Rethink Health - December 2009
News through the GoodHealthKeeping lens
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Judging the Judges
The Care Quality Commission (CQC) has been hard-pressed this month because several NHS Trusts that it had judged highly have since, during snap inspections or according to other authorities, appeared less than excellent. One Trust Chief Executive has been sacked because of this.
Part of the hysteria should be disposed of at once. It is statistical fact, and not necessarily a criticism, that half of all NHS Trusts will score less than the average for all Trusts. It does not even follow that Trusts in the lowest 5th according to score are necessarily bad operators - merely that, according to the measures used, they score less excellently than most of the others. I am reminded of a yacht race I took part in once, which coincided with a gale of wind driving all the competitors in the desired direction. Everyone finished within the previous record time, yet someone still got in last!
Having said that, I know the CQC does have quite a lot to answer for. Their Chairman, Baroness Young (call me Barbara) once said she would "speak softly and wave a big stick". Well, CQC didn't speak softly when they finally woke up to our previously notified change in status during September 2008. They declared our registration void retrospectively, and accused us of operating illegally since that date. Yet more than a year later they are still sending us mail for Good HealthKeeping Ltd (which no longer exists), and - despite our ignoring requests for annual registration fees - still have us listed in their register. What is more, they have ignored so far my three attempts to complain about this. I think Baroness Young scores about 5/10 against her expectations of herself.
Given all this, it seems probable that the CQC is now too large to function effectively. Its parts are not joined-up. Announced inspections are clearly not the way forward, and change is in the air. Clearly some form of regulation is necessary, but to judge by the hoops we had to jump through - a policy to prevent clients from jumping out of windows, for example - the organisation is gridlocked by its own over-prescriptive detail. And they are not alone - education regulators are guilty of much the same.
Users of the NHS must, it seems, be vigilant on our own account. What you see and experience is real - sometimes good, but not always. Have the courage to speak up about things you know can't be right, and praise just as loudly what is good. But best of all, manage your own affairs so well that you seldom need to darken the hospital door.
Help for Health
Our telephone number now channels several streams of enquiry, and we have decided to answer in a simple manner that covers them all. "Help for Health" is the catch phrase devised for the Saville Turner Holistic Trust, and since it applies to everything we do we are using that now when we pick up the phone. Don't be phased!
Winston Churchill Venison
I have just come back from four days in Narnia. Well, that's what it felt like. I was in the hills above Dunoon, helping the local custodians to control their deer population. It's the only place I know that guarantees clean air, a keen wind, no litter of any description, a permanent sense of personal stillness and total awareness. But the animals don't talk.
It was my first visit and I shall be back regularly in future.
I was particularly struck by the meticulous way Winston, the proprietor, managed affairs. When we shot a hind it was gutted on the spot, leaving the "giblets" for the foxes. It was brought off the hill immediately and tagged with details of when and where it was culled, and by whom. It was in the larder by nightfall, and skinned within 24 hours. Its age was determined from the state of its teeth, and used to decide for each individual beast how long it should be hung before butchering. Normal game dealers do not have this information and treat every carcass in the same way. Winston knows of nobody else who operates in the same way as he.
It will not surprise you to hear that the venison sold by Winston is the best I have ever tasted. It has been killed humanely. It is by definition organic and free range, very lean and succulent, and needs very little cooking. It deserves to be better known.
For details look up www.winstonchurchillvenison.com. They deliver orders in coolboxes overnight to anywhere in the UK. By all means mention my name. We've bought some for our family Christmas party!
Whatever your fare this Christmas, we trust you'll serve it with a stack of vegetables and alternate your meals with generous slices of exercise. We hope your journeys are safe and expeditious, your arrivals greeted warmly, and that cordial good cheer pervades all.
We shall be away from home for the week before Christmas, so please place any orders by Friday 18th December. We return home by 29th December and are then in harness until a brief absence in mid January, for our annual frost-biter in Derbyshire - but not before despatching our first newsletter of 2010.
We recommend the Biggin Hall ice-breaker special, by the way - very good rates up to 1st April 2010. Look up www.bigginhall.co.uk. Maybe we'll see you there!