THE BLOG
11/11/2013 08:11 GMT | Updated 23/01/2014 18:58 GMT

In Whom We Trust

I happily admit that I have adapted the title of this blog from the 1942 film In Which We Serve.

This film is notable for having been directed by Noel Coward and was explicitly as propaganda in order to demonstrate the spirit of loyalty and unity in the face of adversity caused by the privations of the war and, of course, the existential threat posed by the Nazis.

In Which We Serve embodies the sense of duty that everyone was expected to display and the belief that as long as served diligently right would triumph over wrong which, of course, is what happened though at terrible cost when measured in terms of the lives lost and the suffering endured.

The plot is loosely based on HMS Kelly which, when it was sunk during the Battle of Crete in 1941, was commanded by Lord Louis Mountbatten; in the film the ship is HMS Torrin captained by E.V. Kinross (played by Noel Coward).

If nothing else In Which We Serve is based on the assumption of deference.

In effect we trust those we serve to work in our interests.

The second-world-war was a long time ago - some three generations - but we still face threats and are still assumed to trust our superiors to work in our best interests. We are expected to believe that we will be told the truth and that the 'system' operates fairly and without favour.

This applies to politicians and all those who work in all sectors of industry and the public sector.

We expected our senior bankers to manage its affairs to ensure the economy ran effectively.

We were wrong and, as we know, the actions of some (not all) resulted in the spectacular collapse of institutions that were considered too essential to fail and meant that the taxpayers had to bail them out.

That many senior managers have held onto their fortunes whilst the majority suffer the effects of austerity only adds 'salt to the wound'!

The notion that a few rogue police officers would 'fit up' people was believed to a peculiarly 1970s phenomenon and that sort of thing wouldn't happen today.

So, that a senior Conservative politician such as Andrew Mitchell can be 'fitted up' to have uttered the word pleb and that senior police officers refuse to apologise seems, frankly, amazing.

We expect the truth to be told the truth regardless of the impact. Or as the Latin phrase goes, Fiat justitia ruat caelum, "Let justice be done though heavens fall."

Sadly there are too many other examples across a number of sectors.

However, the most appalling exposures of truth must be those that have emerged from our 'National

Treasure' the NHS an institution which, quite literally, deals in life and death.

The latest scandal which we are now aware of is the fact that the cancer records of some 6,000 cancer patients at Colchester General Hospital have been falsified.

The fact that the falsification was done in order to meet targets for treatment would seem to be proof of the so called paradox of unintended consequences.

Performance targets we are told by politicians are intended to make the 'service' better and produce better results.

The use of management techniques used by, for example, car manufacturing to reform public services such as education and health was introduced by the last Conservative government, adopted with gusto by New Labour and continued under the coalition though they have pledged to radically alter the NHS by opening it up to greater competition and to reducing bureaucracy.

Not for the first time we are being told, privatisation will enable us to enjoy better services that, traditionally, have been through the public sector.

This, of course, is a hugely difficult argument and one that has generated debate across the political spectrum.

The popular belief that is propagated is that there are too many managers and not enough staff employed in delivering the service.

Therefore, the fact that the number of VSMs (Very Senior Managers), those paid up to £240,000 a year, has risen from 299 when the current government took office to 428 would seem to be contrary to the stated objective of reducing management and cost in the NHS.

Undoubtedly some would argue that the additional costs of employing these elite managers is worth the investment in order to implement the health service reforms that are considered essential by the coalition government.

What the one million plus employees such as nurses and ancillary staff whose pay has fallen in real terms due to inflation will feel about these additional VSMs can only be imagined.

The fact that scandals are still occurring in the NHS would seem to make the employment of these 'super' managers additionally insulting to those of us who continue to place our trust in this once revered institution which was created in the immediate aftermath of the horror of the second-world-war.

People were led to believe that this heralded a better future in which there would be greater equality and honesty.

Currently I believe that what is urgently required is greater truth and integrity from those in whom we put our trust.

The trouble is, the embedded culture of secrecy and obfuscation makes this objective extremely difficult to achieve.

Moreover, simply increasing performance measures and targets will definitely not help.