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Editor's blog Wednesday 6 April 2011: GOBSAAT Alert as Government announces completely pointless NHS Future Forum

If you were going to set up this NHS Future Forum as a genuine, robustly independent listening exercise, would you ask very strong supporter of the White Paper, shortlisted-but-not-appointed chief medical officer candidate and former RCGP chair Dr Steve Field to chair it?

Me neither.


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The Times reports that Dr David Kerr is to take part, whom Health Service Journal editor Alastair McLellan pointed out the Tories had forgotten about since their gleefully announcing his appointment as an advisor in a pre-election PR boost.

HSJreports that ACEVO chief Stephen Bubb is also on the board. DH are apparently saying the membership will include doctors, nurses and patient voice.

The BBC's Jane Dreaper meanwhile reports on Twitter that other members include Julie Moore, Kathy McLean and Geoff Alltimes - patient and public involvement - Hammersmith Council.

I'd presume it might be this Kathy McLean. A friend of HPI points out that Dr McLean will have been appointed to her East Midlands role of Medical Director by Dame Barbara Hakin, DH commissioning honcho-in-chief.

And I'd hope it's not this Julie Moore, but instead this Julie Moore, UHB chief executive, who gave a fascinating interview in a previous job.

The NHS Future Forum's probably futile agenda is to discuss:
1. The role of choice and competition for improving quality;
2. How to ensure public accountability and patient involvement in the new system;
3. How new arrangements for education and training can support the modernisation process; and
4. How advice from across a range of healthcare professions can improve patient care.

A duff little sales booklet from Number 10
The poor little booklet produced by Number 10 Downing Street to sell the reforms uses figures from the British Social Attitudes survey.

Yes, the survey that we exclusively revealed that the DH has pulled out of funding in future.

It goes much further, citing as "facts" figures about cancer death from a paper in the British Journal Of Cancer by Abdel-Rahman et al. The paper itself actually calls the figures, "our estimates of the annual number of avoidable cancer deaths".

Political language, eh? From estimates to facts in one fell swop.

This crappy little booklet and campaign even adopts the "we love the NHS" slogan, which Graham Linehan started as a Twitter hashtag (and fast went viral), in response to Tory MEP Daniel Hannan's infamous slating of the NHS as a 60-year mistake" on Fox News on US TV. That reminds me, can Fox proprietor Rupert Murdoch own some more media channels over here? Oh...

This NHS Future Forum will no doubt mean well. But the fate of the NHS reforms is not in their hands.

It is firmly in the hands of the Liberal Democrats. Their party has mandated major change in the Bill, as we have previously written.

And the Coalition's internal bickering may be about to burst into the open, as this 'Coffee House' blog from The Spectator's James Forsyth reveals.

The Spectator is not a mouthpiece, but will doughtily fight the Conservative corner should there be too much Clegg-dancing for position on this issue.

One of the best phrases I have heard about NHS review committees of this type came from the excellent Professor Alan Maynard, who dubbed them GOBSAAT - Good Old Boys Sitting Around A Table.

The presence of women in the group is great, but may not alter the fact that the heavy-duty politics happen elsewhere; and the sense must be that this is a hearing-but-not-listening PR exercise which will have little impact.