NHS reform: The NHS can learn a lot from Shakespeare

This year marks 400 years since the death of William Shakespeare. Dr Chris Mimnagh believes the Bard has something to teach the NHS and GPs.

It's Shakespeare's 400th anniversary this year. You may possibly have escaped it on the media, internet TV in your house. You might have picked up the odd programme, my personal favourite being 'Bard Brain of Britain' on Radio 4 .

I suspect you are wondering what the Bard of Avon can teach the NHS in possibly its darkest hour.
I think there’s quite a lot we can learn actually.

Old Bill writes about the truths of his time, the failures of statesmanship in Julius Caesar, the comedy of errors in, er, The Comedy of Errors, and the fact that any play has clear good guys and bad guys applies equally to the NHS.

Right now in our story the government (in the persona of J Hunt) is the 'bad guy' but unless we take arms against our sea of troubles we risk losing the support of the masses.

So here’s the rub, as GPs we now need to write a different script, match the government spin measure for measure.

We now need to stiffen up the sinews, the game's afoot to write a different winter's tale. But such changes will need to be massive.

Our small skirmishes in the world of the Five Year Forward View must be dwarfed by the shouts of our numbers to destroy the 'payment by results', which pays for activity not proactivity. To replace it with a system in which consultants consult with their colleagues, dispensing wisdom as you like it and not by weeks' old letters designed as an aide memoire for the next clinic visit. To produce a system which reaches peoples lives before disease does.

In short, now is the time for our midsummer night's dream of an NHS which cares for all the seven ages of man to be launched.

If it were done when 'tis done, then 'twere well it were done quickly, because the public will only fight for the NHS if it believes that the clinicians are acting in their best interests.

  • Dr Chris Mimnagh is a GP in Liverpool co-director of clinical strategy at the NHS partnership organisation Liverpool Health Partners

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