Tory health chief admits it could take years to change NHS culture

Tim Yeo, shadow secretary of state for public services, health &
education, has admitted that it would take until at least 2010 to make the
cultural shift among civil servants that would be necessary to make the health service
more effective.

Speaking exclusively to Personnel Today, Yeo said central government must
give decision- making powers back to management and health professionals to
overcome the recruitment and retention crisis in the NHS.

He said medical professionals and management in the NHS were being stifled
by the intrusion of Whitehall into their working lives.

"There is a crisis in morale among health professionals, which results
from the extent to which ministers have tried to manage the NHS and have imposed
literally hundreds of targets," Yeo said.

But he believes it will take another parliamentary term to convince
politicians and servants to take a step back.

"Very often the civil servant’s role has been to exercise control, so
there would have to be a cultural shift," he said. "If you take a
four or five year view, then it can be [achieved]."

The latest statistics show that, in nursing alone, more than 30,000 staff
left the NHS last year and that 40 per cent of primary care trusts are facing
severe recruitment problems.

Yeo said the key to retention was improving morale and motivation through
deregulation, so that staff had a sense of being in control of their own jobs
and had ownership of the policies they followed.

"Hardly anyone operating at the coalface really has the sort of
discretion they need to make the best of the cash that is going in," he
said. "They’ve got to keep looking over their shoulders at directives
coming from Whitehall – it is a very demotivating thing for a professional to

He said deregulation would offset the lure of greater pay on offer to health
professionals in countries such as the US and Canada. The Nursing and Widwifery
Council believes about 5,000 nurses left the UK for better pay abroad last

"People won’t want to leave this country for higher pay if they find
their jobs satisfying," Yeo said. "I would like people to think they
can be proud of working in the public services," he added.

Mike Griffin, director of HR at King’s College Hospital NHS Trust, agreed
that there needed to be less central direction and more local determination,
but said the issue remained as to how to ensure trusts retained proper

By Michael Millar

Comments are closed.