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Holding out for a heroic NHS leader

11th June 2009

Paul Corrigan writes in the Health Service Journal about the need for regular people - not heroic figures - to lead the NHS.

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The beliefs and fascinations of internal culture within the health service cause their own problems. These difficulties can end up adversely affecting the people working in the NHS as much as they reject those on the outside of the organisation.

The idea that senior managers should get things done through sheer forcefulness and personal strength of purpose is a huge issue.

In the First World War soldiers were led over the trenches with pistols and sticks.

Despite their courageousness, they fell under the onslaught of more powerful weapons. Millions died as a result, proving that bravery and strong wills can only succeed when "the world is easy to change".

In a tough field, such as the NHS, being a hero will not win the day.

Bertolt Becht's play Life of Galileo shows Galileo renouncing his idea - after his interrogators show him torture devices - that the earth orbits the sun, rather than the other way around.

One of his disciples says "unhappy is the land that breeds no hero" and Galileo replies: "No...unhappy is the land than needs a hero."

The fact that the health service requires heroes and heroism is an indication of nationwide or universal breakdown.

The NHS should have ordinary people working with real knowledge of its external and internal forces in order to realistically and pervasively effect change.

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