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NHS Networks Blog 20 Jan 2012

Uncongenial NHS managers outrage, dwarfs MPs expenses scandal

The Freedom of Information Act is generally regarded as a mainstay of liberty and the hallmark of a free society.

But the truth, obtained under a Freedom of Information request issued by NHS Networks to all NHS trusts, arm’s length bodies and government departments, is that nothing is guaranteed to give spurious newsworthiness to a non-story like an FOI.

In a recent issue, the HSJ gives prominence to two items obtained this way.

The first is a report from the NHS Top Leaders programme, an oxymoronic training scheme for managers, which reaches some shocking conclusions.

These include that managers are failing in their duty to create a climate of “congeniality”, which is 25% below the “ideal standard”.

Then there is lack of “clarity”, an area in which the NHS is a disgraceful 38% behind. The HSJ goes to the heart of the matter with its disclosure that this is because managers are “unclear about their own work”.

These things are often related. It would not be surprising to find that the same managers went to ambiguous schools or had unusually uncongenial childhoods.

The article goes on to say that the NHS tends to recruit managers who “need everything spelt out” and are not as good as they could be at “minimising bureaucracy” – a ridiculous claim which is fully rebuffed on page 237 of the NHS Networks Quick Reference Guide to NHS Management: It’s As Easy As ABC, Appendix 4, Subsection 3b.

The HSJ claims that its revelations were obtained following a dramatic “Freedom of Information request battle with the Department of Health”.

Injured reporters and traumatised press officers were ferried from the scene by ambulance.

Elsewhere in the same, bloody, shell-shocked issue, we learn that NHS London has taken legal advice on the question of whether staff loaned to CCGs enjoy an unfair advantage when real jobs in CCGs are advertised. Outrageous waste of public money or sensible precaution against the inevitable “SHA staff get inside track to plum jobs in CCGs” expose in next week’s issue?

The Freedom of Information Act is supposed to make public institutions more open and accountable. Most of the time it has the opposite effect, driving them to ever more ludicrous extremes of secrecy, organisational paralysis and paranoia.

Perhaps it’s one of the reasons why NHS leaders are not only trailing in the congeniality and clarity stakes but are less inclined to take risks than managers in other sectors.

For the important things in life we have credit cards. For everything else we have freedom of information.

Next week: John Lewis allegations in full – NHS Networks editor in free toaster and cushion scandal. Lord Leveson investigates .

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