Report Criticising NHS ‘Suppressed By Embarrassed Ministers’

Julien Behal/PA Wire URN:21463902 (Press Association via AP Images)
Julien Behal/PA Wire URN:21463902 (Press Association via AP Images)

Ministers are stalling the publication of a report that heavily criticises NHS management as they are determined to avoid bad press for the health service ahead of the election, it has been claimed. The paper’s author Stuart Rose is said to have slammed the overall standard of management within the NHS, describing it as “totally shocking”.

According to the Financial Times, Lord Rose, who is credited with turning around the fortunes of high street retailer Marks and Spencer, is said to be concerned that managers are forced to fall back on top down diktats to keep the service running as they lack control over factors such as pay control and working conditions.

He is also said to be deeply critical of the failure to adequately reward or celebrate competent management, and worse, to fail to hold to account poor managers who are instead allowed to move from job to job within the system.

The report was commissioned by Health Minister Jeremy Hunt, who last year asked Lord Rose to investigate how NHS hospitals could hold on to “the very best leaders to help transform the culture in underperforming hospitals”. Lord Rose delivered the report in December, but the Department of Health has prevaricated over its publication for the last two months.

A spokesman at the Department of Health has told the Financial Times: “We will be publishing the report in due course.” However, an individual who has attended meetings within the Department at which the report was discussed has said that it has been placed on “the back burner of the back burner”.

Its delayed publication has fuelled speculation that the Department wants to avoid bad news stories about the NHS before the general election in May, preferring to fight Labour over the government’s economic record.

Labour are by far the most trusted party on the NHS. A Lord Ashcroft polling report, The People, the Parties and the NHS, published in January revealed that 47 percent of the public believe Labour had the “best approach” to the health service, a full 16 points ahead of the Conservatives. 20,000 people were surveyed for the report.

The same report also found that the public believe the biggest problem with the NHS to be “too much money being spent on management and bureaucracy” and when asked how big a problem various issues were for the NHS, “too much waste and bureaucracy” again came out on top.

Over the last four years the government has enacted a number of reforms designed to simplify management structures and hand more power to clinicians. However, according to the Lord Ashcroft report, 50 percent of those polled thought that the main objective of government reforms was to save money, whereas just one in three thought they were enacted to improve the NHS.

Consequently, Labour plans to place the NHS at the heart of its election campaign. Commenting on the Lord Rose report, shadow Health Minister Jamie Reed said: “Patients will be concerned to hear that ministers seem to be suppressing yet another report that criticises their management of the NHS. Nothing could make Jeremy Hunt’s boasts about transparency seem more hollow.”

But for many it may be Reed’s words which ring hollow thanks to his leader Ed Miliband, who has come under sustained criticism over the last few weeks for saying that he wants to “weaponise” the NHS.