An Open Letter to Bruce Keogh and Jane Cummings about the NHS Crisis

This letter was originally sent by email on 07/01/17

Dear Professor Cummings and Professor Keogh

I am writing to you, as the clinical members of the NHS England board, because I am deeply concerned about the current plight of the NHS and what may happen to it in future.

While this is an open letter (it will be published on my blog today) it is not my primary intention to cause you embarrassment. I know that you both care deeply about the NHS and want it to thrive. You must find yourselves in an appallingly difficult situation at the moment. 

The current “humanitarian” crisis in Emergency Departments was entirely predictable – the inevitable consequence chronic defunding and increasing demand. We have experienced winter crises before and got through them, but this time feels different. Waiting times have never been so bad, the funding gap never so great, morale never so low and social care never so stretched. 

My fear is that at some time over the next days, weeks or months it will become necessary to declare a state of emergency and introduce urgent and possibly Draconian measures to get on top of the situation. It is also my fear that this will be used by factions both inside and outside government to undermine the NHS, declaring it unsustainable or unaffordable. This could become a one way process. Temporary crisis solutions will become permanent. We will set off across a bridge moving from social to commercial medicine, burning it behind us as we go.

In recent days I have been critical of the way NHS England has responded to the current challenges. My main concerns have been the effectiveness of the board and a lack of honesty in your press releases. These are both areas where you could have considerable influence.

I am not calling for your resignations, although I understand that if you follow my advice this may be the result. 

What I am asking is that you show leadership, that you support and champion the clinical staff you represent and that you are honest and speak out about the current state of the NHS and what you think should be done. Most of all I ask you to do everything in your power to make sure that the NHS remains a service that is publicly funded, high quality, free at the point of need and equitably accessible to all UK citizens. I am sure that the vast majority of the British public still want this.

I appreciate that this is a big ask of people in your positions in the current political climate but consider the alternative. Would you want to look back on 2017 as the year the NHS fatally wounded and wish that you had done more?

Yours sincerely

Steve Smith

Founder of Big Up the NHS