Farrar warns against ‘tsunami of bureaucracy’

 New organisations formed as a result of the NHS reforms may cause conflicting policies and bundles of red-tape for the health service, Mike Farrar, NHS Confederation CEO, has warned.

Mr Farrar said the reforms would lead to several new bodies interfering with the day to day operation of the health service and result in a “tsunami of new bureaucracy”.

He added that new organisations will need to “minimise the burdens their policies place” on the NHS in order for it to “stay focused on patient care” and not on “repeatedly providing information in different formats to multiple bodies.”

Writing in an editorial for the Health Service Journal, the NHS Confed chief executive was responding to a survey of NHS chairs and CEOs. The survey found widespread concerns by NHS leaders as a result of the reforms.

Managers warned that widespread structural changes will result in a lack of senior experience and that savings targets are causing serious financial pressures.

Mr Farrar argued that the reforms are not a magic wand to improve performance and that expectations must be realistic. “Performance in many parts of the system will be patchy at first,” he said.

“Those leading the change need to be open-minded and flexible to improve policy and practice as we go. We are losing many experienced leaders.

“We need to ensure that as new ones emerge, taking on these challenges, they are given the support and cover they need to succeed, even if that means tolerating some difficulty along the way.”

The former SHA leader added that for new organisations to be successful they must listen to NHS leaders and focus on “critical overarching concerns that will matter most in the end”.

“It’s essential that national bodies ensure they are driving towards the same goals, not subjecting the NHS to a myriad of conflicting policies,” he said. “Otherwise the NHS will be pulled in different directions and unable to make progress.”

Health Minister Simon Burns insists the reforms remove layers of administration and will actually result in less bureaucracy for the NHS. “Our reforms mean that doctors and nurses will be in charge of the NHS, not managers,” he said. “It makes sense for the people that know their patients best, doctors and nurses, to take responsibility for driving up standards in their local NHS, free from bureaucratic interference.

“Careful work is underway now to ensure that new NHS bodies are prepared, but this is not affecting patient care. Waiting times are low, infection rates are down and patient satisfaction remains high.”