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Last Updated: Thursday, 11 January 2007, 06:10 GMT
Sir Gerry: NHS 'not a business'
Sir Gerry Robinson
Sir Gerry thinks managers should be left to manage properly
Businessman Sir Gerry Robinson has said the NHS should not be treated like a normal business and managers should be allowed to do their jobs properly.

Sir Gerry, the star of a recent BBC TV series to try to cut waiting lists at one hospital, debated the issue with NHS chief executive David Nicholson.

Sir Gerry told BBC's Newsnight he would also look at the amount of money spent on the new NHS computer system.

Mr Nicholson said poor management in some hospitals needed to be addressed.

Treble managers' salaries

Sir Gerry, one of the UK's most successful businessmen, was given the task of cutting waiting lists at one hospital within six months - with no extra cash - in BBC Two's Can Gerry Robinson Fix the NHS?

One of his solutions was to treble the salaries of NHS managers.

He told Newsnight: "What other organisation that employs a million people would not genuinely go out and pay the money that it takes to get the very, very best people to run it?

"Why wouldn't you do it when the cost of that money is a row of beans by comparison to the money we spend, 100bn a year we spend, on the service. Of course you'd do that."

I've never come across it to quite such an extent before, that sense that you simply couldn't change it. That needs to change
Sir Gerry Robinson

Mr Nicholson said there was a question over way some managers dealt with clinical staff.

"In lot and lots of hospitals they're managed extraordinarily well, the relationship between clinicians and managers works very well, in some areas it doesn't and that needs to be tackled.

"You don't tackle it by sending people letters or shouting at them, you tackle it by engaging them in discussion."


Sir Gerry said most consultants genuinely wanted to do the right thing for the NHS.

"What just didn't seem to be possible was for them to be able to do that... I've never come across it to quite such an extent before, that sense that you simply couldn't change it. That needs to change."

Sir Gerry said the huge size of the NHS was not necessarily a barrier to being able to run it efficiently.

"The NHS is not a business, for God's sake let's simplify the way we get the money down to the hospital, but still manage the hospital so we know whether the hospital is run well and if it's not something happens about it very quickly."

Mr Nicholson said most hospitals had a good management system

He said improving the NHS was not down to constant new initiatives being provided by government.

"I would love to see government pulled out of the equation as much as possible frankly, and David and his team allowed to get on with it.,"

Mr Nicholson said there needed to a consistency of purpose across the NHS, allowing managers the freedom to make changes at a local level.

"I can't possibly manage the NHS from Whitehall, but what I can do is create an environment where clinicians and managers can work together.

He said the NHS's budget had grown by a third in the last five years, which it received because of the political process, so it was important the system still engaged with the government.

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