The moderniser

BMJ 2001; 323 doi: (Published 17 November 2001) Cite this as: BMJ 2001;323:1150

The Modernisation Agency has a “new Labour” —some might say almost Orwellian—ring to it. Jane Smith spoke to David Fillingham, its chief executive, to find out what modernisation is and what the agency does

When Prime Minister Tony Blair announced last year an extra £2bn ($3bn) for the NHS he also declared that it had to modernise. The subsequent NHS Plan promised “a health service fit for the 21st century: a health service designed around the patient.” The Modernisation Agency was announced in the NHS Plan for England and is part of the means of implementing that plan. Yet many in the NHS have only a hazy idea of what it does.

David Fillingham accepts that people are ignorant about the agency—but he also thinks that's not that important. To explain why, he described a recent meeting with a primary care team in Surrey. The general practitioners, he said, described themselves as embittered cynics. “But they also talked warmly about the primary care collaborative they had taken part in and how it had helped them to improve their service.” They had made more resources available on Mondays to meet their peak demand, moved health promotion clinics to the back of the week, and introduced telephone consultations. “They weren't thinking of that as modernisation,” he said.

Nor was the ward sister in Liverpool who was taking part in the Royal College of Nursing's clinical leadership programme. But that too was …

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