A brave new world commences today. Just as well April Fool’s Day was yesterday, for otherwise you might not have believed it.
From today, in England, your Local Authority will be responsible for ‘supporting your self esteem’ and your ‘behavioral choices’.
Naturally your self esteem and your behavioral choices will only be supported if they accord with national guidelines, which will be supervised (for £185,000 a year) by a Scot. One Duncan Selbie. He doesn’t drink, he doesn’t smoke. He does have three children, so there is hope that at least one vice may remain on the national curriculum.
Little Duncan Selbie has been given a brand spanking new Quango to play with; the ‘PHE’. That’s not an aspirate Paedophile Information Exchange; its our new Nanny, ‘Public Heath England’, which is designed to utilise ‘social marketing and behavioral insight activities’ to help Local Authorities to ensure that we make the right choices at the right time so that we don’t become a burden on the NHS….(why do I get visions of text messages being sent out at bed time to remind us to wear a condom?)
‘Bishop’ Selbie, latterly of the parish of Dundee, has been shipped south to show the English yeoman how to live his life in a blameless manner that hopefully won’t cost the NHS too much lolly. Don’t expect explosive changes, most of the staff he has hired appear to have been shipped over from identical positions in the old NHS, but they will have shinny new desks, in a bright new office that none of them know their way round yet, so we may be left in peace for a few weeks whilst they figure out how to download the app for Solitaire on their new computers.
We want to try and ensure that there are opportunities for everyone in the transfer and recruitment processes for Public Health England. However, it is not possible to guarantee everyone a job at this stage. We anticipate around 90% of staff from sender organisations will be “lifted and shifted” into Public Health England. A “lift and shift” transfer is one where the existing function or function within the relevant sender organisation will remain exactly as they are now when they transfer.
Yes, they have all been reassured that their pension entitlement remains exactly the same as before…
He is a fan of plain packaging for cigarettes though, keeping a pack of the multi-coloured, gold tipped, Sobranie cigarettes in his desk to remind him of the lengths manufactures will go to entice children to smoke possibly the most expensive cigarettes on the market…
He’s been given a budget of £5.45 billion, with instructions to target the areas with the worst health, so expect lots of money to be spent in Newcastle, and Tower Hamlets; it’s supposed to be ring-fenced, but the definition of ‘supporting public health’ is fairly fluid, and will no doubt be found to include building more council houses in some hard pressed areas. Or maybe repairing the pot-holes to ‘prevent serious accidents’. You might even hit the jackpot and find it includes ‘restoring weekly rubbish collections’ where an enterprising council has decided that perhaps rats might be a problem. Mind you, PHE have already been tasked with providing the national immunisation programme, and that alone will account for £1.8 billion; then they have to sort out the National Drug Addiction problem, which currently costs around £3 billion a year doling out free methadone to addicts. That ring-fenced budget’s not looking so healthy any longer is it? Perhaps text messages to remind us of the correct rubber apparel at the close of day will be all they can afford? Here’s hoping.
There’s a worryingly evangelical touch to Duncan’s approach to this job, with his new blog sending out a (suitably secular) (or maybe not, if you are Muslim) ‘Friday message’ to his eager readers, from his minaret in Central London.
In my first Friday message in July last year I set out the behaviours that characterise high performing organisations.
We work together, not undermine each other.
We speak well of each other, in public and in private.
We consistently spend our time on what we say we care about.
We behave well, especially when things go wrong.
We keep our promises, small and large.
We speak with candour and courage.
Equally worrying is that as recently as April 1st, one of the questions most frequently asked on the DHE web site is:
Q: When will teams know where their office will be located?
(And that from someone based on the ‘Intelligence Team’!!!) A: By this morning hopefully!
Like a Salamander in a rotten log, PHE is slithering out of the flames of the coalition’s ’Bonfire of the Quangos’. Same people, new desks, new headed paper.