If the MoD were the NHS?

DefenceSynergia wishes all our loyal, professional and hard pressed service personnel the prospect of a more prosperous New Year than to date; where ever they are serving.

We wonder if they or anyone can sense or hope that there may be changes with the arrival of the new Secretary of State for Defence, The Right Honourable Gavin Williamson MP? What might he have to deal with and how might he think about how to view the current position. One way might be not to think of the Ministry of Defence (MOD) so much as another high spending government department – like the National Health Service (NHS) perhaps?

If the Naval Service were a ‘hospital’ component of the NHS, the report card that Mr Williamson could be presented with might read as follows:

1. This hospital is in ‘Special measures’ following budget cuts for the last 15 years. However, the materiel state and operational deficiencies have been successfully hidden from the public through non-disclosure agreements (NDAs) and the Chief Executive Officer (CEO) rarely being seen or speaking in public or in the wards and having a propensity to allow only unqualified ‘spokespersons’ to speak on professional issues.

2. Over this Christmas period there will be no service to the outside community largely because recruitment targets have not been reached, vehicles are off the road and specialist facilities are in short supply.

3. Personnel exit and retention figures for trained personnel are bad despite overseas in-fills which is leading to declining morale and shortage of ambulances for patients and many wards and operating theatres being under-staffed and under-utilised.

4. Recent leaks about sexual standards may also be affecting efficiency.

5. ‘MRI scan’ units are under repair, there is a shortage of skilled operators and in a recent case the maintenance contract required the system to be returned to the country of origin for repair.

6. The repair and maintenance programmes are not planned to rectify the situation for many years.

7. The hospital is still trying with considerable innovation to achieve its savings targets and some solutions have led to greater consequences downstream.

8. The CEO pledges that the new year will see a ‘surge’ in capability.

Note: The PR policy for this and other similar ‘hospitals’ remains to limit public awareness, minimise clarification, seek to shift the blame to industry and wait for the issue to fade from memory.

Finally, DS would remind that that this ‘hospital’ (the naval service) unlike real NHS hospitals is viewed as of no concern to most citizens and therefore of no particular political value.

DefenceSynergia proposed New Year resolution for Her Majesty’s Government.

  • Have an informed transparent debate that aims to raise public awareness of naval air and land service issues. In the process informing us all about the challenges that are faced and the resources available.
  • Provide a clear published National Strategic plan to garner public support for solutions that allow the Armed Services, in this case the naval service, to serve effectively without the petty constraints that shackle them now or the limited budgets that shackle them for the future.
  • Commit to building up a cadre of people knowledgeable about operational maritime matters so that we, the public, are not reliant on journalists, academics or self-appointed experts who often comment without context or operational experience and the criticisms they make are rarely challenged or corrected by MOD.
  • Act to arrest the Armed Forces decline that threatens their branding of ‘the best’
  • Perhaps it would be a good idea if the Royal Navy did not have to repatriate a broken warship from overseas simply because the contractor employed is so limited he must do the work in the UK!