Sunday, 9 September 2012

Cranage Hall Reprised, Milton’s Paradise Lost, and the Hunt’s On

I enjoyed last week. There was plenty going on and finding the time to watch coverage of the Paralympics became more difficult. I am looking forward to what I am sure will be a fantastic closing ceremony tonight. As was the Last Night of the Proms concert yesterday. I have never seen such an enthusiastic Tambourine player as the lady from the BBC Symphony Orchestra – she was phenomenal. And the performance of Benjamin Brittens arrangement of the National Anthem was simply brilliant.

On Wednesday I attended a HIEC (Health Innovation and Education Cluster) meeting at Manchester Metropolitan University, my previous place of work before coming to Salford. It was really good to meet up once more with colleagues not seen for a while. Thursday and Friday were spent at Cranage Hall, in Holmes Chapel. It was the University annual Strategic Planning conference. Our University, like others has faced an extraordinary and unpredictable year, so it was good to know that we were being proactive in our deliberations of the actions we need to consider taking. The main focus of the conference was on improving teaching and growing our research capacity. There was a great deal of creative thinking evident over the two days, but it was also exhausting. 

Last week 'our Dave' had a bit of a reshuffle. Nursing Minister Anne Milton lost her job in his Cabinet reshuffle. Spookily I mentioned her in despatches just a few weeks ago, not sure that ‘our Dave’ reads my blog, but who knows. So far she has not been offered another post in the Government.

It was single Mum and former journalist Anna Soubry who has been appointed under-secretary of State for Health. Born in 1956, unlike Anne, Annas only connection to health care appears to be that her mother once worked as a radiographer. Yesterdays Times carried a story that appeared to set out Annas thoughts on end of life care. She said that people seeking help to die should be allowed to obtain assistance in the UK and said it was ‘ridiculous and appalling’ that Britons had to ‘go abroad to end their life’, and that ‘you have a right to kill yourself’.

The Department of Health rather predictably said the views were Ms Soubry's own. However, it was her first speech as under-secretary that really interested me. She addressed the House (of Parliament) about the NHS Estate. She described the creation of a new company called NHS Property Services Ltd which will own and manage buildings that are needed by the NHS. However, it will also be able to release savings from its properties that are declared surplus to NHS requirements and sold off. I’ve no doubt that the money raised by selling surplus buildings and the land they stand on will be used to improve services in the NHS. Now interestingly, Anna’s long term partner is one Neil Davidson, who amongst other things is a non-executive Director of Persimmon, the property development and house building company.

Of course the greatest re-shuffle surprise was the sacking of Andrew Lansley as Secretary of State for Health. He is off to become Leader of the House, which while still being a Cabinet post, is a relative political backwater. The work mainly consists of scheduling Commons business and a weekly all-comers’ question session. Andrew Lansley said yesterday that he didn't believe he was removed because of any dissatisfaction with his controversial reforms of the NHS. Of course everyone is entitled to their own opinion. However, no sooner had we all taken a deep sigh of relief when it was announced that Andrew Lansley’s replacement would be one Jeremy Hunt.

This was a stunning decision, and unfortunately a clear indication that the reforms would continue apace. It is worth remembering ‘our Jeremy’ will be responsible for a £100 billion of NHS resources. This is a man that earlier on this summer was staring into the political abyss over his alleged ‘cosy’ dealings with the Murdoch empire. His journey from the brink of disaster to one of the Cabinet's most important posts is remarkable. Time will tell if Lord Justice Leveson agrees. The crowd at Fridays Paralympics medal award ceremony didn’t. He was booed as he presented the cycling medals. Enough said.