Boss of Milton Keynes hospital compares NHS to a sinking ship

MK Hospital’s chief executive has spoken out candidly about the current state of the health service.

By Sally Murrer
Tuesday, 26th July 2022, 11:33 am

Professor Joe Harrison was invited to give his views at a briefing organised by the Health Service Journal, a trade publication for NHS leaders.

During the meeting he said: “I think we’re in danger of all sitting around the campfire singing "kumbaya" as the Titanic sinks.

“We are presiding over a failing NHS. There’s no question about it.”

MK Hospital boss Joe Harrison

Professor Harrison then added a warning to the government, saying “'If we carry on like this, people have every right to say, "what on earth are we spending £150bn on?"

Oher NHS leaders agreed, stating that the public’s faith in the health service could be undermined by a ‘lack of accountability over standards such as A& E waiting times.

They believe the NHS workforce crisis is the cause of most of the problems within the service.

Professor Harrison’s salary as chief executive is between £210,000 and £215,000 a year. This compares to the average nurses salary of around £33,000.

MK Hospital is one of many struggling to recruit enough staff

A report published this week by the Health and Social Care committee said the NHS now faces the “greatest workforce crisis in their history” and staff shortages are creating a risk to patient safety.

It states: “The persistent ­understaffing of the NHS now poses a serious risk to staff and patient safety both for routine and emergency care.”

And it adds: "It also costs more as patients present later with more serious illness. But most depressing for many on the frontline is the absence of any credible strategy to address it.”

The struggle to cover for vacancies is leaving workers “disillusioned, overworked and at high risk of burnout”, the report warns.

Hospitals in England are now short of 12,000 doctors and more than 50,000 nurses and midwives and it is predicted an extra 475,000 jobs will be needed in health and 490,000 more in social care by early next decade.

In April, Professor Harrison and his fellow MK Hospital bosses invested cash in a special marketing campaign to attract more workers to uproot to MK.

At the time he said: “Much like Milton Keynes itself, our hospital is growing... MK was built by forward-thinkers and we want to help attract even more brilliant people to our hospital and the wider region.”