25 April 2011

The press don't see what is happening in my dining room now.

I woke up this morning to find my husband sitting up in bed drawing a spider-gram.
I asked to take a look, and find that it relates to the boxes he has spent the holiday sorting out in the dining room.
These boxes represent different aspects of his 30 year career in public service. Many of my husband’s colleagues have already gone. This job has already been changed completely by the cuts, and may yet disappear entirely.
The boxes are in my dining room because the remaining staff have just moved into one temporary office, and are waiting to move into another, in a move that will still feel temporary.  
It is a valuable job, something that is essential if we believe in good life opportunities and social mobility. Something the Government had plans for, but is now being put aside, because the money has been needed urgently to plug a more urgent public relations disaster facing them right now.
The arms on the spider-gram represent what is happening in my husband’s head now, as he tries to clarify which aspects of his thirty years of knowledge he values, and which aspects may still be required.
He is doing this exercise, not because anyone has asked him to do so. There is no clear guidance anymore, but because he personally needs to know.
I had not at first noticed all of this going on, because I was up in the study writing an account of the impact of the last reorganisation of the health service in 2006. The information comes from the evidence to the Stafford Hospital inquiry in the two weeks before Easter, and it shows the way in which a botched top down re-organisation, in which staff received little support or guidance, impacted on the individuals caught up in this, and on the quality of service they were able to give.
I was also in the middle of writing a letter to Andrew Lansley, to warn him to avoid the huge pitfalls that his planned top down re-organisation is already opening up.  
My eyes had been focused on the Stafford story and the NHS. I had not really seen what was happening in my dining room.
The fragmentation of the public services that we value is happening very quietly all around us, in my dining room and in the minds of many thousands of public servants.
This is a quiet disaster; the material that will make up the Public Inquiries of the future.
#pressreform  has tended to focus on things that the press do that they should not be doing. There is also the worrying fact that the press seems unable to see big things that happen quietly.