Venns in action: Where is the horsemeat in health care?

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Over the last few weeks there have been a number of key stories in the UK press. Two are especially notable: the Francis inquiry into health care standards and the scandal of unlabelled horse meat in burgers and ready meals.

What do these have in common, other than their prevalence in media minutes and column inches?  Both are about unexpected and once hidden failings in the quality and supply of a good service.  Both raise issues of legality and individual practice. Both raise issues about who you can trust in the supply chain – in terms of both its management and regulation.

Where do they differ? One affects human health. And the other is not a lot more than a bit of a yuk to many – and only worthy of a laugh.

Sadly, the NHS story is the one that is more profound. Already there are politicians in Europe decrying the scrapping of perfectly ‘good’ food (if labelled differently), at a time when increasing numbers of people face food insecurity. The health care stories raise issues that are, surprisingly to some, more rotten and that can’t be labelled away quite so easily.

Many are now talking much more worriedly and openly about health care culture and standards – probably a good thing.

In contrast, the horsemeat scandal has largely led to plenty of photo humour – and is already leading to improvements in supply chains that value more local sourcing and fair trade.

So, maybe the question is not ‘where is horsemeat in health care’, but

1) ‘why the scandal in health care’ (maybe it is a result of the sort of management promoted since the mid 80s…an example of values in action where generalist leaders have been promoted to achieve a certain narrow set of things, and have done so pretty well) and

2) what can be done especially at a time when no individuals are being held accountable by Francis.

To help think about this second question we will go somewhere pretty unsavoury – but illuminating too. Where might that be? From one animal to another. Not dodgy cuts of horse, but what comes out of a doggy. Something has changed quietly and profoundly on UK streets, namely the cleaning up of dog mess…more on this analogy later (but in the meantime, can you guess what the learning points are – let us know).

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