The Independent London Newspaper
26th April 2019

NEW JOURNAL COMMENT: Will this NHS knight be prepared to rock the boat?

    Glyn Roberts

    Hampstead Heath lifeguard Glyn Roberts died suddenly on New Year’s Day

    Published: 5 January, 2017

    SPLENDID work by David Sloman has led to the Royal Free chief executive getting a knighthood in the Queen’s New Year honours list. 

    There is no doubt that he has been very efficient at following through with government policy and ensuring the smooth running of the trust. 

    He has devoted a lifetime to  health service, starting a career in his early 20s on an NHS management training scheme, rising to chief executive of the former Haringey Primary Care Trust, the Whittington Hospital and, since 2009, the Royal Free. 

    There he has overseen its transition to an independently-run Foundation Trust hospital and, more recently, a cost-saving merger with Barnet and Chase Farm hospitals. 

    Sir David’s skill and dexterity with board matters has no doubt benefited many patients and hard-working staff on the frontline, some of whom may ponder who has the tougher job. 

    But why are people like Glyn Roberts, a true community hero, who has saved countless lives over the years on the Heath not recognised? Or local government politicians like Sybil Shine, another Camden figure who has died this week, and who spent much of her life in Town Hall meetings and surgeries, helping the public. 

    Why is it that senior NHS board members are routinely recognised under the honours system? Could it be because they never rock the boat? They are always the willing arbiters of the dispute. 

    Sir Robert Naylor, the outgoing chief of University College London Hospitals, was knighted in 2008 after smoothly overseeing the creation of the first fully Private Finance Initiative-funded hospital in the country. 

    With the Royal Free struggling to plug a huge financial deficit and the board facing an uprising from its nurses and midwives over cost-cutting shift pattern changes, it does raise the question of why this year?

    It may have been predicted this time last year when he was hand-picked by the government to lead the Sustainability Transformation Programme (STP) in north London. 

    The STP – which many fear is simply a programme of cuts for health and adult social care services – is in desperate need of scrutiny, rather that compliance. 

    It has already raised strong concerns from not just NHS campaigners but also the leader of Camden Council. 

    But will the Department of Health find a dissenting voice in Sir David?