nights of the run.
The late Mr Gray’s play was Cellmates which fits the patients’ situation rather well since whatever the chaos being visited on the NHS, they – and that means all of us without private healthcare – are banged up in our cells with no choice but to serve out our term within the walls of the monopoly supplier. The patient interest seems caught up in the Goon Show episode Tales of Old Dartmoor (transmitted February 1956) as an unwilling passenger in the fantastical voyage of Dartmoor Prison. Remember? It put to sea to rendezvous with the Château D’If in search of the Treasure of the Count of Monte Cristo. The solid stone of what we thought were well-established institutions become the ghost ships of fable, haunted by lunacy and laughter.
We have erred into the other dangerous area of newsletter writing – maudlin reminiscence of the times when Britain were great or at least when Spike Milligan was alive, even if driven mad by the memories of German shellfire and the pressure of writing comedy shows. It would appear that we need a good madman or two to do justice to the past 12 months. The next 12 defy my powers of prognostication although other partners may try and deploy their Delphic powers.
Just enjoy the pleasures of revisiting some of the pieces of the last 12 months – we have been tweaking our website and you now have the opportunity to go back and visit the MAC Partners choices of the past blogs that they have particularly enjoyed.
I always look forward to what sounds like another Goon Show episode – Tales of the Clissold Park Users Group – and Caroline Millar’s struggles to create a local park space to be enjoyed by all – dog walkers included.
For those interested in the consumers’ and citizens’ right to privacy and how this story is being played out in the Leveson enquiry, you may look at my blog sparked by the points put to Richard Thomas the former Information Commissioner about how his attempts to strengthen the law and give more protection to citizens vis a vis an intrusive press were directly impeded by the Prime Minister of the day. Also note how creative and adventurous action within the regulatory orthodoxy of one era of consumer policy is challenged as being faint-hearted and misplaced in the years that follow – with Richard being pressed as to whether he was too lenient in the face of the journalistic establishment.
It was a reminder how valuable and necessary it is for consumers and citizens to have a strong advocate of their interests – established by statute and ready to take risks to make that often unpopular case for vulnerable consumers in the face of vested and powerful interests. We have argued in the past for a Citizen Commissioner speaking for patients in the NHS – with statutory powers to intervene like an Official Solicitor – an Ombudsman before the fact if you like with amongst other things power to support the whistleblower. Otherwise the citizen or patient voice interest is as insubstantial and as easily ignored as any fantasy dreamed up by a Goon and illustrated by Ronald Searle.
The Moore Adamson Craig Partnership supports user and public participation, trains lay representatives and develops responsive health, care and education organisations. We are ready to work with and support all those who want to make sense and a success of the new structures of patient and public engagement within the new arrangements for health and social care commissioning and providing. Feel free to contact us to discuss the opportunities.