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Karen Martin and Beverley Ireland-Symonds promote the value of having effective communication skills for individuals, teams and organisations.
Wednesday, 13 April 2011

The Health Minister and Poor Change Management Practices

Photo by Svanhorn
Why do government ministers always break every rule about how to successfully implement change? Everyone accepts that when governments win elections they will want to make changes to put their parties stamp on the country, but it’s the style, and the speed of which they do it, that so often flies in the face of most management theory. 

The Royal College of  Nurses passed a vote of no confidence earlier today in a Health Secretary for the first time in their history.  Andrew Lansley, the current Health Secretary has been under fire because of the dramatic changes that are being planned for the Health Service and so he should be.  His handling of it so far has been very poor at best. 

Personally, I have no problem with the idea of the government turning their attention to the health service.  There are some great dedicated, talented professionals who do a wonderful job, caring, healing and offering support in often difficult or complex environments. But I’m afraid I don’t view the whole National Health Service with rose tinted glasses.

I have a great deal of experience as a patient within different parts of the NHS, and in recent years despite new buildings and improved facilities I have found the care from staff to often be well below the standard I would expect. Too often,  I have been treated with rudeness, and indifference, poor clinical treatment and ‘it’s nothing to do with me’ attitude when I have complained. I know that I am not alone, just as much as I know there are many people who believe we have the best health care in the world. 

So I believe that there are lots of changes that could potentially be made.  However, I’m not in favour of the way the government has handled their intention to make these changes.  Firstly they made a pledge that they had no intention to make any changes to the Health Service (clearly untrue).  Secondly they started to tell people the changes that they intend making with minimal consultation to canvas people’s views.  Although some of the changes may be due to getting better value for money, and improving patient experiences, it’s quite clear to see that some of them are built purely on ideology.  Thirdly, they have now stated that they want to listen to people and are going to do some consultation with professionals who are concerned about the changes before the bill is put to Parliament. 

How could the Health Minister have got it so wrong?  He’s broken all the basic elements of  effective change management practices by failing to communicate effectively to the professionals or the service users the reasons why he believes the changes are necessary, and he is failing to get the majority of people behind him.  He has now compounded the view that he doesn’t care by failing to address the main audience at the Royal College of Nursing’s annual conference. 

Mr Lansley isn’t the only government minister to have demonstrated such poor communication skills and woeful change management practices and unfortunately he’s unlikely to be the last.