Observations Body Politic

Working miracles for the NHS

BMJ 2015; 350 doi: https://doi.org/10.1136/bmj.g7842 (Published 06 January 2015) Cite this as: BMJ 2015;350:g7842
  1. Nigel Hawkes, freelance journalist, London
  1. nigel.hawkes1{at}btinternet.com

How realistic are the predictions of the Five Year Forward View?

Since he published his Five Year Forward View in October, Simon Stevens has been walking on water. The chief executive of NHS England is (temporarily) able to do no wrong. Just as Melanesian islanders attribute magical powers to charismatic outsiders, Stevens has acquired a cargo cult of his own, deliciously lampooned in a series of tweets by the journalist Andy Cowper under the hashtag #SimonStevensfacts.

Here’s a sample. “Hot? Bothered? Chant NHS England three times and Simon Stevens will appear with a chilled bottle of mineral water.” Impressive, but not quite as awe inspiring as another fact unearthed by Cowper. “Simon Stevens mined the Large Hadron Collider’s 27-km particle accelerator tunnels in a lunch break, using a plastic spoon.”

Joking aside, it does seem that Stevens can currently get away with things that would bring derision on the heads of ordinary folk. For example, he has redefined the intervention process designed to rescue failing NHS services as a “success regime” rather than a “failure regime” to avoid demotivation and stigma. If his predecessor, David “Ironman” Nicholson, had tried something like this, laughter would have rolled irresistibly across the land. From Stevens it’s pure gold.

Still, when every utterance is given super-credibility there is …

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