How the Banks can save the NHS

In June last year, I posted an insight to solve the NHS problem which, given the cost of the NHS is forecast to increase from £130bn in 2015 to £260bn in 2030, is a big one.

At the time, David Cameron had stepped in and put the Bill on ‘pause’.

This must have been a bore to Health Secretary, Andrew Lansley, who had dreamt up a Bill without, it seems, due research or consultation with the medical profession.

Today, we now find this Bill, more formally the Health and Social Care Bill, is back in ‘forward’ mode or, more accurately, ‘slow forward’ mode.

This may be due to the fact that it has become so long, so complex and so unwieldy that apparently only Mr Lansley understands it (and, perhaps, the sad civil servant at the Department of Health who wrote this explanation).

In my experience, the complexity and incomprehensibility of a problem is in inverse proportion to the effectiveness of its solution, especially when politicians are involved.

So what was wrong with my idea?

Well, I do not think there was anything wrong with it at all. In fact, I believe it is more pertinent now than it was when I revealed it last June. That is why I would like to remind you of it now.

Before I do this, and by way of keeping you in suspense, let us try and identify the core issue.

For, as is quite often the case, if you can digest all the verbiage and argy-bargy down to one core insight – or even one word – then it becomes possible to re-build the issue in a much simpler way. To this end, as you may know, I am a great believer in Lord Saatchi’s mantra ‘Brutal Simplicity of Thought’.

In the case of Mr Lansley’s Health and Safety Bill, there is one word around which all our confused and inadequate politicians are dancing.

And that word is competition. They just cannot get their heads round it.

The LibDems are against competition in the NHS. This must be true because the Daily Mail says so. Labour are sort of against competition in principle but they cannot say so because they introduced it when they were in Government. The Conservatives believe in competition but they are trying to find a set of words that says so but does not say so, if you follow.

So they are all dancing on the head of a pin, and discussing forestfuls of paper called a Bill (and what a bill!) because none of them are prepared to say what they really mean.

Let’s go back to the word competition and see what all the fuss is about.

Well, again, it is simple. What they don’t want is private companies making loads of money out of public funds as, for example, some care homes have done – and especially not out of the public’s ill health (i.e. the NHS).

So here is my thought. Haven’t the Banks provided  the answer? As I said last year:

‘Socialism, like the Berlin Wall, has bitten the dust. We live in a world of ‘free market economies’. But we now know that we cannot let ‘free’ markets run uncontrolled.

As we have seen in the banking crisis, there is a Role for Government.

I bank with NatWest, owned by RBS, 84% owned the taxpayer (us). But do I blame the Government for any issues with NatWest?

Of course not. I go to my local Manager. Unlike the NHS, the Government do not manage NatWest. We – you and me – just own it. And it seems to be doing OK (now).

So here is my solution. Let private companies manage NHS services. Feel free. Tender.

In return, we want 30% of the equity and a seat on the board. Our directors will not be civil servants but experienced businessmen. They will abide by a strict public-service code. And be accountable for our best interests, financially and in delivery.’

Do you know what happened after I posted this? A very senior Tory contacted me and said:

‘I love the idea but the problem is finding large enough talented populations in Government who understand business and in business who want to work in Government! Also let’s not forget that drugs companies, builders and most of the medical profession make money from sickness.’

I did not reply to these two objections.

To the first, I would say that I am not aware of any trouble recruiting Mr Hester for RBS. I am sure, with the right financial motivation, businessmen would be queuing up to run such companies – especially as business ‘sales’ would be served up to them on a plate. All that would be required would be efficient management rather than chasing customers.

To the second point, if our politicians and civil servants really cannot find a way of  defining the difference between a public service and a plumber, then we all need to see the doctor.

So there you go. Don’t worry about ‘competition’ in the NHS. Just invite commercial operations to tender for the business and, in return, demand a piece of the action.

How long should that take to work out?

  • Neil Hopkins

    Oh why not.  There’s only 200 of the things being made.
    If you’re going to buy a Chelsea Tractor to tackle the steep inclines and difficult decents of SE1, then you might as well buy one designed by someone who probably wouldn’t know what to do with the business end of a winch if it attached itself to her panther and gave it a good hard tug…

  • Andrew Griffiths

    This is a fairly weak argument as to why it’s such a failure of a brand partnership. I actually think it makes perfect sense in terms of reaching the objectives of both brands.

    If you were to think back a few years, the Beckham’s didn’t hold much in the way of credibility. However, Victoria Beckham has now firmly earned the global fashion industry’s respect as a fully fledged designer, receiving critical acclaim from those in the know at international fashion weeks and selling out collections around the world. As such, she’s a fairly ideal candidate to be an ambassador for the Evoque, a car aimed at a more style conscious, younger audience than the rest of the Range Rover fleet. 

    Admittedly, some of the wording to describe the partnership may be a bit painful, but such is the hyperbole of marketing copy sometimes. For the consumer, it’s about seeing a car as being fashion forward, given the seal of approval by one of the world’s most recognizable style icons and all of the aspiration that goes with that. So her involvement in the creative process may be the lightest of touches, so what? It will ensure Range Rover gets in front of the style conscious audience it wants to, in the emerging markets it needs to be seen in. For Victoria Beckham, she gets the kudos of being associated with a luxury car marque in a country where they’re eager to spend money on big brand luxury. Ticks all the boxes from where I’m sitting. 

    • Neil Hopkins

       I think some of the issues come when you look at brands like Toyota, Nissan and increasingly Peugeot and Citroen who are putting design at the heart of the build, not as some add on frippery.  That’s much more authentic and meaningful, in my opinion.
      But otherwise, I agree with you, Andrew!

  • ChrisJReed

    Thanks Neil but have to disagree with both Andrew and Neil. In a straw poll of marketing professionals that i raised this with at a marketing conference in Indonesia who know the UK market, they all thought it was a joke, a mismatch, and ploy and bid to dupe the public. We know that VB is not designing this and to claim that she is is tacky and beneath Land Rover as a brand.

    As i have always disliked the four wheel drive brand for its country toffs and fox hunting associations then they are welcome to make this mistake and look foolish but really VB has credibility? If you think that then UK design really has gone to the dogs…..

  • Sara Beneroso Prats

    I couldn’t agree more with you Chris. Everybody in the auto industry in China knows that Land Rover has not been able to capitalize on auto sales in China, far behind from brands like Porsche, that relied on their traditional branding to capture Chinese consumers (of course with the appropiate elements of localisation). In my opinion, this partnership is a new desperate attemp from LR to capture 25-35 yr old Chinese female drivers (which in brands like Ferrari count up to 40% of their sales in China), something they haven’t been able to do till date (no wonder why they haven’t ventured to produce more than 200 units…for the China market, really? just 200?) . While the sales rush for lux brands comes to an end in China, brands need to make sure they are targeting the right demographic/segments, as it will be in 5/10 years when the fruits from today’s brands in China will be collected…

  • Lorna Wooldridge

    I do not understand the theory behind this at all – Land Rover appears to have lost it’s route as an off-road car and Victoria Beckham does not appear to be the type to have an off-road vehicle. 

    The celebrity icon here is one of the most inaccurate I’ve seen – she is a petite woman, and the vehicles are great big, heavy chunks of machinery that seem to take up the majority of the road. David Beckham would have been much better suited than Victoria Beckham, but in all honesty neither should have been chosen. An athlete would have been ideal. I understand her participation in creating mood boards but I feel the artistic impression created suggests sleek and stylish – stylish yes, sleek not at all. Completely the wrong car to give that impression of. 

    It wasn’t necessary to put her in the ads… she does not suit the brand image of Land Rover.