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Can bad news become good?

Dr Michael Dixon, Chairman, NHS Alliance

The NHS has been battered and bruised by both the media and politicians this past year. In some cases rightly – we should never shy away from confronting care that lacks kindness or efficacy – but it’s too easy to let the negatives get in the way of the extraordinary positives of our health service.

Posted: 6 January 2014

I am constantly amazed at the passionate and committed care I see delivered in the hearts of our communities and hospitals and am encouraged that NHS Alliance’s launch of an annual temperature check shows I’m not alone in those feelings.

But the bad news will continue until we all begin to think differently. The NHS doesn’t belong to the Government or to doctors or nurses. It is a precious resource that belongs to us all – an NHS Mutual if you like – and we all need to use it a little differently.

As patients, we need to think carefully about our expectations and challenge the ethos that everyone is entitled to everything. And to do that we must involve patients more in the management of the NHS so that together we can help sustain a healthcare system that remains free at the point of need. We need to help people understand that A & E is not the front door to the NHS – it should be used only as its name suggests, that is, in case of an accident or emergency.

Increasingly, we all need to accept that the vast majority of health care will take place outside hospitals, at home or close to home, in places that feel safe, accessible and comfortable for patients and health professionals alike. General practice may sit at the heart of an emerging model of care but it will increasingly be a collaborative team of GPs and consultants, community nurses and pharmacists, providers of social care and also, us – the people who live and work in our communities – being prepared to take better care of ourselves, and of each other.

The NHS can only survive as an NHS Mutual if that mutuality of good intent and purpose extends to every community and consultation. I believe the new clinically-led NHS is moving away from a target and tick box culture to one where professionals can regain their professionalism and sense of vocation, and where patients and local people will also have a leading role.

We must all be part of its success – GPs, hospital doctors, nurses, pharmacists, and patients. We must also be critical friends but make no mistake, the new national sport of sniping at the NHS from the side-line at every twist and turn now could lead to the loss of the UK’s greatest asset.

Instead of becoming a nation that shouts ‘disgusted’ at every opportunity, perhaps we’d be better to think ‘what can I do to help make things better?’ My hope is that in a year’s time when we undertake our 2014 NHS Temperature Check, we will be looking at a service in considerably better health.

By Dr Michael Dixon

Dr Michael Dixon is Chairman, NHS Alliance and President, NHS Clinical Commissioners