Headlines: February 4th, 2003

Managers in the National Health Service have hit back at claims that new money given to the service is wasted on bureaucracy and they have dismissed suggestions that bad management is a widespread problem for the NHS.The picture of an over-managed service suffering because “the vast majority of managers are there to stop things happening,” came in a Centre forĀ  Policy Studies document, ‘Resuscitating the NHS: A Consultants View’.

Responding to it, Nigel Edwards, Policy Director for the NHS Confederation said, “The author’s portrayal of the NHS as over managed is wide of the mark. Management and administration are vital to patient care and to the successful running of the NHS.”

Dr Maurice Slevin, one of the UK’s leading cancer consultants, said in the CPS paper that the health service was on the verge of implosion. “The problems are clear to anyone who works in both the NHS and the private sector. In the NHS the vast numbers of managers are there to stop things happening. In the private sector, the small numbers of managers are there to make things happen,” he wrote.

He said a once-great service was in decline with too few nurses and ancillary staff. Bureaucracy and bad management were rife, doctors and consultants were demoralised and above all, the level of patient care was far too low.

Countering the claims, Nigel Edwards said, “Let us be clear – spending on management has actually gone down as a proportion of overall spending, representing four pence of every pound spent on the NHS.” Managers made up 3% of health service staff and many of the just over 26,000 managers were doctors and nurses, supporting front-line staff who could focus on patient care. There was only one manager for every 10,000 patients, he said.

Mr. Edwards said it was misleading to compare the number of managers in the NHS with those in the private sector who were running much less complex organisations. Managers and administrative staff, including receptionists, medical record clerks and secretaries for consultants, all played an essential role in supporting clinicians.

“Managers are certainly not bureaucrats and it is time to stop peddling easy myths, based on misleading statistics and simplistic analysis, ” he said.