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From bedside to poolside, there's no escaping the NHS

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The middle of August sees many HSJ readers enjoying their summer breaks. Relaxing by the pool, their thoughts may wander to the state of the NHS and perhaps to comparisons with their annual getaway.

‘Readers may note staff are a little thinner on the ground and unexpected cancellations appear more common’

Health reporting HSJ and LGC logo

Perhaps they have travelled to a southern European resort and, on the journey from the airport, seen signs of an economy once buoyed up by a steady supply of tourist cash now struggling to contend with a harsher economic climate.

They will have already read of reports from the European Commission and the International Monetary Fund exposing how scandals from the past have created this sorry state of affairs, seen leaders take the blame and replacements − demonstrating varying degrees of enthusiasm − shoved into the breach.

They will have heard the call for “a different kind of leadership”, but noted the only candidates appear to be either cut from the same cloth or woefully lacking in any relevant experience. “We must listen to the people” is every would-be premier’s cry − but the people seem unconvinced and, often, appear to have expectations way out of line with economic reality.

Rising demand

Our readers are educated people and may well defy the British stereotype enough to understand the local language. If so they will learn from the local news how the movement of public services to private management and ownership is widely proposed as part of the solution to the region’s woes.

‘Perhaps the sun, sangria and the sound of lapping water will take our reader into even more specific flights of fancy’

Maybe our holidaying HSJ reader will take a little light refreshment by the pool and sink further into reverie.

They may have come to stay at a well loved hotel that their family has relied on for a summer respite over many generations. They will be pleased that despite greater demand than ever − word of its quality having got around − it still seems possible to secure accommodation without having to book years ahead.

However, they may note staff are a little thinner on the ground, sometimes grumpier and certainly more weary − and that double bookings and unexplained cancellations appear more common. They may also decide the much lauded revamp of the hotel restaurant has seen the quality of the food decline without always delivering a compensating improvement in the standard of service.

Altered reality

While not experiencing the same levels of altered reality reached by the chief medical officer during her student days, perhaps the sun, sangria and the sound of lapping water will take our reader into even more specific flights of fancy.

‘The exasperated German politicians complaining of having to “reward failure” may seem uncannily like the sleek suited leaders of big teaching hospitals’

They may consider how the extension to the hotel proposed by the previous management now sits incomplete and as disregarded as a regional pathology reorganisation, while the new owners pursue their own goals. Perhaps the plans to replace the 1960s beachfront hotels with more attractive and desirable low rise developments − currently blocked by vested interests in the local council, chamber of commerce and media − will set off a tingle of recognition.

They may record the decision to launch the town’s third “appraisal of future solutions for the local tourist industry” with a sinking of the heart. The sense of déjà vu will increase as they better understand how the region’s economy is increasingly reliant on bailouts from richer parts of the EU. The exasperated German politicians complaining of having to “reward failure” may seem uncannily like the sleek suited leaders of big teaching hospitals.

On their way home our holidaymaker may visit TripAdvisor and detail their reflections on this year’s break. Here at least, they will conclude, there is no need for a holiday inspired fantasy to see the connections between how the service they work in is developing and their time away from it.

HSJ hopes all its readers have had an enjoyable summer break and their poolside daydreams were pleasantly unconnected with the NHS.

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