Larry the Downing St cat and “Keeping it real” for NHS Change Day

I walked down the familiar street, past the terraced houses towards a black front door. Armed police patrolled the area and onlookers gawped from their huddle behind a black iron railing. The familiar number 10 swung inward and away from me as I approached. I was greeted and ushered past Larry the cat – rescued from very different streets – and into the waiting room. I was back in Number 10 Downing Street for the second time in a week. As Chief Executive of the NHS Confederation, along with a group of others, I was here to discuss the mechanics of healthcare with policy advisors. As I walked up the stairs, past the portraits of every Prime Minister, I took in the surroundings of this world famous place.

Larry

Later, I sat thinking and promised myself two things…..

Firstly, that I will never take for granted the privilege of events like this. Larry was happy sleeping away his time but I know access to people with real power is a thing to be used well and for the benefit of everyone. In my new role this is as important as ever.

10_Downing_Street_door

Secondly, that my entry through this front door and the route into these meetings are for one purpose only. To ensure that the NHS can succeed and keep delivering care to people behind different doors, on different streets – the streets of your village, town, city or hamlet. The NHS needs to make changes at pace to keep up with societal change, demography, financial challenges and to retain trust around quality of care. How easy it would become to engage in an intellectual debate about structures, incentives, legal instruments, markets and economics and forget the purpose of the conversation – to ensure we deliver the best possible care.

Morley terrace

Two weeks from leaving my former role as Chief Executive of Leeds Community Healthcare NHS Trust, the memories of the patients I have seen, the homes I have visited is fresh. From proud dads of newborn babes to exhausted carers of dying people – birth to death, head to toe, mental and physical health of everyone, whether prisoners, the homeless, shelf stackers or millionaires. It doesn’t take much for me to recall the palpable joy or sadness, frustration or relief.

To ensure that it stays that way, I have made a pledge for NHS Change Day. My new job is a representative one that has the NHS at its heart. That requires ongoing visits to organisations across the country. But I will also repeat what I did as a front line Chief Executive and go “back to the floor” once a month with staff and patients at the front line of the NHS. I have always said if you want to understand something you should try to see for yourself.

change-day-web-banner1

Getting out of my middle class bubble and into the real lives of staff and patients to see the impact we have is the most powerful incentive for success I know….and if you have the opportunity to be trusted to go behind the closed doors of other people’s lives, take it. You will be humbled, surprised, shocked and amazed by what you find the NHS achieves every day as well as seeing where things truly need to change.

Change day is on 3 March. You can pledge here.

4 thoughts on “Larry the Downing St cat and “Keeping it real” for NHS Change Day

  1. When I started out reading this, I had one thought in mind ‘Here we go the rhetoric of a corporate man’, but you touched my heart and for now I feel you truly are on the side of the NHS.
    This is from someone who has left NHS to join the world of commerce but I owe a life’s work and passion to the NHS.
    I hope you are able to achieve what the NHS needs and instead of money pinching. More much needed ‘grass roots’ policies that protect the ordinary man and ensures improvement of healthcare for the needy of the vulnerable and its hard-working staff, within the under recognised ‘Community’ as well as the much publicised secondary care. ‘Medics’ are not the only members of the NHS.
    Like you I care about the vulnerable within our population; please always remember those you left behind and I truly wish you well with your arduous and sometimes thankless post.

    • Thanks Maureen for taking the time to comment. Medics are certainly not the only members of the NHS – they do great work in teams with physios, occupational therapists, speech therapists, scientists, nurses, health visitors, midwives, mental health support workers, IT staff, managers, drivers, paramedics, radiographers, podiatrists…Take care. Rob

  2. Pingback: Larry the Downing St cat and "Keeping it r...

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