Seven Sick Strategies

By Theodore Dalrymple
October 11, 2004

Stapled to my hospital payslip each month is a glossy, expensively printed, eight-page propaganda leaflet from trust headquarters. In true Stalinist fashion, it portrays a happy and contented workforce, proud of being awarded stars by the government. There is always money enough for this kind of thing – though not for medical supplies, equipment, or staff salaries.

The leaflet’s main value, though not its purpose, naturally, is to illustrate how immense sums could now be poured into our public services without any tangible benefit whatsoever to the public. In it, the time-servers lay bare their corrupt souls.

The trust’s director of organisational and workforce development (if inflated titles come, can salaries be far behind?) wrote an article for it entitled “HR in the NHS Plan”.

HR? Hormone replacement, perhaps? No, human resources: you, me, we are all resources now, like iron ore in Liberia.

The director writes: “I have now completed a review of the organisational structure for the HR function and each operational directorate, as well as corporate areas and have a Lead HR Manager who will work with relevant management boards and staff . . . The Trust Board have also [sic] recently agreed our HR strategy which outlines the strategic direction we will follow in continuing to work towards key national and local objectives in order to meet the needs of our users, communities and staff.”

I hope all this is clear to you. If not, the director goes on to explain that “the strategy has been developed around four key areas”.

What are they, the four key areas? HR in the NHS Plan (National Strategy). The aims and values of our Trust. The Improving Working Lives Standard (IWL). Local Workforce Development priorities.

She then informs those who are not yet tearing their hair out or banging their heads on the wall to make this drivel go away that there are “seven key areas for delivery” – that is to say, the seven key areas of the four key areas of the strategy.

The seven key areas (will Walt Disney ever make a cartoon of them, I wonder) are: HR strategy and management; equality and diversity; staff involvement and communication; flexible working; health workplace; training and development; and flexible retirement, childcare and support for carers.

If I have understood correctly, the strategy is to draw up a strategy so that the strategy is delivered, give or take a strategic subordinate clause.

“Delivery of the strategy will be based on a firm foundation of accepted behaviours and man- agement principles which I believe are key to building trust and confidence and set standards around communication, decision-making, dignity and respect and a framework for learning and education.”

No doubt it would be wise to call in a few external consultants (former employees of the trust) to ensure that the strategy is working strategically.

One does not know whether to laugh or cry. Who are the people who write this stuff? The whole of the British public administration is so riddled with thousands of unscrupulous, cunning, careerist dimwits, who will do anything they are told as long as it preserves their jobs and careers, and who routinely mistake their own activity for work, that recovery or amelioration is impossible.

Our corruption is now far worse than the money-under-the-table or brown-paper-envelope sort. It is a deep moral and intellectual corruption, and therefore far harder to eradicate or control. It has turned the whole of the public service into a legalised pork barrel for low-grade bureaucrats. And the government connives at it, because it extends its power.

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