Chief Executive’s Blog March 2015
Goodbye to all that
I take the title of my last blog from Robert Graves’ well known autobiographical account of his experiences in the First World War. “It was my bitter leave taking” he later wrote “…[from] where I had recently broken a good many conventions.” His highly readable account chronicles, among other things, bitter fighting, the tragic incompetence of many of the engagements in which he participated, his war wound, and the post war trauma. For all that, it is an often entertaining and witty account of the times.
So you can see why it reminded me of my blog.
This is my last blog. As I cast my mind back over the last five years, I have to recall some bitter fighting, some tragically incompetent mis-management of the NHS and not a few personal wounds. It is a salutary reflection that the very bodies, whose invention in 2013 signalled the end of the HIEC as we know it, are themselves already being restructured, reinvented and even quietly wound up. Within two years…as I say, tragic incompetence.
Yet I am not bitter. We have had a great run at things in the HIEC, maybe not least because we didn’t pose a threat to too many people; poised as we were for extinction from the moment we came into being. And bodies like ours, who are there to be a catalyst to others, should not last for ever. Our role is to strengthen the organisations with whom we work, so that they can manage the things they need to do better, for themselves, in future.
But the tinge of bitterness I do feel is about one thing only. In all the years that I have worked in the NHS, I have repeatedly seen a wilful reluctance to learn and build on what has gone before. As new organisations come into being, they delight in starting anew and disregarding any legacy from their predecessors. In fact, they usually dismiss out of hand the notion that there ever have been earlier organisations who shared their emergent mission. This represents a huge waste of human and social capital for the NHS.
I hope our own legacy is more successful: http://www.tvhiec.org.uk/about-us/legacy-projects/
So back with Robert Graves. When rereading Goodbye to All That what is immediately striking is how a work that is so much of its own time, still has so much to say to a contemporary audience. And that includes the message that the lessons of history are never learnt.