NHS Transformation or Groundhog Day?


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Groundhog Day

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Most of you will have heard of the phrase ‘groundhog day’: the feeling of the same thing happening over and over again. In fact the real Groundhog Day is based on the existence of ‘Punxsutawney Phil’, a groundhog who is said to have lived for nearly 130 years due to his regular sipping of the ‘elixir of life’. He lives in the town of Punxsutawney in Pennsylvania which is approximately 325 miles due West from Poughkeepsie, New York State.

Punxsutawney is also noted for the fact that the Punxsutawney Area Hospital has been named twice as one of the ‘top 100’ hospitals for high quality care and superior cost effectiveness – a great thing to become known for.

Groundhog Day was established in 1887. Each year on 2nd February Punxsutawney Phil emerges from his burrow on Gobblers Knob to predict the weather. Legend has it that if he sees his shadow then there will follow another 6 weeks of winter weather.

The film Groundhog Day depicted a scenario where an arrogant TV meteorologist Phil Connors (played by Bill Murray) relives the 2nd February over and over again – hence the more popular use of the phrase ‘Groundhog Day’ – to depict something that happens repeatedly.

Cure for Dementia within 10 Years

Interestingly, another event that took place on 2nd February this year was the declaration by NHS England that scientists are on target for a cure for Dementia within 10 years. As anyone who has spent time with someone suffering from Dementia knows, it can feel remarkably like Groundhog Day, with the same questions being asked over and over again, and repeats of the same conversations.

Discovery of a cure would be like the climax of the film where Bill Murray’s character finally puts right all the wrongs and ends up using his experiences to save lives and make the world a better place, and finally the endless loop is broken. We can live in hope for our friends and families who are so affected by this dreadful disease.

Groundhog Day NHS Reorganisation

The other ‘Groundhog Day’ experience most often cited by those who work in the NHS is the repeated reorganisation of Health and Social Care services. Far from the ‘no more top-down reorganisation of the NHS’ promised by the current prime minister, we have seen the biggest and what has been described as the most damaging reorganisation the NHS has seen in its 67-year history.

At Sirius Partners we get involved supporting health and social care organisations prepare for, transition to, and recover from these significant reorganisations, trying to minimise the adverse impact and support a return to ‘business as usual’ as quickly as possible.

But we have our own Groundhog Day experience. Every time there is a reorganisation, management focus is on actually making the change, rather than on delivery of services.

Regardless of the political agendas, what the NHS and Social Care system needs now is a period of relative stability with minimal organisational change, so that there can be a sustained focus on delivery and on improving efficiency: doing more with less. Only then will we move away from the ‘here we go again’ merry go round which gives us all that ‘Groundhog Day’ feeling every time we wake up in the morning.

Perhaps then we can join the Punxsutawney Area Hospital in being seen as in the top 100 health and social care organisations for quality of care and cost effectiveness.

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