» Tuesday, March 7, 2006

Sir Nigel Crisp

Asked if the Prime Minister shared Sir Nigel Crisp’s view that in terms of NHS finance, not everything had gone well, the Prime Minister’s Official Spokesman (PMOS) said that first and foremost the Prime Minister paid tribute to the work that Sir Nigel had done for the Health Service as a whole over the last twenty years, in particular the last five years in his current role. The esteem in which the Prime Minister held Sir Nigel was illustrated by the fact he had recommended him for a life peerage, which the Queen has graciously agreed. In terms of the next stage of reform, Sir Nigel himself recognised that was a job which involved a commitment of some five years and for his own reasons he wanted to move on.

The Prime Minister was very firmly of the view that the reform that we had achieved in the NHS would not have been possible without the leadership of Sir Nigel and the expertise he brought to it. In terms of the deficit issues, they had been set out by Patricia Hewitt, they were being addressed and were continuing to be addressed. The important thing was that we were doing what was necessary, in terms of turnaround teams and so forth, to deal with the deficit, and that was possible because of the transparency which had been introduced into the system. Equally we should bear in mind that they were a small percentage of the overall NHS budget.

Put to him that Sir Nigel Crisp had been one of the rising stars in the Civil Service and now appeared to be taking the rap for the problems in the NHS, the PMOS said that he was not sure if being recommended for a peerage by the Prime Minister could be described as taking the rap. As Sir Nigel himself had set out, we were at the start of a new period of reform within the NHS. That would require a sustained commitment over a five-year period. For his own reasons he wanted to move on, that was his decision and that was how this should be seen.

Asked if the Prime Minister felt that Sir Nigel Crisp could have done more to get a grip on the system during his time at the NHS, the PMOS said that, as he had already made clear, the Prime Minister recognised the crucial role that Sir Nigel had played in pushing through the reforms in the last five years. That was why he had recommended him for a peerage, which the Queen had graciously agreed to. The important thing was that because of the transparency that Sir Nigel had helped to introduce into the Health Service, we had been able to identify the deficit and take action to turn it around.

Put to him that in Sir Nigel Crisp’s statement he had said that he must take partial responsibility for the state of the Health Service’s finances, and asked why, given this failure, which he himself had acknowledged, he was being given a peerage, the PMOS said that part of being a leader was recognising where there could be improvements as well as where there had been successes. You judged a person by their overall success and that was why the Prime Minister recognised the crucial role Sir Nigel had played in pushing forward the reform program.

Asked, in light of this new peerage, where we were on the life peers list, the PMOS said that that was a perfectly legitimate question, but one which he did not have an answer to at this stage. This particular peerage was a non-political peerage. His understanding was that the convention was that the Prime Minister was entitled to recommend ten such peers per parliament.

Briefing took place at 7:00 | Search for related news

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