Is the NHS a Cult?

This was written at the beginning of the year, 2022 and I’m only posting it now. However, nothing has changed other than the NHS has continued to deteriorate……..


a system of religious veneration and devotion directed towards a particular figure or object.

Oxford Languages

The Daily Telegraph reported this week that the proposed chairman of the English National Health Service (NHS) was grilled by parliamentarians who were concerned he had used private healthcare. More importantly they questioned his devotion to the NHS given his lack of exclusive use.

An opinion piece in the same paper asked why we weren’t reforming our two worst services. The BBC and the NHS. I don’t know anything about BBC reform, but I have a great deal of experience trying to inject change into the NHS. The NHS has mastered repelling change.

At times Prime Ministers have had a positive impact of the NHS’s delivery of services. When Blair left office, he had effectively reduced waits for outpatient surgery to almost nil. All but stopped patients from dying in A&E’s because they were not prioritised with a sever heart condition.

The headwinds Blair faced were extreme. In 2011 the former NHS CEO Nigel Crisped penned a book which encapsulated why the NHS is able to thwart systemic change saying “I wanted the private sector working in the NHS on our terms”. Control is essential to insure change wont take place.

This brings us back to the current debate on the new chairman. Essentially he needs to drink the Kool Aid. Dispense with an objective, not the NHS viewpoint. I’ll separate comments about the civil servants like Crisp who run the “service” from providers. The “top of the shop” runs the NHS as a Ponzi scheme. They continually tell Parliament they need more money to provide the service and then never, let me repeat that, never achieve the goals they set for themselves. Only to return year after year with the same unchallenged excuse.

Unlike Madoff, they have successfully fended off real scrutiny of what they should have supplied for the money provided. A major fly in the ointment are those who are not members of the cult. They can actually look past the hyperbolic claims of the members. Theirs is a dispassionate view.

When you pull back the curtain, you see a failing public service that is very reliant on private healthcare. NHS managers quietly let them in the back door to help treat patients. They stand on the front steps of the hospital claiming that the private sector are only in healthcare for the money and may put patient’s lives at risk.

The reality is that you must appoint a Chairperson who will sit above the day to day rhetoric. Objectively view what has been asked of the service and what has it delivered or failed to do so. If the NHS is the vehicle the cultists claim it is, struggling from underinvestment while remaining the very best way to treat patients. This will shine through. The spin will be unnecessary.