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Everyday Lies

Lions led by donkeys

This tired cliché recently came to mind in a British hospital

This article is taken from the December/January 2022 issue of The Critic. To get the full magazine why not subscribe? Right now we’re offering five issue for just £10.

“Lions led by donkeys” is no doubt by now a cliché, but it came to my mind in a British hospital recently. The surgeon whom I consulted was excellent: he was friendly but with that air of quiet authority that arises from real mastery. I could not have asked for better.

I had noticed a poster in the corridor, professionally printed and plasticated. It was headed Putting Patients First and showed a kind of road map consisting of a road with several bends at right angles. There were five stops en route to putting patients first: Vision, Mission, Leadership, Our People and Our Values.

  • Vision: We will be working with all our staff to better understand the actions needed for us to become the safest and kindest organisation in the NHS
  • Mission: We want to be the healthiest population on the planet 
  • Leadership: We want to empower and develop our people to ensure we have exemplary, inspirational and innovative leaders in the future
  • Our People: Focus on developing our people as everyone makes a contribution to the care our patients and families receive 
  • Our Values: Proud to care. Make It Happen. We Value Respect and Together We Achieve — drive our behaviour

Needless to say, this poster did not manufacture itself or put itself on the wall: its appearance there was the product of human labour, albeit of labour at a low intellectual level, that of ambitious mediocrities. The contrast with the surgeon, who was probably subordinate in some way to these people, could not have been more painful. 

Under another heading, How We Will Deliver Change (as if Change were a parcel from Amazon), I read:

The patients and their family are why we are here. Everything we do should be centred round them. 

“No, your wife can’t sit with you in the waiting room, it’s for patients only,” said the receptionist, in a voice to shatter glass, or at least eardrums.

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