Bottom line

Radio 4’s The Bottom Line by Evan Davis is a favourite of mine.

Each programme, he talks to three prominent people in business and a recent one was about turning round corporate failure, by three who had done it.

Three of their approaches I felt were not only interesting, but relevant to the current problems of NHS management.

Had these been the approach of the likes of Sir David Nicholson, perhaps the tragedy of Stafford Hospital would never have occurred.

One of the experts described his first day in the job being faced with a mountain of figures and reports.

Within half an hour, a complaint came in from a major customer. He dropped everything and spent two days resolving the problem, including a personal visit.

In those two days, he learned more about what was wrong with the business than any amount of paperwork would have told him. If only, we might think, the management of Stafford had visited the wards they would have learned a salutary lesson.

Another allied approach was to talk to those on the shop floor.

They, the turnaround manger said will tell you what is wrong with the company and what needs to be done far better than the heads of department you normally see.

To return to Stafford, the managers should have spoken to nurses on the wards, not the managers who normally pass through their offices.

In the traditional, general dental practice, dentists and staff are familiar with such an approach. Without it, the practice would rapidly fail. But can the larger corporates cope with such an approach?

The third hint was my favourite. Explain your strategy in tabloid-speak. You must be able to put it across in t10 minutes in the pub. Anyone who has had the misfortune to read a document produced by the NHS Commissioning Board will understand how this concept is totally alien to NHS management.

But before general dental practitioners are too smug consider this. Can you explain in 10 minutes, in the pub, why you are converting from the NHS to private dentistry?

By Dentistry news correspondent Michael Watson



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