Every once in a while, something happens which makes you want to let loose a loud "hurrah"! That happened to me last week when I was rushing around getting ready on Thursday morning, and heard on the BBC Breakfast show that Ali Parsa's Circle Partnership has taken over the running of a failed NHS hospital in Cambridge.
What do we know about Circle Partnership? They have a unique model of incentivising their staff by giving them 49.9% of the ownership of the company. They have set up their own private hospitals which seem to be run incredibly well with "Mandarin Oriental" chefs in some situations. They are founded by two entrepreneurs who refuse to believe we have to settle for bad care in certain hospitals. They appear to have guaranteed that the debt that the Cambridge hospital had run up would be repaid within 10 years. In short, they are bucking the trend on several points.
I have to admit - I love excellence. I want to support people who lead their lives by believing in delivering excellence in every situation - not just for the wealthy, but who believe everyone deserves great care, great service, great responsiveness.
Now is not the time to be ideological. Those who would spout ideological arguments about what's wrong with this situation need to force themselves to accept that the NHS has failed in many ways.
That failure is one of not grasping human psychology. People do what it is in their self-interest to do. That self interest needs to be understood in the broadest sense. People want to do excellent work. They want to help their fellow man. They want to be proud of a day's work, and the fruits of their labour. These things bolster their sense of self, and contribute to a great community. People also want to win. They want to be a part of things with momentum, which are making a difference, which are coming out on top.
It strikes me that the Circle Partnership gets that fundamental psychological make-up much better than the NHS.
Because we tend to be very ideological about the NHS in this country, and people say things like "profit must never have anything to do with healthcare", we end up with a health system which is chronically wasting money, delivering poor care for a section of its constituency, and making decisions without thinking about whether they are sustainable.
Case in point: caesareans. On the 30th of October, the Sunday Times reported that all women in the UK will soon have the right to give birth by caesarean. However, they are £800 more expensive than a natural birth. If we reduced the current rate of the procedure by 1 percentage point a year from the current level of 25% of annual births, the NHS would save £5.6 million a year. But unless you have a stake in the outcome, you don't consider the cost implication of decisions you take. It's human nature to spend your own money differently than you would others. And therein lies the flaw. Until we have every patient understanding that it's "their money", and that it's in "their interest" for them to consider the cost of healthcare decisions, we'll be on a one way ticket to bloated spending in the NHS, and not necessarily the best care through the service either.
If the average Occupy Wall Street protestor or Occupy St Paul's equivalent knew how much money is wasted in public services, they might quickly turn their anger from the bankers to the government and public services. In a word, they'd probably go "apeshit".
The Daily Mail on the 11th of November reported that "Brussels squandered £3.7 billion". In the article, it was reported that the European Court of Auditors had refused to sign off the spending in the EU's accounts for the 17th year in a row. "In total, 3.7 percent of the £101 billion annual budget was 'materially affected by error", according to the auditors.
17 years in a row? If auditors refused to sign off on accounts of a UK PLC or SME for 2 years in a row, the company would be struck off, closed, or made bankrupt. Why do we tolerate this level of irregularity with "our money"?
Somethings are actually very simple in life, and don't need to be complicated. In every system whether that is a household, company, country or a eurozone, there are revenue centers and cost centers. The net is the profit or loss. If the former outstrips the latter, you're ok. You build through time, a surplus. We seem to act as if we're trust fund children sometimes when we are so uninterested in saving the £3.7 billion of wasted European money or the £5.6 million that we could save by not giving women the right to have caesareans. Are we so wealthy? Turn on the BBC or CNN and watch the news.
But the real damage is to the psyche of the 4.8 million SME's in the UK who have to fight the good fight of building their sustainable businesses. They are the ones who are creating a lot of the top line revenue which will fill the country's coffers through tax revenue. As NESTA, the UK's Innovation Agency shows, the 6% of all UK firms who are described as high-growth create 54% of the new jobs. How must it feel to have someone maxing out your credit cards faster than you can pay them down?
Time to wake up. There is no global sugar daddy in the sky. People, businesses, and countries choose to be rich or poor. Their actions of investing in themselves, living within their means, working for the group win, and not imagining that someone will bail them out create wealthy structures - whether families, firms or trading areas.